Ecuador is an extraordinarily rich country that includes not only the Galapagos, but also some of the richest Amazon rainforest, complex Andean bioregions, and a highly varied coast and coastal plain area. The coastal area itself stretches from an intense rainforest of over 600 inches of rain per year in the North, to a desert in the south.
Ecuador is only about the size of the state of Colorado, making visiting its very diverse regions not only possible, but also efficient. Its biological abundance is truly amazing. Setting on the equator, it has an equatorial summer year round. Yet its higher peaks are covered in snow and ice. Quito experiences eternal spring, and the lowlands can be very warm.
This varied terrain makes for a birding paradise, with many unique species. For example, there are over 130 kinds of hummingbirds, and its 1600 bird species is over half of all the species in South America; and South America is considered the bird continent with 3,000 species of birds. This alone makes Ecuador one of the biological wonders of the world. Nowhere else is such a diversity of birds found in such a small area! Birds are numerous and can be everywhere, including downtown city parks. If anything, the plant diversity is even more amazing.
The Amazon Region and the Cloud Forest vie for having the greatest flowering of life on earth! In the Amazon, even gaudy macaws have to scream to be noticed, so intense is the vegetation, with as many as 200 species of trees per hectare (2.5 acres). And with water nearly everywhere, there are more fish species than in the Atlantic Ocean. The pink river dolphins will compete for your attention with numerous monkey species, sloths and other mammals. The western Amazon, near the eastern slope of the Andes has the highest diversity of life anywhere in South America.
Click here for a flyer about the Ecuador Trips or read more below.
Outstanding Jungle Experience in the Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve
January 4 - January 11, 2015 Ronn Patterson / Betty Sederquist
The Amazon is life’s grandest place on earth. It is the greatest flowering of life on earth, with its greatest abundance and diversity. This can be seen in abundance in the riot of color and design of the birds, frogs, mammals and flowers. And the area of greatest abundance and greatest diversity of any place in South America is exactly where we are going – into the Amazon Basin near the eastern slope of the Andes.
More specifically, we are going to the Cuyabeno Reserve. It is a 1.5 million acre (603,000ha.) complex of rivers, 14 lagoons, lakes and a rich mixture of seasonally flooded forest with low hills of Tierra Firma surrounding and surrounded by water. We will be there at a time of year when it is less flooded, making the area around the lodge more accessible on foot.
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve itself has more than 560 different species of birds; 60 species of orchids; a variety of bromeliads and even epiphytic cactus; over 350 species of fish; a large variety of reptiles: frogs, lizards, turtles and of course, snakes. It is estimated that 12,000 species of plants are found within the reserve with as many as 200 species of trees per hectare ( 2.5) acres. The area is also full of mammals. Last year we saw over six species of monkeys, two species of sloths, and at least two species of bats, which are very abundant. Everyday we saw and were near pink river dolphins.
Las Islas Encantadas - The Enchanted Islands
January 13 - January 23, 2015 Ronn Patterson / Betty Sederquist
Unequivocally the Galapagos is the most exciting wildlife preserve in the world due to the universal tameness of the animals. It is a virtual Garden of Eden and it is a living laboratory of evolution. It is the mecca for lovers of nature, but even with a casual interest you will be drawn into the naturalist world and thrill at the fascination of the unique flora and fauna. A few of the outstanding animals you will be watching include marine and land iguanas, giant land tortoises left from the age of reptiles, sea lions and fur seals, flightless cormorants, penguins on the equator, flamingos, tropic birds, two species of frigate birds, three species of boobies and a confusing array of Darwin's finches. The underwater life is also a highlight of the trip.
Here in the Galapagos, each bird, each animal stands out like a sentinel. It is the tameness and uniqueness that catches your attention and the behaviors and antics that holds it. Who can resist the antics of blue-footed boobies displaying their prized blue feet?
You will be cruising in a comfortable motor yacht, intimately exploring numerous shore areas, hiking, walking, beach combing, tide pooling, snorkeling, botanizing, bird watching, swimming, snorkeling and whale watching. Many of you will be photographing and the trip and itinerary is especially suitable for the photographer. The photographic opportunities are simply outstanding. An experienced local naturalist will accompany you.
Our itinerary is designed to give you the maximum experience of the Galapagos in the time available. It has been very carefully thought about and worked out over the years. Yet, it will be purposely flexible to allow us to take advantage of the unexpected opportunities, seasonal highlights, and special events. Each day will be on a different island or different part of one of the larger islands. Many days we will make two or more stops, returning to our floating home for lunch.
January 23 - January 30, 2015
January 25 - January 30 2015 if taken with Galapagos Ronn Patterson / Betty Sederquist
The Cloud Forest near the western slope of the Andes is even more than the Amazon an endemic center of life. It vies with the Amazon for its highly diverse richness of life, but a higher percent of its bird life are found nowhere else on earth – many of them occurring in tiny geographic area within the Cloud Forest. With abundant moisture, epiphytes are everywhere, including orchids, bromeliads, ferns, mosses and more. It is also one of the world’s greatest birding areas and also a favorite of Ronn's. It is possible, for example, to see 30 species of hummingbirds in a day - all within a few miles of each other. In a small area it is possible to see over 250 species of birds but fifty of them or twenty percent are endemic or found no where else. Ecuador has so many hummingbirds they have almost run out of names for them: hermits, lancebills, violetears, fairies, mangos, sunangels, thorntails, hillstars, sylphs, trainbearers, puflegs metaltails, incas, sapphirewing, sword-billeds, starfronlets, and more. I call them feathered jewels. You will call them spectacular. At any of several nearby locations, it is possible to see twenty or more species of hummingbirds, and by changing altitude just a little, the species vary.
In addition to bird families you are familiar with in North America, expect to see Trogons and Quetzals, Motmots, and Puffbirds, Antbirds and Woodcreepers. Barbests and Toucans. Or, how about the Toucan Barbet that lives in the yard. You will not only be entertained, you will be fascinated. You don’t even have to be a birder to enjoy the intimacy with these feathered jewels.
The legion of flowering plants will vie for your attention. Every tree seems to support it own garden of ferns, mosses, bromeliads, orchids and vines.
One of the best parts is that the Cloud forest is only a two hour drive from Quito, but a fascinating drive itself, being a transect of the Andes.