Ecuador's remote ecolodges showcase the lush Amazon wildlife and vegetation with an old-world charm
The Condos live just down the river from Yasuni National Park's riverbank clay licks. That's where thousands of parrots congregate daily to eat mineral-laden clay. They don't always show up, leaving some tourists feeling shortchanged, as if a lodge can orchestrate nature like a virtual reality concert. But we're in luck. Hundreds of green bodies stand out like fluorescent targets on the beige clay walls. They squawk. They flutter. They gnaw at the clay. It's happy hour at Moe's Bar.
Suddenly, the parrots fly away in a giant green-winged cloud. Then, it pours. The humans huddle under ponchos in an open dugout canoe. Instead of feeling anxious, I feel exhilarated. The rain pounds on my head and runs off the poncho. I clutch my camera tight in its plastic bag close to my body. I close my eyes and feel the rivulets streaming down into my boots.
Rain is what makes the Ecuadorian Amazon so grand and haunting, so lush and fragile.
So you can't complain, really. This actually isn't the kind of vacation where complainers belong.
La Selva was started by an American couple 25 years ago. In November, it was bought by a new owner, Columbus Group, which is in the process of upgrading the property.
This month, it will debut a whole new look that Columbus Group promises will still be true to its rustic roots but offer more luxurious touches — Wi-Fi (a terrible idea in my opinion, but that's progress), newer, larger more upscale huts, new boats, new kayaks.
"We want to keep the same type of construction, but we are adding bigger cabins and more comfortable cabins," says manager Yoyi Minaya. "We are going to be the best ecolodge. We want to be more integrated with the community. The people who come, it's a mix of everybody. We won't change that philosophy."
It is possible to see the Amazon by boat. But staying put in one place brings one closer to the soul of the rain forest, she says.
"When you stay on land, you hear the noises at night, the sound of the birds," Minaya says. "That is the magic of the jungle — the smells, the sounds of the place."
Like the motmot. And the parrots. And the rain. And the piranhas silently swarming in the deep.
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