PLANNING A TRIP
Packing for a trip to Sani Lodge, or one of Ecuador’s other lodges along the Napo River, is not necessarily easy, if you are unfamiliar with the conditions you will find there. Here are suggestions for packing based on our experiences.
Rain Gear Pack sturdy rain gear, and keep it handy. It may be hot and sunny when you board the boat on the Napo River or when you leave on an afternoon canoe ride from the lodge, but it can start raining any time. If it rains on the canoe trip on the Napo River, you will want your rain gear to keep dry. Even though the boats have a canopy, the sides are open and they travel fast enough that rain easily blows in. It can also get cold if it is raining during the boat trip, so it is a good idea to keep an extra sweatshirt or jacket handy, just in case.
Shoes The Sani Lodge provides knee-high rubber boots for hikes and canoe trips, so it isn’t necessary to bring hiking boots or walking shoes. The rubber boots are comfortable, easy to walk in, and very helpful on the wet trails. You may prefer a pair of open sandals, such as Tevas, for canoe rides and for walking around the lodge area. Otherwise, a pair of tennis shoes is all that is necessary. There are wooden slat walkways that go to all of the cabins from the main lodge area, so you don’t have to walk across lawns or dirt. The walkways do not have roofs, however, and they can get slippery when they are wet. You may consider the traction of the soles of the shoes you plan to wear around the lodge. A pair of slippers or sandals to wear in the cabin is a good idea as well. You do not need a nice pair of shoes for meals or any other purpose; if you bring them, you probably will not have any occasion to use them.
Clothing You’ll probably need fewer items of clothing than you think. This is because you end up wearing the same clothes over and over. In the wet tropical climate, most everything quickly gets kind of damp, and you learn to adapt and end up putting on the same dirty clothes for hikes and canoe trips, rather than new (and damp) clothes. You’ll want long pants, and maybe a lightweight long sleeved shirt, for hikes and canoe trips, and shorts and sandals for around the camp. Dress is informal at all times.
Although it generally is very hot in this area, it can actually get
relatively cold at some times. You should bring one sweatshirt or
similar-weight item. The most likely time it will feel cold is when it is
raining, particularly if you are on a canoe; the motorized canoes move
fast and produce a breeze, which feels great in the heat but can be
chilling if it is raining.
Underwear is probably the one item of clothing you’ll want to change daily. Bring enough for each day, plus one or two extra in case of a drenching rain.
Sani Lodge provides abundant opportunities for bird and wildlife viewing.
The animals are generally skittish, however, so a good pair of binoculars
is a benefit. If you want to photograph the animals, a powerful telephoto
lens and tripod are useful, although transporting them to wildlife viewing
areas may be difficult. It certainly would be relatively easy to take
them to the tower, but much of the wildlife viewing happens “on the move,”
during hikes and on canoe trips, when extra lenses and equipment may be
difficult to get to.
Sunscreen and Bug Repellent You will definitely need a good sunscreen, particularly if you are fair skinned. The hikes are in closed-canopy forests, but the canoe trips are in open sky and the sun is fierce, even in the early morning and late afternoon, when the canoe trips occur. You should also bring chap stick or some other remedy for chapped lips.
We didn’t use bug repellent, but I would recommend having it handy at all times. It may have been the time of year, but the mosquitoes were not too bothersome – there were a few around but not many. There are many bugs here, however, and some did bite us, most likely in our bed at night. The beds have mosquito nets – make sure you tuck them in under the mattress – and while these keep mosquitoes and large beetles off of you at night, they don’t necessarily work against bedbugs.
Water Bottle The staff bring light snacks, such as fruit, chocolate and granola bars, on the hikes, but you should have a water bottle along. The climate is hot and damp, and you want to keep hydrated. There are water dispensers in the bar and in the dining area; you can fill your water bottles from these.
Luggage If you have waterproof or water repellent luggage, it is a good idea to use it. A dry bag of the type used on river trips is helpful. The lodge does a good job of keeping things dry; they put your luggage in large plastic bags for the trip on the Napo River, for example, but it rains a lot here and you may want to bring your own protection against the rain. You will need a day pack, fanny pack, or means of carrying small items on the hikes and canoe trips. I used a small dry bag with a cord to hang it over my shoulder, and this worked very well. If you have good camera equipment or binoculars, make sure you have bags that will keep them dry in heavy rain.
Cash and Travelers Checks The lodge accepts travelers checks for incidental items. There is not much to buy at the lodge; they have some t-shirts and caps, and you have to pay for drinks in the bar. You should also bring some cash to tip the lodge staff. There is a box in the lounge for tips; the money is distributed among the staff, but not the guides. Visitors are encouraged to tip the guides separately. They do not give tipping guidelines, but we left $25 in the box and $25 for our guides for a 5 day visit.
In general, travelers checks are a liability in Ecuador – banks and hotels charge a fee to change them to dollars, and some merchants will not accept them. There seems to be concern about counterfeiting. A few vendors in native markets may accept travelers checks, but it is unlikely; it is just as probable that they’ve never heard of them. ATMs are easily available in the cities, although they also charge a fee, and in tourist areas, most people accept credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. Check with your card company before you travel about what fees might be imposed, however. Even though the charge will be in U.S. dollars, Ecuador’s national currency, there still may be a charge for on overseas transaction. In remote locations like the Sani Lodge, there is little in the way of thievery, but cities and touristy markets can be very dangerous, so if you carry cash, be very careful – hide it in a money belt, inside your shoe, or in someplace that is not easily accessible to a pickpocket or mugger.
Flashlight A good flashlight, with a strong bulb and good batteries is a necessity at Sani Lodge. Furthermore, I would recommend that you carry your flashlight with you at all times. We were caught out after dark on two afternoon canoe trips, and the guides had not brought lights along. Fortunately, our group members had, and they were very nice to have. The flashlight will be useful for night walks and canoe trips, such as searching for caiman, and is also useful for walking around the lodge area at night and for use in the cabin if the electricity is weak.
Pocket Knife It is a good idea to carry a small pocket knife, such as a Swiss Army knife, in your pocket at all times. A knife has many uses in a wilderness area like the Sani Lodge.
Walking Stick If you have a favorite walking stick that is easy to transport, you may want it during the hikes at Sani Lodge, as the trail terrain can be challenging. It is not necessary to bring a walking stick, however, as the guide can easily fashion one from a piece of bamboo that is readily available. So if you are not particular, leave your walking stick at home and save space and weight in your luggage.
Reading and Writing Material The Sani Lodge has a very small library in the lounge area, with a few good guide books and a few novels. There is time off during the siesta, and if you like to read, this is a good time. You should bring a good book, though, as the selection is thin. You also may want to bring a field notebook for keeping a diary of your trip. Nothing like this is available at the lodge.
Checklist of Items to Bring:
□ Sturdy Rain Gear
□ Cotton or Khaki Long Pants (you can survive with one pair, but two or three wouldn’t hurt)
□ Shorts (one pair is sufficient, unless you get caught in the rain)
□ Lightweight Long-sleeved Shirt (one or two, to wear as an outer shirt on hikes and canoe trips)
□ T-shirts (you can survive on two for 5 days, but pack 3 or 4 if you have room and/or are particular about cleanliness)
□ Outdoor Sandals (e.g. Teva)
□ Tennis Shoes
□ Flip-flops or Slippers (not necessary, but useful in the cabin)
□ Hat with Wide Brim
□ Sunscreen and Chap stick
□ Insect Repellent
□ Water Bottle
□ Flashlight with Extra Bulb and Good Batteries
□ Tripod, for Serious Photography
□ Plenty of Film or Memory Cards, and Extra Batteries for the Camera
□ Day Pack (waterproof is best)
□ 1 Gallon Ziplock Bags (or larger dry bags to keep camera, binoculars, and other items dry)
□ Travel Alarm Clock (days start early!)
□ Bathing Suit and Towel (if you want to try swimming in the Napo River)
□ Prescription Medications and Any Other Medications (e.g. aspirin – not easily available at Sani Lodge)
□ Toilet Kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, shaving equipment, other necessities)
□ Money, Credit/Debit Card or Travelers Checks