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3 of the best luxury wildlife lodges in the Ecuadorian Amazon


The Ecuadorian Amazon cant be beaten when it comes to exploring the wildlife of the country; rich with 25,000 specifies of plant life and the chance to see hard-to-find pink river dolphins, its easy to find yourself lost in the natural wonders you can find here. Its one great experience to come here and see these natural wonders for yourself, however, its a completely phenomenal experience to spend a few nights here. Options on where to stay in the Ecuadorian Amazon are not as limited as you may think, there are a fair amount of lodges offering a combination of activities to help get you in the swing of exploring this vast jungle and providing top quality luxury facilities you can return to after a long day of adventuring. Here are the top 3 wildlife lodges we recommend:

1. Napo Lodge

This lodge almost feels like venturing back in time! Thanks to the Anangu Indigenous Community who built and designed this lodge with careful consideration, this charming lodge of 16 exclusive cabins, in the centre of a vital UNESCO biosphere reserve, feels like living in a traditional thatched roofed Amazonian village. Considered by many as one of the best Eco-Lodges in the world, the preservation of the flora and fauna in the region adds to the feeling of being in touch with nature whilst staying here. The accommodation interior is designed with native furnishings, adding to the jungle themed feel, but also provide amenities you may not easily find elsewhere; including access to hot water, electricity, ceiling fans, screened windows, a safe and a private balcony that has a jaw-dropping view of the nearby lake.

The facilities here are a comfortable respite from a days journey in the jungle. There are several social areas to meet other guests and share stories of your time in the jungle, a stocked bar which can quench the thirst of even the pickiest drink connoisseur, a cosy library where you can research into the history of the local area, access to short nature trails behind the lodge for casual nature walks, internet access and even a 20ft observation tower which has a complete 360 overlook of the jungle (a selfie, or two, wouldnt go amiss here!). Napo also offers excursions in available packages so even visitors venturing here for the first time will be able to get the most out of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Napo Lodge is indeed one of the best places to immerse yourself in the Amazon and should be one of the fist places that comes to mind when thinking of where to stay.

2. Sacha Lodge

For an authentic rainforest experience, Sacha Lodge doesnt disappoint. Located remotely deep within the amazon (a half way point between Limoncocha and Panacocha) this lodge offers a pure luxurious stay rarely found in this particular area. Sacha is far from lacking in opportunities to discover the local wildlife - visitors can partake in canoe trips, canopy walks, visit clay licks, access a canopy tower where you can easily spot unique mammals, reptiles and birds and enjoy night-time safaris. Offering you something to do at any point in the day, this lodge certainly wants you to make the most of your time while staying with them.

While youre not occupied with outdoor activities, Sacha will cater to your meal requirements, great news for vegans and vegetarians, international dishes are definitely not off the menu here and diners are treated to a scenic view of the Pilchicocha Lake and the local bird life, making the dining experience perfect on its own accord. The lodges high thatched roofed cabins and private shaded terrace, constructed from local traditional materials, fit the surrounding area perfectly and will make your stay here all the more welcoming. All 26 rooms have a private bathroom (complete with hot showers and flushing toilets), screens to keep out insects, ceiling fans above two incredibly soft double beds and scenic overlooks from hammocks. Getting the chance to see toucans, agoutis and even monkeys on occasion whilst relaxing in your hammock makes a stay here unforgettable. A truly rare experience that many hotels cannot claim.

3. La Selva

If youre looking for an award winning lodge that is eco-friendly, you cant go wrong with La Selva. This lodge was one of the first established luxury lodges in the Ecuadorian Amazon and was completely remodelled before reopening again in July 2012. The lodge is now classed as the premier eco-lodge in the region. Located by the Lake Garzacocha in the Yasuni National Park, La Selva is ideal for explorers looking to make the most of their time in this serene part of Ecuador. Youll get the opportunity to explore the national park and surrounding areas with indigenous and multilingual guides. Theres always something to do; including day-and-night walks or safaris in either kayaks or canoes. Youll also be able to climb the nearby observation tower for a great view of the national park and you may be able to take a quick swim in the nearby lagoon!

Staying within the national park means you wont need to put much effort into finding the local wildlife. Guests here have seen frogs, toucans, caimans, parrots and monkeys. There are many other species you can find in the park so you may catch a rare glimpse of while youre here. Either way, the local wildlife will help make your trip here all the more memorable. If youre here for bird watching, youll be in absolute paradise. The Yasun Biosphere Reserve around the lodge contains the most species of birds here than in any other part of Ecuador, even more than the USA and Canada combined! The guides will help you find the wildlife and provide informative explanations into the vast diversity of species that call it home. The lodge itself provides breath-taking views of the overlooking Lake Garzacocha from their fine restaurant and fully stocked bar. The view alone is a picture-perfect example of South American wilderness, when accompanied with great food and drink it makes the experience all the more enjoyable. All of the 19 spacious cabanas are classed as eco-friendly and fashioned with inspiration from native bamboo designs. Guests have access to rainforest showers and exceptional views at any time of the day. This lodge is the perfect get away location whilst being in arms reach of a vast national reserve. The eco-friendly vibe and welcoming service justifies the awards and positive credibility this lodge has earnt.

Simon Williams is Director ofBespoke Latin America.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, pleasecontact us.

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How to fly business class for the price of economy


In an ideal world, wed all love to travel in business class. Business offers leg space, delicious food, the ability to sleep in an appropriate horizontal position and, most importantly, Champagne on tap - which all culminate in a very civilised flight experience. Sadly, money doesn't grow on trees. But fear not: it is possible to swindle business class seats, minus the business price tag. Heres how:

1. Join a frequent fliers programme

Airlines offer upgrades to their most loyal flyers. To join a frequent flyer programme, simply sign up online. If you don't actually fly that often, get an airline credit card that gives you reward points for purchases- most credit cards will reward you a certain amount of points for money spent. The advantage of accruing miles via your credit card is that it generally gives results quicker than using a loyalty programme; not everyone flies constantly but youre probably going to be using your card every day. However, it is worth considering that these credit cards may charge an annual fee and of course, the benefits are maximised only if you pay off your balance on time.

2. Use your air miles for upgrades

If you've racked up air miles but not enough to earn elite status on your loyalty programme, or you dont have quite enough for a free flight, spend those points on an upgrade instead.

3. Check for last minute updates

Depending on availability, you can sometimes upgrade your ticket at a discounted rate roughly six hours before your flight time. Call your airline to see if any seats are available last minute in business class; the cost involved can be as little as 150pp.

4. Keep your finger on the airline pulse

Business class seats frequently go on sale, so keep your eye out for them by signing up to newsletter updates with your favourite airlines.

5. Consider your flight dates carefully

The prices of business class seats are dictated by supply and demand, so you're more likely to secure a better price if you fly at a time other business class customers are not looking to travel. Beware of flying at weekends and school holidays!

6. Use a travel company to get the best deal

Booking flights and securing the best deals are second nature to travel experts so they're in a fantastic position to get the best deal for you. Booking with a tour operator also means your flights will be protected with ATOL legal bonding, so that if youre delayed etc. you don't have to worry about making other arrangements; your travel expert is obliged to organise travel logistics for you.

7. Fly from another European city that offers better rates

For example, flying from Norway, the Netherlands and Italy to a long haul destination can be a lot cheaper in business class. This is because they don't tend to fill the seats so easily from these points and also taxes are a lot cheaper.

8. Offer to be ‘bumped'

If you've got no pressing time constraints to reach your destination, offer to be bumped on an overbooked flight. You'll usually be re-scheduled on another flight with business class seats and get a great experience.

9. Look fabulous!

Wear your Sunday best and smile. Dressing up smartly is an unofficial but often successful way to get upgraded to that business class seat. Compliment the attendants and put on the charm, but be sure to make it authentic!

Sam Clark is CEO at Experience Travel Group.

If you would like to be a guest blogger onA Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, pleasecontact us.

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