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Introducing The Oriente

You can’t help but feel the rub of the first world chafing against the ancient in the Oriente, Ecuador’s Amazon Basin. Consider the Tagaeri and Taromenani, who refuse all contact with the modern world but inhabit the same forest where oil exploitation grows day by day. These worlds will one day meet. The Oriente is an intense place with clenching stakes for everyone involved. Its earliest inhabitants lobbed heads for it, and politicians, colonists, environmentalists, indigenous groups and big industry continue the battle today.

For visitors the pull is mega-biodiversity. Beyond the cloud forests of the eastern Andean foothills, it’s all rain forest, home to 50% of Ecuador’s mammals, 5% of the earth’s plant species and prolific bird life. Slip on your rubber boots to tread its forested hills, wetland marshes, big rivers and black-water lagoons. You’ll be sharing real estate with tapirs, manatees, freshwater dolphins, anacondas, caimans, monkeys, sloths, peccaries and seldom-seen jaguars.

Equally fascinating is the human geography of the Oriente. The Achuar, Cofan, Huaorani, Quichua, Secoya, Shuar, Siona and Zaparo all call it home. These ancient cultures joined the 20th century at rocket speed, when, in the 1960s, oil exploration threw roads and colonists into areas few explorers reached. Ecuador’s native population is a panorama as diverse and discordant as any modern population. Adaptation has not made their history or cultures any less interesting.