About an hour into our journey up the Napo, I see a small flame in the distance. It’s burning in the middle of a group of tree crowns. Is it a wildfire? As we get closer, a metal structure comes into view, just under the flame. On the water in front of the structure sits a barge loaded with massive equipment. Two huge yellow vehicles designed to move earth. Three pristine, white pickup trucks. This is an oil drilling site. The small fire rising from the structure indicates that there is more oil in the ground below. The equipment will strip the land to enable its extraction.

Surrounding the barge, diagonal rows of pylons jut out into the water. The bank above has already been cleared. At least 2 or 3 acres for forest is gone. There are no trees, no birds, no animals on the river bank. Nothing lives here.

Karen from the USA group asks Victor about the sight. His stoic reply: “oil excavation.” He tells us the pylons are there to stem erosion. Without them, the bank would crumble into the river.

There is a constant struggle in this region between the rich and powerful oil industry, the world’s growing demand for petroleum, and the increasing need to protect the “lungs of the world” – the rainforests. This is why Sani Lodge is so important to the Kichwa people. The lodge helps sustain their livelihoods, while preserving the natural resources of the rainforests that surround them.

I feel grateful that this boat is full of people who are spending their money at Sani Lodge. Every dime goes to maintaining that balance, sustaining the Kichwa community, and protecting the rainforests.

On we float, up the river.



As part of our continuing work with the indigenous Amazonian community of Sani Isla in Ecuador, Deborah Tompkins is sharing a travelogue of her experiences as an American in the Amazon. Deb’s company, Sage Point, works with NGOs in Africa, Asia and now Latin America to develop and execute marketing and communication strategies. She is donating her time and expertise to support RP and the Sani Warmi community. We invite you to join Deb as she introduces you to the people, the community, their Amazon ecolodge, and their forest home.


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