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“Bird and Nuture Heaven in Ecuador”

The Magic Birding Circuit - Private Day Tours
Reviewed July 26, 2013

We recently went on a trip to Ecuador. After considering many options for where to go on vacation, we chose Ecuador on a whim, and what a great choice that turned out to be. My husband & I love bird watching, hiking, plants, reptiles, mammals or anything natural.

After deciding on Ecuador as a destination, we started researching where to go for great bird watching and jungle hiking. We checked a lot of websites and kept coming back to San Jorge Eco Lodges. They have a representative in Connecticut named Cheryl who was great at answering all of our questions and making recommendations. We decided to book the 12 day bird watching trip. It offered lot of options for seeing different areas and habitats. I have to point out that we are intermediate bird watchers and had no idea what to expect. We were amazed.

We read some terribly outdated and incorrect information in guide books and on internet sites that there is a huge crime problem in Ecuador and that driving is dangerous and the roads are terrible. We took this into consideration in choosing San Jorge since they would be taking care of transporting us from place to place. Although it turned out to be unnecessary from a safety standpoint, it was nice to have them driving us since we were not familiar with the country and Quito would have been a challenge to navigate. The other factor is that renting a car in Ecuador is a considerable expense and having the benefit of someone else driving lets you look around and enjoy your surroundings instead of attempting to navigate. Also, we got to where we were supposed to be without getting lost!! We felt completely safe at all times while we were there. Also the roads are new and very nice. We definitely plan to go back and would choose San Jorge Eco Lodges for our bird watching tours. They also offer lots of other activities that we would like to try.

We started our trip in Old Town Quito for 3 nights to get acclimated to the altitude and to see the city. It was a great way to start our trip, although the altitude did not cause a big problem. The old part of the city was built by the Spanish in the 1500’s and many of those buildings are still there. There are lots of beautiful old churches throughout the old part of the city and most are within easy walking distance. Being in the city feels like you are in Europe.

We were picked up at our hotel in Quito to begin our bird watching tour by George, the owner of the lodge who told us a lot of the history of Ecuador and what to expect on the trip. Our first destination was the lodge in Quito, which was a great place to start. There were lots of birds on the deck outside of the restaurant and on the walkway up to the rooms on the upper level, which had a great view. We were able to walk around the grounds the first afternoon and see several birds and a nice waterfall. Delicious meals were prepared and served by Vicente and his wife with a delicious soup, lots of local vegetables and fruits and grilled or lightly fried meats or fish and dessert. Everything was very fresh and prepared in a healthy way.

For the bird watching tours, we started each day with local coffee and a great breakfast and then bird watching in different environments, which was awesome. There were trails in the mountains at Yanacocha where we saw lots of birds including several antpittas . We stopped in small village squares and along roadsides near rivers, where birds are known to be seen. Our favorite places were Tandayapa and Milpe, which were at the lower elevations. Being from Louisiana, which is at sea level, we had to take our time at the higher elevations. At Tandayapa there were feeders next to the eating area where we saw lots of toucanets, tanagers, barbets, motmots, and lots of species of hummingbirds including the long tailed sylph. Along the trail we saw the Cock of the Rock, which was incredible. New sections of Milpe have recently been completed and it is so beautiful with glass walls where you wake up to the birds right outside your room. There is also a great observation deck where we could sit in the afternoon. We saw lots of toucans and aricaris and so many other birds, we had trouble remembering them all. On the trails we saw the Plate Billed Mountain Toucan that was so beautiful it did not look real, then a Quetzal, which is a real treat. Our next place was the lowland tropical rainforest along a river with lots of birds. We then went over Papallacta Pass, which was impressive and saw birds that could only be seen there. On our way to Borja, where we were to spend 2 nights, we stopped in a town to buy a machete to bring home and I tripped on a sidewalk and hurt a toe. It got progressively worse with the hiking and I ended up having to get medical treatment for a dislocated toe. By that time the other members of our group had left since they signed up for a shorter trip, so only my husband and I were left. I was not able to hike, so had to miss the bird watching on the schedule, but George Cruz altered the schedule to fit our needs and took us places where I could hike more easily and to some markets and botanical gardens that we loved almost as much as the bird watching. We also went into Quito on the day of a World Cup qualifying soccer match that was being played in Quito and had an opportunity to experience the excitement of such an event, then watch it in a local bar with the Ecuadorians. Unbelievably great! At the end we were taken to the airport for a sad departure. We had such a great time and loved all the people that made this trip so wonderful, George, his wife Irina, his son Jorge, Vicente and Stalin, who cooked for us and were also guides. We are looking forward to going back to experience more of Ecuador. San Jorge offers all types of tours to fit different interests, so there is something for everyone.

Being intermediate bird watchers, we have not listed or noted the incredible number of birds we saw on our tour. We have been to Costa Rica a few times, and saw so many more birds in Ecuador on this tour with almost no people encountered to scare off the birds. For anyone interested in seeing birds at any level seriousness, we highly recommend a tour with San Jorge Eco Lodges.

5  Thank Gay O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 17, 2013

My wife and I planned a couple extra days in Quito as an extension of our Galapagos Islands trip. We had heard that Ecuador was a great place to go bird watching but we are not really avid bird watchers so we arranged a one-day trip with the Magic Birding Circuit to see what it is all about. The contact, Cheryl, is based in the US and provided all the pre-departure reservation assistance for us and was really helpful, especially since this was somewhat last minute for us. Advice is to reserve ahead of time, be honest with what you can do in respect to hiking ability and birding ability or expectations as they say they can customize your trip (once there we found we could even arrange a trip up the volcano to see condors! although we stuck with the Cloud Forest and Nomo-Mindo road for our day). Recommend bringing light hiking shoes, hat, binoculars and camera. Can bring snacks but we picked up snacks in the small towns we visited during the day. We do not speak Spanish either but that was not a problem on the trip.

Very early in the morning our guide, Dr. George Cruz, met us in the lobby of the Sheraton Quito hotel where we were staying and the three of us drove to the town of Nomo to start looking for birds. We had our standard binoculars but Dr. Cruz brought a spectacular spotting scope that he expertly trained on birds that he spotted (but we could only hear) or were at great distances. He taught us how to better spot birds in the brush and educated us in their identities and how to photograph them with our camera (great photos through the spotting scope, didn’t need any big lenses). From there we went up the Nomo-Mindo road and saw many other types of birds out in the fields high up in the Andes. The landscape was beautiful too. We then went to the Eco-lodge in the Cloud Forest for a freshly prepared hot Ecuadorian lunch of soup and fish. The hummingbird sanctuary was there and we must have seen more than 15 types of hummingbirds, some endemic and rare, all from a few feet. These are all coming to feeders, so not as natural as out in the field but they are beautiful all the same and no need for binoculars. George turned us over to one of his guides who took us around the Cloud Forest territory. In the Cloud Forest we also saw several toucans, flocks of parrots, tanagers and many other birds and orchids. Throughout the trip we learned about some history of Ecuador and current conservation efforts. The knowledgeable guides and sheer numbers of bird species make the trip truly worthwhile. We even stopped by the original equator monument on the way back to Quito. Overall, quite an experience and a wonderful day in the Ecuadorian countryside with more birds seen that we thought possible. We now have lovely pictures (that we took) framed in our offices and Dr. Cruz’s bird book so that we know the identities of each of the birds in our many, many pictures.

One reason to write this is that many from out Galapagos Tour group had not planned to stay extra days and regretted that when they heard what we were doing, especially as they did not know this type of excursion was available. One couple did have a chance to book a trip with another of Dr. Cruz’ Magic Birding Circuit guides for a short trip up to the hummingbird sanctuary after talking with us. From our perspective, if we had investigated earlier this type of outdoors/wildlife opportunity we would have even liked to have seen more and stayed at one of the San Jorge Eco-Lodges one or two nights instead of or in addition to our stay in downtown Quito (although Quito is a great city and we enjoyed our stay). Loved Ecuador, guess we need to go back.

4  Thank Peter J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 3, 2017
Google Translation

Thank Dunkhan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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