Sani community ecolodge

Sani community ecolodge

Sani Lodge is located deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon, here you will find a mysterious lake called Challuacocha, where floating water hyacinths and grasses obscure the shores. And if you venture out on this lagoon in a dug out canoe early in the morning when it is quiet and the light is still low, you just might see, somewhere out there, lying hidden in the vegetation a rare and wild Manatee or Anaconda. Float here for a while, scanning the horizon and you would probably notice the yellow, banded chest of an Aracari or hear the hoarse whisper of the Hoatzin. Eventually, the day would pass and you could peer out across the shimmering, black water towards the setting sun, and almost certainly see the gleaming orange eyes of the Black Caiman. Come to Challuacocha and feel the mystery. Come to Challuacocha and experience the world of Sani Lodge.

To the north of Challuacocha lies the massive Cuyabeno Reserve and along the southern border stretches the vast Yasuni National Park. In the corridor between, located on 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of untouched rainforest lies Sani Lodge, a unique Ecuador eco-lodge. Here, the biodiversity will amaze you! On your adventure, you will walk through a pristine rainforest gallery that is home to 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines, and exotic flowers, as well as 550 species of tropical birds, 13 species of monkeys and 1,000 beautiful butterflies.

Sani Lodge is truly a one of a kind Ecuador ecolodge dedicated to ecotourism, environmental conservation, and community in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. Sani Lodge is owned and operated by members of the Sani community, meaning that with their extensive knowledge of the Amazon wildlife and biodiversity they can give Sani Lodge guests the true experience of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle. In addition to providing excellent service to its guests, Sani Lodge participates in community ecotourism - profits from the jungle lodge are reinvested into the community, improving the lives of all who live there.

The success of Sani is in no small part due to the continual support we have received from the international community, as well as from here in Ecuador. We continue to receive volunteers, biologists, office help, English teachers... to which we will always be thankfull!!!

Many years ago founders of our comuna discovered a giant tree on a river island. The leaves of this tree when crushed and boiled produced a burgandy liquid that could be used to dye string bags and clothes. The tree is called Sani (purple in Kichwa) and the founders took this name for the comuna, Sani Isla Comuna (Purple tree Island Community). So later the island became Sani Lodge and our logo is the Sani Garza or Roseatte Spoonbill. Actually one of the best places to see the Roseatte Spoonbill is in the entrance to Sani Lodge.

Kichwa is the language spoken by the local members of the Sani Isla Comuna, as well as Spanish. Kichwa has also become known as an indigenous ethnic group, and is a composite of various other indigenous groups.

There are over 320 members of the comuna who make their living by subsistence agriculture and hunting As well as working for Sani Lodge, other lodges in the area and oil companies.

We focus on the wildlife and natural beauty of the Rainforest at Sani Lodge.

Education – is viewed as the future of the comuna and Sani Lodge is already helping to sponsor English teachers in the comuna, fund education and facilitate scholarships for members of the comuna to study in Quito or abroad.

All profits generated from Sani Lodge are either reinvested in the lodge or into the Sani Comuna. Here are some examples of investments in the comuna…

  • Comunal store- Since there are no roads to the Sani Isla Comuna all supplies are brought in by river transport and produce is sent out by the same means. The need for a store is vital, where goods can be bought, sold or traded. This is especially important since the comuna is trying to reduce hunting in all areas of their property.
  • Transport – Sani Lodge pays for transport for members of the comuna to bring agricultural products to market and return with goods from Pompeya and Coca.
  • Agriculture – All fruits, vegetables and free-range chickens that are produced in the comuna are given priority to be sold to Sani Lodge at outside market prices.
  • Handicrafts – Any handicrafts produced by the comuna are sold directly to Sani Lodge guests.
  • Administration Financial Support – Sani Lodge pays a monthly fee to the Sani Isla Comuna to be used in anyway they see fit.
  • Administration bonuses – Sani Isla’s President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer all receive a small monthly salary from the lodge.
  • Emergency Medical – Sani Lodge pays for any and all emergency medical services needed by members of the comuna.
  • Latrines - Improving health conditions start with the building of latrines for every family at Sani.

We invite you to visit Sani lodge and help our community preserve the tropical Amazon rainforest for future generations!


Here at Sani you´ll find there´s too much to do!!! There´s always somewhere to explore or something to learn. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few of our favorites.

Wildlife viewing

According to a recent assessment by a leading group of biologists the Rainforest around Sani Lodge in North Eastern Ecuador is the most biologically diverse locality in the world (Yasuni Day, 2004).

For example…

  • 2,274 species of trees and bushes have been identified, more than any other area ever studied.
  • 644 species of trees in only one hectare (2.47 acres) have been documented, which is almost as many species of trees as all of the United States and Canada combined! This is also a world record.
  • Over 550 bird species are on the Sani Bird List making it one of the highest lists in the world.
  • 80 species of bats, making our area the second highest number ever registered.
  • 105 species of amphibians and 83 of reptiles which appears to make our area the most diverse ever studied.
  • 64 species of social sting-less bees, also a world record in this group.
  • 100,000 species of insects per hectare, again the greatest number of species of any place ever studied.

Not only does Sani’s surrounding forests provide a habitat for a tremendous variety of organisms but is also home to many threatened or naturally rare species such as Jaguar, 13 species of primates, Short-eared Dog, Brazilian Tapir, 2 species of peccary, Harpy Eagle, Black Caiman, Amazonian Manatee among others.

Now, having said all this, it should be stated that our wildlife is just that… wild. We do not feed or bait any animals so this means that there is definitely an element of luck or chance in what any given guest may see. Being quiet and stealthy, as well as maintaining small groups certainly helps, but there are no guarantees… however most groups see a few species of monkeys, toucans, Black Caiman (up to 3.5 to 4 meters), macaws, parrots, many types of insects, frogs, lizards and an incredible variety of birds. Everything else varies widely from group to group.

Tree Tower

A short, ten minute walk through the forest will bring you to our 30m (100ft) tree tower, built around a giant, emergent Kapok tree. Looking out across the Rainforest canopy at this level gives you a unique perspective, opening up a whole new world of Amazon biodiversity that is often difficult, if not impossible to see.

Chorongo Trail

This is our longest hike (3 hours), leading you across muddy swamps on log bridges, through the dense-jungle of natural tree-fall gaps, and the under story shade of pristine, primary Rainforest… Along the way you will learn about medicinal plants used by the Kichwa and the natural history of the Amazon, taste native, edible fruits and insects, and discover how to weave traditional palm-fiber bags. As for wildlife, if you walk quietly and are alert, it is possible to see Giant Anteaters (with great luck), White-collared Peccaries, Black-Mantled Tamarin Monkeys, poison-dart frogs, and countless other untold surprises that the forest may hold in store for you.

Coto Trail

You begin by paddling one and half hours in a dugout canoe, winding through dense tracts of water philodendron and freshwater mangrove, grassy marshland bordered by morete palms and cecropia trees. This unique riparian habitat is home to hundreds of birds, such as the Hoatzin, Orange-winged Parrot, Agami Heron, Snail Kite, Laughing Falcon, and five species of kingfishers. Common Squirrel Monkeys, among other monkeys, are spotted regularly feeding in the trees along the streams edge. Once you arrive at the start of the trail, you can enjoy a beautiful, two hour hike through primary forest, and see a tangle of lianas, massive epiphyte-covered canopy trees, and thorn-protected leaves. What wildlife can you expect to see? Mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds. Nothing can be guaranteed… but anything is possible.

Night Caiman Watching

Our black-water, oxbow lake is one of the increasingly rare havens for the Endangered Black Caiman, supporting a healthy population of these large, up to 5-meter long, crocodilians. After the sun sets, these non-aggressive and shy reptiles become active along the water’s edge, hunting fish, mammals, birds, even anacondas, and sometimes can be seen swimming lazily across the lake.

Canoe the Challuayacu

Yacu is Quichua for stream, and from the Challua you will experience the rainforest in a whole new way. Sneak up on birds, amphibians and other Amazon wildlife from a stealthy canoe paddled by an expert native guide and notice the difference in rainforest vegetation which grows along and overtop of the river.

Night Hiking

Many animals stay hidden away for most of the day, depending on their cryptic coloration and camouflage to avoid detection, sleeping motionless in the canopy, or under rocks, logs and leaf-litter on the forest floor. But at night the forest comes alive with a myriad of insects beyond your wildest imagination, tree frogs ranging from the size of your fingernail to the size of your whole hand, and mammals such as Night Monkeys, various bat species, and Kinkajous. A hike through the Rainforest at night is an opportunity to discover the mysteries of what happens in the dark, hidden behind the shadows, in the deep recesses of the forest, where few dare to venture.

Bar Observation

Because the Challuacocha is such a superb place to observe birds and aquatic wildlife, it is possible to see Magpie Tanagers, Cocoi Herons, Amazon Umbrella birds, freshwater turtles, and maybe even and Anaconda or Black Caiman while enjoying a cocktail and relaxing in our lakeside bar.



Sani Lodge accommodates only 20 guests, emphasizing quality rather than quantity, and thereby offering you a more intimate experience with the rainforest.

The lodge itself consists of ten, private, thatch-roofed cabanas, each with a modern bathroom. The cabanas are spaciously designed for double occupancy, and have screened in windows to guard against insects while you sleep. Electric lights at the lodge run from ecologically friendly solar energy instead of a noisy generator so the night sounds will be pure and natural. Oil lamps are also provided for those who appreciate that rustic feel.


The bar, lounge, and dining room at Sani Jungle Lodge overlook the lagoon and offer both first class service as well as premier views of wild life and of the setting sun.

The cuisine during your adventure will be innovative, combining examples of fresh, local ingredients with an international style. Vegetarian, chicken and fish dishes will be served. Fresh bread, baked daily and scrumptious exotic fruits will greet you in the morning. At lunch, sip on refreshing exotic juices, like guanabana, guava, passion fruit, cactus fruit, citrus, and coconut. And in the evening after a beautiful meal, original deserts and fine Ecuadorian coffee will send you happily satisfied to a comfy chair in the lounge to reflect on the days adventures in the Amazon.

Our Staff - the heart of the lodge

There are about 20 members of the Sani Isla Comuna who are currently employed at Sani Lodge. The comuna decided to hire an administrator from outside the comuna to eliminate any chance of impartiality in hiring. The assistant administrator is from the comuna, as well the chef, boat drivers, native guides and waiters.

Our chef

Manuel Condo has been working as a cook and later as a chef at other local lodges for the last 15 years. We are very fortunate that after Sani was completed Manuel decided to return to his comuna to became the head chef at Sani Lodge. Manuel’s specialty is healthy food with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, occasionally serving chicken and fish dishes.

Carlos Grefa is our 2nd chef and we are particularly proud of him because he was trained here at Sani under Manuel. Carlos lives about 45 minutes walking from Sani Lodge.

Our Birding experts

Domingo Gualinga has been interested in birds his whole life, and has been intensively studying them for the last 5 years. We feel he is one of the top birders on the Rio Napo… and not only does he know the birds by sight but can identify the vast majority by call as well. Going with a native guide has to be one of the most exciting experiences in a bird watcher’s life. Birders accompanying Domingo have registered more than 250 species in a 4-night/5 day tour.

Guillermo Gualinga, Domingo’s brother, is not very far behind him in terms of birding knowledge, skill and experience. Guillermo is also excellent in visual and audio recognition of the birds of Sani and is also one of our best general interest native guides and is not only proficient in birds, medicinal plants, local folklore but has also learned much about the natural history and identification of frogs and insects from visiting Tropical biologists.

Hotel Staff 

And the rest… Sani operates as an independent small community, there are boat operators, cooks for the staff, cleaners, carpenters… all working to make your visit and experience of a lifetime!



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