A stay at La Casa del Suizo jungle lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest led to encounters with poisonous frogs, caiman and snakes.
But don’t let that put you off, as it was an exciting yet relaxing stay in this luxurious lodge on the banks of the Napo River. La Casa del Suizo, which is in the Tena area, is a three and half hour drive from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. I chose an adventurous way to end my journey to the lodge with the last 20-minutes of the trip in a motorised canoe down the Napo River.
I was overwhelmed when I was shown to my room which far exceeded expectations with a balcony overlooking the river. It was a privilege to lounge in the hammock and listen to the calls of tropical birds and the rush of the majestic Napo River below. All 77 rooms have their own terrace with hammocks to relax and take in exquisite river and jungle views. The Wi-Fi was so good I was able to make a video call home to show off my wonderful surroundings.
The hotel has a pool, bar area and two buffet-style restaurants serving international and Ecuadorian food – one overlooking the river which I would recommend. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served here, and the food is delicious. My favourite meal was the Amazon fish served in coconut sauce, it was out of this world, and I just loved the coco drink served at the bar – creamy, coconutty and I expect very fattening.
La Casa del Suizo is a base for numerous activities to suit all tastes and each day on the Napo River promises new adventure. My guide, who spoke good English, was an expert on the jungle and took me in a canoe to the nearby Isla Anaconda to meet a multi-generational family who live in a wooden house built on stilts. Here, in this intimate visit, I learned about the jungle way of life of indigenous families.
Ecuador is renowned for its high quality cacao beans and chocolate does actually grow on trees and is plentiful in the Ecuadorian Amazon which was one of the first places in the world to cultivate the crop. I had the opportunity to experience traditional chocolate making. One of the daughters demonstrated how she extracted cacao beans from the pods and turned them into the most delicious chocolate which she served on bananas and strawberries. A lake behind the family’s house was home to dozens of caimans who were tempted out of their nocturnal habits by my guide who just happened to have some meat to feed them. The first thing I saw was a ripple in the water, before a pair of be-spectacled eyes rose from the murky depths and gave me an evil stare. Before long more and more pairs pop up: the family of caiman had arrived.
The next day we went on a jungle walk in the primary forest through a thick and humid jungle, crossing muddy paths and encountering all sorts of wildlife. I encountered a small snake swimming along in the water on the path and a tiny red frog which was the highly poisonous dart frog – luckily, I had been supplied with wellingtons.
I was persuaded to have a go at river tubing so floated down the Napo River with my bottom firmly wedged into a rubber ring. I had got so wet on my jungle walk, it is a rainforest after all, that I went in fully clothed! I was a bit dubious about negotiating the rapids in the fast flowing muddy-coloured water, not quite sure what creatures were lurking underneath me, but glad I did.
The hotel has an interesting history, La Casa del Suizo means ‘the house of the Swiss man’. He was Arnold Ammeter who arrived in South America in 1963 and sought out gold for a while before buying land on the Napo River. He wanted to build a new life, one where transport was by canoe, the light came from the stars, and birdsong provided the entertainment. He opened a convenience store and worked in the coffee, cacao and gold production business before welcoming guests to three bedrooms on top of the convenience store. The lodge became the go-to stop-off point for those travelling along the river, relieved to not have to tackle a tricky whirlpool by night. In 1994, he finished the construction of the hotel which is now one of the longest running lodges in the region.
After spending a night at the lodge, which I thought was in the middle of nowhere, I realised it is located in the small village of Ahuano. The lodge provides employment for the villagers some of whom are talented craftspeople working with locally-sourced materials. I couldn’t resist buying a bird carved out of balsa wood and a tiny decorated turtle moulded from clay from the riverbed. Perfect memories of a perfect stay in the Amazon Rainforest.
La Casa del Suizo, Tena, Ecuador.
La Casa del Suizo is located in the Tena area of the Ecuadorian Rainforest and is a fairly long 3½ hour drive from the capital Quito.
Type of Hotel: Jungle Lodge
Number of Rooms: 77 rooms with complimentary Wi-Fi.
Price Band: Prices are tailored to a range of packages.
Insider Tip: Ask for a table in the restaurant overlooking the river.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Debbie Pugh-Jones enjoyed a career in journalism working for daily and regional newspapers and has travelled extensively, with many of her adventures being animal-orientated
Photographs by Debbie Pugh-Jones