A Taste of Ecuador: Locro de Papa

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We think one great way to experience a country is through its food, and visitors to Ecuador will not be disappointed with their exploration of our country’s cuisine!

Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge

Beautiful Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge near Cotopaxi National Park

The Andean region of Ecuador has a climate that has been called ‘eternal spring.’ Days range from cool to pleasantly warm and nights can be very chilly. We love trekking through the Andes – whether on a nature and culture based lodge-to-lodge hiking trip or an adventure through some of our highest peaks – we never get enough of the mountains!

After a long day of play in the highlands, our lodges will welcome you back with something warm and restorative. Very often in Ecuador, that means a hearty and delicious bowl of soup to kick off a larger meal.

Locro de papa is a traditional Ecuadorian soup of potatoes and cheese, and once you try it, you will crave it for life. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly evening – really any evening – it’s that good! You can give it a try in your kitchen, or come for a visit – we’ll be sure you get a bowl!

Locro de papa
Recipe from Chef Jose at Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge

Ingredients

8 large potatoes
1/2 onion
2-3 sticks celery
1/2 liter milk
250 g cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp achiote
1 c shredded cheese (mild cheddar or Monterey Jack)
salt and pepper, to taste
avocado, queso fresco, green onions and additional cheese for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Peel and finely chop the potatoes, then and boil in two liters of water. It cooked about 15 minutes to high flame . Chop the onion and mix with butter and achiote paste. Add this mixture to the potatoes after the 15 minutes’ cooking time, then reduce the flame to medium heat. Stir in milk, cream and salt and pepper to taste and cook for 30 minutes until soup thickens. Stir in the shredded cheese and allow it to melt into the soup. If necessary add a little more milk to thin. Stir thoroughly to ensure all ingredients have blended. Serve garnished with avocado, queso fresco and green onions, and aji on the table (typical hot sauce served at every meal).

Salud!

 

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Best Chocolate in the World

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Did you know that Quito is home to some of the finest IMG_1470chocolate on earth? Pacari is the first single-origin, 100-percent organic chocolate made entirely in Ecuador. Pacari’s goal is to create the highest quality chocolate, therefore they insist upon superior organic ingredients and produce their chocolate in small batches to highlight the exceptional flavor profile of the cacao bean. The cacao that Pacari uses is native to Ecuador and is known for its rich, full taste and complex fruity and floral notes.

On our Pacari Chocolate Tasting Tour, you’ll have the chance to try a variety of bars – from single-origin bars, to delicately flavored chocolate, like lemongrass. You will learn Pacari’s history, as well as how they produce their chocolate, which not only takes the best ingredients into consideration, but also the sustainability of cacao production and the livelihood of the farmers.

Making trufflesBest of all, you will have the chance to make truffles with real vegan organic ingredients, without sugar and milk. Trust us, you don’t need dairy to make amazing truffles! It’s a fun, messy, hands-on experience, and your reward is eating what you make!

Learn more about our Pacari Chocolate Tasting Tour here.

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Dive in to the Galapagos!

Ecuador’s famous Galapagos Islands are best known for their incredible wildlife. At Destination Ecuador, we want your first experience on arrival to be able to get up close and personal with some of the Islands’ fantastic animals, so on our unique, land-based Galapagos trips, our first activity has you diving right into water activities.

After you arrive at Baltra airport (one of the world’s ‘greenest’ airports, according to CNN), you will visit the airport’s VIP lounge where you will have a chance to get a cool drink, change into your swimming clothes and lather on some sunscreen. You will then transfer to Santa Cruz Island where you will board your boat for water activities!

You will have the chance to snorkel, kayak and stand up paddleboard in the pristine turquoise waters of the Itabaca Channel that separates Baltra and Santa Cruz. Your expert guide will determine the order of the water activities based on ocean currents and weather. You’ll have the chance to see all sorts of marine life, fantastic Galapagos birds and learn about the mangrove forest ecosystem.

On our most recent visit to the Channel, we saw white-tipped reef sharks, green turtles, countless colorful tropical fish, blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans and more. We cruised along the tangled mangrove coastline in our kayaks and peered down into the crystal-clear water to see sharks swimming placidly below our boats. There was never a dull moment!

Jumping straight into the water not only washes the travel away, it inspires immediate awe – the wildlife is as fearless and interesting as you’ve heard! It’s the perfect introduction to the Galapagos.

If you’d like to learn more about our land-based adventures, take a look through our website, or email our sales team for detailed
itineraries.

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Are The Jungles of Ecuador Dangerous?

“The jungle” can evokes images of dangerous, dense forests where venomous creatures and savage animals lurk in the shadows. However, those images are only found in the imagination of screen writers and those who have never actually been to a tropical forest, especially the Amazon. In the rainforests of Ecuador, South America, although there are Anacondas, Jaguars, and Black Caimans, people are far more likely to die from bee stings in a suburban park in Ohio than be attacked by one of those predators. As with any wild area, people still have to be careful about staying on the trail, and are always better off walking with an experienced guide, but tropical forests tend to be far less dangerous than some over-creative minds might think.

Jaguar HE

Ecuador is no exception. Despite hosting some of the most biodiverse rainforests on the planet, driving back and forth to work through heavy traffic is more risky than walking in the jungle. The vast majority of animals are shy and would rather be left alone than attack anyone, Jaguars included. This actually presents serious challenges to seeing animals like wild cats, tapirs, and snakes. Because of their shy nature, it’s actually far easier to watch birds, and look for frogs and amazing, bizarre bugs (especially at night).

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Visit tropical forests in Ecuador to experience the the beauty and incredible biodiversity of these amazing habitats.

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The Truth About Visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Amazon! Few places evoke as much excitement and apprehension than the most extensive jungle wilderness on the globe. Most people hear the word “Amazon” and respond with stories of dense, dangerous jungles filled with strange and perilous wild animals. Although the rainforests of the Amazon aren’t as safe as a local state park, they aren’t any more dangerous than wilderness areas in other parts of the world. In fact, compared to parks in Africa and Tiger reserves in the subcontinent, the Amazon is pretty tame.

In Ecuador, as with other parts of the Amazon, the main peril comes in the form of getting lost. This is what locals fear far more than any snakes or caimans (although you won’t catch them swimming at night in oxbow lakes). As with other road-less, forested areas, getting lost in the woods is a serious situation where dangers come in the form of exposure to the elements, dehydration, and starvation. Fortunately, whether hiking in Maine, or the Ecuadorian Amazon, it’s also very easy to avoid becoming lost. All you have to do is stick to well marked trails and it won’t happen. It’s even better to explore with a local guide, something that is always part of the experience at the Huaorani Ecolodge. Guests of this award-winning lodge hike through the surrounding, beautiful rainforests with a guide who knows the place like the back of his hand. This not only ensures that guests will not wander off and become lost in the forest, but that they also see more wildlife, learn about the rainforest, and learn a few jungle survival skills from local experts.

Experience the wild Ecuadorian Amazon in a safe, comfortable manner at the Huaorani Ecolodge.

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Tourism in Ecuador after the Earthquake

A little more than a week ago, Ecuador was struck by a strong earthquake. It measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale and as expected from a severe earthquake of that strength, resulted in a lot of structural damage and caused the deaths of at least 600 people. This is a tragic disaster and rescue efforts and aid have been ongoing but it has affected tourism much less than media sources might have us believe.

Contrary to what had been written and expressed at some sources, the earthquake did not affect the entire country. In fact, it wasn’t even felt in the eastern part of Ecuador and damage was mostly limited to one area. Here are some other facts about this recent tragic disaster:

  • An epicenter near the coast: The epicenter of the earthquake was located very near the coast in western Ecuador, especially near the cities of Pedernales, and Manta. These and other nearby towns in Manabi province were mostly destroyed, roads in the area were heavily affected, and the people living in that area are passing through difficult times. Fortunately, aid from within and outside of Ecuador has been reaching them. Trips to this area should be changed for the time being.


  • What parts of Ecuador were not affected?: Actually, most of the country. For example, although the quake was felt in Quito, this was far enough from the epicenter that very little to no damage was reported. The airport at Quito is open, and all of the regular tours there are possible. The same goes for Otavalo, Banos, the Galapagos Islands, and all of eastern Ecuador including the Huaorani Ecolodge. Tourism in these areas is normal and the same activities and infrastructure are available as before the earthquake.

To learn more about Ecuador and if the recent earthquake has affected trips to certain areas, contact us at Tropic.
 

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How to See Tree Frogs at the Huaorani Ecolodge

The Amazon rainforest is a bastion of biodiversity. This is a well known fact but what is not as well known is how difficult it can be to see the animals that live in the forest. Upon entering the rainforests of eastern Ecuador, most people’s first impression is that of entering a humid cathedral of green. A constant chorus of insects is part of the natural soundtrack but it can take a while to see animals, even some of the 500 bird species that live there.

Everything that lives in the Amazon is so difficult to see because just about everything is either highly camouflaged, or nocturnal. Evolving with a wide variety of predators has resulted in birds, snakes, mammals, frogs, and insects that happen to be natural-born experts at staying out of sight. They can be seen but it takes a well-practiced eye, acute hearing, and the patience of a quiet hunter. This is exactly what you get when walking through the forest with a local guide at the Huaorani Ecolodge. They grew up tracking and hunting animals in those majestic forests and are as just at home in the jungle as city-dwellers are in an urban zone. Hike with a local guide on a night hike to see tree frogs. You will probably see some other animals too.

Visit the Huaorani Ecolodge for an authentic jungle adventure of a lifetime.

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Penguins in Ecuador?

Penguins are some of the more memorable of birds. Although most folks don’t really know what a flycatcher is, just about everyone knows about penguins. We know that they can’t fly, are patterned in crisp black and white (and thus look like they wear tuxedos), and are birds of the cold southern oceans.

While the first two of those facts are mostly true (at least one penguin species looks more blue-gray than black), the third is actually not true. Most penguin species do occur in the Antarctic, but not all of them. Two species range north to Chile and Peru, and one other penguin actually lives in Ecuador right on the equator.

Ironically, the Galapagos Penguin isn’t found anywhere other than the place on the globe that receives the most direct rays from the sun. With that in mind, it would seem that weather in the Galapagos would be a bit too hot for it. However, this unique penguin can exist there for some of the same reasons that so many other animals make their homes in the bucket list archipelago. Cold water is the source of life for the Galapagos Penguin, thousands of seabirds, and prolific marine wildlife around the islands. The cold upwellings from nearby deep waters provide enough nutrients and small creatures to form the base of a food pyramid that includes the Galapagos Penguin. It also benefits from the temperatures of those cool waters despite living right on the equator.

Take a Galapagos cruise to see these unique penguins, Marine Iguanas, and a host of other interesting wildlife.

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The Zika Virus and Travel to Ecuador

The Zika Virus and Ecuador

 

Recently, one of the biggest headlines to hit news agencies in the USA, Europe, South America, and elsewhere has been that of the Zika virus. Although the virus has been known since 1947, it didn’t really make international news until 2016 after the WHO (World Health Organization) published a “public health emergency of international concern” in early February, 2016. The WHO made this statement after studies showed a much higher than normal incidence of microcephaly among newborns in Brazil, and that the cases of microcephaly were probably associated with the Zika virus.

 

Anyone who has been paying attention to the news has probably heard this already so what about Ecuador? Is this South American country also affected by the Zika virus? Not to mention, what exactly is the Zika virus? We hope that the following information will answer questions and concerns about this virus, especially related to travel to Ecuador.

 

What is the Zika virus and why haven’t we heard of it before?

This virus is in the same family as several other mosquito-borne viruses including the ones that cause Yellow Fever, Dengue, and Chikungunya. It was actually discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda, Africa in 1947 but hasn’t made major headlines until now for a few reasons. Since the Zika virus is not lethal and does not cause grave symptoms (and 80% of people are believed to not show symptoms), few scientists studied the virus compared to Malaria or other, more dangerous diseases. Also, the virus was not known to occur in many areas, and so did not seem to have as much as an impact as other diseases.

 

How is it transmitted?

The main way that people get the Zika virus is after being bitten by a mosquito that carries it. The mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two mosquito species that mostly feed on and live among people. Recent studies have shown that the virus can also be transmitted from pregnant mothers to their babies, and by sexual intercourse with an infected person. It has also been found in saliva and urine but is not known if a viable virus can be transmitted from these fluids.

 

What happens if you have Zika?

Most people who have the Zika virus are believed to not show any symptoms. The 20% of infected people who do show symptoms of the Zika virus have a fever, joint pains, conjunctivitis, and a rash for around three days. In general, the symptoms resemble those of a mild flu accompanied by a rash. Since those same symptoms can also be produced by other viruses and end after a few days, infection with Zika could be easily overlooked. Given the recent information about Zika probably causing more health problems than expected, anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor straight away.

 

If the virus only caused such mild symptoms, it probably wouldn’t have made the news. However, since it appears to be linked to a higher incidence of microcephaly, and may also be associated with a higher incidence of Guillain-Barre syndrome, there is more cause for concern. The cases of microcephaly (much smaller than normal skulls) in babies have happened with mothers who had the Zika virus while they were pregnant, and those babies were also shown to be infected with the virus after they were born.

 

Where does it occur? In Ecuador?

Outbreaks of the Zika virus have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In 2015, cases were found in Brazil, and then in several other countries in South and Central America. Recently, cases of Zika virus were also found in Hawaii and Texas in people who had either traveled to Brazil or had sexual intercourse with someone who had been to Brazil.

 

Although the virus has been found in Ecuador, according to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism, it has only been found in a few provinces, does not appear to be widespread, and efforts are being made to control mosquitoes in many areas.

 

Is it safe to travel to Ecuador?

For most travelers, this is the biggest question. According to the WHO, “There should be no restrictions on travel or trade with countries or areas with Zika virus transmission”.

They also mentioned that “Travellers to areas with Zika virus transmission should be provided with up to date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites”.

 

In other words, the WHO believes that travelers to Ecuador (and Brazil, where the chance of catching Zika is much higher) shouldn’t cancel their trip but should be aware of how to avoid being bit by mosquitoes. In fact, since the mosquitoes that can carry Zika probably do not occur above 2,000 meters, most montane areas of the country are probably free of the virus in any case.

 

This conclusion is echoed by the USA Center for Disease Control in their recommendation for a Level Two Alert that advises “travel with enhanced precautions”. In other words, they suggest taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites as well as using a condom during sexual relations with males. They also advise pregnant women to consider postponing their trips and to consult their physician before going on the trip.

 

How to prevent Zika

Although researchers are working on a vaccine, it isn’t expected to be available for at least ten years. In the meantime, the main defense against Zika lies in precaution against mosquito bites. If you are traveling to any area with mosquitoes (in Ecuador, this could mean most areas of the country, but especially areas below 2,000 meters), you could use use long sleeves and long pants, DEET repellent, permethrin treated clothing, and sleep in screened rooms, rooms with air conditioning, or under mosquito nets.

 

 

 

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Exploring the Amazon at the Huaorani Ecolodge

The Amazon rainforest covers a vast area, the majority of which is in Brazil. However, substantial areas of the largest rainforest in the world are also located within the borders of Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. As with many parts of the Amazon basin, the wildest areas in eastern Ecuador are the places that lack roads. It would be foolhardy indeed to attempt to explore such areas on your own, but fortunately, you don’t have to if you want to experience one of the most remote corners of Eastern Ecuador.

Take a trip to the Huaorani Ecolodge and the real journey starts with a canoe ride down a wild, jungle river. As the boat goes downstream, watch the forest edge to see if you can spot monkeys, parrots, and other jungle wildlife.

Once you reach the lodge, a local guide accompanies you on hikes through beautiful primary rainforest. He will help you explore the forest by pointing out certain useful plants, and looking for animals high up in the cathedral-like canopy, and hidden in the undergrowth. Keep a close eye on the vegetation and you might spot well-camouflaged insects, lizards, and other jungle creatures. Your guide will also show you how to use a blowgun and demonstrate a few other survival tips, as well as introduce you to the local Huaorani community.

A trip to the Huaorani Ecolodge is the safest and most exciting way to explore the Amazon!

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