agentsAmazonEcuadorfamilTravellers Choice Last month a group of Travellers Choice members – recipients of prestigious Gold Choice Awards – ventured into the extraordinary Ecuadorian ecosystem boasting lush Amazon jungle, snow-capped mountains and some of the planet’s most curious wildlife.The custom-made Adventure World itinerary began in the Ecuador capital of Quito, once the northern hub of the Inca Empire, from where the group flew into the heart of the Amazon for a three-night voyage down the Napo River on Manatee Amazon Explorer, where they were treated to the dazzling sights of colourful locals, including monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws and even some notoriously shy pink Amazon dolphins.TC MD Christian Hunter with the last glacier-ice merchant, who hauls blocks of ice from Mount Chimborazo to sell to local tradersManaging Director Christian Hunter says a few brave souls even dipped their feet into the black waters of Lake Piranha and had their toes duly nibbled by the curious – but thankfully not too hungry – inhabitants. However, not all the locals were as obliging.“At one point on a jungle trek we accidentally disturbed some ground-nesting bees,” says Hunter. “They weren’t very happy with us and a couple of agents felt their wrath, one being stung on the nose. Luckily the bites weren’t too painful – they just swelled and proved a bit itchy.”Next up was a spectacular and luxurious journey from the Andes to the Pacific coast on a lovingly-restored, antique steam locomotive for the ‘Train of Wonders’, navigating the Avenue of Volcanoes, staying at charming haciendas (ranches) and descending the mythical Devil’s Nose pass (one of the steepest stretches of railway in the world) to emerge from the cloud forest into Ecuador’s tropical plantations.“What was most memorable about the journey was the sheer diversity of Ecuador’s landscapes,” says Hunter. “The variety of ecosystems is remarkable and most people don’t realise there is so much more to the country, all of which can easily be incorporated into a Galapagos trip.”Embarking on the ‘Train of Wonders’Each year a total of 30 Travellers Choice members are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze Choice Awards, with winners determined by the level of support they provide the network’s preferred suppliers. As well as dedicated educational trips, recipients enjoy exclusive sales incentives and receive service grants worth up to $1500 per agency, which they can use towards member services.TOP IMAGE: High in the Andes – L-R: Sherrilyn Wigg (Discover Travel & Cruise), Lucinda Metcalfe (Maria Slater Travel), Lesley Shepherd (Select World Travel), Deb Long (Weston Cruise & Travel), Christian Hunter (Travellers Choice), Leonie Ivey (Windsong Travel), Tania Allen (Oliver Travel), Mark Brady (Ballina Cruise & Travel), Dave Hulsman (Ucango Travel) and Ana Salazar (Adventure World).