Wildlife and nature

River of life

The Napo River is the Amazon’s largest tributary, and the rainforests it feeds are perhaps the most biodiverse on Earth. La Casa del Suizo exists at the heart of it all.

There are three kinds of forest along its banks: ‘Terra Firme’ forest is found on the areas of high ground and does not flood, whereas ‘Varzea’, forest is subject to periodic seasonal flooding, and ‘Irapo’ forest is permanently flooded. Each of these has its own effects on the astounding flora and fauna.

Birds are the stars of the show here: some 600 species have been identified in the region, and it’s possible to get a glimpse of some of the most magical of them, from electric-blue and blood-red macaws, to rainbow-coloured toucans. Then there are the mammals, ranging from tiny pygmy marmosets to huge jaguars. Of these, you’d be lucky to catch a glimpse, but your local guide will be able to point out a range of creatures in between, walking among them in the jungle, and passing them in the canoe as they make their way along the banks.

AmaZoonico

Hear the incredible stories

You’ll never get closer to jaguar, ocelot or tapir than you will at AmaZoonico, a rescue sanctuary for Amazon creatures. Led by volunteer guides, you’ll hear the incredible and sometimes tragic stories of the residents of the centre, from caiman to ocelots and everything in between, who struggled to readapt to the wild after they were taken by poachers, sold on the black market, and forced to live domestic lives. By visiting AmaZoonico you are helping to guarantee the protection of these creatures.

The Orellana legacy

Where adventure runs in the water

Today La Casa del Suizo stands like a fortress on the banks of the Napo River; remote, yet it’s not uncommon to see other settlements, oil rigs, little towns and passing canoes.

But when, in the mid-16th century, the stretch of river was first navigated by Spaniard Francisco de Orellana, the stretch was unchartered territory (even though indigenous people had been living in the Amazon for at least 10,000 years, and possibly for as long as 15,000 years).

Orellana left Quito in 1541 as the lieutenant to Gonzalo Pizarro in an expedition to discover legendary cinnamon fields, and, of course, gold. The voyage suffered a rocky start, with over half of the participants dying before they’d even left the Andes. It never improved.

When they could not advance further on foot as they trod along the Coca River, Pizarro divided the men into two, ordering Orellana to take a boat down the Napo and bring back food. A strong current would prevent them from ever doing that.

Conditions were tough and food was scarce, while run-ins with hostile Indians took their toll. As the river grew wider, Orellana hoped he was nearing the ocean. But instead, on February 11, 1542, he arrived at the junction of the Napo and the Amazon.

Denounced as a traitor having been missing so long, Orellana continued along the course, all the way to Marajo Island in Brazil. He had quite literally traversed the entire continent, and ‘discovered” the greatest river on Earth.

Adventure still runs in the water at Casa del Suizo, where you can try your hand at building a raft to drift along the river, just as Orellana and his men would have done centuries ago.

Protecting our slice of paradise

A commitment to the community

Throughout the three-decade history of Casa del Suizo we have created strong ties with and supported our local community.

We at La Casa del Suizo adore the Amazon forest, and have done important work in protecting it and all its magical creatures. That has included making 600 hectares into private reserve, sheltering wildlife from poachers and deforestation.

An important idea that we have implemented in the area is eco-tourism, providing local communities with income through sustainable means, such as the community visits we offer and ceramic demonstrations.

Furthermore, La Casa del Suizo is one of the highest employers in the region, with a staff of almost entirely local people. In this way, we hope to be able to share the rainforest with generations to come.

The story of La Casa del Suizo

It all began with Beni…

La Casa del Suizo literally means “the house of the Swiss man” in Spanish. But who is the Swiss man and why did he build his house in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon?

That would be Arnold Ammeter, or Beni as we call him, Casa del Suizo’s founder who first arrived in South America (Chile to be precise) in 1963. Dallying in gold around the region for a while, Beni then began to buy plots of land around the town of Ahuano along the Napo River. Accompanied by his teenage daughters (then 12 and 14 years old), the pioneer sought 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, always nurturing the dream of a hotel in that stunning, remote location. In 1986, Beni welcomed guests to three bedrooms on top of the convenience store – he’d cook and the girls helped out after school. 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 by then included 75 rooms, one pool and a large restaurant. It’s now of the longest running – and most experienced – lodges in the region.