The Kichwa community of AÑANGU, on the south shore of the Napo, about 66km downstream of Coca, has access to two stunning natural resources. Inside the northern reaches of the Parque Nacional Yasuní and only an hour’s walk west from the community, Laguna Añangucocha is one of the largest lakes in the region. It’s bordered by dense forest, where peccaries and pumas forage and the waters twitch with caimans, piranhas and paiche, a fish that reputedly nudges the 200-pund mark (though there are rumours some weigh twice as much). The area is also excellent for birdwatchers, holding 560 species and two parrot licks (an exposed clay bank) near the community. The licks provide an extraordinary spectacle as thousands of parrots squabble over the best perches to peck at and gulp down the clay, the mineral-rich content of which helps them digest the harsh acidic fruits they usually eat.
The community has its own lodge, the A Napo Wildlife Center (reservations in advance in Quito on t02/2528261, whttp://www.napowildlifecenter.com), composed of ten beautiful and spacious cabins on Añangucocha, with private bathrooms, hot water, electric lights and hammocks on porches overlooking the lake. Next to the dining room, a 36-metre observation tower allows you to scan the forest canopy with binoculars for monkeys and bird species. Highlights of a stay here include possible sightings of giant otters; walks down the “manakin trail” where six species of manakin can be spotted; and visits to the parrot licks, where hides (blinds) have been built for better observation of the blue-headed and orange-cheeked parrots, cobalt-winged parakeets, scarlet-fronted parrotlets and scarlet macaws that feed there in a frenzy of sound and colour. Extremely knowledgeable local guides (who also work as Yasuní park rangers) backed up by bilingual naturalists, lead jungle walks and canoe rides. A three-night package costs $720, while four nights is $920 per person in a double, including boat transport from Coca and park entrance fees.