Arrival day. We will wait for you at the Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport. The first night you will stay in Hotel Fuente de Piedra. This hotel, built in 1996, is an enchanting and charming 3 stars colonial style hostel located in a quiet sector in Quito, near the neighbourhood of La Mariscal, the most traditional, commercial and touristic area of Quito. The philosophy of the hotel is "It is our ambition to host you in our hostel, our home. We want to feature the authenticity and diversity of Ecuador with a heart for quality and a home feeling in every aspect of our offer ranging from accommodation, gastronomy to service". The hotel provides free WiFi internet service.
Day 2 - 4
Our first place to visit will be the western subtropical zone. This zone is highly seasonal, with a distinct dry season in July and August, especially in the south. Some particularly ornate birds live here, the Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Violet-tailed Sylph,
not to mention all the jewelled tanagers
. This is an easy zone to bird, with good forest remaining alongside roads. We will stay for 3 nights in Sachatamia Lodge
(distance from Quito is 75 km). Sachatamia is a marvellous private, ecological reserve exceeding 120 hectares of cloud-rain forest.
Sachatamia has the privilege of being located next to the Protected Forest of Mindo-Nambillo. The zone is renowned as one of the foremost in terms of the wealth of biodiversity that is rich in flora and fauna. It has attained first place in the annual count of bird species on a global level.
Crystalline rivers, nature paths, pure air, gourmet cuisine and an elegant rustic refuge provide an escape from the stress of urban life. Several species of mammals had been found such as puma, Toucan-Barbetspectacled bear, black howler monkey, capuchin monkey, Andean coati, armadillos, white tailed and brocket deer, two toed sloth to name only a few. Also an incredible amount of reptile and amphibian species can been found, plus an overwhelming number of plant species. The drastic altitude changes from 950 to 1650 meters above sea level, in addition to the isolation of the region, has created one of the most delicate, but rich and complex ecosystems known in the Mindo region. Birding at Sachatamia Lodge is a magical experience, the overwhelming 328 species makes bird watching here unforgettable. Bird watching at its best!
During our stay we will go birding at Yanacocha, Tandayapa Valley, Mashpi Road, Milpe Naure Reserve and the very interesting Angel paz Nature Reserve.
Today we will drive back to Quito. We will take the Silanche road and make several stops for birding en route. We will again stay in Hotel Fuente de Piedra, Quito.
We leave Quito after breakfast and drive to the south-east for a visit to the National Reserve Antisana. Above the forested slopes of the Andes lies a rolling grassland called "paramo." Here the birds are refreshingly easy to see and quite distinct from those of other zones. This is the place to search the sky for Andean Condor
, and watch the ground for the Andean Snipe
and Tawny Antpitta
. The Antisana Reserve (altitude 4000 m) is one of the best places to find the Andean Condor
, perhaps the most famous bird of the Andes Mountains. These immense birds make their home on the steep cliffs found along the Andean chain where they gracefully soar while they look for a carrion meal. In this place, with beautiful scenery, we will find also several other Paramo specialities like Black-faced Ibis, Carunculated Caracara, Silvery Grebe, Aplomado Falcon, Andean Gull, Paramo Ground Tyrant
and Paramo Pipit
Be prepared for any kind of weather -- warm sunny days can turn bitter cold and cloudy in minutes. I've been in sun, rain, hail, lightning, and snow in a single day at Cotopaxi National Park. (Don't forget sunscreen!).
We will stay at Termas de Papallacta
SPA, Resort and Convention Centre, it is located 40 miles east of Quito at an altitude of 3.300 m. This spa - resort offers our guests a very relaxing stay after a hard birding day , or maybe even instead of.
The average day-temperature is 14°C. The hydro-thermal value of Termas de Papallacta's Hot Springs is thanks to Papallacta's location between two volcanoes, Volcano Cayambe and Volcano Antisana. The source temperature of the thermal baths varies between 30°C and 70°C . At the pools the temperature ranges from 36°C to 40°C. Papallacta´s thermal waters contain sulphates, sodium, calcium, chloride and traces of magnesium which are odourless and colourless, but have a slightly salty taste. Excellent accommodation is complemented by great restaurants, which serve a range of culinary delights to tickle your taste buds. We will make several outings to nearby interesting birding sites.
Day 7 - 8
If weather permits, we will visit the The Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, looking for Masked Mountain Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Pale-eared Brush-Finch, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Shining Sunbean, Viridian Metal-tail and Paramo Seedeater. At the Papallacta Pass at a maximum altitude of 4.320 m we will discover again different habitats. The tundra area is where the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe inhabits. We will visit the endemic Andean Polylepis Forest with specialities like Giant Conebill, Black -backed Bush Tanager, and in the Paramo habitat White-chinned Thistletail and Tawny Antpitta.
We will stay for 2 nights in Cabañas San Isidro
. This beautiful lodge, surrounded by its own 1,300ha forest reserve, has built a reputation for being the pioneer in private conservation and birding/nature tourism on the north-east slope of the Ecuadorian Andes.
Cabañas San Isidro and its immediate surroundings now boast a bird list of about 310 species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country.San Isidro Lodge is situated at about 2050 meters above sea level, but the trails lead through elevational gradients that pass through habitats from 2,400 meters all the way down to 1,850 meters. In this area, June and July are the wettest months, although any time can be wet.
The eastern sub-tropics feature amazing tanagers and hummingbirds, many not shared with the western subtropics, such as the beautiful Vermilion Tanager
and Orange-eared Tanager
, the Yellow-throated Tanager
, and the tiny Wire-crested Thorntail.
The eastern subtropics are also a good place to see the Crested Quetzal
and Torrent Duck
. What this means to birders is an ideal base to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the heart of the subtropical zone.
The majority of the forests here are what most newcomers to the tropics envision: large hardwood trees draped with lush mosses that support a seemingly endless number of orchid and bromeliad species. Around one corner a brightly colored hummingbird may be sipping nectar from a gaudy red epiphyte bloom; around another, a tanager flock might be gulping fruits at a canopy tree, flashing their brilliant blues, yellows and greens. Along the rushing rivers and streams of the area, watch for Torrent Duck
and White-capped Dipper
, both are regulars.
Day 9 - 10
Set on a ridge in the Andes' Eastern Foothills, Wildsumaco Lodge has panoramic views reaching across the Rio Pucuno Valley and to the Andes beyond. On clear days the distant snow-covered heights of El Altar, Tungurahua, and Antisana Volcanoes glow white against the blue sky. North of the lodge is Sumaco National Park, and often the volcano Sumaco can be seen peeking through the clouds and mist surrounding its heights. We will be our home for 2 nights
Due to its location on the Equator, the steep Andean Foothills, and the close proximity of the Amazon, the Sumaco area holds one of the richest avifaunas in the world. A wonderful mix of cloudforest species, foothill specilties, and typically Amazonian birds share Wildsumaco's lush subtropical rainforest with a myriad of other animals. Many of the birds here are rare, endangered, or very difficult to see elsewhere.
From Wildsumaco's trails you might see Gray-tailed Piha, Blue-rumped Manakin, and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Short-tailed Antthrush and Wing-banded Wren often sing, while more uncommon species like Gray-throated Leaftosser and Plain-backed Antpittas are seen occasionally, and more often heard. The very rare Yellow-throated Spadebill has territories along several of the trails of the lodge, and at any time the endangered Military Macaw or rare Spot-winged Parrotlet might fly by, or Black Hawk-Eagle soar overhead.
Main tour: In the afternoon we will drive back to Quito making several stops for birding en route. We will stay in Hotel Fuente de Piedra, Quito.
Extension: An extra night in Wildsumaco Lodge. Birding around the Lodge in the afternoon
Main tour: Flight back home
Extension: First day of extension: Transfer to Coca
Today we drive from the Wildsumaco Lodge to Coca in the Ecuadorian Amazonia. Covering approximately 12 million hectares the major area of the Ecuadorian Amazonia support exuberant
vegetation that is typical of humid tropical forests, its western limit is the Andes Mountains Range, Peru lies to the south and Colombia to the north. The temperature varies between 23 C and 26 C and between 300 to 400 cm of rainfall are distributed more or less equally throughout the year, although December through February are the drier months.
The forests consists mainly of Cinnamon, Silk cotton, Jacaranda and several leguminous trees up to almost 50 m in height. The alluvial plains support great concentrations of Palm trees. We will stay one night in hotel Auca in Coca. This hotel with a good location on the main strip, is a reliable traveler’s favorite. The staff is pleasant and helpfull. The hotel is well presented and has a rustic charm. It also has a pretty garden courtyard surrounded with interesting looking plants, where you can kick back in the hammocks, while watching the macaws. Rooms are clean and simple and come with private bathroom and fans. The hotel has a decent restaurant too, serving regional cuisine
Day 2 - 5
The principal artery for visitors is the Napo River (the one we are taking), 1400 km long and in some places almost 5 km wide. The 130 small Islands in the Napo river are covered with young forests, which provides refuge and nesting sites for a multitude of bird species, many of them migratory.
The Amazon’s rivers, lakes, streams and marshland’s support over 600 species of fish and more than 250 species of amphibians and reptiles. The lagoons of the Napo and Aquarico river basins are home to colonies of two species of Caymans that crow to over 4 m in length. Typical South American mammals include Armadillos, Honey Bears and Sloths, Tapirs, Monkeys and Jaguar. Birds are the richest group of vertebrates, and approximately 1000 species live in a variety of forest habitats, lagoons and open areas. Familiar sightings will be parrots, macaws and tanagers.
The lodge is beautifully located on the shore of the Añangucohoa lake. It has 12 spacious very nice decorated cabins, all with direct views on the lake. An extraordinary place. To know more about the activities in Napo Wildlife Center read below how we spent our 4 days in August 2010
....... and went on board Napo’s motorized canoe for our transfer. Here we met Marcello, our guide during our stay in Napo Wildlife Center.
The transfer took around 45 minutes. We stopped at the entrance of a creek with a jetty and reception buildings, part of Napo Wildlife Center. At this point we changed to a man-driven canoe for the last two hours to the lodge. The canoe had to manoeuvre between fallen tree trunks and other obstacles through the clear but black water. Now we had time to look around at birds and other wildlife. Almost immediately we saw Rufescent Tiger-Heron and later Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Sungrebe, Spotted Sandpiper, Purplish Jacamar and several Kingfishers.The lodge is beautifully located on the shore of the Añangucohoa lake. It has 12 spacious very nice decorated cabins, all with direct views on the lake. An extraordinary place.After a welcome drink offered by the lodge we went up in the tower of the central building. This gave us good views of the very busy and loud Crested Oropendola y Yellow-rumped Cacique being busy with their nests in the trees along the lake.trees along the lake.
We left early in the morning at sunrise by canoe to explore the Anañgu creek. Almost immediately we met with a couple of Giant Otters and with some big Caiman. For some hours we moved through the narrow water roads having good views of Lesser- and Greater Kiskadee, Wattled Jacana, White-winged Swallow and many others. The highlight of this boat ride was without any doubt the Least Bittern, posing very well to satisfy all photographers. The Tibutini Trail is normally very good to see many species, this time we found amongst others Cream-colored Woodpecker, Purple-throated Fruit-Crow, Long-billed Woodcreeper and Screaming Piha.
This day we went to visit the Clay Lick sites. One site is on the shore of the Napo River, and the other one is even more accessible just walking inland for twenty minutes and gives good views from a nearby constructed hide. To go to the Napo River we had to follow back the creek, which certainly was not a problem at all, because there are always many things to see. We saw a.o. Little Cuckoo, White-flanked Antwren, Great-billed Hermit, Plumbeous Antbird and again, but much better now the Sungrebe. Arriving at the Jetty we changed boats and with the motorized Canoe we went on the Napo River towards the Clay Lick. Many Dusky-headed Parakeets, Blue-headed Parrots, Mealy Parrots and some Yellow-crowned Parrots were eating the clay. It is spectacular to look at. Driving back we found along the riverside roosting on a post a Ladder-tailed Nightjar. Coming back to the reception buildings of Napo Wildlife Center we were again surprised by the excellent service of this Lodge, by offering us a very nice lunch. When we arrived at the Clay Lick it was quiet, but it did not take long before the Parakeets started to arrive. Hundreds of Cobalt-winged Parakeets were drinking water and eating clay just in front of us. A fantastic experience. Walking back to the canoe we saw Ocellated Poorwill, Slaty-tailed TrogonGreat Jacamar. Later in the canoe, before the rain started to pour down we saw Speckled Guan, Drab Water Tyrant and Yellow-browed Antbird. We stayed dry thanks to the ponchos that our guides brought for us.
Already our last day in this really superb place . Today we went to the canopy tower. The canopy tower is located about 20 minutes from the lodge deep within the forest. The tower is built around a big Ceiba Tree and is about 36 m high. It is a beautiful experience to stand on the wooden platform and to observe the birds in the Canopy. As always in the Amazonia we started early to make use of the best part of the day for birding. Just to mention a few of the many birds we observed this morning are Many-banded Aracari, Ivory-billed and Golden-collared Toucanet, White-lored Tyrannulet, Blue and Yellow Macaw, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Gilded Barbet, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Plum-throated and Spangled Cotinga, White-fronted Puffbird, Amazonian White-tailed Trogon and various Tanagers. We went back to the Lodge for lunch and we had a nice rest. The views over the lake from the Cabins are great and just by sitting outside, one will see many birds being busy on the shore. Red-capped Cardinal, Striated Heron, a Capped Heron flying over the lake, Turtles taking a sunbath and so on. Napo Wildlife Center is really a great place to be.....
(end of from our trip report Ecuador - Amazonia 2010
We will leave early in the morning, because we need to travel almost 2 hours by man driven canoe through the creeks to Napo River, and from there another 2 hours in the motorized canoe to Coca. We will get the plane to Quito and take the connecting flight home.
For those fellow travellers who have a very late connection we can have organised the day use of rooms at the Hotel Fuente de Piedra to fresh up or to change cloths