We will leave from Quito at 8:00 A.M. to the Amazon watershed, with scenic and biodiverse cloud forests in our sights. Our first stop en route will be at a rose plantation where you will have the opportunity to ogle at many of the most popular and spectacular varieties that Ecuador produces. After this it will be time to move up in elevation to the majestic, windswept paramos of Papallacta – a very tundra-like habitat. On clear days here the views of the surroundings and various volcanoes are breath-taking; a stop right up at the continental divide is one of the best spots from which to photograph the snow-capped volcano, Antisana, as it towers over the mountains below.
After what will have probably been a chilly morning (at best!) we will get to Guango Lodge in time to enjoy a delicious and hot, sit-down lunch, traditional Ecuadorian style. In the afternoon we will embark on a hike along the trails that fan out around the lodge to get a taste of the beautiful Andean temperate forests and the birds that often adorn their branches; colorful mountain-toucans and tanagers would be a hit! Before dinner we will be officially welcomed by the lit fireplace and have our first taste of Ecuador’s best known hot toddy, a delicious drink – called “Canelazo” – made from water boiled with real cinnamon, fruit juice and a dash of cane alcohol, that is sure to help warm us up. Night at Guango.
Ecuador has an impressive National Park system, with new parks having been instated only recently. Cayambe-Coca – nestled in the mountains not far from Guango – is one of them, and from its high paramos all the way down to its tropical forests at the lower end, it is among the most biologically diverse areas on earth; of many of the places visited in Ecuador, this is one spot where Culpeo Fox, Spectacled Bear and Mountain Tapir are most often seen… but one does need some luck as they are shy! After a hot breakfast, we will visit the high grassy slopes and elfin woodlands of this beautiful park, where we will have our best chances at seeing a soaring Andean Condor.
After taking time out for a packed lunch in this scenic area, we will enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic dip in the natural hot springs of Papallacta… what better way to warm our bones after what could be a cold and windy day? We’ll return to Guango for dinner, where we will spend our second night.
Once we have had a hot buffet style breakfast with plenty of exotic fruits, we will head down to the nearby river and give our hand a try at trout fishing… fresh trout for lunch, anyone? Depending on our luck and patience, we will still leave time to enjoy the fabulous hummingbirds at the feeders (great for photography) – birders and non-birders alike always seem to marvel at their first looks at a Sword-billed Hummingbird (!) – and even a hike along a different trail near the lodge. For those interested in seeing some blooming, gaudy orchids, the orchid garden is always right there off of the front steps.
After lunch, and loading bags, we will make our way back west, up and over the high pass, making a stop or two – assuming the weather allows it – to hike through an ancient Polylepis forest (the highest occurring tree in the world), or even hike up to a high elevation lake. We plan to make it back to your hotels in Quito in the late afternoon.
lodging for two nights, meals (from lunch on the first day, to lunch on the third day), entrance fees for one visit to the rose plantation, Papallacta hot springs and Cayambe-Coca National Park, bilingual naturalist guide (or Spanish-speaking, local birding guide) for three days limited to eight participants, group transportation Quito-Guango-Quito, free fresh coffee, hot chocolate and variety of teas, including the famous “coca tea” and all taxes.
Extra drinks (sodas, beers, wines, etc.), private guide or transportation services, and other personal expenses (telephone calls, laundry, etc.).
Time to escape from Quito! Today we will want to rise early and get on our way since we have a variety of habitats that we will want to explore. Our drive to Guango Lodge will initially lead us through the drier central valley where we will pass through a mix of agricultural zones and native chaparral forests before rising up steeply to the high and (often) windswept paramo. Among the many bird possibilities, we will be particularly on the lookout for Andean Condor (sometimes hard), Carunculated Caracara, Andean Gull, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Scrub & Blue-and-yellow Tanagers and Southern Yellow-Grosbeak.
If there were a day to have your camera ready, this would be it – on clear days the scenery is spectacular, with superb views of the snow-capped Volcán Antisana, and seemingly endless high Andean mountain-scapes harboring a backdrop of textures that make for an unforgettable birding setting. This area, known as the Papallacta Pass by birders, is rich in paramo birdlife, and with the proper weather, you can expect to see some of the following: Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, some interesting seedeaters, and even Giant Conebill (with a bit of luck, up in the Polylepis woodlands).
The Papallacta Pass is right on the continental divide, and once we finish up with our paramo birding, we will work our way down the east-slope – Amazonian drainage now – towards Guango Lodge. On the way we will pass through some beautiful high-elevation temperate forests where we will have a chance to stop and soak in this birdy zone; some of the possibilities include Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Viridian Metaltail, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, just to name a very few. We should arrive to Guango Lodge in the late afternoon/early evening for a first crack at the hummingbird feeders that will be dripping with species such as Tourmaline Sunangel, Sword-billed Hummingbird and White-bellied Woodstar. Our box lunch in the field will allow us to remain flexible with respect to how we plan our birding for the day.
At dinner we will be officially welcomed by the lit fireplace and have our first taste of Ecuador’s best known hot toddy, a delicious drink – called “Canelazo” – made from water boiled with real cinnamon, fruit juice and a dash of cane alcohol, that is sure to help warm us up. After a tasty dinner, and assuming the weather holds, we should give night birding a shot, seeing if we can get an owl or two interested. Night at Guango Lodge. Night at Guango Lodge.
Today will be devoted to birding the trails and spectacular hummingbird feeders at Guango Lodge. On the grounds at Guango we frequently run into some of the best temperate forest flocks on any of our tours in Ecuador; in a matter of minutes it isn’t uncommon to see Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-banded Tyrannulet, Blue-backed Conebill, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Slaty and Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, several species of mountain-tanager and even Plushcap. We will always have our eye out for other particularly local or aesthetic highlights, and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Mountain Avocetbill are among them. We will enjoy a hot, sit-down lunch, only feet away from the hummingbird feeders (!), and in the afternoon either bird another trail or take time to photograph the hummers at the feeders. Depending on our luck the previous night, owling is also an option. Night Guango Lodge.
After breakfast, and a last birding-eye look around, we’ll zip up our bags and bid farewell to Guango for a short drive up to the lower entrance to Cayambe-Coca National Park to bird the elfin woodlands and grasslands. Here we will put ourselves in position for a shot at a few different mountain-tanagers (Black-chested and Masked) and other flock birds; it is also a great place for some high elevation hummers that we might not have seen yet, like Shining Sunbeam and Great Sapphirewing. With a packed lunch at our service, we can remain flexible, depending on our birding and weather luck.
As the afternoon settles in we’ll get in our last birding and then head to Quito. Night at hotel in Quito.
The quote includes: Two nights full board at Guango Lodge, extra box lunch on first day, Cayambe-Coca National Park entrance fees, transportation and professional birding guide services according to option chosen (if you choose option 3 the itinerary will vary as you will not have a guide or transportation all days) and all taxes.
The quote does not include: Extra drinks (sodas, beers, wines, etc.), insurance, extra expenses for delayed baggage arrival, tips and other personal expenses (laundry, phone calls, etc.).