advice (based on our experiences)
this page with caution!
experiences will not have been the same as everyone else's. And
our requirements and expectations will probably be different from
We used Tribes
Travel in London as our agents, and Amanda Marks, the owner,
and her staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. We had met
Amanda a couple of times at the English Bird Fair at Rutland Water;
it's always helpful to meet people face-to-face. Amanda helped us
to plan our itinerary, listened to what we said, and made suggestions
booked our international flights through North-South
Travel. Brenda at North-South was also very helpful in finding
out more about baggage constraints (following the September 11 atrocities).
Both Tribes and North-South Travel have a positive, responsible
attitude towards the environment and the Third World.
used as the ground agents Angermeyers
Expeditions. They arranged all transport, and the bird guides
for Tandayapa and Cotapaxi. All their arrangements went smoothly
and to time.
only advice I would offer about agents (and it applies to guides
as well) is to check in fine detail exactly what they have planned
for you, and ask them to change it if it's not what you want. Raphael
at Tandayapa was a great guy to be with but, as he told us himself,
he is a nature guide, and not a specific birding guide, as we had
requested. And we would like to have taken a boxed lunch up Cotapaxi,
to spend longer there, rather than have to come down to an admittedly
splendid restaurant lunch!
We chose to fly from our local airport, Leeds-Bradford, which meant
flying to Quito via Amsterdam. This was good, and we had no problems.
It was a bit of a surprise overflying Quito and calling at Guayaquil
first! But at least we had some superb aerial views of Cotapaxi,
Chimborazo and many other Andean peaks. Coming from England, an
alternative route is from London to Quito, changing flights at Miami.
I've heard this, too, is OK, but I can't comment on it.
inland flights between Quito and Coca were uneventful in the tiny
Beech aircraft (19? seater). Can't remember the name of the airline,
but it was not one of the top three mentioned in the Rough
Guide! We had to pay locally for the inland flights, rather than
them being included in the overall price charged by Tribes Travel.
So make sure you have access to enough funds for the inland flights.
There's supposed to be quite a strict baggage allowance on these
flights, but in practice, no-one seems to enforce it.
I've done a fair bit of driving in other countries - Morocco, Seychelles,
Greek Islands, Israel. I would not want to drive in Ecuador.
Off the main roads, it seemed safe enough, but finding your way
around the many small, unmarked tracks in the West Slope area might
be difficult. In the Cotapaxi area, the Pan American Highway is
a nightmare, and it was there that I had my second very near miss
in my lifetime (the first was nearly getting creamed by a drunken
driver on a mountain pass near Kathmandu in Nepal!) Fortunately,
Angermeyers provided us with an excellent driver, Miguel, and we
survived! If I had to drive in Ecuador, a 4WD vehicle would be much
more comfortable, although on both the West Slope and in the Cotapaxi
area, we only had 2WD vehicles. A 4WD is probably essential if you
want to go higher up than the plateau on Cotapaxi.
Just relax and put yourself in the capable hands of the guys in
charge; they seemed to know what they were doing, whether it was
the motorised canoe along the Rio Napo, or the paddle canoes used
locally in the jungle. The motorised canoe went much faster than
I had expected. It can get a bit breezy, so have a sweater or windproof
handy. Also, if it does rain, there's not much cover for the couple
of hours or so that you are on the canoe, so a waterproof is useful.
getting into or out of small paddle canoes (a bit tricky for birders
who are getting on in years!) the secret is to always stand and
move along the centre of gravity of the canoe. After a day or so
we were leaping in and out like professionals.
Waterproof binoculars are essential. I use 10x42 Swarovski bins
and Ruth uses 8x42 Opticrons. The former were better for spotting
high up in the canopy, but the latter have better light-gathering
power for the dark under-storey conditions. Bins are very much a
took our Kowa telescope, and I bought a lightweight carbon fibre
tripod for the occasion. I also had a shoulder pod - which never
got used. For much of the time, the 'scope never got used, but we
did find it particularly useful on Cotapaxi and on the Canopy Tower
at La Selva. On the rain forest trails it wasn't worth carrying
- and the same applied to the Tandayapa trails.
photography, Ruth uses a Nikon F50 (35 - 80mm lens) plus a Vititar
100 - 300mm lens. She shared the tripod with the 'scope.
birding and other guide books, see the Info
& Links page.
This holiday was a challenge, since we had to dress for cool and
windy conditions at nearly 14,000 feet on Cotapaxi, and for the
hot and humid conditions in the Amazon basin. I tend to use Rohan
tropical-weight shirts all the time, and these served me well again.
we managed to leave a lot of our luggage in the hotel in Quito when
we went to La Selva, but there was still a fair amount of stuff
to move around on the rest of the holiday.
Tandayapa, the conditions were comfortably sub-tropical,
with a sweater useful in the evenings, but just shirt & slacks
in the day.
Cotapaxi, we found that we needed thickish shirts/blouses
as well as good fleeces. Our Gortex cagoules might also have been
needed if it got any colder / wetter.
the Amazon basin, we just put up with being hot and sticky
for most of the day. On the one occasion when we had a tropical
rainstorm, we did have our waterproofs, but we still got soaked
to the skin! We had been told that a sweater would be useful in
the evenings. It wasn't! Also, although I took a broad-brimmed sun
hat, that wasn't needed, either, and I wore a forage cap most of
Gortex-lined Ecco shoes were worn all the time, except at La Selva,
where we wore the rubber boots provided by the Lodge.
We, as usual, had no problems. We tend to err on the side of caution
and only drink bottled water. We also tend to avoid salads, sea
food and ice in drinks. These simple rules have served us in good
stead in many countries. We did not bother with Yellow Fever innoculation
- although it was recommended, there are currently some problems
with the vaccine. We took anti-malarial tablets as a precaution.