Amazonia is widely known as the biodiversity hotspot “par excellence” and deservedly so. It makes up for a substantial part of the stunning biodiversity found in Ecuador, along with the subtropical Andean forests or the deciduous forests of the Tumbesian region. There is however another bioregion hosting an extreme biodiversity: the mountains and lowlands humid forests of the Chocó.
The Chocó designates the bioregion west of the Andes from north-west Ecuador to western Colombia and ranks among the wettest ecosystems on Earth. Often compared to Amazonia because of its stunning diversity, it is the lung of the north-west part of the continent. In Ecuador, while the mountain forests of the Chocó have somewhat resisted the rampant deforestation, partly due to the complex topography, the same sadly cannot be said of the lowland forests. These have been massively destroyed for logging and mining purpose, cattle settlement, pastures and thousands of acres of oil palm plantations, and are the most critically threatened ecosystem in Ecuador. At the southern end of the Chocó, only tiny islands of forests, highly disconnected and fragmented subsist. The Esmeraldas province, inhabited by black-skinned slave descendants hosts the last sizeable and pristine lowland Chocó forests, despite the ever-increasing deforestation pressure.
It is in order to discover this fabulous ecosystem and its peculiar feathered denizens that we propose this circuit. We will explore all the components of this unique region, from the misty mountain forests to the luxuriant lowland forests.
Days 1-2. The tour will start in Quito, Ecuador's capital. We will first visit several sites in the inter-andean valley, a dry valley framed by the eastern and western Andes. Before visiting the shores of the Lago San Pablo, we will walk among the Agaves and cacti of the Bosque Jerusalem Reserve.
Day 3. We will then head to one of the least-known sites in Ecuador, the high altitude Cerro Mongus, hosting some highly-sought species in the country such as the Chestnut-bellied Cotinga, the Crescent-faced Antpitta or the fabulous Masked Mountain-Tanager.
Day 4. Continuing our way to the west, close to the Colombian border (perfectly secure now), we will thoroughly explore the mountain Chocó forests. First we will look along the Chical road for some fabulous species inhabiting the subtropical level and reaching here the southernmost end of their distribution: Star-chested Treerunner, Black Solitaire and Purplish-mantled Tanager.
Day 5. Then, we will concentrate our efforts on the fabulous foothill forests around the trail leading to the Awa indian reserve. Here, we will have a good shot at seeing species such as the fabulous Golden-chested Tanager, the White-tipped Cotinga or the rare and poorly known Yellow-green Bush-Tanager.
Days 6-10. Finally, we will reach the lowlands. First around San Lorenzo, we will explore some secondary forests that can be surprisingly productive. We will end this circuit in style by spending five days in the heart of the most threatened ecosystem in Ecuador, the lowland Chocó forests. From the Tigrillo lodge, managed by the local afro-american community of Playa de Oro, we will explore the surroundings and look for the many mythical and highly localized species that cannot be seen anywhere else in Ecuador.
Day 11. From the Tigrillo lodge and Playa de Oro, we will return to the coast and the wetlands and mangroves around the villages of Las Peñas and Las Tolas. Some of the new species on the Ecuadorian list have been found there: Dwarf Cuckoo and Panamanian Flycatcher...
Days 12-13. We will take the road to Quito for our international flight.
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PRICE : XXXX $US for 8 people (see the price grid in our Detailed Informations page).
Tour duration : 12 days.
Tour date : October 2018.
Group size : 4-10 people with a "Tour Leader".
Tour Leader : Vincent MOURET.
Arrival : Quito.
Departure : Quito.
Lodging : Hotels and lodges from "standard" category to "comfort" category. Hot water and electricity are available 24 hours a day except at the Tigrillo lodge at Playa de Oro.
Pace : Moderate to High. Due to the remoteness of some sites and the lack of tourist infrastructure, this trip requires a higher physical form than our other trips to Ecuador. The observations will be carried out in fairly difficult climatic conditions (extreme humidity). Some hikes will be carried out on particularly muddy and slippery terrain or at high altitudes.
Possible extension : Ecuador Galápagos - On Darwin's steps (TFB_ECUADOR_005_ON DARWIN'S STEPS).
Potential number of species : 250 - 300.
Photography : Low to moderate opportunities.
Included : all transportation, lodging in double rooms with private bathroom (without exception), all meals except dinner in Quito, multilingual tour leader, drinkable water, rubber boots.
Not included : International flight, travel insurance, visas, airport taxes, entrance fees for some sites, alcoholic beverages, tips, dinner in Quito, "single" occupation (for the price, please refer to the Detailed Informations page).