Those of you who know us, read our blog and follow us on social media, are probably aware that we (well, mainly me, Antie) are a little bit animal obsessed. I was that crazy kid who ran after dogs in the park, hugged every cat in sight and traumatised hamsters. Not much has really changed now that I’m an adult…
You can therefore imagine our sheer delight to discover a hostel in the Colombian Amazon which is owned and run by a Spanish fraile (a kind of monk) and real life Doctor Dolittle. Monkeys, parrots, cats, dogs…you name it, this hostel has it!
Hostel Alto del Aguila is located just upriver from Puerto Narino, a small sustainable town on the banks of the river Loretoyaco. It is about two hours away by boat from Leticia; Colombia’s biggest Amazonian city. Puerto Narino is a rural retreat and perfect place to relax, experience local culture and spot incredible wildlife. There are no cars or motorbikes and the only way to get around is by walking or boats and canoes on the river. We spent three enjoyable nights at the hostel and completely fell in love with all of the animal residents. It is one of those magical places you never want to leave and when you do finally leave you want to take all of the animals with you.
The fraile came to the Amazon years ago and later returned to set up a home, work with the community and host intrepid guests looking for a real Amazonian experience. He has created a unique watery retreat in the form of a clearing high on the river bank with a viewing tower overlooking the surrounding jungle and river.
The hostel comprises of basic cabanas with beds, complete with mosquito nets, and cold showers. It caters for up to 12 people but there are usually only about six people staying at any given time. There is also a small communal kitchen and cosy living area surrounded by the lush gardens, decking areas and hammocks. The jungle is right on your doorstep and it is a place where time stops still and you are completely immersed in nature. Just be prepared, the accommodation is basic and there is no wifi, an opportunity to really switch off from real life.
From the hostel, boat trips and jungle walks (in the day and night) can be arranged. We went on an amazing jungle trek at night with a local guide. You really connect with all of your senses when you are walking in the dark and it’s when the jungle comes alive with wildlife. We spotted numerous rather deadly looking spiders, insects, frogs, fascinating plants and also a baby anaconda! This was all before the heavens opened and we had to hurry back to the lodge, using banana leaves as umbrellas.
The following day, another guide took us out on his boat to go piranha fishing. This was much harder than anticipated as we were attempting to fish with a traditional stick fishing rod. We managed to catch a couple of very small fish and then watched in awe as our guide kept reeling them in. We took one home to cook up at the hostel, it was practically leaping off the plate it was so fresh.
Or if you would prefer to just sit back and watch the mischievous squirrel monkeys and play with the other animals that live there such as the beautiful cats and dogs, it is well worth doing. The monkeys and macaws are technically wild animals and are free to roam around as they please but they have really become part of the family at the hostel.
Don’t miss out on going down close to the water’s edge to spy the rarer little monkeys, hiding in the trees. If you sit and wait quietly in the morning you can usually spot them and sometimes tempt them down with a banana.
- There aren’t any ATMs in town and so make sure you bring enough money to last for how ever long you intend to stay
- Bring lots of mosquito repellent. The bedrooms do have mosquito nets but you will still get eaten alive in the evenings before going to bed
- Be prepared for the accommodation being very basic, if you really hate creepy crawlies, this place might not be for you
- Equally if you are allergic or not a big fan of dogs and cats, you should probably avoid this hostel
- Having at least some Spanish under your belt will really help you here as the English spoken, like most parts of rural Colombia, is very limited. Our Spanish was quite basic at this point on our trip and we struggled to communicate with the locals to really get the most out of the experience
- If you are a woman beware the territorial parrot Lola. She is a real flirt with visiting men but can get very jealous of the ladies, it’s best to just keep your distance from her
How to book:
To book we would recommend either emailing them or calling ahead (311-502-8592 | firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also just turn up as they often have space. A bed in one of the cabanas costs COP$20,000 pp (Pete and I had a private cabana) and the excursions can be booked through the hostel and are very good-value. We called ahead from our hostel in Leticia and when we got off the boat in Puerto Narino, one of the hostel guides came to meet us in his boat to take us the extra five minutes further upstream. For more information, you can have a look at their website.