This is a birdseye view tour of Ecuador, we visit the Andes and Amazon tree tops, on ziplines and canopy walkways. A canopy tour offers the adventurous tourist an exciting opportunity to soar through the forest treetops high above the forest floor or walk above the canopy on a secured walkway. There you will view jungle life from a perspective previously reserved for a select group of researchers and photographers.
The below sample itinerary offers an above the trees perspective of touring Ecuador combined with other adventure travel activities.
Arrival in Quito, transfer in to the Chillo valley and overnight at a historic hacienda.
Today starts with a brief visit of downtown Quito on a walking tour of the churches, plazas and colonial streets. We then take off and drive up to the foothills of Pichincha volcano and ride the Teleferiqo (Cable car) up to amazing hights and enjoy a birdseye view of this wonderfull city.
After lunch (optional) we head out north to the middle of the world monument by the Equator line, here we have fun with several experiments to prove we are at the real line.
In the afternoon we return to our hacienda accommodations for the night.
Transfer form Quito towards Cotopaxi National Park (2H00 travel time). On the way we stop at Hacienda El Porvenir, a typical Andean farm built up with traditional materials. Here we will leave our luggage and pick up our bikes and gear for our biking trip in the park.
Once we enter the park we will be able to choose the kind or ride that we want to hold for the day. We can do exciting downhill trails, beautiful cross-country rides or we can combine both. We will travel through ancient Inca trails, while we visit some extraordinary off the touristic track spots in the park, as well as the most popular sights like Limpiopungo lagoon and Jose Ribas Refuge (4800 mts- 15744 ft.) Our ride ends at Hacienda El Porvenir where a welcoming fire is waiting for us and a delicious dinner will be served. Overnight at Hacienda El Porvenir.
Our guides will give after breakfast, a brief about horseback riding before we ride the horses. Using the local riding gear (poncho and chaps) our native guides or Chagras (Andean cowboys) will lead us through the slopes of beautiful volcano Rumiñahui, while they share with us their culture and knowledge about the area, medicinal plants and legends. The ride will take us about 3H30 aprox.
During the way will be able to watch beautiful landscapes, herds of wild horses and cattle, Andean birdlife. We will reach the 4200 mts on our horses and loop down towards the farmhouse where a great lunch of Ecuadorian cuisine will be waiting for us. During the afternoon we can hike to Manto Blanco waterfall, participate in different agricultural activities or relax by the fire. Dinner and overnight at Hacienda El Porvenir
Breakfast at Hacienda El Porvenir. Transfer to Santa Rita, an Ecological Reserve located 12 km away from the hacienda. Santa Rita is a very innovative model of private conservation on the slopes of Pasochoa Volcano. It preserves High Andean Forest and Paramo ecosystems. Here we will visit the Visitor Centre, where interesting explanations of local flora, fauna and ecological processes are given by the local guides. This is a unique region to admire petrified lava flows form ancient eruptions of Cotopaxi and neighbouring volcanoes.
At the reserve we will be able to see orchids, bromeliads and many epiphytic plants. It is a great place to bird watch as well. Today’s main activity at Santa Rita will be Canyon del Salto Canopy Tour, a zip line system based on harnesses and pulleys attached to an inclined cable, taking advantage of gravity. El Cañón del Salto Canopy Tour is a safe way to admire High Mountain forest form a different perspective. This is an environmentally friendly adventure; it gives people with few or no climbing techniques knowledge, the chance to live an exciting experience.
El Cañón del Salto Canopy Tour has 7 cables between 180 and 420 meters long. This system can hold up to two tons of weight suspended. One ton grounded anchorages hold the cables strengthened. A climbing via-Ferrata is also available.
We provide our visitors top of the line equipment and pulleys specially designed for cable use; fitness is not a factor with the canopy tour since gravity does all the work. Almost anyone can experience this, from children aged 7+.
Our specialized guides make our high mountain canopy flights very safe and at the same time they will share their knowledge of this unique ecosystem.
In the late afternoon we return to our hacienda in the outskirts of Quito.
Transfer from your historic hacienda to the airport for the flight to Coca, in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Just getting to Sacha Lodge is half the adventure! The flight from Quito takes 45 minutes; another ten minutes and you are on the banks of the Napo River. Travel 2.5 hours by motorized dugout canoe down river to the entrance of Sacha Lodge, then hike a final 30 minutes by foot along an elevated boardwalk through the forest and 15 minutes by paddled dugout canoe across Pilchicocha Lagoon, and you are at the Lodge itself.
Set deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Sacha Lodge is like an oasis in the middle of the lush Amazon jungle. Layers of exotic vegetation block the sky, while brown waters sweep beneath gargantuan foliage; hundreds of species of exotic birds and equally brilliant butterflies provide constant bursts of colour. The lodge is surrounded by dozens of trails and canoe routes of varying lengths, degrees of difficulty and ruggedness. Decide which paths to explore and which adventure to experience according to your own ability and interests.
Accommodation at the lodge is in comfortable cabins of native design that blend in with the surrounding rainforest, but with all the comforts you would expect of a first class hotel. Bathrooms are modern with hot, running water, screened rooms with a view of the rainforest that you will long remember, bottled drinking water free of charge, and excellent international cuisine that incorporates the delicious tropical fruits of the region. Guests are divided into small groups, each led by a native guide with expert knowledge of the rainforest’s plants, and a bilingual naturalist guide educated in the biology and ecology of the area. A typical day at Sacha begins at sunrise or earlier, in order to take advantage of the cool morning hours when the rainforest’s animals are most active. Each group may decide on its own wake-up and breakfast time, as well as the difficulty and duration of their morning outings. In the afternoon, visits begin between 3:00 and 4:00 and often continue into the evening, when the nocturnal insect and frog chorus begins.
Activities are spread out over a wide area and allow visitors to explore several distinct but equally fascinating habitats. Several trails lead through pristine terra firma forest, where 150-foot kapok trees tower above and roots form huge buttresses to give trees support. Other trails follow strategically raised boardwalks in seasonally flooded forests, where walking on the ground would be nearly impossible during most of the year due to groundwater. One trail many choose to follow even leads across fallen tree trunks and a steel cable zip-line through rich swampland! A favourite activity of guests is paddling dugout canoes along the tannin-rich black-water creeks and lakes, where luxuriant lianas, bromeliads and palm trees thrive. Possibilities of spotting animals, from the tiny pygmy marmoset to the feared ocelot or puma, are endless. For adventurous souls, the day does not necessarily end with dinner. Night walks and canoe trips, with the aid of flashlights, often reveal creatures seldom seen during daylight. Caimans (of the alligator family) and giant insects rule the jungle after sunset… Do you dare search for them?
One of Sacha Lodge’s highlights is the 135-foot (43-meter) observation tower. Situated on a hill and constructed around a giant kapok tree for stability, the tower allows guests to climb into and above the rainforest canopy for a magnificent view of the surrounding area. Be it shortly after sunrise or before sunset, from the tower’s ample platform it is possible to observe toucans, parrots, and dozens of other colourful bird species in the treetops. With some luck, noisy howler monkeys, foraging squirrel monkeys or the gentle three-toed sloth may also be seen, especially with the aid of a powerful telescope provided by your guides. In recent years Sacha Lodge has become a favourite destination of both professional and amateur ornithologists. Over 500 species of birds have been registered in the area, and from the tower platform our bird specialist guides have on several occasions reported seeing over 80 species in a single morning! The easiest way to reach the tower is on foot via a half-hour walk through terra firma forest. However, don’t miss out on at least a one-way trip to or from the tower along Orchid Creek, Pilchicocha Lake’s natural black water runoff to the Napo River. The trip takes about an hour in a dugout canoe, following the winding stream through untamed palm forest.
A recent addition to Sacha’s activities is a 940-foot (300-meter) long canopy walkway, approximately 94 feet (30 meters) above the ground. The sturdy walkway is fixed to the ground with metal towers for stability, and offers an unbelievable opportunity to spot dozens of animals and epiphytes that are seldom seen from the ground.
Sacha Lodge is also home to one of the largest butterfly farms in Ecuador. Designed as a live exhibition conservatory, the Butterfly House is now successfully breeding nearly 40 local butterfly species. Learn how these beautiful insects are bred and raised, and wander through “the flying room”, where hundreds of colourful butterflies—including the spectacular blue morpho—flutter from flower to flower.
A short distance from Sacha Lodge is Ecuador’s most accessible parrot lick, an exposed clay bank where brightly coloured parrots of several different species gather in the early morning. In ideal conditions (sunny and dry), the parrots will often perch on and eat the exposed clay. This acts as a sort of “antacid” for them: Parrots eat a variety of toxic and acid fruits, and the clay draws these toxins out of their bodies. On an ideal morning, hundreds of parrots can be seen gathering around this bank between 7:00 and 8:00 for a spectacular show of sound and colour. The lick is located on the edge of Yasuní National Park, which may be reached from Sacha by a half-hour motorized canoe trip down the Napo River. Recently, the park service has set up blinds in order to watch the parrots at close range. If weather permits (the parrots won’t be there in the rain!), and you would like to participate in this activity, the extra cost is only $3.00 per person (subject to change; to be paid at the Lodge).
Choose each day from activities that include Canopy walking, Zipline trail, birding, botany, hiking, canoeing, and photography, or climb the observation tower for an unobstructed view of seemingly endless and intact rainforest. Consider the variety of mammals living in Ecuador's Amazon: armadillos, honey bears, sloth, 60 varieties of bats, tapirs, peccaries, jaguar, monkeys, manatees and much more. Birds are the richest group of Amazon vertebrates, at approximately 1000 species.
Visitors see hummingbirds, toucans, macaws and tanagers on land, and darters, herons and gulls on water. If fortunate, you may catch a glimpse of the prehistoric looking Hoatzin, with its brightly coloured feathers and sharp talons. The Amazon's rivers, lakes, streams and marshlands support hundreds of fish species and more than 250 species of amphibians and reptiles. Over 500 species of trees per acre have been recorded in the jungles of the upper Amazon—ten times greater than either Europe or North America.
The importance of the conservation of this area and others like it cannot be underestimated. The rainforest is also the traditional home of many indigenous communities, whose traditional homelands and way of life are threatened by the encroachment of 20th century industries like mining, petroleum exploitation and large-scale cash-crop farming. Among the most representative are the Siona-Secoya, Cofan, Huaorani, Shuar, Ashuar and Quichua.
Head back down the river to the town of Coca to catch your flight back to Quito. We have a free afternoon to enjoy the spa facilities at our historic hacienda.
The above is a sample itinerary prepared with a focus on canopy trips. It can be customized to fit the needs and special interests of your travellers.