Ecuador – wildlife from the Andes to Amazon

Ecuador has long been one of our favourite destinations. This year we return to the mainland, in search of some of the country’s exciting mammal life, while also enjoying the abundant birds, butterflies and botany.

We start by visiting the paramo of the high Andes, where we will spend time searching for Spectacled Bear and Mountain Tapir, while Andean Condor circle overhead.

Moving down onto the eastern slope of the Andes, a whole new suite of hummingbirds and other birds appears, before we arrive in the humid lowlands of the Amazon basin and travel down the Napo River to our wonderful lodge in the rainforest, where eleven species of monkey travel through the trees and Giant Otters patrol the waterways.

From here, we travel back across the Andes to the Choco cloud forest of the western slopes, in the Mindo-Tandayapa area, where we hope to find the newly-discovered Olinguito, a relative of the raccoons. The Choco is also famous for its rich bird life, and we aim to catch up with some of the stars of the area, notably Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Long -wattled Umbrellabird and Oilbird, as well as an amazing variety of hummingbirds and tanagers.

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Wildlife Travel Ecuador 2018

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

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Return flights from Manchester to Quito. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary, including internal flight from Coca to Quito. Sixteen nights’ accommodation, full board basis.

Not included

Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

We will be spending time in some of the most species-rich habitats in the world, staying in comfortable lodges throughout.

Day 1 – We fly via Amsterdam to Quito.

Day 2 – We head on up to the ridge of the eastern cordillera of the Andes, where we will spend the next four days at Guango Lodge, nestled between the two reserves of Cayambe-Coca and Antisana. The hummingbird feeders here attract a bewildering variety of species, including the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird.

Day 3-5 – We have three days to explore the highlands, comprising alpine ’paramo’ grassland and bog interspersed with small patches of native forest clinging to the mountain slopes. Spectacled Bears and Mountain Tapir use these forest patches for shelter, venturing out at dawn and dusk to forage and feed. Birds will never be far away, and during our time up on the paramo we will look for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar and Andean Condor.

Days 6-7 – We head to Cabañas San Isidro, a comfortable lodge surrounded by 1,300 hectares of sub-tropical forest. Black Agouti and Red -tailed Squirrel are common around the cabins, while the forest is home to three species of monkey and Dwarf Brocket Deer. Here on the eastern slope of the Andes, a whole different array of birds can be found, with yet more hummingbirds busying themselves at the feeders and mixed flocks of tanagers roving through the forest.

Day 8 – We continue down to the base of the Andes and on eastwards across the Amazonian floodplain to the port town of Coca, where we board a covered motorised canoe for the 50 mile journey down the Rio Napo to the wonderful Napo Wildlife Centre on the shores of Lake Añangu.

Days 9-11 – We explore the Yasuni National Park both by foot, along the trails, and by dug out canoe. Up to 800 parrots of several different species gather at clay-licks; canopy towers transport us up into the rainforest canopy; a family of Giant Otters are resident in the lake; eleven species of monkey are at home in the reserve, including the beautiful Golden-mantled Tamarin; and with more than 600 bird species recorded from the National Park, we are unlikely to get bored.

Day 12 – Our final walk along the boardwalk through the flooded palm forest will take us back to the Rio Napo, and our journey upstream to Coca, from where we take a 45 minute flight back to Quito.

Day 13 – We drive up out of Quito, passing over the western ridge of the Andes and dropping down onto the Pacific slope along the Tandayapa road.  After several stops in the cloud forest along the way, we should arrive at Bellavista Cloudforest Lodge in time to enjoy the hummingbirds and tanagers coming to the feeders before the sun sets.

Days 14-16 – We search the Choco cloud forest for Toucan Barbet, Plate -billed Mountain-toucan, a variety of parrots, tanagers and
hummingbirds. Early one morning we will visit the famous Refugio Paz de las Aves, where the glowing orange Andean Cock-of-the-Rock gathers to display while we will also look for several species of antpitta.

Day 17 – We have a relaxing start to the day and a morning tour of Quito, before our flights home (arriving Day 18).

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders. 

Our accommodation during this holiday will be at good lodges all with en-suite accommodation.

All the meals provided during the stay will be a mixture of local and international dishes. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

We will ensure that our travelling is as comfortable as possible, using a small coach, however, some of the roads are in poor condition, and can be bumpy at times. We will take one internal flight to fly back from Coca to Quito.

Ecuador is five hours behind UK time.

You must have a valid passport for this trip (valid for at least six months after the end of the holiday). If you hold a British passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Ecuador, although you may be asked to show evidence of your return or onward flights. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.


In the mountains, typical weather will be sunny, clear mornings/early afternoons and cloudy, often wet afternoon/evenings: we should expect some periods of rain, sometimes heavy or thundery, with temperatures dependent on altitude: from 5°C up on the paramo
to 20-25°C in the Mindo/Tandayapa area.

Once we head into the lowlands of the east, we can expect hot and humid rainforest weather, with temperatures around 25-32°C, and the chance of rain at any time. Again, typically the heavy rain comes in the afternoon/evening.

The walking is generally moderate, but there are likely to be some hilly areas with steep slopes and wet or uneven ground for us to cover – you will need to have a reasonable level of general fitness and agility in order to make the most of all of the opportunities to see the wildlife.

Biting insects such as mosquitoes are likely to be present in the lowlands. In the rainforest, there is a chance of leeches, and you may like to consider taking leech socks.

We will be visiting high altitudes in the Andes, up to around 4,000m in Coca Cayumbe National Park, although our accommodation is all lower than 3,000m. If you have any reason to believe that you will be adversely affected at these altitudes you should consult your doctor prior to booking.

You should consult your GP about travel inoculations, including typhoid and hepatitis. The areas we visit on days 12-15, in the Amazonian lowlands, are classified as high risk for malaria and anti-malarials are recommended. Yellow fever is endemic to the same lowland areas. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.