Even though there are more than 25,000 square kilometres of protected land in the Oriente – well over half of which is pristine Amazonian rainforest – conservationists are worried the cash-strapped Ecuadorian government is unable (or unwilling) to make sure it stays that way. The task of balancing the needs of a faltering economy against the obligation to protect some of the most important forests on the planet has been among Ecuador’s central problems for the past few decades. Meanwhile, oil activity is ongoing in several crucial protected areas, including Yasuní.

While most people would concede the oil industry has been very much a mixed blessing for the country, the indigenous peoples of the region – which include the Siona, Waorani, Secoya, Achuar, Shuar, Kichwa (who have rejected the Spanish spelling of their name “Quichua”), Cofán and Záparo – have had the most to lose. Many groups, rejecting the Western way of life, have been driven into ever smaller, remoter territories where it becomes increasingly hard to support themselves by traditional means. Their rivers and soil already polluted from industrial waste, most of the communities are under mounting pressure to sell out to the oil industry, both culturally and territorially. In recent years, ecotourism has emerged as a great hope for some groups seeking to adapt to a life in which external influences are inevitable, bringing in badly needed income, strengthening the case for the conservation of the forests within an economic framework and reasserting cultural identities.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Ecuador features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
19 places for a digital detox

19 places for a digital detox

Find peace at Buddhist monastery, Nepal Trim out the religious and/or mystical connotations and Buddhism boils down to something quite simple – brain trainin…

14 Nov 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

There's so much more to Ecuador than just the Galápagos. Chitra Ramaswamy went on her own voyage of discovery to find the best things to do in Ecuador, beyond …

07 Nov 2014 • Chitra Ramaswamy insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month