The sun is barely up, and the early morning air is fresh and cool when we board the open wooden motor boat that will take us from Ceiba Tops Lodge to ExplorNapo Lodge and one of the longest suspended canopy walkways in the world. We’ll take an Amazon rainforest canopy walk over a series of suspension bridges that reach up to 122 feet in the Loreto district of Peru. It’s a wonderful way to see and learn more about this incredible ecosystem.
ExplorNapo is on Sucusari Creek, off the Napo River (not the Amazon River). To get there, we take a shortcut from the Amazon to the Napo by docking in Indiana, a town of about 5,000, and take mototaxis across town to the Napo, then continuing the journey to the Lodge on another boat.
In Indiana, we get a chance to see the market in full swing and sample some fresh fruit. Because I can’t resist, I pick up a juanes, a turmeric-spiced chicken and olive risotto wrapped in a banana leaf for later. It’s a lively town and the surrounding countryside is beautiful.
ExplorNapo Lodge is 95 miles from Iquitos and is the third and most remote of the Explorama properties. It’s located on a tributary of the Napo River (not the Amazon) and is part of over 4,000 areas of protected rainforest. The Lodge is home to the Amazon Rainforest Canopy Walk and the Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies (ACTS) Field station, where research is done. The lodge also provides a kick-off point for exploring further out into two other adjoining reserves further into the jungle.
The Amazon Rainforest Canopy Walk
We learn a bit about some of the research done at ACTS before setting out on our walk to the canopy. The Departure Tower starts us out at 43 feet, and we climb from there through the series of 14 different trees and suspension bridges to a maximum height of 112 feet. (For those with a concern of heights, it’s truly very well constructed and is regularly maintained by the Peruvian Foundation CONAPAC.)
Each viewpoint brings a new vantage point—but there’s a wonderful sense of wonder at each.
Termite’s nests have been plentiful throughout the trip. But on the canopy walk we get up close views. We see birds and monkeys and lizards.
The trees and foliage and the expanse of the Amazon rainforest take center stage though, no doubt.
Back on the Ground
Our feet hit the ground and right in front of us, we’re treated to a parade. At our feet, a steady row of leafcutter ants march by carrying bits and pieces of leaves to take back to their queen. The ants can carry more than three times their weight. Their underground nests can grow to 100 feet across and be home to eight million ants.
Our guide, Orlando, explains how the vines we so loved seeing are an important part of the ecosystem, helping to bring moisture and nutrients to the top of the canopy. The vines become part of both the tree itself and the ground below.
He points out another vine that grows along the bark of trees. The leaves lie flat against the tree, appearing as if they’re individual leaves that have just fallen on the branches rather than a vine sharing a symbiotic relationship with a tree.
We head back to our boat to return to ExplorNapo Lodge for lunch, but not before catching the antics of some squirrel monkeys in the nearby trees.
Return to ExplorNapo Lodge
Back at the lodge, we enjoy a buffet lunch. The meals at all three of the Explorama lodges have been great. Ingredients are fresh, food and variety is plentiful, and everyone who works there really shares everything with pride. There’s salad, rice, beans, fried plantains, green beans, baked chicken and baked dorado fish. (I share the juanes as well, even though we sure didn’t need it!)
The accommodations here are definitely more basic than at Explorama Lodge. As at the other two lodges, rather than bottled water, we’re all drinking water purified by the lodge. The rooms are open air and palm-thatched (with mosquito nets) and latrine bathrooms are “down the hall.” But you are further into the rainforest and the Napo River provides access to some black water lakes and great sites.
On the ride back, we makes stops at an ethno-botanical garden that’s part of ACTS and meet a shaman who talks with us about the use of plants and animals in healing. Desiderio Guillermo spoke with us about how he became a shaman, how knowledge was passed down to him, how he divides his time healing the local populations and performing ceremonies, speaking with tourists, continuing his education and research, and spending time alone in the rainforest.
I pick up some “dragonblood” lotion to help with the itching from the mosquito bites. Some of us are bitten up pretty badly, while some escape unscathed. I’m one of those using nasty-strong bug spray and we pretty much agree that mosquitoes consider that to be hot sauce for the human blood on which they feast.
Back in Indiana, we reverse the shortcut and head back to Ceiba Tops. It’s been a fabulous day. After dark that night, we head out for a night walk around a lake on the property. Truly a great experience and one I highly recommend.
- Explorama Lodge, explorama.com
- Overseas Travel Adventures (OAT), oattravel.com. I made part of this trip to Peru with OAT. While I’ve always been an independent traveler, I’m attracted by the emphasis on getting to know the people and culture of a place and the lack of a single supplement for solo travelers. If you’re interested in learning more, providing this code when you book your trip (#002665715) will get us both a discount.
- More on our Amazon trip here.
- Starting your trip in Lima: Hotel B: Art and Elegance in Lima’s Barranco District
- Visit Peru.com
-All photos by Nancy Zaffaro.