A birdwatching trip to Ecuador in October 2001 - Andes to Amazon! The humming bird here is the Andean Emerald. On the left is a view of  Volcanes Illiniza (5,266m) and on the right is Gorzacocha, an oxbow lake off the Rio Napo, in the Amazon basin. All photos (C) Ruth Traynor.

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Where we went - and when
The heart of this website - details of what we saw, and in which habitats
The statistics - lists of birds, and where we saw them
Treat with caution! But you can learn from our experience, limited though it is.
Where you can learn more, buy books on Ecuador birding online, get more trip lists from online resources - and links to other useful websites.

Baling out a canoe at Mandicocha, La Selva. Photo: Ruth TraynorSome advice (based on our experiences)

Treat this page with caution!

Our experiences will not have been the same as everyone else's. And our requirements and expectations will probably be different from yours.

Travel agents
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 herself.

Tribes 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.

Tribes 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.

The 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!

Air travel
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.

The 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.

Road travel
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.

River travel
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.

When 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.

Birding equipment
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 personal choice.

We 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.

For photography, Ruth uses a Nikon F50 (35 - 80mm lens) plus a Vititar 100 - 300mm lens. She shared the tripod with the 'scope.

For 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.

Fortunately, 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.

At Tandayapa, the conditions were comfortably sub-tropical, with a sweater useful in the evenings, but just shirt & slacks in the day.

On 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.

In 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 the time.

Our 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.


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