Bob and I celebrated our thirty year anniversary with a trip to beautiful Ecuador in 2017. This lush jungle country is rich with a variety of flowers and tropical birds.
Wednesday, February 22nd
After traveling for nearly 24 hours on three flights (Seattle to LA to Mexico City to Quito) we arrived in Ecuador in the early morning. We rented a car and drove through chaotic Quito north and then west to Mindo. Our first destination was Mindo Gardens where we had some much needed sleep. We awoke refreshed and went to explore the town of Mindo and lush surrounding countryside. We dined at the excellent Dragonfly Restaurant before returning to Mindo Gardens for a good night’s sleep.
Thursday, February 23rd
We arranged to meet a birding guide before sunrise. Irman Arias turned out to be excellent at spotting and identifying birds. Irman showed us where a Potoo slept the day. He then took us to a popular spot high above Mindo – an overlook near a cable car that transports people across a high ravine on the weekends. From this vista we saw three types of toucans (Chestnut Mandable, Choco, and Collered Aricari) and the Golden-headed Quetzal. A sun Bittern crossed the road in from of us. Hummingbirds were everywhere!
Irman took us to several places, including a private garden where we saw a variety of colorful birds. After four hours with Irman we saw 41 bird species, including the Squirrel Cuckoo, Sun Bittern, Hook-billed Kite, Blue-necked Tanager, Rufous Motmot, Blue Gray Tanager, Masked Trogan, the Swallow-tailed Kite, and many others.
After our successful morning we drove to Bellavista Lodge at a much higher elevation. The sun was out and the scenery gorgeous. The hummingbirds here were different than those in the lower area. We had an excellent lunch and chatted with other birders.
We returned to Mindo to look for our next lodging, a place recommended to us called Hosteria Septimo Paraiso. The lodge was a lovely mixture of tropical and antique. We were offered a good rate by owner Anna Lou, so we decided to remain for a few nights. We had an excellent dinner and officially celebrated our 30-year anniversary in style.
Friday, February 24th
It was still the rainy season in Ecuador and we detected a pattern: rain through the night that gradually cleared to sunshine through the day, then rain again in the mid afternoon that increased into the night. We took a drive back to the cable car overlook at pre-dawn and welcome the sunrise with several toucans. We drove higher into the hills and saw parrots, hawks, and many other birds and butterflies. After lunch at Septimo we explored further west and found a secluded place called Reserva Mangaloma. We hiked down to a small river and across a footbridge, seeing many new birds. The cicadas were very loud and the air was heavy and humid. Large Blue Morpho butterflies danced in the sun and Maroon-tailed Parakeets squabbled in the palms. We drove through a tremendous rainstorm on the way back to Septimo Paraiso where we enjoyed another great dinner before heading to bed.
Saturday, February 25th
We awoke to a sunny day. After wandering the Septimo trails we headed back toward Bellavista to explore more of the “Nono” road. We saw a beautiful Cinnamon Flycatcher and a Scarlet-rumped Toucanet. The road went into deep valleys and over high peaks in the lush jungle wilderness… fabulous! We came to the Tandayapa Bird Lodge where we saw many more beautiful hummingbirds. The road continued for miles past tiny high mountain communities and eventually dropped into sprawling Quito. We realized that Carnival celebrations were going on and we traveled back to Mindo in a long line of traffic.
Click to view a Tandayapa hummingbird slow-motion video below.
Sunday, February 26th
Our plan was to head over the Andes to explore the Amazon side of Ecuador. Anna Lou helped us make reservations for the next three days. We wanted to make sure we had a place to stay through Tuesday – Carnival (or Mardi Gras). Apparently we were at risk of being egged and floured or worse during this festive celebration. We said goodbye to Septimo Parasio and took the Nono road again all the way into Quito. We headed east over Papallacta pass (elevation ~13,000 feet). Along the way we passed many tiny Andean communities and saw several indigenous Ecuadorian people who live in this high place. They have maintained their own unique language, clothing, and culture. We stopped at Papallacta Hot Springs at the top of the pass. Many people were camping and enjoying a four-day Carnival weekend.
We arrived at Guango Lodge on the rushing Rio Guango and struck up a quick friendship with Neil and Barb Fox from Toronto. Bob was happy to hang out with Neil, a retired photography professor! We chased the elusive Torrent Duck, bud sadly just missed seeing a pair with their chicks. We had a great dinner and were sent to bed with hot water filled heating pads to keep the high mountain chill away. Cosy!