Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador

Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is where most travelers arrive to this exciting country. Although you could leave the capital city to visit the amazing traditional markets at Otavalo, take a train tour through the scenic Avenue of the Volcanoes, or fly to coastal Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands, most people stay in Quito for a few days because this beautiful high mountain city has its own set of attractions.

The city itself is a colonial gem, the old section being a UNESCO heritage site. Many visitors to Quito start their stay in the colonial part of the city because they choose one of several historic hotels for lodging. After settling in, they might get their first taste of delicious Ecuadorian cuisine, or head out into the surrounding neighborhoods on a walking tour of Quito. Tours of colonial Quito visit the main plaza, old, beautiful churches, and other buildings that date back to the 17th and 16th centuries.

Later on, or the next day, some folks sign up for a fantastic chocolate tasting tour. Given that participants can try ten different types of 100% organic Ecuadorian chocolate, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular tours in Quito!  Since this tour takes place in Quito’s trendy La Floresta neighborhood, it’s easy to finish off the day in one of several fine restaurants.

Don’t forget to make time for Quito when visiting Ecuador!

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Three Reasons to Take the Train in Ecuador

Train rides can be fun, a romantic adventure, long, boring trips, or all of the above. Although you can’t take the train to Ecuador, you can indeed take train rides once you are in country and they aren’t exactly “boring”. The following are just three of many reasons why a ride on an Ecuadorian train is an exciting addition to every trip to Ecuador.

  • Spectacular scenery: Train rides tend to be a good means of taking in scenery. As the train rolls on, all you have to do is look out the window and enjoy the landscape. However, in Ecuador, the scenery is a bit more than farm fields and small towns. Take the train in Ecuador and you get treated to stunning views of craggy, snow-capped mountains, small Andean villages, and breathtaking landscapes that look like they came straight off a postcard.

Some scenery from the train in Ecuador.

  • Comfort: The train in Ecuador isn’t any ordinary railroad. While trains in other places act as a means of basic travel with equally basic levels of comfort, the train in Ecuador is only meant to be taken as a comfortable tour that combines insights into local culture, great food, comfort, exciting stops, and beautiful surroundings.

Enjoying dinner during the train tour.

  • Visit a glacier: Yes, when you take the train tour in Ecuador, the train makes a stop to visit the glacier that tops Chimborazo Volcano. Passengers even have the chance to chip some ice from the glacier.

Highlight a trip to Ecuador with the train tour!

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Wildlife at the Huaorani Ecolodge

The Amazon jungle is famous for an incredible variety of wildlife and the Huaorani Ecolodge is no exception. Since this western corner of Amazonia is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, guests of the ecolodge can expect to see quite the assortment of creatures. The following are a very short list of possibilities:

Macaws and other parrots: Flocks of screeching parakeets and parrots are commonly seen along the rivers near the lodge and at the lodge itself. Macaws are also seen, including stunning Blue and Yellow Macaws.

Blue and Yellow Macaws

Toucans: Yes, there are toucans in the Amazon and 7 species live around the Huaorani Ecolodge. Keep an eye on the canopy of the forest and you will have en excellent chance  of seeing these exotic, colorful birds.

Monkeys: Several species of monkeys live in the forests of eastern Ecuador including the incredibly cute Pygmy Marmoset. The more commonly seen species around the Huaorani Ecolodge are Squirrel Monkeys, Dusky Titis, and Red Howler Monkeys.

Amazing insects: Thousands of insects live in the rainforests near the ecolodge. They play a big role in the food chain and come in incredible forms and colors. Since most are nocturnal, your best chance of seeing them is on a guided night walk.

A beautiful grasshopper from eastern Ecuador.

Many other animals also live in the majestic rainforests near the ecolodge but incredible, natural camouflage and an inherent ability to avoid predators keeps them hidden. However, when you hike the jungles of Ecuador with the trained eyes of a local Huaorani guide, you will be amazed at what you find!

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Finalist in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 20th’ Anniversary

World’s Best Awards 2oth Anniversary

Visionary Company Recognized for its Eco-Tourism Work with Communities in Ecuadorian Amazon and on Floreana Island, Galapagos 
Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards

Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards

To anyone in the travel industry, the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards represent a standard of excellence and we here at Tropic are proud to be the only TOUR OPERATOR category in Ecuador selected as a finalist.
The 2015 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey will be conducted online from November 3, 2014 to March 2,2015
at tlworldsbest.com
Twitter/Instagram, the official hashtag: #TLWorldsBest.

Facebook: posts at facebook.com/travelandleisure

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The Antisana Ecological Reserve

The Antisana Ecological Reserve, located in the Province of Napo about 50km to the south east of Quito, offers a multitude of attractions for the tourist: impressive landscapes, hikes through Andean and mountain forests, camping, climbing, lakes, wild life and cultural life. Among the park’s natural features, the Fallarones of Isco stand out. A group of rock walls located close to the park, the Fallarones are one of the main resting and nesting places of the almost mythological Andean condor.

The major attraction in the highest areas of the park is the volcano Antisana itself. This massive snow capped mountain has a height 5,758 meters; it is the highest point of the Reserve and one of the highest peaks of the Ecuadorian Andes. In the area surrounding the volcano the visitor will see evidence of flows of lava from past eruptions. Close by is the Micacocha lagoon which, apart from providing water for the capital, is famous for the large size of the trout that can be caught here.

For those interested in climbing Antisana, the way up the mountain starts with a path located in the Valley of Tambo in the end north west of the Reserve, close to the limits of the Cayambe–Coca Reserve. In the valley there are also hot springs where the visitors can relax; the waters have a high mineral content and are famed for their healing properties. Here the visitor will find good quality tourist infrastructure.

For anyone interested in experiencing the beauty of the area at first hand, the Tambo valley is also the starting point of a trail that leads to Cotopaxi National Park. It is known to trekkers and more adventurous travelers as a difficult hike where good physical condition is necessary, but finally one well worth the effort.

It is also possible to camp near Santa Lucía Lagoon (Mauca Machay), a seasonal lake of glacial origin, located on the north western flank of Antisana. It is a well known place to camp as the surroundings provide a beautiful landscape typical of the altitude.

One of the important cultural attractions of the Reserve’s area of influence is the Chagras. The Chagras were Andean cowboys, employed by the great haciendas to look after cattle. They are still around today, and can be seen dressed in their distinctive llama-fur chaps and ponchos designed to keep out the cold winds of the high Andes. In this region traditional festivals still celebrate the prowess of the Chagras, whose riding skills are legend. When a tournament is called the word spreads fast, and the Chagras come from far and wide in order to show their grace and skill on horseback. The festivals usually end with popular bullfights.

The mountain forests of this international biodiversity hotspot contain almost half of the plants species known to exist in Ecuador, many of them unique to this region.

Of the 416 bird species found here, 150 are classed as vulnerable, notably hummingbirds, woodpeckers, parrots, flycatchers and gloriously colored tanagers. The Antisana paramos or moorlands are also vitally important for the protection of the rare Andean condor. They nest in the ravines of El Isco, which is consequently one of the best places to observe them. Some of the endangered mammals to be found in the Reserve include spectacled bears, tapirs and pumas.

Highlights:

The Micacocha lagoon is surrounded by ancient lava flows, and is one of the Reserve’s most picturesque spots.

The Tambo Valley, with its healing hot springs, and trail to Cotopaxi National Park. Trails also lead from here to the Antisana volcano.

The strange waves of lava in Antisanilla emerged from the ground rather than from the crater of the volcano, and create an extraordinary landscape.

Climate:
Depending on the altitude, the average annual temperature ranges from 3 to 17 °C.

What to Bring:
Warm clothing.
Waterproof jacket.
Sun screen.
Walking shoes/boots.
Sunglasses.
Hat.
Binoculars for bird-watching.
Rain poncho.
Flashlight.

How to get here:

The three main access roads to the Reserve are:
The Quito–Píntag–Laguna La Mica road, which take you to the Antisana paramo;
The Quito–Cotopaxi National Park – Valle Vicioso road, which requires a 4×4 vehicle: and
The Quito–Baeza– Jondachi–Tena road, which leads to the east of the Reserve.

As much of the Reserve is private property, trips should be arranged in advance with the Ministry of the Environment.

The area by numbers:

• 73: Species of mammals identified in the Reserve.
• 26: The percentage of all the bird species identified in Ecuador which are found in this Reserve.
• 3-17: The average annual temperature range, in °C. depending on the altitude.

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Yellow Eyelash Palm-Pitviper Discovered in Ecuador

Recently, a team of herpetologists from Tropical Herping were working in Ecuador and discovered a snake that had never been seen in South America.

An Oropel, or Yellow morph Eyelash Palm-Pitviper

The serpent in question is the yellow morph of the Eyelash Palm-Pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii) or “Oropel” and the following are some of the reasons why this is such an important discovery:

  • A famous first for Ecuador: Although the mottled green form of the Eyelash Palm-Pitviper occurs in humid forest habitats of northwestern Ecuador, until this discovery, the yellow form was only found in Central America, and had never been found in South America. Its striking golden coloration makes it one of the most searched for arboreal vipers in the neotropical region.

    The regular green morph of this species.

    Another Eyelash Palm-Pitviper.

  • Humid forests near the coast: In Costa Rica, the Oropel typically occurs in humid forest in the lowlands and foothills. In Ecuador, it was found in similar habitats near the coast. It has yet to be found east of the Panama Canal or in Colombia and Venezuela. Previous reports from Venezuela pertain to specimens from Costa Rica.

    A close look.

  • Why the bright yellow color?: It seems strange that a brightly colored snake can survive in rainforest habitats and the reason for the eye-catching golden color is unknown. However, some herpetologists suspect that it might need less camouflage during the night.

    A gorgeous snake!

  • A new species?: Preliminary DNA studies seem to indicate that the Oropel in Ecuador is probably an undescribed species distinct from the Oropel of Costa Rica. The other varieties of Eyelash Palm-Pitviper in Ecuador might also be undescribed, cryptic species.
  • A threatened snake: The Eyelash Palm-Pitvipers in Ecuador, including this recent discovery, are threatened by habitat loss as well as collection for the pet trade. Since less than 3% remains of its humid lowland forest habitat, this probable new species is very likely also endangered.

    It's easy to see why this beauty would be targeted for the pet trade.

Learn more about the rich herpetofauna of Ecuador at the Tropical Herping site.

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The Muisne River Estuary Mangrove Wildlife Refuge

The Muisne River estuary is famous for two things: its production of shellfish, extracted from the mangroves that surround the area, and the African-Ecuadorian communities that continue to fight to protect this special environment that for centuries has provided them with their livelihood.

The Muise River Estuary Mangrove Wildlife Refuge is located in the south of Esmeraldas Province. Here the visitor will see one of the most important areas of mangroves in the country; there are six species, each with different capacities of adaptation to the various types of soils found in the border areas between the land and the Pacific Ocean.

The Reserve provides a perfect illustration of the interdependence between sea and land creatures such as fish, crustaceans, mollusks and, above all, birds. The 95 species of salt and freshwater fish identified in the Reserve, as well as the many varieties of prawns, shrimp, crabs and mussels, serve to attract birds such as pelicans, frigatebirds, green kingfishers and ospreys. Swallow-tailed kites, woodpeckers and vibrant blue-headed parrots can also be spotted in this region. The Reserve is also home to an exotic variety of mammals. The 25 species that live here include sloths, armadillos, river otters, anteaters and howler monkeys.

The mangroves that cover this region filter and desalinate the water and the land they grow in, reducing the risk of flooding and damage caused by high waves. They also capture carbon, a highly valuable characteristic in the fight against global warming. The unique world that is created amongst the protruding roots of the mangroves has learned to adapt to this particular environment, creating an original ecosystem of 253 species of fauna which thrive in these salt and freshwater swamps.

About 30% of the families around Muisne depend on the mangroves. Their main income is from fishing and collecting mollusks and crustaceans. The collection of shellfish is traditionally carried out by women, although with growing economic hardship and the increase in poverty, more men are participating in this activity.

The shellfish collectors, known as “concheras”, have an admirable knowledge of the ecosystem of the mangroves. As well as being able to find the shellfish amid the roots of the mangroves, they are careful not to collect the females, thus increasing the sustainability of this resource.

The arrival of the shrimp industry had a devastating effect on the communites and their ability to make a living: eighty five percent of the mangroves were lost. In order to protect the mangrove and their traditional life style, the concheras and their families organized themselves in the Foundation for Defense of the Environment (FUNDECOL), which now administers the Reserve. Since 2003, FUNDECOL has been operating a project to raise shellfish in abandoned shrimp pools. One of the biggest achievements of the initiative is that it encourages the participation of both men and women, as well as preventing the irrational exploitation of the mangroves.

Highlights:

The beaches of Muisne and Mompiche

Bird watching, particularly frigatebirds and pelicans.

Early-morning treks into the forests to hear the howler monkeys calling – their roars travel up to 5km.

The unique marimba music and dance. Esmeraldas’ Afro-Ecuadorian inhabitants have a rich and unique culture, blending African and South American beliefs, cuisine and music.

The El Congal Biomarine Station is located within 2 km of Muisne. The station is managed by the Jatun Sacha Foundation, in association with other private proprietors (the Quiroga family), The station has 250ha and protects some 650ha of mangroves and native forest. There are facilities visitors, scientists and students. All projects and Station areas are open to national and international visitors.

Climate:

The Reserve is hot and humid year-round, with average temperatures of 25°C. Annual precipitation is from 500–3,000 mm.

What to bring:

Insect repellent (minimum 30% DEET).
Sun screen.
Hat.
Sunglasses.
Light, protective clothing (long sleeved shirt and long trousers).
Rain poncho or light, waterproof jacket during the rainy season.
Rubber boots.
Plenty of drinking water.
Anti-malaria tablets may be necessary – seek medical advice before visiting Esmeraldas.

How to get here:

From the city of Esmeraldas, the capital of the Province, it is possible to take a local bus directly to the town and island of Muisne. By private vehicle follow the Atacames–Chamanga road, and take the road to Muisne at the fork a few kilometers before the village of Bilsa. At the end of the road, launches cross the river to the island of Muisne where the tourist will find tricycles to take them to the beach.

It is not possible to take cars or other private vehicles onto the island

The area by numbers

• 3,000: The number of families in the region who depend on the natural resources of the mangroves.
• 95: The number of fish species inhabiting the waters around the mangroves.
• 85: The percentage of mangroves lost around Muisne in the 1980s, as a direct result of the growth of the shrimp industry.
• 25: The number of mammal species identified in the Reserve.
• 25: The average annual temperature of the Reserve in °C.

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Finalist in New National Geographic Society 2014 World Legacy Awards

Visionary Company Recognized for its Eco-Tourism Work with Communities in Ecuadorian Amazon and on Floreana Island, Galapagos 

QUITO, ECUADOR, Oct. 29, 2014 – Tropic (http://www.destinationecuador.com/) Ecuador’s leading purveyor of extraordinary experiences, is a finalist in a brand-new awards competition sponsored by National Geographic Society.

Jascivan Carvalho, Tropic’s visionary founder of the Huaorani Ecolodge and Tropic’s owner and CEO, submitted before a prestigious panel of judges the work his company is accomplishing on behalf of two communities in Ecuador: the Huaorani of the Amazon, whose tribal lands are threatened by oil interests, and the small population of a Galapagos Island, Floreana, whose very existence is endangered by encroaching tourism in the region.

Tropic has been selected as a Finalist in the Engaging Communities Category of the National Geographic Travel World Legacy Awards targeting the three pillars of sustainable tourism: environmentally friendly operations, protection of natural and cultural heritage and support for the well-being of local communities.

Tropic Finalist at NatGeo AwardsThe announcement was made Oct. 29 on the stage at ITB Asia in Singapore.  The next phase in the judging is an on-site visit to each of the finalists, resulting in a first-hand evaluation report to be completed by Nov. 1. Following this, winners in each category are selected and announced.

The five award categories are: Earth Changers – Recognizing cutting edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices; Sense of Place – Recognizing excellence in enhancing cultural authenticity; Conserving the Natural World – Recognizing outstanding support for the preservation of nature; Engaging Communities – Recognizing economic and social benefits that improve local livelihoods; and Destination Leadership – Including protection of cultural and natural heritage and educating travelers on responsible tourism.

Mr. Matthew Humke, National Geographic Judge, Moi Enomenga and Jascivan Carvalho Huaorani Ecolodge founders The category for which Tropic is nominated, Engaging Communities, recognizes direct and tangible economic and social benefits that improve local livelihoods, including training and capacity building, fair wages and benefits, community development, health care and education. (Picture: Mr. Matthew Humke, National Geographic Judge, Moi Enomenga HUaorani Ecolodge president and Jascivan Carvalho Tropic Journeys in Nature Manager)

The World Legacy Awards is a new initiative of the National Geographic Society, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious non-profit scientific, educational, and travel organizations, reaches more than 60 million people worldwide, in partnership with ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel gathering. The awards honor the companies, destinations and organizations that are driving the positive transformation of the global tourism industry, showcasing leaders and visionaries in sustainable tourism best practices and sharing their stories with millions of travelers.  Being selected as a Finalist by National Geographic’s panel of international expert judges is no small achievement. More than 150 Award entries were received from 56 countries on six continents.

About Tropic
Established in 1994, Tropic is an award–winning ecotourism company specializing in responsible, community-based tourism in Ecuador. Programs combine life-changing, active-but-cultural ecotourism experiences focusing on nature, conservation, diversity and sustainability in three distinct areas:

For information and reservations contact: Tropic / Phone: +593-02-2234-594 / 202. 657.5072 (US) / 593. 2. 222. 5907 (EC) / US Toll-free: 1.888.207.8615 / Website: http://www.destinationecuador.com.

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Moi Enomenga, Huaorani Leader in Ecuador Included In New Book on the Environment – Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet

QUITO, ECUADOR, Oct. 21, 2014

Tropic (http://www.destinationecuador.com/) Ecuador’s leading purveyor of extraordinary experiences is pleased to announce that a man instrumental in helping to sustain the quality of life of people in the remote Amazon rainforest has provided some of his words and wisdom to a soon-to-be-released book, Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, in stores on Oct. 31, 2014.

“Among the 365 voices providing valuable insight, wisdom and inspiration for our times is Moi Enomenga, an elder of the Huaorani people who live in the Amazon forest of Ecuador,” said Jascivan Carvalho, Tropic’s owner. “He has been and continues to be instrumental in helping his people work with Tropic, a company based in Quito that is implementing a vision with the Huaorani to help them sustain their ancestral ways – even in the face of the incursion of oil interests on their tribal lands.”

Says Moi Enomenga: “My father was a man who could see the future. He told me that things would not be easy for us, that the strangers would destroy the forest with their machines. So I learned from him and that is why I have been working for so many years to find a way to keep our communities, our Huaorani people, together. Here we have many problems with oil companies and the pollution they cause, as well as the impacts they have on our traditional way of life here in the Amazon forest.

“People say the forest will dry up and the world will collapse if we don’t change the way we live. Here we don’t have what other people in the world have. We don’t have televisions or internet or cars, and if the cost of having them is that the world –our world – disappears, then we ask ourselves, ‘What good are they?’ We think people can live more simply and peacefully if they want, but we don’t know if they want to.“

In the format of a daily reader, Global Chorus is a groundbreaking collection of over 365 perspectives on our environmental future, reflecting a trove of insight, guidance, passion and wisdom that have poured in from all over the planet. Contributors to Global Chorus have provided one-page responses to the following line of questioning: “Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

Proceeds from the sales of Global Chorus will be distributed to a select group of organizations helping to recover, protect and sustain life on Earth: The Jane Goodall Institute, The David Suzuki Foundation and The Canadian Red Cross.

As a freelance journalist and writer, Editor-in-Chief Todd MacLean has been an environmental columnist on CBC Radio, a commentator on CBC TV, and a weekly columnist in Prince Edward Island’s The Guardian newspaper. As a busy award-winning musician as well, he lives and works in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Just a few notables among the long list of stellar contributors to the project are Vivienne Westwood, Buffy Sainte–Marie, Alex Shoumatoff and Farley Mowat. For a list of contributors please see http://globalchorus.ca/about-the-project/

The publisher is Rocky Mountain Books of Victoria, BC. The book can be viewed at RMBOOKS.COM, AMAZON.COM, INDIGO and AMAZON.CA and independent bookstores throughout the U.S. and Canada.

For more information on this project please contact Todd E. MacLean, Editor-in-Chief, Global Chorus, at info@globalchorus.ca. The website is www.globalchorus.com. MacLean and his wife, Savannah Belsher-MacLean, are conducting a book tour beginning in early November. For tour details please see http://eepurl.com/4Abr9.

About Tropic
Established in 1994, Tropic is an award–winning ecotourism company specializing in responsible, community-based tourism in Ecuador. Programs combine life-changing, active-but-cultural ecotourism experiences focusing on nature, conservation, diversity and sustainability in three distinct areas:

• Huaorani Ecolodge at the headwaters of the Amazon in Yasuni National Park – http://www.destinationecuador.com/huaorani-ecolodge-ecuador.html

• Floreana Lava Lodge a beachside accommodation in the Galapagos Islands, on Floreana Island: http://www.destinationecuador.com/galapagos-hotel-lava-lodge-floreana.html

• Journeys in Nature – Sustainable guided nature and culture-focused tours throughout Ecuador in collaboration with conservationists groups and local communities. http://www.destinationecuador.com/travel-tours-ecuador.html

For information and reservations contact: Tropic / Phone: +593-02-2234-594 / 202. 657.5072 (US) / 593. 2. 222. 5907 (EC) / US Toll-free: 1.888.207.8615 / Website: http://www.destinationecuador.com.

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Essentials for a Galapagos Cruise

You have finally booked your trip to the Galapagos. That exciting bucket list destination awaits with stunning scenery, unique wildlife, and incredible photo opps at every turn. As the departure date nears, you might wonder what to bring. The following are a few essential items for any cruise in the Galapagos:

  • Sunblock: Just a reminder to bring enough sunblock because you will need it while hiking on unique islands with tropical dry forest and arid, volcanic landscapes. Even if you don’t go on those hikes, you will still need sunblock when visiting beautiful, quiet beaches, during zodiac excursions, while paddle-boarding, and doing other exciting activities during the cruise.

    Approaching Bartolome in the Galapagos Islands.

  • An underwater camera: Or, at least waterproof housing for your camera. Although there’s plenty to see on land and above the waves, there’s even more life below the surface of the water. Rays, sharks, seals, and colorful reef fish are some of the marine creatures regularly seen when snorkeling or taking a dive tour in the Galapagos.

    Marine Iguana

  • Extra memory cards and camera batteries: If you bring one extra memory card on a typical vacation, bring two or three more cards for a trip to the Galapagos. Most of the wildlife in the Galapagos is tame and begging to be photographed, the scenery is fantastic, and you don’t want to skimp on photos of the most memorable of family vacations. It’s a good idea to also be prepared with extra batteries.

Learn more about comfortable cruises and diving tours to the Galapagos at Destination Ecuador.

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