The Ecuadorean Amazon
Credit: Glenn Bartley / Getty Images

Why: Deep in the jungle, at the headwaters of the Amazon, lives one of the most isolated ethnic groups in the world. The Huaorani, an indigenous people who've only been in contact with the civilized world since the mid-twentieth century, harvest jungle fruits and hunt in much the same way as they presumably have for thousands of years. And they do it through virgin forest. Unfortunately, oil interests in the region have put their way of life, and the pristine environment, at risk. According to Amazon Watch, "oil extraction would result in irreversible ecological and cultural devastation to the region and to the planet. The construction of roads alone would result in the loss of 457,700 acres of tropical forest and would release 136.4 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere within the first 20 years." The government of Ecuador originally asked that the international community raise funds to offset potential oil revenues — an effort to justify keeping oil development out of the Amazon that was considered tantamount to blackmail. Nevertheless, development is coming and it's coming fast – bad news for both the Huaorani and the myriad birds and animals that call the region home.

What to do: Visit the Huaorani Ecolodge, which brings travelers on an enlightening, adrenaline-pumping trip over five days in Yasuni National Park. The lodge is managed by members of the Huaorani tribe and serves as a tool for conservation to fight extractive activities in their ancestral lands.

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