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Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

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Los Angeles...
posts: 190
reviews: 52
Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

Hello members,

I am planning a trip to Ecuador next year and I need suggestions from the experts.

I would like to spend a total of 10 days including traveling time from Los Angeles. My top priority is immersion in nature and watching birds and wildlife. I want to include a 2-3 day in Galapagos as well.

About me, I am a single female, seasoned traveler, fluent in Spanish. I prefer to travel with a small group (no more than 8 people) for safety and company.

Any information on the Must See National Parks, best time to visit and reputable companies that can provide the services is welcome.

Thank you in advance!

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
posts: 7,545
reviews: 84
21. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

I hsd a fantastic stay at La Selva on my first trip to Ecuador, and based on that review, it sounds even better. The setting really is idyllic. I would not hesitate to go back. As in Galapagos, the better lodges can hire the better guides.

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 7,440
reviews: 108
22. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

What a nicely written review. I can understand the inspiration to have some of that.

I want to mention there are a number of well reputed lodgings and that you often are paired with a bilingual guide for a set itinerary as part of the cost, can hire a bilingual bird guide for a fee (as Maria did) or at some lodges, get a private spanish speaking bird guide for no extra cost. Bird guides know the territory and other animals in the area intimately as well. Reading bird trip reports at more bird centric lodges paints similar pictures and desirous images. If your budget does not allow for Selva or Napo Lodges, particularly including the single supplement, do consider Sani's camping option. This is a prime lodge for world birders, and in the canopy towers or on the trails they have numerous visits and sightings of a dozen different monkeys. I think that with any of these three you couldn't go wrong.

Los Angeles...
posts: 190
reviews: 52
23. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

Thank you for pitching in azbuceadora and quiltingmamma!

I am leaning towards La Selva because it is possible to swim in the lake. This is important to me as I love immersing myself in bodies of water. Also, I know that a guide is a must!

I just got back from a trip to Costa Rica and would have never seen many animals, birds, insects and reptiles through the trek in the rainforest.

Language is not a barrier as I am fluent in Spanish but having a guide who is passionate about nature and proud to reveal its hidden treasures would be greatly enjoyable.

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 7,440
reviews: 108
24. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

Know that at Sani you can also swim and the Spanish speaking guides are local Sani tribe, so very intimate with their local area. Several other lodges allow swimming and are locally owned or managed by the immediate community as well. Just mentioning it so you know you have options in case La Selva isn't available for your time.

Gainesville, FL
posts: 5
reviews: 230
25. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

We just returned a few days ago from a seven night trip to Napo Wildlife Center. It was incredible. We booked private guides through Napo - both Guido, our naturalist guide, and Freddy, our local guide, are Kichwa, and they could find anything. I'm a biologist and understand that there are no guarantees on wildlife siting, and that season makes a difference, but we were quite fortunate - 8 species of monkeys (capuchin, squirrel, red howler, golden mantled tamarin, dusky titi, monk saki, owl, and wooly), a sloth, a tayra, an agouti, a herd of collared peccaries, and the family of giant river otters; six species of snake (including an anaconda); over 10 species of lizard; nearly 20 species of frogs; and over 80 species of birds (keep in mind we were not intentionally looking for birds so the number is a bit low - it is impossible to not see birds). We saw scarlet macaws and blue and yellow macaws. Crazy hoatzins (everywhere), monkeys stealing eggs out of bird nests and a yellow rumped casique tending to a juvenile cowbird, which had hatched in the casique's nest. Oh, and the two parrot clay licks were amazing; we even spent the night at one of them. The wildlife was diverse and abundant - but even though we are biologists we would have seen so little without our awesome guides. I hope to have my review up in the next week or two. I can't wait to go back.

Los Angeles...
posts: 190
reviews: 52
26. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

reptileenthusiast,

Thank you for posting on my thread. Your trip sounds amazing, and how lucky you are to see all those animals!

I would like to do something similar, 6 or 7 nights with local naturalist guides. I am a solo female traveler.

Can you comment on safety issues and tell me more about the logistics involved in getting to Yasuni National Park?

Also, were going every day on different trails?

Thanks in advance!

Gainesville, FL
posts: 5
reviews: 230
27. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

Napo Wildlife Center (NWC) handled all of the booking details. We flew from Quito to Coca (30 minutes). The NWC people met us at the Quito airport to get us checked in - very easy. Once we got to Coca, NWC guides met all the guests going to the lodge, and got us into a motorized canoe (about 2 hrs). The canoe took us to the entrance to the Yasuni National Park, where we split up into paddled canoes with our naturalist guide and local guide; this is when the vacation really began for us as the paddled canoe ride also took about 2 hours and we saw many birds, monkeys and a frog just getting to the lodge. From that point on, we were with those same guides for our entire stay; we had all meals with our naturalist guide, and on occasion our local guide ate with us as well.

This is pretty much our itinerary:

Day 1 - get from Quito to NWC as described above - last two hours were in paddled canoe viewing wildlife - red howler and squirrel monkeys and lots of birds!

Day 2 - head out in paddle canoes and see owl monkey! View parrot clay lick #1 from motorized canoe on Napo River, then to Kichwa cultural interpretation center, and finally to clay lick #2 for more parrot viewing (amazing). After lunch at the park entrance, went on a short hike with our guide behind the entrance and saw some awesome lizards. 2 hr-canoe ride back to lodge viewing wildlife - lucky enough to have a tayra cross our path.

Day 3 - start morning with guide coming to room to tell us the golden mantled tamarins are in the tree behind our room - what a great way to start the day! After breakfast, took canoe to other side of the lake - on the way find a parrot snake in the weeds and monkeys stealing bird eggs. Once we get to the other side, have a half day walk through the forest where we see 6 or 7 seven species of frogs, clear wing butterfly, awesome lizards, and a grasshopper that looks like a leaf. After lunch a try for the giant otters is planned, but before the appointed hour, our guide comes to the room saying an anaconda had been spotted so we head off in the canoe. After viewing the anaconda, we go back to look for the otter family - no luck but plenty else to see.

Day 4 - spent the morning at the Kichwa community center where we were able see the school and many of the sustainable projects they have going on - also had a delicious lunch there. Then hiked back to the lodge - this was one of the longer hikes we took and new territory for us - we were incredibly lucky to have wonderful guides who heard a herd of collared peccaries from the distance, took us "off road", positioned us behind a tree, and gave us the most exciting experience ever as we could hear the peccaries headed toward us. We were going to do a night hike afterwards - but rain and exhaustion won out and we saved the night hike for the next night. Long trail but nice and flat so an easy (although hot) walk.

Day 5 - morning was spent hiking to and experiencing the 100' tall observation tower (the hike is over the same terrain as the last 30 minutes of the previous day's long hike). Saw macaws, woodpeckers, toucans, aracari, many other birds, howlers, sloth. Back to the lodge for lunch, then off to look for the giant otters again - no luck but we'll keep trying. Then off in the canoe to the other side of the lake and a new hiking trail for an excellent night hike - see a snail-eating snake, many new-to-us frogs, sleeping lizards, tarantulas and scorpion. Oh, and katydid that looks like a leaf (even wilder than the grasshopper!)

Day 6 - A very busy day. Head out in the paddled canoe, switch to the motorized one at the park entrance, and then head off on a 2 hr ride to Panacocha, where we look for pink river dolphins (no shows), fish for piranha (and catch some!), and see a pair of blue and yellow macaw (amazing). Head back to park entrance after lunch, and take a short hike on the other side of the creek, where we are lucky enough to run into a dusky titi monkey sitting on a branch directly above the trail - amazing! After this hike, have dinner at the entrance and then take our second night hike, this time to the clay lick #2 - see many frogs new to us as well as two snakes. Sleep overnight at the clay lick blind, hearing crazy jungle sounds (bats flying over tent, etc) until we fall asleep.

Day 7 - walk out of the clay lick and head to park entrance for breakfast. After breakfast take our most demanding hike of the trip - from the park entrance to the top of a hill, to search for wooly monkeys. Success! And exhaustion. this was a great hike but I definitely needed the help of our guides to get up and down some of the embankments. Totally worth it. Then after lunch, another short hike hoping to find marmosets (no luck), and then back in the canoe for one last try with the giant otters. Sadly, no otters. But then, just as we approach the lake, our guides see canoes gathered around something ... the giant otter family! We made it just in time to see about 8 giant otters frolicking - truly amazing.

Day 8 - sadly, time to go home.

So lots of varied hikes, paddle canoe and motorized canoe experiences, as well as day and night activities. We felt safe the whole time - our guides Guido and Freddy were true experts and professionals and kept us safe from wildlife, dehydration and our clumsy selves!

For some context, my husband is a very fit 58 year old; I'm a less fit (but very determined) 55. We are both biologists and have spent time in the Osa in Costa Rica (which we absolutely love). Abundance and diversity of wildlife at Napo was greatest we have ever seen. Maybe we were there in perfect season with perfect guides; I don't know. But we were so enamored that we are starting to plan a trip for maybe July 2015.

Los Angeles...
posts: 190
reviews: 52
28. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

reptileenthusiast,

Thank you so much for your detailed report. I also read your review of Napo Wildlife Center which is filled with helpful details and insight. I dream of the type of wildlife sightings you described so your experience sounds incredibly lucky to me. I also share the same interests and opinions you expressed in your review.

I do have a couple of questions...I am a solo female traveler, can you comment on this and let me know if you saw other single people in NWC?

Do you know if mid to late May is a good time as far as weather considering animals do such a good job of hiding in the rains?

29. Re: Need advice on best areas for wildlife viewing

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