Ecuador wildlife and nature holidays make for some of the best in South America – if not the world – what with its mesmerising mix of lowland jungle, highland forests and pristine coastline, all condensed into one small but amazing country. The Galapagos Islands are the jewel in Ecuador’s crown, of course, with their mind-blowing endemic species of flora and fauna, not to mention totally unique volcanic landscapes; but what about the rest of the country? A trip to mainland Ecuador is not to be overlooked, bringing with it the chance to get up close to an astounding array of creatures big and small – continue reading to find out our top picks for wildlife and nature holidays in mainland Ecuador.
Cuyabeno Reserve – The Amazon
To visit the largest tropical jungle on earth is to visit an area of unparalleled biodiversity, nearly the size of an entire continent. The Amazon is one of the last untamed miracles of nature and evolution on Earth, offering travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves into the forest, and be surrounded by the life it gives to countless inhabitants of the plant and animal world who belong here. The Cuyabeno Reserve is one portion of Ecuador’s Amazon that is a delight to explore. Comprising 1.5 million acres of primary rainforest, with seemingly endless plant varieties, lakes and numerous rivers to discover, the Cuyabeno Reserve is home to incredible species like Dolphins, Manatees, Herons, Caimans… the list goes on! You might be lucky enough to meet some of the 580 bird species, 250 fish, or 100 mammals, including Tapir Monkeys, Jaguars and Pumas. Read more about Amazon conservation here.
Cerro Blanco Forest
On the other side of Ecuador, down towards the coastal city of Guayaquil, lies a beautiful, protected dry forest where majestic ceiba and pigio trees define the landscape, creating a truly magical backdrop. The Cerro Blanco Forest is only 10 miles from Guayaquil and yet is a world away, serving as the home of incredible birdlife, numbering over 200 species altogether. Birdwatchers shouldn’t miss the chance to spy these gentle creatures in their natural habitat, such as the endangered Green Macaw, Parrot of Guayaquil and Ecuadorian Trogon, as well as mammals like the Ocelot, Howler Monkey and Kinkajou. Don’t leave without paying a visit to the Cerro Blanco rescue centre and organic farm!
Cajas National Park
Another haven for keen twitchers is the Cajas National Park, teetering at heights of up to 4450m and boasting spectacular scenery. There are cloud forests, prehistoric lakes, craggy mountaintops and sweeping tundra, making hiking, horse riding and biking excursions all the more exhilarating. A half-hour drive from the highland town of Cuenca – which possesses its own fair share of must-see cultural highlights – Cajas National Park shelters all manner of wildlife, from Pumas and Tapirs to Andean Gulls and Violet-tailed Sylphs. This high-altitude reserve is perfect for adventure-seekers with a love for nature, and really is right on Cuenca’s doorstep; making it all too easy to stop by for a visit!
Yasuni National Park – The Amazon
According to scientific research, Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, owed to its rich concentration of flora and fauna – in fact, two acres of the rainforest shelters more species than the whole of Europe combined! On an adventure into Yasuni, you have the chance to come across 600 tree varieties, 4,000 known native plant species, as well as amazing wildlife including Spider Monkeys, resplendent Toucans and elusive Jaguars, hiding between the tangle of trees and meandering tributaries. Go on nocturnal tours of the jungle, perhaps spotting Caiman lurking in the murky waters, with your guide pointing out all the tiny insects, amphibians and more!
Mindo Cloud Forest
A land of cascading waterfalls, beautiful orchids, emerald trees and meandering rivers; the Mindo Cloud Forest is Ecuador’s secret garden. Reached in less than two hours from Quito, this biodiverse region is a wildlife-rich wonderland, where you can look for flittering Hummingbirds (of which there are many species), pretty butterflies, the Andean cock-of-the-rock, Three-toed Sloth; and many more! Mindo is a delightfully tranquil corner of Ecuador, where you can take an easy stroll through the cloud forest, relish the view from above in an aerial tramway, or swim in hidden waterfalls, all the while enjoying hours spent wildlife-watching along the way.
Looking for a wildlife and nature holiday in Ecuador? Start building your trip by clicking here, choosing an itinerary template, and adding all the wildlife and nature activities that are perfect for you. You can also call our experts on 1 866 978 7398 (US/Canada) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) – we know Ecuador inside out and would be delighted to share our wildlife tips with you!