The stunning biodiversity of Ecuador owes to its three different ecological zones in the mainland – coastal plains, Andean paramo, and tropical rainforest.
Among the dense trees, towering highlands, turquoise waters, and coastal habitats live thousands of native and endemic species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects, all uniquely adapted to life on the equator.
Ecuador is home to over 1.600 bird species, most of which can be seen in the Amazon. If you can, check out a clay lick, where vibrantly colored parrots and parakeets flock to absorb the sodium and antioxidants that help balance their fruit-rich diets.

Choco Region
The Chocó-region, on the western slopes of the Andes ranges from 2,200 meters above sea level to 900 meters. This exceptional difference in altitude means that a fantastic array of plant and animal species (many of them endemic, or unique, to the area) make their habitat. This include more than 350 species of birds, were the most noticeable are the Partridge, Andean Cock-of-the rock, Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers and more.

Antisana Ecological Reserve
One of the impressive reliefs of the place is the moors of the volcano Antisana between the 3.300 and 4.800 meters. It contains extensive grassland (marsh full of reeds) that are mixed with creeping plants, amohadillas, shrubland and several Andean forest remnants. Wildlife is composed by several endangered species in Ecuador such as the Andean Condor, Spectacled Bear and the Mountain Tapir.

Sacha Lodge
Founded by Arnold “Benny” Ammeter, this lodge has been a part of the Amazon experience since it was built in 1992. It is located in the lush forests of its own 5.000-acre private nature reserve, accessible only by motor-canoe from Coca.
One of Sacha Lodge's highlights is the 43 meter observation tower. Another is the 275-meter long canopy walkway. At approximately 30 meters above the ground.

Cayambe Coca National Park
The Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve is a natural area located 107 kilometers North of Quito. Their main mountains are the Cayambe 5.790 meters, Sarahurco 3.485 meters, Puntas 4.425 meters and the Reventador a young and active volcano.
The reserve has one of the biggest biodiversity of Ecuador. It is divided in two parts, the lowland rainforest, located in Napo and Sucumbios and includes the Reventador Volcano, the San Rafael-cascade and the community of Cofan de Sinangue and the montano rainforest or highland that covers the occidental part of the Reserve and it reaches Papallacta in the Pichincha province.

Cabañas San Isidro
Cabañas San Isidro and its immediate surroundings boast a bird list of about 330 species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country. We are situated at about 2.050 meters above sea level, but the trails lead through habitats from 2.400 meters all the way down to 1.900 meters. What this means to birders is an ideal base to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the heart of the subtropical zone.

Itinerary (Trip 2016)

  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • Day 3
  • Day 4-6
  • Quito
  • Mindo (Choco Region)
  • Antisana Ecological Reserve
  • Amazon Rainforest (Sacha Lodge)

San Rafael Waterfall
San Rafael Waterfall is considered one of the largest in Ecuador and is surrounded by thick vegetation which makes them a wonderful scenery.
The waterfall has a drop of more than 150 meters, formed by the descent of the Coca river.

Yasuni National Park
Yasuni covers around 10.000 square kilometres along the south bank and, together with areas on the opposite bank of the Napo, a small zone exists where animal and plant species diversity all reach their maximum levels within the western hemisphere. Nowhere are there a greater number and diversity of amphibians and reptiles, with approximately 35% of all species in the Amazon basin. In addition, round 600 species of birds have been seen, including many species of parrots and macaws that gather on a daily basis in their hundreds at know mineral licks. Mammal diversity is also extraordinary; there are numerous primates ranging from the diminutive Pygmy Marmoset to the raucous Red Howler Monkey.

Milpe Bird Sanctury
The Bird Sanctuary covers an altitudinal range from 1.020-1.150m. Opened in March 2004, Milpe has recently been expanded to 100 hectares, now including the adjacent ‘Milpe Gardens’ which has easier access to the Chalhuayacu river valley and makes a great addition to our already ample trail system.
Birding guides consider this one of the finest sites in all of Ecuador and many of the most spectacular Chocó Endemics occur here: Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Glistening-green Tanager, Chocó Trogon. The highlight of the forest is the Club-winged Manakin lek, where during most of the year the males display on perches close to the trail.

Rio Silanche Sanctuary
Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary (100 hectare) protects a remnant lowland forest (altitude 300-350 m.) and was created as a sanctuary for many Choco endemics that are currently threatened by the significant clear-cutting of forest in the area. Many of these endemics are quite rare or uncommon but may be seen in the preserve. An observation tower reaching into the mid-story provides good vantage for seeing canopy and mid-story birds.
The reserve is often a good place to see raptors. Species you can see there include the rarely seen Black Hawk-Eagle as well as more commonly seen Double-toothed Kite and Gray Hawk.

Itinerary (Trip 2018)

  • Day 1
  • Day 2-4
  • Day 5
  • Day 6-8
  • Day 9
  • Day 10
  • Day 11
  • Day 12
  • Day 13
  • Day 14
  • Day 15
  • Day 16
  • Papallacta (Cayambe Coca N.P.)
  • Baeze (Cabañas San Isidro)
  • San Rafael Waterfal
  • Yasuni National Park
  • Mindo (Milpe Bird Sanctury)
  • Mindo (Rio Silanche Sanctuary)
  • Mindo (Refugio Paz De Las Aves)
  • Bellavista Cloud Forest
  • Cuenca
  • Cuenca (El Cajas National Park)
  • Guayaquil (Manglares Churute)
  • Guayaquil (Cerro Blanco)

Refugio Paz De Las Aves
At 1.400 meters is a medium altitude private cloud forest located between Nanegalito and the road to Mindo. It has 30 hectares of primary and secondary recovering cloud forest. There is a main trail and multiple side trails where the two brothers will take you to see the most amazing bird show in the wild. You can see birds that would be almost impossible to see in the wild only 5 ft away! They have trained the Giant Antpitta (called Maria), the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and the Yellow-breasted Antpitta to eat worms. Also, there is a lek that has been performing since 2005 with the beautiful Cock-of-the-rock.

Bellavista Cloud Forest
Bellavista Cloud Forest (altitude 2.000 - 2.800 m) borders the Choco bio-region and is surrounded by its own 1.730-acre reserve of orchid and bromeliad laden cloud forest containing the world’s greatest diversity of epiphytes. The area is home to around 300 species of birds, including the Plate Billed Mountain Toucan.

El Cajas National Park
El Cajas National Park is 29,000 ha in size with as many as 250 lakes and ponds located within the park, making it vital water source in the region. Most of El Cajas lies above 3.000 meters elevation, with páramo covering most of the rugged terrain. Frost and ice above 4.000 meters try their best to deter the thriving of hardy vegetation, such as the tiny quinoa tree, which clings to life higher than any other tree in the world. It contains up to 125 different species of birds, like the Condor, Violet-throated Metaltail and the Ecuadorian Hillstar.

Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve
The Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve contains approximately 50.000 hectares of mangroves and dry tropical forests. The mangroves incorporated within the Manglares Churute Park make up 67% of the entire park and are protected from shrimp farming which is prevalent in the area. The Manglares Churute Reserve also contains salt flats that are popular with a variety of shorebirds like the Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Egrets and Laughing Gulls. It is also one of the areas that you can find and see a feathered Horned Screamer.

Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco
Bosque Cerro Blanco is a 6.000 acre plus reserve of dry tropical forest a few miles outside Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil. The reserve was set aside by the cement factory (which is adjacent) in cooperation with the government to save habitat for the endangered Guayaquil Green Macaw. It's one of the best examples of a preserved tropical dry forest in the country.

Trip Report

The first trip was made in december 2016; it was a combination with a visit to the Galapagos Islands. On the mainland I managed to find about 200 birds and abround 70 other species. (Butterfly/Mammals/Reptiles/Plants/Others).
At the east side of Quito lies the Parque Metropolitano, with an altitude off around 2.900 meters. I decided to walk up there, but as it's about 100 m higher than the city, so it was quite an effort to get there. The result where quite good, with nice pictures off Cinereous Conebill, Tufted Tit-Tyrant and Black-tailed Trainbearer.
The area around Mindo is very fragmentised, consisting of a patchwork of cloud forests, secondary forests, agricultural land, and human settlements. Much of the land is privately protected where hummingbirds swoop down from perches in nearby trees, joining tanagers and toucans at feeding stations set up around the lush landscape of these properties. My first stop was at a Andean Cock-of-the-rock-lek where males display rituals that show off there magnificent plumage. Other highlichts of this day: Empress Brilliant, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, Thick-billed Euphonia, Club-winged Manakin, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager. While the Cock-of the-rock was my main objective off this visit, the other sites are also superb; so you should go to Mindo
Quite a contrast to Mindo was the visit to the Antisana Ecological Reserve where we reached an altitude around 4.000m. This is the place for the Andean Condor and I saw three of them; a couple breeding on a cliff and a juvenile flighing around. Other notable species Carunculated Caracara, Andean Ibis, Paramo Pipit, Andean Lapwing, Giant Hummingbird and White-tailed Deer.
After a one hour flight from Quito and a two hourboat-ride on the Napo-river we reached Sacha Lodge. It is very noticeable that the oil-industry is important in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Along the river there where three places where the oil-trucks could be loaded/landed for transportation further inland.
The visit to the Observation-tower was good for some nice species (Ivory-billed Aracari, Opal-rumped Tanager, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker and a couple of Shock-headed Capuchin). The lodge is situated near the Pilchicocha Lake and there I saw some Giant Otters swimming around.
A short canoe trip down the Napo river brings us to a parrot lick, an exposed clay riverbank where several species of parrots gather every early morning A clay lick are patches of earth that are abundant in minerals – particularly sodium - that help neutralize the toxins that develop as a result of a Parrot's diet. On the lick where hundreds of Yellow-crowned Parrots, Blue-headed Parrots, Dusky-headed Parakeet and Mealy Parrots and above the river I had great vieuws of a small group Red-bellied Macaws and some Amazonian Umbrella Birds.
The Canopy-walkway is a nice place to see Spangled Cotinga, Paradise Tanager, Bare-necked Fruitcrow and on the way back to the lodge a couple Crested Owls, Wire-tailed Manakin, White-chinned Jacamar, White-rumped Sirystes, a Pygmy Marmoset and a group of Black-mantled Tamarins.
Whitin this bustling area Sacha Lodge, with about 5.000 acres is an oasis where many annmials can be seen.

The second trip was made in 2018. On this trip I found 385 Birds, 50 Butterfly and around 90 other species (Mammals/Reptiles/Plants/Others).
At the trip to the Cayambe Coca N.P. we reached an altitude of around 3.800 m. and did have great vieuws of the Artisana Vulcano. Walking around there gives great pictures off Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Rainbow-bearded Thornbil, Shining Sunbeam and Pale-naped Brush-finch.
On the way to Cabañas San Isidro we made a stop near the Rio Cosanga (a turbulent fast-flowing mountain river) and indeed this was the plave to find the Torrent Duck. Along the river also Torrent Tyrannulet and a White-throated Toucanet. The feeders around the lodge where good for Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Gorgeted Woodstar and Lesser Violetear. This is also a good place for butterflies. Around there I found 15 different species, including White-bar Mountain Satyr, Stratonice Altinote, Bellona Metalmark, Fasciata Clearwing and Silky Wanderer.


This list, give's you a nice idea of the things I h've photographed. So explore the list, to see nice picture's of different familie-goups; there are also detailed list available of the different species.

There are also some pictures available of the When you want to know more about this region, you have to visit my travelpages.

This trip is made possible by

The Guacamayos Ridge Trail, at an elevation around 2.200 m, cut into a steep slope on the Eastern side of the Ecuadorian Andes. It creates a unique habitat with some special birds. (Green-and-black Fruiteater, Sharpe's Wren, Andean Guan and Beryl-spangled Tanager).
A visit to the San Rafael Waterfal brings up some nice pictures of Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Flame-faced Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager and a group of White-capped Parrots.
The lodge in the Yasuni National Park is located on the opposite bank of the Napo-river close to Sacha. So I was back in an already known area.
The visit at the clay-lick was a litlle bit disappointing. There was a hudge Boa Constrictor at the scene which discourage the parrots to come near the lick. But the boat-ride on the river compensated that with vieuws of Red-capped Cardinal, Speckled Chachalaca and a Violaceous Jay.
A short distance walk from the lodge leads to an Observation-tower, where I made nice pictures of Thrush-like Wren, Gilded Barbet, White-lored Euphonia and Green-backed Trogon.
On the second day of this visit we made a canoe-ride on a narrow black-water creek deeper into the national park. I was verry pleased to make pictures of Blue-throated Piping Guan, Zigzag Heron, Sungrebe, Yellow-ridged Toucan, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth and a Poeppig's Woolly Monkey.
The last day I did some walking around the lodge and this brings some nice vieuws of Orange-backed Troupial, Chestnut-eared Aracari, White-winged Becard, Scarlet-crowned Barbet and a Black Agouti. Furthermore I found about 20 butterfly-species (Tropical Duskywing, Many-banded Daggerwing, Hesperis Eighty-eight, Kenneth's Metalmark, Pavana Longwing and Chloe Cracker. It was a nice reunion with the Amazon Rainforest; a must for people loving nature.
We made a full day visit at the Milpe Bird Sanctury finding Rose-faced Parrot, Choco Tyrannulet, Broad-billed Motmot, Choco Trogon, Brown-billed Scythebill and Choco Toucan. The hummingbird feeders near the entrance gives me a chance to make pictures of Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Green Thorntail, Andean Emerald, Crowned Woodnymph and White-whiskered Hermit. Some nice butterflies where: Helenor Morpho, Sara Longwing, Long-tailed Skipper and Rusty-tipped Page.
Another full day visit was at the Rio Silanche Sanctuary. Noticeable species where Striped Cuckoo, Hook-billed Kite, Barred Puffbird, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Double-toothed Kite and Cinnamon Becard. At the observation-tower I also witnessed a tarantula (Ecuadorian Red Bloom).
Unfortunatly Maria, the Giant Antpitta, did not show up when we visited the Refugio Paz De Las Aves, but near the spot Angel was able to show us Lyre-tailed Nightjar and a Dark-backed Wood-quail. Then we drove up the mountain and there we found Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta alongside with a Golden-headed Quetza. The most important fact of this place beside the birds is that the owners used to cut the forest for living and now have become forest protectors!
The Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge is located at 2.200 metres, on a mountain ridge and offers stunning views down the hillsides into the Tandayapa valley below. There are 10 km of trails near the lodge, ranging from the relatively easy to the more adventurous. On those trails we found Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Chestnut-capped Brush-finch, Oilbird, Common Potoo and Plate-billed Mountain-toucan. This is also a place to see the Olinguito a racoon like mammal which was first described in 2013 as a new species. Let's hope that the olinguito can serve as an ambassador species for the cloud forests of Ecuador, to bring the world’s attention to these critical habitats.
This day at Cuenca we went east-wards; first up the Andean mountains to reach an elevation of 3.500 m. and then down the eastern slope to about 2.500 meters. On top of the mountains we saw Red-crested Cotinga, Tyrian Metaltail, Many-striped Canastero and the Mouse-colored Thistletail. Down on the eastern slope there were vieuws of Lacrimose Mountain Tanager and Yellow-breasted Brush-finch.
We made two stops in the El Cajas National Park. The first was at lake Llaviucu, where i saw Mountain Velvetbreast, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Superciliaried Hemispingus and some Andean Ducks. At the second stop at lake Toreadora I had great vieuws of the rare Violet-throated Metaltail and some other hard to see species (Brown-backed Chat-tyrant, Giant Conebill, Blue-mantled Thornbill and Ecuadorian Hillstar).
We spent another whole day at Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve. It's an other diversed area; In the Gulf of Guayaquil, freshwater rivers that descend from the mountains converge with the salt water from the sea; together they form one of the largest estuary of the Pacific coast of South America. Here I spotted Wood Stork, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Mangrove Black-Hawk and and the endagered American Crocodile. Besides the mangroves, the reserve also protects some arid ecosystems located around the hills of the Cordillera Churute. There at an artificial lake we had some of the most extraordinary observations from this trip; Horned Screamer, Comb Duck and the 5 th ever seen Cinnamon Teal in Ecuador.
On the last day of this trip we made a visit to Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco where i made pictures of: Collared Antshrike, Crane Hawk, Ecuadorian Ground-dove, Crimson-breasted Finch and the Pacific Parrotlet.