Yarina Eco Lodge: Pioneers and Protectors of the Amazon

07/Septiembre/2012 | 17:08

By Lance Brashear

[email protected]

Trying to decide which jungle lodge to visit among the dozens that sit along the Napo River in Ecuador can be difficult, but a safe bet – especially for first time visitors and families – is the lodge that has been doing it the longest.

Yarina Eco Lodge is part of the Yuturi Conservation Group – five autonomous companies and foundations that work together to promote tourism and conservation programs in the Napo region.

Begun by Fernando San Miguel and his family, natives of Coca - the town that is today the launch pad for all activity along the Napo River- Yuturi was one of the first tourism initiatives established in the area.

Patricio Herrera, a family friend and the founder and director of the San Carlos Foundation, part of the Yuturi Group, says “We were one of the first to arrive…the first to provide tourism in the Amazon.”

The group takes its name from the community of Yuturi, a local Kichwa community located five hours from Coca, where the lodge was founded in cooperation with the local inhabitants. 

Herrera says Yuturi was very successful for many years even though it required a logistical adventure to get passengers in and out of the jungle.  In the 1990s there was only one round-trip flight per day from Quito to Coca and visitors had to depart the lodge in the wee hours of the morning to make their return connection.

Though most foreigners did not mind the long haul (it was all part of the adventure), eventually San Miguel looked for a more comfortable solution. 

Twelve years ago he purchased land only 30 minutes downriver from Coca and set up five cabins as a rest stop between Yuturi and Coca.  It not only made return travel easier for guests, but proved to be a fortuitous decision, as those cabins would eventually grow to 22 and become today’s Yarina Eco Lodge.

In 2006, Yuturi officially relocated their tourism operations to present day Yarina due to the increased presence of the petroleum industry.  Herrera says the arrival of oil companies devastated the ecosystems around Yuturi to the point where, “you could not even find insects.”


The decision to relocate also prompted the formation of the San Carlos Foundation, which works with Yarina to foster tourism and conservation in the region. 

Today, Yarina – far enough removed from petroleum extraction activities - is not just a great place to find insects, but all manner of wildlife that circulate freely on their 450 hectares of rainforest. 

Enveloped in the natural vegetation of the rainforest Yarina offers one of the best introductions to the Amazon for any visitor.

Henry Sanford and Ligia Jackson of Palos Verdes, California selected Yarina for their first Amazon trip.   Sanford seemed pleased to learn that despite the oil exploration, much of the Ecuadorian rainforest is still intact.

During their visit they were joined by Frederic and Rosanne, a young couple from France, along with two students from Delaware and New York, Mike Hilliard and his friend Mark, for whom it was their second time back to Ecuador and the rainforest. 

Though foreign visitors often find their way to Yarina, it is the national visitor – the Ecuadorian - who is frequently more visible.  Unlike many lodges, Yarina’s location, attractions, and price structures are inviting for many Ecuadorian families to experience the rainforest.

Yarina is close enough to Coca that visitors are in the jungle by mid-day and begin enjoying activities the moment they arrive.

Local Kichwa guides, like Jaime Grefa, a member of the Yuturi Community, leads groups on night walks and day treks to show visitors the wonders of the rainforest and how he and his ancestors understand the Amazon.  He educates tourists about the plants of the forest, which ones to avoid and which ones to use. 

The “dedo de muerto” (figer of death) is good for an ear ache.  The “ojo de venado” (deer eye) can treat skin infections, and the “oreja de chancho” (pig’s ear) treats burns, while the “uña de gato” (cat´s nail) makes a good tea to treat prostate inflammation.

Though the flora is fascinating, it is the fauna that most tourists want to glimpse, and the reason the word “conservation” is part of the Yuturi group name.

As visitors enter the Yarina property from the Napo River (a 10-minute ride in motor boat up a narrow river), a sign reading “Arcadia Animal Rescue Center” welcomes them.   

The animal rescue center was founded ten years ago and works in cooperation with Yarina, the Ministry of Environment, and local authorities to rescue animals captured and held as pets.  The center, though off-limits to tourists, has a process of re-integration into the wild, some of which can be observed by visitors.

Platforms of food are placed throughout the reserve.  From the elevated dining area, tourists can here the shaking of branches which alerts them to the approach of squirrel monkeys who can be observed grabbing bananas.

Near the rivers edge black agouti – large, tail-less rodents - move quickly and silently, but in full view of visitors.   And a few rescued parrots, whose wings were clipped by previous owners, occupy the branches of ornamental shrubs and trees between the cabins. 

“All of this work is done with the assessment of authorities and under constant monitoring,” Herrera says, referring to the animals, assuring that Yarina is not and has never tried to be a show.  “The authorities do not want us to be a zoo.”

Through its conservation programs and ideal location, Yarina has actually become something far better.

To visit Yarina Lodge contact the Yuturi Conservation Group at their Quito offices, in (02) 238 358 / 545 179 or write directly to Yarina at [email protected].  For more information about their other tourism offerings check out www.yuturiconservationgroup.com



Yuturi Conservation Group

Yarina Eco Lodge

Amazon Dolphin Lodge

Yuturi Travel Agency

San Carlos Foundation

Oasis Hotel

Yarina Tour Packages

$270 – 3days/2nights

$360 – 4days/3nights

$450 – 5days/4nights

*taxes included

*Airfare to Coca separate


Ciudad Coca

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.