Ecuador - Amazon and Cloud Forest
From glittering Andean peaks and balmy cloud forest, to emerald Amazonian rainforest and avian-abundant mangroves, the diversity of landscapes and wildlife in Ecuador belie the country’s tiny size, as does its ethnic make-up. The country is home to Kichwa-speaking indigenas, Afro-Ecuadorians and mestizos, and on this tour, we explore all of its major ecosystems, spending time with traditional communities along the way.
We travel north-east to the Amazon rainforest to spot a variety of birds and monkey species by day, and nocturnal creatures by night, spending time with local communities and meeting a shaman who shares his knowledge about the remedies of the rainforest. Then we head to the Andean highlands in the north, where we dive headfirst into the bustle of the huge, indigenous market at Otavalo and hike around Cuicocha crater lake.
Moving on, we travel into the steamy realms of Ecuador’s cloud forest and the Santa Lucia Reserve. We spend three days exploring this pristine forest that is home to 400 bird species including the Cock-of-the-rock, and then we make the journey down into the southern Andes, to Ecuador’s highest volcano and the highland plains of Chimborazo Reserve. Here we can see Andean wildlife such as alpacas and vicuñas, and possibly even hawks and condors.
We stay in a local guesthouse in Guamote, visiting the Inti Sisa educational centre and the home of a traditional weaver, and we travel through the Andes on one of the most complex train tracks ever constructed, leading us to Cajas National Park with its 200 lagoons, varying altitudes and ecosystems and onto and a family-owned hacienda where cacao and mangoes are grown.
No trip to Ecuador would be complete without a visit to the colonial centre of Ecuador’s dizzying capital Quito, Guayaquil’s colourful neighbourhood of Las Peñas, and the elegant city of Cuenca. But this is equally a tour for nature lovers, visiting some of South America’s most pristine regions with excellent opportunities to spot wildlife. Some of the most memorable moments however, will undoubtedly be made during our time spent with the local people.