Ecuador: RainForest to cloud Forest

From the snow-capped Andean highlands to the lush rainforests of the Amazon, Ecuador has it all. Our first destination is the stunning Yasuni National Park. The nearly 4,000 kinds of plants documented within its boundaries provide habitat for one out of every three Amazonian reptile and bird species, and nearly as many amphibians and mammals. Out of every 10 Amazonian fish, at least two swim in its streams and rivers. All of this biological diversity sits in an area that comprises less than one-fifth of one percent of the entire Amazon rainforest.

Then, we’ll head for the mountains to explore the cloud forests of Mindo. Here is where two of the most biologically diverse regions of the world meet: the Chocoan lowlands and the Tropical Andes. An area only slightly larger than 100 square miles, with elevations ranging from 300 to 12,000 feet above sea level, Mindo is home to three rivers and hundreds of streams. As a result of this unique confluence of habitats, the area is home to a dizzying array of wild creatures found here and nowhere else. It’s a frog paradise!

You’ll learn what life is like as a tropical biologist, experience a living lesson on the realities of conservation, and visit with a local indigenous community. Whether you're interested in birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, or mammals, you'll see and hear critters you didn't even know existed!

Expedition Highlights:

  • Canoe down the Napo River, one of the main tributaries of the mighty Amazon River, while keeping your eyes open for kingfishers, herons, and other local birds. Continuing down Añangu Creek, we’ll be looking for monkeys in the tree tops and turtles basking on floating logs until we reach our lodge, situated on the banks of a quiet black water lagoon, home to a chattering family of giant river otters.

  • Head out at dawn to witness the world’s greatest parrot show as dozens of macaws, parrots, and parakeets visit a massive claylick, and wander through the rainforest after dark to shine a light on nocturnal frogs, spiders, scorpions, and other creatures of the night.

  • Visit the Kichwa Añangu community, where you’ll get to see traditional leaf-hatched homes and schools, learn how this indigenous community hunts, and try some traditional food and drink.

  • Climb 130 feet to the top of the canopy tower in search of critters that are simply impossible to see from the forest flood. Watch for flocks of brightly colored tanagers, macaws, and toucans, along with some of the ten species of monkeys that make their home in this area.

  • Slip into some knee-high boots, don your headlamp, and hike through a stream in search of the unique Pinocchio lizard and the region’s unique see-through glass frogs. Back at the lodge, enjoy your morning coffee while watching hundreds of local hummingbirds eat a breakfast of their own.

Traveler Feedback:

“It was great to have such knowledgeable and experienced guides. Their presentations in the evenings were very interesting, and it was great getting to know them and hear about their worldwide adventures!”

“A once in a lifetime adventure to places you've only read about or seen in documentaries.”