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.

# # #

Follow Tropic on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DestEcuador
Follow Tropic on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DestinationEcuador

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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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The Arenillas Ecological Reserve

The Arenillas Ecological Reserve, located on Ecuador’s southern border with Peru, is a recent creation and a fascinating place for those interested in wildlife; as yet it is virtually unknown to tourists. While the area has always been of great interest to biologists, tourism was only made possible after the frontier dispute with Peru was settled in 1995, and in 2001 the area was included in the list of protected areas as part of the plan to conserve areas of high biodiversity and scenic beauty.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Arenillas Ecological Reserve is that it contains one of the largest areas of dry forest in Ecuador. The region includes almost desert-like areas, characterized by huge cacti which grow up to twenty feet (6m) in height, while on the coastal areas 30 meter high mangroves can be found, with their own unique fresh and saltwater ecosystem.

The Reserve is also significant for the one hundred and fifty three bird species that live here. Other areas have larger numbers, but the interesting aspect of Arenillas is the unusually high level of birds that can be found nowhere else. Of the total of 153, some 55 are unique to the dry forests of Ecuador and Peru, and the Arenillas Reserve is vital for their survival. Some of the most spectacular birds that can be seen here include the colorful the red-masked parakeet, the bronze-winged parrot, and the Pacific royal flycatcher with its unusual umbrella-shaped red crest. The coastal areas are also not lacking in bird life, here the tourist can find abundant pelicans, cormorants and herons.

The Arenillas Reserve is also home to an estimated 60 to 80 species of mammals. Four of these, including a species of anteater, are considered threatened. Some of the exotic species the visitor may encounter include spiny rats; vampire bats; yaguarundis – a small species of puma; and tayras. These giant weasels can grow up to a three feet long including the tail, and have been given the nickname “Cabeza de Viejo” – “Old Man´s Face”, thanks to their wrinkled features. They are playful and can be tamed.

How to get here:

The Reserve can be reached by following the Panamerican Highway, the E50, Between Machala the capital of the province of El Oro, the city of Arenillas, and Huaquillas, located on the border with Perú. Those wishing to enter the Reserve must request permission from the Ministry of Defense of the province of El Oro (Brigada de Infantería N°1 El Oro), as the area is currently protected by the Military.

Highlights:

Bird-watching in the forests and along the coast, the mangroves and the giant cacti.

Climate:

The climate is hot and dry, with an average year-round temperature above 24°C.

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.

The area by numbers:

• 17,083: The size, in hectares, of the Reserve.
• 60-80: The estimated number of mammal species in the Reserve.
• 35: Percentage of bird species found here which are endemic to coastal dry forests.
• 24: Minimum year-round temperature, in °C.
• 5: The number of mangrove species found along the coast and rivers of the Reserve.

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Take the Train in Ecuador!

Ecuador is an incredible country of contrasts. During a two week trip to Ecuador, you can experience the majestic rainforests of the Amazon basin, stroll the quaint colonial streets of Cuenca, hike near a glacier in the high Andes, and snorkel with sea turtles and Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands.

With more time, you could also browse the native markets of Otavalo, see a stunning hummingbird display in the cloud forests of Mindo, and relax on a quiet beach. Folks who happen to be train buffs are also in luck because Ecuador has a beautiful, comfortable train and the ride is unforgettable. Passengers on a train tour in Ecuadorare treated to stunning high Andean mountain scenery in luxurious cars with big picture windows.

A view from the train.

As the train travels through the Avenue of the Volcanoes, it passes by picturesque mountain villages and haciendas with craggy mountains in the background (some topped with snow).

Enjoying the train in Ecuador.

Passengers also enjoy activities off the train. At one of the stops, they can go for a hike in the high elevation habitats of Cotopaxi Volcano. At another, guests accompany a traditional “ice seller” who acquires his wares directly from the glacier at Chimborazo! A big, indigenous market is also visited and train passengers experience the feat of railroad engineering known as the Devil’s Nose, an amazing descent down a very steep incline. Add cozy lodging in quaint hotels and delicious Ecuadorian meals to the mix and the train tour becomes one of the most memorable experiences on any trip to Ecuador.

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The Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve

This is one of the easiest to reach of all Ecuador’s protected areas. At just 50 km from the capital Quito, the Cayambe Coca Reserve is well served by tourist infrastructure and is a favourite with visitors anxious to sample its many attractions: the paramos and hot springs, the wildlife and the area’s multitude of pristine lakes.

With altitudes ranging from a tropical 600 metres to Ecuador’s third highest point, the permanently snow capped Mt. Cayambe volcano at 5,790 meters, the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve is home to an incredible variety of landscapes. The Reserve protects one of the country’s principal sources of water, and is criss-crossed by rivers, streams, rapids, hot and cold volcanic springs, and endless waterfalls gushing down the green Andean slopes towards the Amazon basin in the East and the Pacific in the West.

The Reserve is also for climbers. Mount Cayambe (5,790m), located in the west of the Reserve, is the country’s third highest peak and experienced climbers can get to this summit from the Los Hermanos Carrel Refuge (4,600m). Several Condor nesting sites have been identified in the surrounding area. As its name suggests, the Cujuya climbing park is also for those interested in the sport. Located in Cuyuja, near Papallacta, the rock in the park has excellent characteristics for scaling.

Two indigenous people live in the reserve. The indigenous Kichwa speaking village of Oyacachi, located in west of the Reserve, is famed for its woodworking skills and crafts. The community, recently launched a community tourism project, which features visits and exchanges with local families, the opportunity to relax in the villages hot springs, and enjoy locally produced trout and dairy products.

The Cofán people live in the park’s lowlands. The Cofán are a traditional Amazonian culture whose origins lie in the area of the San Miguel and Aguarico river basins, close to the border with Colombia. Their language is unique. They have kept their traditional life style of subsistence hunting and farming, and place great emphasis on living in harmony with their lush surroundings. Sinangoe, located in Canton Gonzalo Pizarro, Puerto Libre Parrish, is the region’s largest and most accessible Cofàn community. The community is involved in environmental protection and eco tourism.

Amongst the 106 species of mammal which inhabit the diverse landscapes of the Reserve, are spectacled bears, puma, little pudu deer and Andean foxes. Three hundred and ninety five species of bird have also been identified in the park, although, as many of the mountain areas remain unexplored, the total number could be higher. Many species, such as the majestic condor, whose wingspan can reach almost 3 meters, are threatened, and the preservation of this region is vital for its protection.

Highlights:

Oyacachi, located high in the mountains at 3,100 meters.

Papallacta, located just outside the southern border of the park, on the Quito Baeza road, is surrounded by some 60 lakes. It also has an abundance of hot springs, originating in the Antisana Volcano, which can be enjoyed after taking one of the many hikes into the Reserve to see waterfalls, birds and other local wildlife.

The San Rafael Waterfall fed by the Quijos river, is Ecuador’s highest, at 150 metres. There are also three smaller falls and small rapids.
At the base of the active El Reventador volcano it is possible to see signs of recent lava flows, and this is a great place for hiking.

This Reserve is renowned for its bird-watching opportunities, with almost 400 species identified in the area. Many hikes – both guided and unguided – begin in El Chaco, Papallacta and Oyacachi.
The two- to three-day hike from Oyacachi to El Chaco passes through some of the most remote regions of the Reserve. The trail descends a total of around 1,400 metres, passing through a range of landscapes, with opportunities to see spectacled bears, Andean foxes and many different types of birds.

Climate:
Depending on the altitude, the average annual temperature in the reserve can range from 5 to 25 °C. This area is wet and humid, and bright sunlight in the mountains can quickly give way to heavy downpours.

What to bring:

Warm clothes.
Hiking boots.
Rubber boots.
Sun block.
Binoculars for bird watching.
Waterproof jacket.
Hat.
Drinking water and snacks if attempting a long hike.

How to get here:

There are several point of access to the Cayambe-Coca reserve, mostly on the Amazon side of the Reserve.

The road from Papallacta to Baeza and Lago Agrio (Nueva Loja) borders the easily accessed southern and eastern edges of the reserve, and the most common points of entry along this road are from Papallacta, El Chaco and Lumbaqui, 70km west of Lago Agrio.

If you don’t have your own transport, take the bus from Quito’s northern terminal (La Ofelia) to Cayambe where a pick up can be hired. The journey to Oyacachi from Cayambe costs around $20 one way for the 90 minute journey, or $50 for a return journey, with three- to four-hours to spend in Oyacachi.

Local traditions and folklore:

The community of Oyacachi, perched high in the Andes, is famed for its exquisite woodwork. Visitors are invited to explore the craft shop, where each item is numbered according to the artist. Roughly-carved wooden bowls, giant ladles and shallow trays are the most traditional items, though the beautifully finished dishes, lidded pots and carved chopping boards demonstrate the true skill of the villagers. During the week, the community workshop is open for visitors to watch the artisans at work.

However, the most impressive and intricate example of the artisans’ talent, and of the remarkable community spirit, are the three totem poles on display in the main plaza. Native species such as spectacled bears, sloth, birds and flowers emerge from the twisted trunks of the native Quijuar tree.

The area by numbers:
• 395: The number of identified bird species, though this number is expected to be higher.
• 150: The height, in meters, of the San Rafael waterfall – Ecuador´s highest.
• 100: The number of plant species endemic to this region.
• 35-64: The temperature, in °C, of the natural hot springs in the Reserve.

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