My husband, Gary Clark, and I got a chance to return to Ecuador earlier this month to lead a Strabo Photo Tours Collection trip. Our trip visited the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains, the western slope, Quito, and the Antisana Reserve.
Antisana is a large tract of undeveloped land surrounding the Antisana Volcano. The reserve protects Quito’s water supply and is prime habitat for the Andean Condor.
The Antisana Ecological Reserve covers 120,000 hectares or 296,000 acres. The Antisana Volcano is 5758 meters or roughly 19,000 above sea level. Most of the reserve is above the tree line and covered in low grasses called paramo. Rolling hills, cliffs, deep valleys, and even a lagoon round out the habitat.
Permits are required to enter the reserve so access is limited. This means it can sometimes feel like you have the place to yourself even on a busy Sunday afternoon
Our first stop was a coffee shop near the entrance to the Antisana Reserve. It’s called Tambo Condor. www.tambocondor.com This is a great place to stop for coffee or a snack but we were there for the hummingbirds. The feeders attracted giant hummingbird (on the right above) and shining sunbeam (on the left.) Andean condors roost on the cliffs across the valley.
On the day we visited, the skies were clear and sunny. Wind was howling, though, but we were prepared and dressed for it.
Gary and I got everyone out of the motor coach when we were high on the paramo for a fun time chasing and photographing carunculated caracaras and Andean lapwings. It was cold, the altitude was killing us, but it was fun.
We ate box lunches at the lagoon. It was too cold and windy to eat outside so we used the coach as a shelter. We got in and out depending on the birds outside.
Gary and our guide Nelson were great spotters. We saw Andean Condors six times during our visit. The last sighting was the best when an adult condor flew right over our heads and gave everyone a perfect opportunity for incredible photos.
Tomorrow — Hummingbirds of the Eastern Andes.