High in the Ecuadorian Andes, underground springs bubble up from deep in the earth. As tiny streams trickle through the forest, they combine with snowmelt and mix with the volcanic clay of eastern Ecuador. These are among the most fertile soils in the world and they bring to life an exuberant variety of flora—from towering trees to minuscule mosses and all types of ferns and flowers in between. They, in turn, harbor an endless variety of animal and bird life. But the journey of these waters is just beginning.

They continue their course into the wilderness until they join one of the world’s largest river systems, forming a massive web of waterways. In Ecuador, this lush region is known as “El Oriente,” or The East, part of the massive Amazon basin. It is among the world’s most biodiverse regions, and certainly one of its most fantastic. It spreads out over more than a third of Ecuador, yet only four percent of the nation’s people live here. Among the endless network of streams and rivulets, you’re more likely to see the rainforest’s other residents: caimans, monkeys, birds, and pink dolphins. To say nothing of the indigenous tribes that still eke out a living in the jungles.

Head Deep into the Amazon

The small size of our group allows us to explore this primitive part of the world at a gentle pace. You’ll make your way from the frontier town of Coca via motorized canoe, a modern-day version of the traditional mode of river transit, to a lodge nestled within a private reserve on the shores of Pilchicocha Lake. The ride on the Napo River with your motorista, or canoe pilot—with water splashing by your side and the river’s banks gloriously unfolding on either side of you—is the perfect way to enter this remarkable and breathtaking world. From your very first moment on the waters of the Napo, you’ll get caught up in the expedition spirit that brought so many explorers here before you. And once you see the Sacha Lodge, with its thatched-roof huts embraced by the jungle, you’ll feel completely immersed in the spirit of an Amazon safari.

Revel in a Paradise of Flora and Fauna

Throughout your stay at Sacha Lodge, you’ll venture into the mighty Amazon by canoe and by foot, by day and by night, giving you the most intimate experience there is. You may, for instance, try your hand at catching some legendary piranha. The legendary sharp-toothed fish makes the murky waters of some nearby lakes its home—but they are surprisingly easy to catch, as your naturalist guide will demonstrate. The white caiman and the water monkey fish are also key parts of this fragile ecosystem.

You may notice other colorful creatures along the water’s edge as you head out on expeditions via traditional dugout canoe. Pools of mud on the shore have become enriched with minerals that attract countless parrots and parakeets. These parrot clay licks, as they are called, actually save the lives of many birds as the clay essentially neutralizes toxic seeds or unripe fruits they’ve eaten that would otherwise harm them.

But you won’t have to go far to witness one of the world’s most bio-diverse wilderness spaces. Just step outside your hut and you may spot any of eight species of monkeys cavorting in the treetops, from the tiny pygmy marmoset to the 17-pound red howler. Anteaters, sloths, ocelots, and numerous types of frogs may also be keeping you company.

For bird lovers, almost 600 species have been identified around the lodge alone. You’re likely to see many of them when you venture along the Canopy Walk, one of just a few self-standing suspension canopy walkways in the world. This invigorating “floating” pathway spans 900 feet and provides magnificent views from 120 feet above the forest floor.

Alternately, visit the lodge’s tranquil Butterfly House, a magical menagerie of colorful winged creatures. Here, in one of the largest butterfly breeding farms in Ecuador, you may see transparent, glass-wing butterflies, resplendent blue morphs, vibrant tiger longwings, and many others.

Preserving a Way of Life

Tribal residents of the Amazon Rainforests also inspire fascination. Amazonian Kichwas have lived along the Napo River’s banks for centuries. Until relatively recently, they—like other tribes up and down the Amazon and its tributaries—lived their days in a pure and primitive state, untouched by civilization as we know it. As modern man encroached, they imposed their moral and religious values on the tribes and exploited their resources for profit.

Many tribes survived. And though they can never again return to the ways of their ancestors, they strive to keep long-cherished traditions alive. The Kichwa, in particular, have had to fight to retain much of their land. As recently as 1992, Ecuador returned 2.75 million acres of land to them. Their traditions are critical to understanding the Amazon and you can examine them in depth at the Nueva Providencia Kichwa Interpretation Center. A group of local women are on hand here to share intimate details of their customs, cuisine and culture. You can support them and their tribes by purchasing their handmade crafts.

Magnificent beauty … an immersive lodge expedition … fascinating cultures clinging to tradition. Visit this magnificent country with Gate 1 Travel!

Posted by Gate 1 Travel

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