The Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is actually owned and operated by a local Amazonian tribe. As part of the experience of staying at the eco lodge, you get to visit the village where the tribe lives, see how they prepare their meals, participate in a ritual dance, and have the opportunity to buy locally made art and jewelry. The tribe is dedicated to making sure that their traditions and culture remain in tact despite the increased influence of the modern world, which certainly must be difficult to do.
Despite being deep in the Amazon Jungle, the village generates its own power and has a school with computers. Meals, however, are still cooked over an open fire and prepared by the women of the village. The majority of what the villagers eat is fish caught from the river as well as fruit and vegetables grown nearby the village. We did see them preparing some sort of snail-like insect, but we didn’t end up trying that. The fish was wrapped in banana leaves and smoked over the fire and they shared some of their meal with us before we left.
The highlight of the visit is watching the villagers perform a ritual dance. The women disappeared for a while shortly after we arrived and then returned wearing vibrant pink shirts and skirts. They sang and danced to music played on a drum and a turtle shell with a piece of metal attached that made a unique sound when snapped. It didn’t take long before they pulled our guide up to join in the dancing, but when they asked all of us to join, the real fun began. It was surprising difficult to keep up with their foot movements and we were out of breath by the time we finished. Fortunately, since we both danced, there are no embarrassing photos of us dancing, so you will just have to use your imagination.
We bought a pair of kissing parrots made out of wood as well as a few bracelets and necklaces before leaving to help support the efforts of the village. The people who live at the village were the same people who were cooking our meals and cleaning our rooms at the lodge, so we were very appreciative of the service that they provided to us during our stay. Visiting the village was certainly one of the highlights of our time in the Amazon. The people of the village were extremely friendly, proud of their culture, and made us feel very welcome in their homes.