Ecuador is the most biologically
diverse country on Earth, due to its location on the equator with elevational
changes from sea level to 20,000 feet at the top of the Chimborazo Volcano.
In the eastern part of the country, the elevation drops back down to
feet above sea level on the Amazon, 2000 miles from the river's mouth.
And don't forget the Galapagos Islands!
the Galapagos Islands, exceptional mountaineering, and substantial cultural
attractions, Ecuador will always be a hot spot for ecotourism. Historically,
visitors to Ecuador, especially birders, have included an extension to
Amazon to places like Cuyabeno, Yasuni, and lodges along the Napo River.
Though Cuyabeno and Huaorani territory in the Yasuní have become
increasingly difficult places to operate, ecotourism remains viable
the Napo at several of Ecuadors highest-end lodges such as Sacha,
Yarina, Añago, La Selva, and historic destinations such as Pañacocha.
With the buffer provided by Cuyabeno and the Aguarico River, ecotourism
remains an economic engine along the Napo River. Recognition of the ecotourism
as a source of continued forest conservation is one of the strongest
available to the conservation community. Immediate support for this fact
would come in the form of a proposal, building on the stated interests
the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism, to establish a chain of
ecotourism lodges along the Napo.
For example, Sacha Lodge has just recently invested almost $500,000 in
the construction of a quarter-mile canopy walkway at their facility, and
well-known and new lodges of similar
caliber are heavily invested not only in their own self-preservation but
the survival of the wildlife and natural
settings of their lodges. This chain of ecotourism lodges along the Napo
River would also serve as a much-needed planning tool for local municipalities
The conservation community could depend on the support the many and most
influential tourist operators in the region and, since the policy of decentralization
of regulatory authority has vested the power of regional planning and development
partially in the hands of the municipalities, these local entities recognize
that the boom and bust cycle of petroleum is not a long-term
solution. Planning around ecotourism and partial conservation is a good
place to hang a political hat. There is no reason why ecotourism as a form
of economic diversification cannot co-exist with appropriate petroleum
The latter is something that has yet to be demonstrated.