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The Amazon region of Ecuador is called the oriente, which means "east" in Spanish, and refers to the eastern slope of the Andes mountains. Here lies part of the region famously known as the Amazon Rain Forest. Named for the Amazon River that runs through it, the oriente has long been a fascination to Western explorers and travelers. The Amazon river begins in the Andes at 17,000 ft. and flows 4,000 miles through Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. In Ecuador, the Amazon river begins as the Napo River, one of the largest of its 10,000 tributaries. The tropical rain forest of the Amazon basin contains a vast array of flora and fauna, some of which are believed to be as yet undiscovered by science. The flooded forests, black water streams, and dense vegetation are all distinct rain forest ecosystems.

The rare Amazonian Umbrella Bird

Over 400 tree species can be found in just one hectare of tropical forest in Ecuador.

Jatun Sacha Foundation

Soils in tropical forests are generally very poor for agricultural use. The rich nutrients from the rapidly decomposing forest floor remain in the first twelve inches of topsoil. To accommodate, the root systems of tropical plants also remain close to the surface - many of them actually above the surface. Hiking through the cool interior of a tropical rain forest requires stepping over and around large roots laid across the forest floor.

Shuar man of the Amazon in traditional dress.

The elusive Two-Toed Sloth rests on woody debris in the Aguarico River. 

The lush vegetation of tropical forests contain properties found in many of today's modern medicines.

Stilted root palm

Traditional Shuar hut made from palm fronds and trunks.

A common building material in the oriente is sturdy bamboo.

Where left undisturbed, tropical forests are home to many species of monkeys.

Flower of the heliconia

The controversy surrounding natural resource extraction from mining, oil, and timber industries stems from the health and safety concerns of local communities. Through enhanced environmental standards and monitoring studies, much has been done to mitigate the impacts upon water supplies. However secondary effects of settlement by colonists along roads created by these companies, and subsequent deforestation of the area for agricultural use, continues to be the major environmental impact in these areas.

Ecuador has great rivers for canoeing and rafting.

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