Stretching across thousands of miles and several countries, the Amazon basin is home to an almost endless number of jungle lodges.We've picked out our ten best in the region, but let us know your own favourites below.
Sani Lodge comprises ten lakeside, thatch-roofed cabañas owned and operated by the Sani Isla community in a wildlife-rich corridor of rainforest between the Cuyabeno Reserve and the Yasuni National Park. Fredy is the general manager, Manuel the chef, and Domingo and Guillermo will take you to see some of the region’s 1500 species of trees, five hundred species of tropical birds and thousand species of butterflies.
This one is for chocoholics. Yachana (“Place of Learning”), surrounded by 17 square kilometres of protected forest, is where Yachana Gourmet cacao (www.yachanagourmet.com) is grown. Here you can learn how chocolate is made from freshly picked cacao beans, go river swimming, or join jungle treks with indigenous guides to nearby waterfalls and Yachana villages. Visit www.yachana.com for more info.
Owned by the Añangua Quichua community, this luxury lodge on the banks of the Napo River supports the conservation of 200 square kilometres of Yasuní National Park – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Ecuador. There are several clay licks near the lodge where you can see parrots and macaws, and a short trek away is a 36m-high canopy tower that will get you closer to toucans as well as spider and howler monkeys.
Come to this luxury lodge in the Tambopata National Reserve if you like your creature comforts: hot showers, “terracotta exfoliates”, robes and rubber slippers are the order of the day here. Various excursions are available, including guided treks with professionally trained guides to a canopy walkway, Lake Sandoval and a nearby indigenous farm belonging to the Ese Eja community. Find out more at www.inkaterra.com/en/reserva-amazonica.
The focus at Cristalino is on learning about the riches of the rainforest from local guides – especially about birds and butterflies. And no wonder: the lodge’s private reserve is home to six hundred bird species, a huge variety of butterflies and moths and some unusual wildlife, including jaguars, harpy eagles, capybaras and agoutis. A room in a dormitory starts from US$135 full-board per person per night, including transfers and activities, but for those with deeper pockets there are private bungalows with ceiling fans, double beds and private outdoor rest areas. Head to their site for more info: www.cristalinolodge.com.br.
One of the most accessible jungle lodges, Amazonat is two hours by road east from Manaus international airport, in a 50-square-kilometre private reserve. The owners run treks deep into the jungle and include courses on jungle survival. Call for more info: 55 1199 872 498.
Owned by an American (he rents the land from the indigenous community of Pilche), La Selva is one of the longest-running lodges in Ecuador, so expect a well-polished service; the food and accommodation are first-class. Birding – led by local guides – is popular and you can try your hand (no pun intended) at piranha fishing.
A good choice for families. Children aged 6–12 can go on short jungle trails where they’ll learn to follow a map and take part in a treasure hunt for “the lost Brazil nut”. Refugio Amazonas is run by Peruvian ecotourism company Rainforest Expeditions, in collaboration with the indigenous Ese-Eja community of Infierno in the Tambopata National Reserve. It is part of three interlinked lodges: Posadas Amazonas is the easiest to access, while the more intrepid can travel upriver from Refugio Amazonas to the Tambopata Research Centre – home to the world’s largest macaw clay lick. Visit their site for more info: www.perunature.com.
Conservation International’s flagship community-run ecolodge in the Madidi National Park (pictured at the top of the article) is managed and staffed by the indigenous Quechua-Tacana people. Learn from them about the medicinal qualities of plants and go on boat trips on the River Tuichi to see caimans, turtles and peccaries.
See conservation in action at the headquarters of the International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, which in collaboration with the Makushi people, manages 3700 square kilometres of the Iwokrama Forest in central Guyana. The field station has five cabins, but you can also stay in basic satellite camps throughout the forest, including one that is 500m from the 30m-high Iwokrama canopy walkway. Find out more: www.iwokrama.org.