Amazon in Ecuador

The Amazon Ecuador lies east of the Andean mountain range, covering the steamy rainforests known as the Oriente. With an amazing diversity of flora and fauna, the Oriente occupies half the country but is home to less than 5 percent of the people. The tropical jungle, however, is more accessible than you might imagine and accommodations are probably more civilized than you would expect.

Regular flights from Quito to this intriguing area allow you to experience a virgin jungle in pristine condition, with thousands of species of orchid, plus sloths, monkeys, macaws, and pink river dolphins. And throughout this hot, sticky paradise are dozens of native tribes, retaining ancient customs despite the intrusion of outsiders.

The muddy rivers of the lower Rio Napa flow along the Peruvian border. The river is the region's motorway, and long motorized canoes ply the shallow river. A number of Amazon Guides and Amazon Tour agencies operate out of the town of Cocoa, which has little to attract the visitor but is the ideal jumping off place for Amazon river tours to the remotest part of the jungle. These fantastic amazon tours are almost always prearranged as part of a tour scheduled in Quito or other cities.

You may want to take advantage of one of the several jungle lodges along the river, with lodging prearranged in larger cities. The Amazon lodges provide stays of four to five days and many use a combination of indigenous guides and trained naturalists and provide observation towers as vantage points for viewing life in the jungle canopy. Some, such as Sacha Lodge, provide ceiling fans, hot water, a laundry facility, hammocks, and their own private reserve.

La Selva Jungle Lodge, more for the budget minded, provides simple picturesque cabins, kerosene lamps, mosquito nets, private baths, and a reputation for excellent food.

Excursions include night walks, boardwalk swamp and river crossings, canoe rides on lakes, and an "Amazon Light Brigade," a week of demanding and easy hiking, and an evening at a campsite with cocktails and dinner.

Things to Avoid: Freelance tour guides (many are con artists who are anxious for you to part with your money and receive little in return).

Traversing the area without a guide (you need the experience of those who know about the wilds of the jungle).

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