We will leave from Quito at 8:00 A.M. to the Amazon watershed, with scenic and biodiverse cloud forests on our minds. En route, however, we will stop for a look at the majestic, high elevation and windswept paramos above Papallacta - a very tundra-like habitat. On clear days here the views of the surroundings and various volcanoes are breath-taking; a stop right up at the continental divide is one of the best spots from which to photograph the snow-capped volcano, Antisana, as it towers over the mountains below.
Continuing our journey to San Isidro we will wind our way amongst steep valleys – through the towns of Cuyuja and Baeza - where will see some gorgeous forested slopes and impressive waterfalls, born in Antisana Reserve, as they spill off of high cliffs. Our plan is to get to San Isidro in time to get settled into our rooms, and even for a quick look around before lunch, so barring a quick restroom break on the way, we’ll make few stops in order to get there quickly, because after lunch, we will have plenty to do!
Lunch behind us it will be time to get busy for our next adventure. Our timing should be perfect for our first hike along the trails through the cloud forest reserve at San Isidro where we will head down to a mating lek of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock; several males of this loud and bright orange bird - something like South America’s answer to the Birds of Paradise! – can often be found in the late afternoons carrying-on in the tree canopies right overhead in hopes of attracting females. We will hike back up to the cabins and have some time to shower up and relax before dinner.
At dinner we will be officially welcomed and have our first taste of Ecuador’s best known hot toddy, a delicious drink - called “Canelazo” - made from water boiled with real cinnamon, fruit juice and a dash of cane alcohol, that is sure to help warm us up. There will be Guinea Pig tasting opportunity for the adventurous ones! After a magnificent dinner - our food is widely recognized for its originality and exquisite quality - a night hike awaits us, where we will be in search of owls, strange insects, nocturnal mammals or any other critter that might grace our presence.
OPTIONAL (TASTING MENU):
8 dish sampler menu featuring Amazonian & Andean flavors: $15 + 22% per menu, additional to full board rate. This needs to be pre-booked.
-Visit our Guinea Pig farm and organic garden; many of the veggies and herbs that land on your plate - free of pesticides and other chemicals - are grown right here at San Isidro in our own greenhouse.
-If you are interested in learning a new exotic Andean or Amazonian dish, a cooking class might be up your alley, so let us know and learn to make a “maito” or a “quinoa” soufflé.
Night at San Isidro.
Well fed – after a buffet breakfast - and ready for more, we will set out on one of San Isidro’s newest adventures: a “virtual safari”. While at any moment a rare mammal could pop into view during the walk, they are wary, so our safari is designed to run a trap-line of sorts, checking the motion-sensor cameras and the photos that they have taken over the last weeks, days, hours… and even minutes; it really is a thrill to see a photo - that no one else has seen - of a Puma, Oncilla, Tapir, or even an Anteater, taken right where you are standing! Checking the cameras all the while, our walk will lead us to the beautiful Pumayacu Falls, right in the heart of the reserve, and then down to the edges of the pristine waters of the Cosanga River where we will enjoy a catered lunch at a remote riverside beach where a Torrent Duck might even come drifting by. After a full morning of exploration, and a rest at the lodge, we’ll visit the Yanayacu Biology Station in the afternoon for a chat and more in-depth look at all of the important and fascinating research taking place in the reserve; researchers from Ecuador, and from all over the world, congregate here to do their best to unravel the life histories and secrets of the denizens of a cloud forest system still so very much in need of study. Many new species to science have resulted from these efforts.
Dinner is always something to look forward to at San Isidro, so we will take full advantage! After dinner, we’ll take a stroll around the lodge to check the lights, where we will surely encounter a myriad of beetle and colorful moth species that have descended onto the white walls; their designs and patterns seem limitless! For the more gung-ho spirits, a night hike to check some more camera traps might whet the appetite.
OPTIONAL: Try another cooking class to learn yet another local recipe!
For those interested, we’ll put our birding caps on this morning and get out for the early morning activity. While we slept the lights around the lodge will have collected a mob of moths and other insects, which means one thing: a buffet for insectivorous birds in search of breakfast! We will spend the early morning watching trogons, woodcreepers, flycatchers and tanagers glean all sorts of bugs in a seemingly frantic attempt to satisfy their morning hunger. Soon after we will venture down a nearby trail to watch the White-bellied Antpitta, an extremely retiring (and subtly beautiful) South American bird, as it comes to devour worms at the feeder… have your camera ready, but please turn off the flash so as not to startle it.
After this it is our turn to hit an 8:00 A.M. buffet with a roaring appetite (where we will meet up with any companions who opted for a lye-in and to recharge a bit more)! From here we will visit the archeological ruins on the San Isidro property for a look at what is left of a group, the “Curisetas” (translated as the “Goldsmiths”), that inhabited the region pre-colonially; most interesting is that they were never conquered by the Incas. Their history is a bit murky, but this small group of natives seemed to have faded away without much of a fuss or fight. The Curisetas were known for their prowess at mining and molding gold into jewelry, and for hauling large rocks from distant areas and placing them as directional monoliths; their pottery shards are still easily found in the rivers on the property. We will emerge out along the peaceful roadside for a stroll back to the lodge, where another imaginative lunch will be waiting for us.
Transfer to Quito (or continued travel, further down-slope into the lowlands of the Amazon).
SERVICES INCLUDED: Lodging in standard double room, meals from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day, guide and transfers according to the option chosen, all activities described, welcome coktail, coffee and tea station, purified water and taxes .
SERVICES NOT INCLUDED: Extra drinks (sodas, beers, wines, etc.), private guide or transportation services, extemporaneous reserve entrance fees (such as Antisana Reserve) and other personal expenses (telephone calls, laundry, etc.).
Rates per person, based in double room occupancy
With transfers in & out and bilingual guide
Based in 1 participant: $1020
Based in 2 participants: $615
Based in 3-6 participants: $540
With transfers in & out and spanish speaking bird guide
Based in 1 participant: $835
Based in 2 participants: $520
Based in 3-6 participants: $460