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 PLACES TO VISIT

Salto de San Rafael
On the road to Lago Agrio, about two hours out of Baeza, a path leads down to the 145m [483 ft] San Rafael Falls, the highest falls in Ecuador. Bus drivers will know where to stop if you ask for “Las Cascadas”.


The bird watching here is as almost as impressive as the mighty falls themselves. There's a good chance of spotting the brilliant Andean cock-of-the-rock. Look out for a cross in memory of a Canadian photographer who fell to his death in the area in 1988. It might deter you from a risky climb to the foot of the falls that is steep, slippery and treacherous.

A bit further east on the other side of the main road is the hard-to-find head of the trail to Volcan Reventador, a relatively small mountain by Ecuadorian standards [3,562 m or 11,872 ft], but nevertheless a two- to four-day hike to the peak. Take a guide if you plan to climb this recently active volcano because it's easy to get lost.

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Cuyabeno Reserve
These 665,000 hectares of flooded forest are characterised by the incredible biological diversity of the reserve. Pink dolphins, the Amazonian manati and four species of caymen [alligator], plus a multitude of birds [tangaras and cotingidos, mainly] inhabit its lakes.
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Panacocha
A small protected area of 56,000 hectares, Panacocha straddles the Napo and Aguarico rivers. It's a paradise for walkers, as birds, butterflies and  even freshly printed footprints of jaguars are easily spotted.
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Biological Reserve of Limoncocha
Limoncocha Reserve was created in order to prevent the area's fragile ecosystem from damage caused by oil exploration activity. Located in El Coca province, Limoncocha is a haven for birds.
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Monkey Island
As the name suggests, the island's most common inhabitants are the howling monkeys. The howls of these noisy creatures can be heard from more than a kilometre away. While visiting the island you can't miss these monkeys thanks to their noise and their reddish behinds.
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Hatun Sacha Biological Station
Near Misuahualli in the Napo province, Hatun Sacha is dedicated to conservation and to the investigation of the forest's species. Visitors learn about the station's projects and organisation.
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"Amazonico" Animal Rescue Centre
The rescue centre welcomes volunteers from every corner of the Earth who come to help with species' "re-habilitation". The objective of the centre is to release the animals into the wild after their recovery.
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The Huaorani Reserve
The Huaorani tribe has always lived and hunted in the Napo area. In the past few years however, their land and lifestyle have been damaged and disturbed by the petrochemical and tourist industries. The Huaorani reacted by imposing tolls on the use of their rivers and charging entrance fees to their communities, most of which are now part of the Huaorani Reserve south of Coca.
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Yasuni National Prk
Ecuador's largest mainland park, Yasuni extends over a whopping 962,000 hectares [2,376,140 acres]. It protects a range of rainforest habitats from forested hills to periodically-flooded and inundated lowlands. Although it was first established in 1979, the boundaries of the park were extended eastwards following the creation of the Huaorani Reserve in 1991. The park is renowned for its huge biodiversity, although to date little of it has been studied. Recognising its importance, UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve and many conservationist groups have been involved in its protection. The park faces serious threats from the oil industry: the Maxus consortium enjoys exploration rights in the park for instance. Thankfully, the road Maxus and its predecessor Conoco built has been maintained off-limits to colonisers, and environmental damage from exploration has been kept to a comparative minimum. The park is extremely remote and seldom visited. However lengthy tours can be arranged with guides from Coca agencies, as well as the Quito-based ones.

Last updated 4th July 2006

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