Tips for traveling in a rain forest

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COCA, Ecuador -- The jungles of Ecuador are appealing even in the rain, and Quito-based Metropolitan Touring made the group with which I was traveling as comfortable as one can be in a rain forest in May.

In Ecuador, the rainy season spans February to June. (It also rains in the "not-rainy" season, just not as much.)

During our stay at La Selva Jungle Lodge on Ecuador's Napo River, late-afternoon and early-morning activities introduced us to an astonishing array of interdependent plant and animal life as well as majestic scenery and sunsets -- the jungle's rewards for those who travel prepared.

We saw butterflies at the lodge's butterfly farm that had markings that look like eyes on the sides of their wings. Frogs abound; there are more frog species there than one can count.

Binoculars are essential (waterproof, at 10 x 42 power, our guide urged), and fast film is recommended.

Here's a bit of information the uninitiated should consider when preparing for the trip:

• If clothes get wet, they won't be dry after three days. I know.

• Jungle lodges are not on main roadways.

• An Ecuadoran jungle trip can be a damp slog if travelers aren't prepared.

To get to La Selva, we flew from Quito to Coca (35 minutes), where we boarded a "motorized canoe" for a three-hour ride to a makeshift dock that led to steps cut into the dirt bank.

Our luggage was wrapped in plastic and carried overland to our next over-water ride -- in a dugout canoe.

We walked 15 minutes on a typical rain-forest walkway, a raised path made of bamboo about three feet wide, before boarding the dugout that would take us across a lake to the wooden dock at the base of our lodge's main lounge.

The 20-minute ride was not without incident. The heavens opened and we were drenched, although our plastic-wrapped luggage remained dry -- which brings us to these hints:

• Carry a plastic poncho for downpours and wear quick-dry clothing (that won't get bone-dry, either) and old walking shoes; store cameras and valuables in resealable plastic bags.

• Carry insect repellent and sunblock.

• Seek medical advice before jungle travel. Some La Selva guests did not have malaria prophylactics; others did.

For details, call Adventure Associates in Dallas, the Metropolitan Touring office in the U.S., at (800) 527-2500; or visit www.metropolitan-touring.com.

You can reach the journalist who wrote this article at [email protected].

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