Located 90-minutes west of Quito the Antisana Volcano (the fourth largest mountain in Ecuador) is the nation’s newest national park. Long considered the most beautiful mountain in the country, with the best birding, it is now open to visitors. Whether you are a geologist, botanist, birder, or general nature enthusiast, you are likely to fall in love with Antisana. Here the vast paramos stretch off into the distance, and on a clear day, not only the huge snow-capped peak of Antisana is visible, but Cotopaxi also looms in the distance!
Sheer cliffs appear painted with guano, with Ecuador’s best population of Andean Condor roosting here. There is a strong probability of viewing these magnificent birds soaring close overhead. Other birding highlights might include the Carunculated Caracara, Andean Gull, Black-faced Ibis (very restricted in range), Shining Sunbeam, and the unbelievably large Giant Hummingbird.
Closer to the shores of Micacocha Lake, with the delightful Silvery Grebe, wildlife might become more abundant, possibly including rabbits, foxes, llamas, wild horses, pumas, deer, and more.
An easy 40-minute flight from Quito brings you to one of the most remarkable places on the globe… The lush upper Amazon neotropical rain forest and jungle of eastern Ecuador. Here the tributaries of the Amazon flow more than 4,000 miles, from the high Andes, through the world’s greatest rainforest, into the Amazon Delta, and finally the Atlantic Ocean. More water runs in the Amazon than any other river in the world – it alone drains more than 40% of South America.
One of the most formidable of the Amazon tributaries is the Napo River in Ecuador. Unlike the Amazon however, the scale is more manageable – the river is typically a couple of hundred yards, or less, wide. This means that even on a longboat journey on the river you are close enough to the surrounding forest to revel in the changing panoramas. Just inland from the river are myriad small lakes and streams. The Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve is one of the most bio diverse areas in the world, its conservation vital not only to Ecuador but for the planet.
There are a number of lodges remotely scattered along the Napo River, including the La Selva Jungle Lodge, Sacha Lodge, and Napo Wildlife Center. Another wonderful way to explore a longer stretch of the Napo is traveling by deluxe river boat; M/V Anakonda or M/V Manatee.
Antisana Volcano: day tour
Early departure with your private driver/guide heading east from Quito. The route passes through the town of Sangolqui, with a statue of the largest hummingbird you ever saw, the rural village of Pintag, high-altitude fields that appear as a patchwork quilt-like pattern climbing the mountains, and huge lava flows. In addition to viewing the Condor Cliffs we have the option of several short and easy hikes in Antisana National Park, including Micacocha Lake, to enjoy the scenery and look for high-altitude birds. Tour includes park entrance fee, breakfast and lunch.
Antisana Volcano: 2-day tour
Two days in the area affords twice the opportunities to see and fully experience the riches here. We also have the option to be near the Condor Cliffs at different times of day, including late afternoon on the first day and early morning on the second day. Exploring the canyons near the lodge opens new wildlife viewing options as well. Overnight accommodations at the Guaytara Hosteria. This is a pleasant newer country hotel with large comfortable rooms and a welcoming living-room where a log fire frequently warms the night. This is the domain of the “chagras” or paramo cowboys. Tour includes all meals from breakfast on the first day through lunch on the second day, overnight accommodations, and park entrance fee.
Multi-Day Amazon basin Tours
The Amazon River and its tributaries flow more than 4,000 miles, from the high Andes, through the world’s greatest rainforest, into the Amazon Delta, and finally the Atlantic Ocean. More water runs in the Amazon than any other river in the world – it alone drains more than 40% of South America.
One of the most formidable of the Amazon tributaries is the Napo River in Ecuador. Unlike the Amazon however, the scale is more manageable – the river is typically a couple of hundred yards wide, or less, punctuated by occasional sandbars. During longboat excursions on the river you are close enough to the surrounding forest to revel in the changing panoramas. There are a number of lodges remotely scattered along the Napo River, with the La Selva Eco-Lodge being our favorite – they are located in primary forest, and their focus is on the local flora and fauna.
Currently a Yellow fever inoculation is recommended for visits to the Amazon Basin, and you might want to consult your physician regarding malaria pills.
La Selva Amazon Ecolodge & Spa
La Selva (Spanish for "the jungle") is located just 0.25 degrees below the Equator in the lush upper Amazon neotropical rain forest, or El Oriente. For over 20 years La Selva Lodge, awarded he "Best Ecotourism Destination" in 1992 by the World Congress on Tourism and the Environment, has consistently been amazing visitors. La Selva has been totally updated and upgraded in 2012.
La Selva offers excellent itineraries that blend guided longboat excursions, dugout canoe rides and trail walks – typically 2 or 3 outings per day. Guiding teams include both a local native tracker and a naturalist guide, typically with a maximum group size of just 8. In this way you can be assured of experiencing the most the jungle has to offer, by day and also by night. Explore the virgin forest while following rough trails and animal tracks. Enjoy the antics of monkeys in the trees, and look for sloths, tapir, deer, caiman, frogs & snakes. Fish for piranha in a stream. Sample lemon ants (a local delicacy, really). Learn about the medicinal properties of the local flora. Additional highlights include a 120-foot observation tower affording you a birds-eye view of the surrounding jungle, and an elaborate walk-thru butterfly farm.
If you're a birder you are in for a treat with perhaps the highest list in the Neotropics. They have specialized programs and excellent birding guides at no additional cost. You don’t have to be a birder (or keep a birder’s schedule) to appreciate the birds of the area though - macaws, toucans, parrots, herons and hoatzins are among the many species that can be seen from the lounge balcony.
Sacha Lodge is found inland from the banks of the Rio Napo within a 5000-acre private ecological reserve in Ecuador’s Amazon region, an accessible yet pristine rainforest sanctuary where you may enjoy a true jungle adventure in safety and comfort.
Sacha (meaning "forest" in the local Quichua Indian language) has been sharing the mysteries of the rainforest with visitors since 1992. Located in a mix of primary and secondary forest, the lodge is slightly closer to the community of Coca, allowing for shorter longboat transfers. Sacha places a very high emphasis on their accommodations and food, with 26 native style cabins dotting the landscape.
Sacha takes pride in sharing the forest experience from different perspectives. In addition to forest trails and streams to explore, they offer a Treetop Walk that spans between platforms far off the ground, yet under the forest canopy. They also have a 940 foot long suspended Canopy Walkway, at a height of roughly 90 feet, allowing you to walk through and look down on the forest canopy. Another chance to get above the action is a 135 foot tall observation tower built around a kapok tree (the tallest trees in the forest). Together these give visitors an unmatched opportunity to travel along the treetops and witness the wildlife from a completely different perspective. Closer to ground a butterfly conservatory lets visitors walk through the action at the breeding center, literally.