Guayaquil Gate to Galapagos & ecuador
Best destination for Bird and nature lovers and adventure
Birding From Guayaquil:
1. Cerro Blanco dry forest.
2. Recreational Area Parque El Lago & Laguna Park (Private reserve).
3. Churute Ecological Reserve & La Lagartera dam.
4. Wildlife Refuge Puerto El Morro.
5. Ecuasal Salt lakes at Salinas city.
6. Chongon Colonche Protected forest.
7. Cock of the rock cloud forest at Bucay.
8. El Cajas National Park.
9. Buenaventura private reserve cloud forest.
10. Podocarpus National Park.
11. Copalinga Private forest.
12. Tapichalaca Private Reserve.
Adventure & adrenaline, the best sites for aquatic sports
1. Stand Up Paddle Board
3. Kite Surf
4. Ocean Kayak
For Nature Lovers: A combination of cultural tourism and nature
Churute Ecological Reserve and Cacao Farm.
Cloud Forests and Biodiversity
Mainland Ecuador has three general regions, Amazon, Sierra and Pacific Coast. If we took a journey, let’s say, starting at 0 meters elevation from Coastal Ecuador along the Pacific Ocean eastward, up and over the Andes, toward the Amazon Basin we would traverse through some of the most important life zones in Ecuador including: two Rainforests (Coastal and Amazonian), two Foothill Forests (Western and Eastern), two Cloud Forests (Western and Eastern) and Paramo. Of course I’ve not mentioned the Dry Coastal Forest to the south and Coastal Mangrove. If we were driving on our imaginary journey it would have taken about 15 hours. Geographic diversity leads to biological diversity and Ecuador is definitely the proof with over 1,600 bird species, more frog and orchid species than any other country… overall amazing biodiversity!
What is a Cloud Forest and how is it different than a Rainforest? Well, our first Cloud Forest sensations will probably be… moist, cool, green, lush. These first adjectives are important to describe a Cloud Forest. Yes it is moist. The rainy season is from January until May, with a lot of the precipitation in the form of mist and also rain. Luckily the rain is pretty predictable during this time and starts at about 2 PM and continues for a few hours giving us plenty of time to schedule our day activities. Because of the higher altitude, Cloud Forests are cool. The highest temperatures in Mindo are around 80°F and the low at night is around 55°F… all year round! Because of the moisture and coolness (that slows evaporation), Cloud Forests are very green and lush. This unique climate allows loads of epiphytes, plants that live on other plants, to grow almost out of control! There are mosses on the trunks of trees, orchids between the mosses, ferns growing on branches, algae covering leaves… much mores so than in Rain Forests. In Mindo there is a distinct dry season for about 7 months (June through December) when rain is scarce and sporadic, but moisture levels are still maintained by mists that condense on the side of mountains.
So Cloud Forests are more lush and cooler than lowland Rainforests. Another difference is that Rainforests have larger, silt laden, slow moving rivers, while Cloud Forests are characterized by fast moving, clear rocky rivers. Both are diverse, but which is more diverse? Well it depends on what and where you look. Cloud forests have beautiful overlooks due to the irregular, mountainous terrain (no need for bird towers here!), while Rainforests are flatter and often separated by swamps, lakes or streams. This is important in the distribution of species. Rainforests are incredibly diverse but the plants and animals are more widespread while Cloud Forests, because of natural barriers, have many more range restricted or endemic species. If we look at epiphytes, such as Orchids, Cloud Forests are more diverse… at tree species, Rainforest. Bird species? It probably depends on the size of the area observed. If you expand out a little and include a few valleys and mountains, plus different elevations Cloud Forests probably hold more bird species. Remember this comes from someone living in a Cloud Forest!
The best advice is to visit both on your trip to Ecuador!
Mammal species are difficult to see, over time we have spotted on the El Monte reserve: Central American Agouti, Ocelot, Margay, Red Brocket Deer, Paca, Tayra, Andean Coati, Three-Toed Sloth, and White-Fronted Capuchin Monkeys. There is also a high diversity of reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and other insects. Some of the interesting lizard species include the "Jesus Christ Lizard", which can walk on water and the very rare Proboscis Lizard. Frogs include various species of tree frogs, glass frogs and toads.