THE KICHWA AÑANGU COMMUNITY, A SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE IN YASUNÍ * Visit Napo Wildlife Center´s website by clicking on the logo Yasuní National Park, a tropical jungle covering approximately 2.5 million acres across Pastaza and Orellana provinces in Ecuador´s Amazon region, is considered to be the world´s most biodiverse ecosystem. It´s also the largest protected area in continental Ecuador, preserving hundreds of species of plants and animals. An example of this diversity is that, in an area of only 2.5 acres, there are more living organisms than in the entire European continent. Over a third of the Amazonian mammals inhabit this region. Several indigenous peoples live here. The Kichwa Añangu Community is responsible for the conservation of the 53 thousand acres of the National Park and it has been recognized, both domestically and internationally, for its work to protect the environment and the ecology. This community neither hunts nor fishes nor cuts trees to sell lumber. In other words, no activities that could threaten its mission to protect their sacred land. The community discovered that responsible ecotourism is an excellent alternative to foster local development. Through ecotourism, the community can improve its quality of life, protect the environment and keep alive their traditions, which are centered around a rich cultural heritage and a world view that regards respect for life as the highest value. “The Kichwa Añangu Community built the Napo Wildlife Lodge Center on the shores of the Añangucocha lake, inside their territory. The hotel opened in 2004. While this ecotourism project was consolidating, around mid-2007, the Community took over the entire management of the Napo Wildlife Center. Some eighty persons are employed. Twenty-five of them belong to the Community. They work as guides, in service areas and other functions.” These job opportunities, moreover, stop the migration of community members to large urban centers. The funds earned from tourism are reinvested in business projects as well as in social and cultural activities. Community members now also have access to medical care and to education. * Visit Napo Cultural Center´s website by clicking on the logo If you are wondering where your Amazon adventure will start, we can tell you that it will be on the Coca river port. From there, comfortable boats will transport you to the Napo river. When the waters of the Añangu and the Napo rivers meet, the motors are turned off and the trip continues on board a canoe, at the pace of the rowers. Here, the magic begins. At each step, you will admire exotic species whose singular sounds come from places where Nature is untouched. On the river, you will be able to see a giant nutria (river rat), an endangered species. Among the trees, you will hear howling monkeys. Towards the tree tops, you will notice striking colors, as diverse as a painter´s palette, on the brilliant feathers of endless numbers of birds. The curious eyes of caimanes (alligators) will escort your arrival to the Napo Wildlife Center, the most luxurious Eco-lodge in Ecuador´s Amazon region and also the one that has earned the most awards. The lodge has twelve cabins and eight suites located on the shores of the lake. They are equipped with private bathrooms, a double system for water conservation, jacuzzi and minibar. A central tower is the spot to enjoy a 360-degree view local life in its most exuberant manifestations. A bar and restaurant provide the tastiest dishes prepared from both local and international cuisines. Internet access, plus many other services, will make your stay comfortable and delightful, in addition to being a marvelous adventure. Another excellent lodging option is the Napo Cultural Center managed mostly by women of the Community. This eco-lodge was built according to kichwa architecture, applying strict standards for sustainability and for being environment friendly. This lodge offers large comfortable cabins plus mini suites and areas designed for tourists with limited mobility. You will find the restaurant to be a very tempting place because its domestic and international delights will please your nose as well as your palate, while the bar will be ready to provide a refreshing cocktail at the end of a pleasant tour. But, this journey doesn´t end with adventuresome visits to rivers and forests. The added value in this eco-lodge is that it´s focused on the culture and traditions of the Kichwa Añangu Community. In fact, the Napo Cultural Center is located very near the community, so that their interactions are quite close. Can you imagine watching the sun go down from an ancestral kichwa catamaran? You can do this at the Napo Cultural Center because it´s one of their activities. This is an attempt to relive the way that the community traded centuries ago. The experience gets even better because, in the middle of the catamaran, burns a stove. Tourists sit around the stove, roasting delicious snacks and listening to mamacunas (guides) narrate mysterious tales. Expert naturalists will guide you along paths that will enable you to live the experience of the Yasuní National Park. The hikes are of different lengths, so children and seniors can also participate. Times can be changed to accommodate each guest. In conclusion, these are moments you could not experience anywhere else in the world. Animals appear at the perfect distance for your camera lenses. Traditions are shared that will lead you to connect with ancient wisdom. The accommodations will allow you to enjoy a unique trip far away from the maddening crowds.