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A short trip down the Andes Eastern slopes from Quito to Yasuni. October 14th to November 3rd 2023


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Preliminary information etc.

Last time (December 2010/Jan 2011) it was all the Icelandic Volcano’s fault and I had concluded my ‘report’ with the words “Next time we will definitely take longer at San Isidro and its sister Guango Lodge. Truly great places.”


Well in the intervening years there had been no ‘next time’ as South America is not really ‘my thing’ so when I read the excellent independent reports by  Jo @kittykat23ukand Michael @michael-ibkin late October 2022, both of whom had good things to say of this location,  the wheels of my memory started to whir.

 “Could we? Should we? Why the heck not?”

At the end of our 2010/11 trip we had booked a short extension from Quito direct with Carmen Bustamente, owner of San Isidro so contact was made and a plan evolved. Carmen’s sister Irene manages Guango Lodge and together they run a tour company called Bird Ecuador https://www.birdecuador.com/  I just love coincidences and serendipity and having established a good rapport I dispensed with the fatigue of shopping around for alternate quotes and put my trust and dollars in the capable hands of these two ladies.


What could possibly go wrong?


Well I can put your minds at rest right now by saying absolutely nothing. From start to finish it worked impeccably and even KLM throwing in a curved ball or two could not derail our enjoyment.

So the main plan was formed around a fourteen day visit but that is way too short for my personal formula of trip planning which is days on ground should equal or exceed hours in the air getting there and back. Hmmm! Even AMS-UIO is 10 hours or so and that computes as three weeks. What to add?

Well I had no interest in gadding around other regions staring down a telescope at feathered specialities so my eyes were drawn back to the Rio Napo and memories of several happy days spent ‘down there’ at the Sani people run ‘Sani Lodge’ in the Rain Forest last time. There could be no repeat of our trip down the Shirupino to stay with the Waorani people as that really needs a few folks to make it viable and it has to be admitted that we are getting a bit long in the tooth and stiff in the limbs for pup tents on river banks.

But I had heard of the opening up of Yasuni Biosphere Reserve to ‘eco tourism’ with a lovely looking Lodge called Eden Amazon Lodge http://www.edenamazonecuador.com/lodge/   located four hours or so down river from the ‘regional hub’ of Francisco del Orellana or El Coca as it is known locally.

Carmen had not heard of it but promptly made contact and booked us in there for a few days which, together with precautionary overnights either end of the main trip, nicely rounded up our days on ground to a 21 day tour.

Plane tickets bought and money changed hands. We had a trip.


Some details may be appreciated:-

Ecuador is five hours behind GMT. Being on the Equator days are roughly 12 hours long. No real seasons but the change in altitude from sea level to over 14,000’ does give climatic variations and much bio diversity.

Entry requirements: - No visa as such is required and it has to be said that our actual entry was one of the smoothest we have ever encountered

Local currency is the US$.    We carried folding money with a couple of cards as back up.

Getting there, back and around.  The Capital city is Quito which is at 8,000’ so can literally be described as breath-taking. We searched for flights and liked the timings of KLM’s  service from Manchester via AMS to Quito 

Food & Drink. Beer is called Pilsener and comes in 320/ 600ml bottles. Like all lagers it is best drunk cold but due to the temperatures at altitude also being cold it lost its edge a bit. Several places had supplies of Chilean wine etc.  Food was generally wholesome but hard to fathom at times which school of cuisine it owed its allegiance too. Lunch seems to be the most important daily meal but (excuse the pun) it does eat into time available outdoors.

Bugs, n Bowels. Peel it, boil it or forget it. Hygiene standards appeared acceptable in the main Lodges. Tap water, when available is definitely a “No No!” Not even for tooth brushing. Malaria is a problem in the Amazon so Prophylactics are recommended as is the use of a net if the room/tent is not screened. There are also various other biting critters, large ones are not an issue but the little buggers can be a real PIA.

Accommodations. All up to expectations. For details see text.

Kit carried. We had decent binoculars and I had my Nikkon coolpix P1000. We took lots of spare batteries, chargers and Plug adaptors. Ecuador is on US110 two prong sockets.

Books? “The Birds of Ecuador” by Ridgely & Greenfield is the definitive work. It is heavy but you can do a neat trick of splitting out the Colour Plates from the main text thereby making two Books, the heavier 2nd portion which could stay at the Lodge. Sadly this removes the ‘index’ from quick use to make finding the plates easier.


So we are good to go.

Sorry for the lack of illustrations in the introduction but I will try to do better as the trip unfolds.

This is the general scheme of travel as finalised:- Starting in Quito airport and progressing east over the Andes via Papallacta, Guango Lodge, San Isidro and El Coca by road before fast pirogue downstream to Eden Lodge and return to Coca for a 60 minute flight back to Quito Airport.



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Part two. We can truncate the boring bit of getting there into a short paragraph. We flew to Manchester MAN from our home airport IOM on Saturday lunchtime and overnighted at Claytons Manchester airport. Rose at silly o’clock for the complimentary shuttle to Terminal 2 and checked in our luggage. Flew to AMS on time and after a 90 minute layover boarded the KLM 777 for Quito UIO. Overflew London and the south of England in glorious clear weather and headed out over the Atlantic via the Isles of Scilly.   How many other folks on board knew that Hugh Town on the moving map was the capital of Scillonia?

Seats were OK (Economy Comfort) and about 10 boring hours later we let down over Colombia and arrived in Quito on time. I have already commented on the ease of entering Ecuador. We never even filled in a form. Presented Passport to smiling chap, told him we were there for three weeks. Passport stamped with a smile, picked up luggage, left by green channel, waved through a barrier and we were met by our car and driver. I don’t think we paused in our stride and from plane to car was less than 15 minutes.

The driver took us the 30 minute drive up into the hills to our lodge for a two night ‘buffer’ stop at Hacienda las Cuevas. https://haciendalascuevas.com/?lang=en  This was evidently another part of the Bustamente portfolio having been developed and built around a set of caves in a quirky but interesting style.


Our room was accessed by steps and overlooked the extensive grounds. Food was excellent although I found the lack of Menu strange as it seemed it was only accessible by Smart phone. We dined lightly after the airline food and retired early to catch up on our sleep as with five time zones we had been ‘on the go’ for longer than I care to calculate.

Next day was spent just being lazy and exploring the extensive grounds in the course of picking up a few new birds for the trip.


Dinner was again read out to us from the “waiter/manager’s” smart phone thingy, we chose Poached Salmon and washed it down with a sharp Chilean white wine.

We rose and breakfasted early to be ready for our English speaking driver/guide who would pick us up for the ten day trip at 08.00 and here started a chain of three very welcome surprises for that day.

1. At 07.58 what turned out to be our car arrived and the driver came over to greet us. AND

2. He looked very familiar and so he was. Back at the start of our booking process I had mentioned the excellent young driver guide Carmen provided back in 2011 and thought no more about it. And here he was to greet us. I was stunned and delighted to meet him again. Gabriel Buchelli now married with three children. I could not imagine having a better guide for the trip. Take a bow Carmen! Awesome service! And they were not done yet. Having loaded the car, not a big deal as we travel light with only 25Kg in two soft duffel cases between us Gabriel advised us we were not going slow and direct to Papallacta but were to spend most of the day in Antisana National Park.

3. After booking I had looked at this area but considered it was not feasible to visit as it was isolated and not on our direct route at all. However Carmen or Gabriel had decided it was and so we were going. No contest.

A Hat trick of welcome surprises and we had barely set off.

And so we wound our way to Antisana with the eponymous Volcano dominating the skyline to the south.1-DSCN1340.JPG.256fba3345b6b89620cdec103611fcc6.JPGGabriel kept up a good commentary of details and explained that this area was ‘dry’ Paramo or as we would call it ‘moorland’ and I have to say that throughout this whole Andean trip I was struck on several occasions by the resemblance to parts of the Scottish Highlands.


What do you think?  Cheviots?

1-DSCN1311.JPG.06db2aa640b3a882b7fd2f88b02378c4.JPGBlack Cuillins of Skye?


There were even Deer, albeit White-tailed not Landseers “Monarch of the Glen”, and horses instead of the familiar Highland Kyloe but the place still looked like hame.

However the birds were definitely not those to be found on the Isle of Skye.  I won’t bore with birds as those can be found elsewhere on my Big Year but here are a couple for this record.


Ecuadorian Hillstar.

1-DSCN1252.JPG.2c7e77d65081ea7533adc7ab0d8fa3d0.JPGCarunculated Caracara.

Visiting Lago da Mica for a walk  I captured Gabriel in a thoughtful pose with a Pipit 1-DSCN1293.JPG.df865324f20949fb21a98fe825e9e794.JPGand my camera battery failed at a crucial moment so we retraced our steps for an excellent lunch at Tambo Condor and actually had distant views of the rare Andean Condor along lava rocks opposite.  https://www.tambocondor.com.ec/index.html


1-DSCN1335.JPG.0592c14053e6f7a9810cfaf90562ce8f.JPGThen it was time to head back towards our planned track via the outskirts of Quito and ascend the Papallacta Pass to reach our booked accommodation of Guango Lodge a few km down the eastern slopes which was to be our base for the next five nights.

I think I will break this report into ‘bases’ for ease of narration so this makes a suitable place to end for now..

Edited by Galana
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Excellent start, Fred! Don't spare on logistical details, food, stops, etc.

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This will be very interesting, looking forward to comparing our experiences. You certainly had much nicer weather in Antisana. Spot on, very Scotland-like, thought so too.

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17 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Spot on, very Scotland-like, thought so too.

Including the weather but no Midges.:P

I might get the next stage up today but my computer gets the sulks if I leave her and go on holiday and she has started to play up a bit so it may take a day or two.

@xelaswill try my best but I have problems remembering what I had for breakfast today never mind three weeks ago.

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Part three Papallacta and Guango Lodge.



Of course we could not not stop at the summit of Papallacta to explore the high ‘wet’ Paramo as we crossed and we took a few back roads and tracks to seek out wildlife. It had been a long day so we did not stay too long as of course we had four days with which to explore fully from our new base at Guango Lodge. We had not stayed here before but had taken lunch there on our previous visit when Gabriel had driven us to/from San Isidro for one night in 2011.

Rooms are in the main building so more like a roadside Inn than Cabanas but they were very nice and cosy.

Large grounds of course full of birds and some mammals including Mountain Tapir. Meals were in the public restaurant and very well presented and delicious. Here I will admit that due to dietary needs I did skip the main courses as, whilst looking delicious, three courses were simply too much. I am not much of a ‘lunch person’ at home or work so usually stick to Breakfast and Dinner anyway. Breakfast was the usual Buffet layout with fruit juice and fresh with cereals and Yoghurt etc.., with cooked available on request. Toast and ‘confiture’ etc., excellent coffee, and tea in multiple varieties. (As a committed Taylor’s Yorkshire Tea consumer I don’t touch the foreign stuff abroad so had Lady G to advise me. There is even a ‘Coca brew!’ for altitude problems), Meals were usually excellent homemade soups, with the addition of croutons in various guises and, oddly to my taste, a strange predilection for Popcorn?? Main dishes were meat based, often fish or chicken with beef/pork on occasion. Desserts were mainly cake, excellent chocolate cakes, with cream or ice cream. The standards were extremely high throughout.



On the first floor our room was cosy and warm and Hot water bottles brought to the dinner table for those chilly nights at 11,000 feet. We had a  nice window overlooking the grounds.



On the ground floor outside the Restaurant/Lounge was a Logia/Patio where one could change boots or just view the various coming and goings of birds to feeders. The grounds were also well supplied with more feeders and there was a large covered ‘area’ with seating where one could do some serious bird observation.



 Elsewhere a short walk took one to a hut/hide where there was a moth sheet and feeder station and where larger ‘non hummer’ birds could be observed such as Jays and Cacique etc.,.

1-DSCN1514.JPG.cde59de3e7bf98b5b5097833f7960797.JPG1-DSCN1595.JPG.ca2c0d0f109f6c93c6bdd38ee8a14ff5.JPG1-DSCN1687.JPG.689aa9af07c892ae04d3286825298390.JPGThis was very active first thing in the morning from daybreak as the best time.  (For the birds but not necessarily for the birder.)

A short path from there led down to the river where with luck one could see Dipper and Torrent Ducks.

1-DSCN1591.JPG.478f309eb94999e8240b3c02a8be3cf5.JPG1-DSCN1705.JPG.8c7253625690454e7d43e48afc47400f.JPGThere was also a ‘resident’ Ant-Pitta but it had made itself scarce due to work in progress to build some Cabanas.

Over the way led to another short steep track to an excellent location where the rare and beautiful Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan could be found.


We used Guango as a base from which to return and explore the Paramo of Papallacta along the many tracks left over from the older road network and enjoyed good success with some exciting finds. This involved the expenditure of some energy as we could be walking at 14,200 feet in low cloud so breathe out slowly and remember the Kiswahili advice of ‘Pole Pole’. 

The scenery and herbage was more reminiscent of Scotland than some places in Scotland. Top of Cairngorm anyone? 



See it yet?

1-DSCN1576.JPG.c228eec33127029a23d1f10c845907dc.JPGThe quarry up here was the Seed-Snipe. A strange bird that it seems is evolved from a wader that no longer wades so has swapped its long legs and beak to live life more like a Grouse or Ptarmigan. In short “a Snipe that eats seeds”.

We also headed down hill in the Papallacta valley to other sites that Gabriel knew of which yielded yet more excellent scenery and bird areas. Sadly despite the determined efforts of Gabriel we completely failed to find either Spectacled Bear or Mountain Tapir so this was a big dip for me but not the end of the world. We did find an Andean Bunny



and a nest of Black-chested Eagle Buzzard.


But it was mainly the Hummers that kept us busy with the tiny Bumble Bee sized Woodstar testing our camera settings.




All in all we were very pleased with our five nights at Guango Lodge and would not have missed it for the world. My plan for a leisurely meander down the eastern slopes from Papallacta was working well.

We now move on to San Isidro for five more nights..



Edited by Galana
corrected text.
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Your memory serves you just fine, Fred!

Edited by xelas
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Very envious of your grey breasted mountain toucan Fred, we didn't have the time to explore that track when we were there. 

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1 hour ago, kittykat23uk said:

we didn't have the time to explore that track when we were there. 

Maybe my guide was keener than yours. Would swap for a bear though.

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Yeah maybe, I think we only had one day visit to guango and it was raining a lot.. 

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Our guide said they are a lot easier in Colombia where they visit the feeders. 

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14 hours ago, kittykat23uk said:

Our guide said they are a lot easier in Colombia where they visit the feeders. 

Well that's like saying Penguins are easier in South Africa.

Not a lot of use if you are looking in Ecuador.;)

'Mine' were at a feeder 800 metres at most from Guango Car park.

Can't be helped.

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Part 4. Down to San Isidro.

Before we move on down to our next location a quick last look around Papallacta where you can see the ‘new’ road far below in this shot as we searched the vegetation for Spectacled Bears and or Mountain Tapir without success.


Gabriel really did pull out all the stops to find them for me but it was not to be. We did find a Broadwinged Hawk on a post just like we do see Buzzards back home.


Then we are on our way down the slope to the lovely San Isidro Lodge of which I have very happy memories from our brief visit so long ago. This Lodge lies along the tar road through the southern Oriente of Baeza towards the Kwechwa capital of Archidona and is reached via a sharp turn off to a narrow road for a few kilometres until the gated entrance to the Lodge. This is an old estate owned by the Bustamente family that has been given over to wildlife preservation. I had visited in 2011 and was a place I had been determined to return to. Set in the forest that is buzzing with birds and mammals including Tapir and Spectacled Bear although sadly none presented themselves to us during our five night stay. There were lots of Black Agouti around and a family of Night Monkeys lived close by our cabin.


Night Monkey.


The property consisted of a main building with Restaurant and large viewing platform overlooking the forest


There are about 15 Cabanas studded around the immediate grounds.

Ours was set higher and inside was particularly roomy with duplex windows and balcony, large bathroom area, a huge double bed and a settee and work table. All was very clean and well cared for. We loved it.




The day started early with us gathering on the platform to see what came to the feeders and was very productive.


At around 8.00 a.m. those who wished could descend into the grounds to meet a White-bellied AntPitta that was habituated to come for a breakfast of worms when whistled. Our Breakfasts were excellent and well prepared with cereals and Yoghurt , fresh made bread and a toaster. Cooked food was available on order. Lunches were two or three courses as were dinner later on. Dinner time was when the ‘San Isidro Owls’ usually appeared in the trees by the Verandah.



Our daily routine usually involved a drive into the surrounding area where there were some private feeding stations and a nice EcoLodge on the Rio Quijos.


Again the numerous Humming birds were very prevalent both at San Isidro and elsewhere although we were lucky to find other worthwhile birds to photograph on our outings. We were very happy when out walking we spotted an Andean Pottoo perched in full view complete with an unfledged chick.


This is quite a rarity and we were careful not to disturb it when we passed that way again on another day in drier weather.




And all too soon our five nights here passed in comfort and, if possible, San Isidro was even better than I remembered. Sadly it was also time to say farewell to Gabriel who was to return to his family in Quito whilst we continued on down to El Coca (Francesco el Orellana) on the river Napo for the next stage of our ‘adventure.’ 

Recommended reading.

“Savages” by Joe Kane for background on this region and if you like Adventure Stories I Highly commend a book from my boyhood (yes we did HAVE books back then) “Amazon Adventure” by Willard Price was a book I regularly took from our Village Library so often I could quote from it. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/1628627

Edited by Galana
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Both the Guango Lodge and the San Isidro Lodge look like wonderful places to stay! 

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21 hours ago, Galana said:

Well that's like saying Penguins are easier in South Africa.

Not a lot of use if you are looking in Ecuador.;)

'Mine' were at a feeder 800 metres at most from Guango Car park.

Can't be helped.


Well maybe we were just unlucky. Good to know they are there at least. 

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1 hour ago, PeterHG said:

Both the Guango Lodge and the San Isidro Lodge look like wonderful places to stay! 

They really are. One of the main reasons for my return trip this year. Run by two hardworking ladies, met them both this trip independently, who also manage the well respected Bird Ecuador agency I could not have wished to have been in better hands.

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  • 3 weeks later...

High time to finish this off but I get called away.

Part 5. Amazon Adventure.

We now have to leave San Isidro and so began a rather strange journey. We had said good bye to everyone including Gabriel and even met our driver Santos for the next day who was to take us to Coca and, we thought, to the waiting boat for the four hour transfer down river to Eden ecoLodge. As we had to be there for the boat at 10.00 and it was a three hour drive we left at first light o6.30ish. Santos had little English so we just relaxed and enjoyed the drive through the scenic Sumaco area. Maybe even snatched a  few zzzzs as once off the twisty mountain roads the faster main road seemed to go by quite quickly and about 9.45 as we crossed a bridge over a river Santos proudly said “Coca”.

It was what he said next that floored me. “Which Hotel you want?” Eh? We want a boat. He had not been told that and did not even know where the harbour was. A bit of a cock up on the communications front. Fortunately I had been before, albeit 11 years ago but I do have a memory for places so directed him in the direction I remembered. Tip 1. When looking for a boat don’t bother with signs to Airports or Bus stations. Tip 2. When looking for a boat head downhill as that is where rivers are usually found. Soon enough, well after turning into a building site and having to reverse out onto a busy street, I spotted a bridge ahead and sure enough the river was below.  But where to find our boat? Santos was yelling into his phone, hopefully asking directions but who knows, he could have been selling us to the Slave market or ringing his Stockbroker? Either way he was not having much success, or the prices were not good, so I got out and looked around and came upon a kiosk advertising ‘river trips’.  At least I think that is what I hoped “viajes con la Reina del río 2 oro” meant and I was not about to spend a couple of hours in some den of iniquity.

Phew, all was well and I spied a likely boat being loaded with supplies. So we retrieved our meagre luggage from Santos’s car and thanked him profusely for his navigating skills. We were then met by ‘Bill’ who was to be our Guide for the entire stay, and he assured us that we had found the right place. Helped by boat crew we loaded our kit aboard the ‘canoe’ and once loading was finished we were off down river at some speed. The Napo is quite wide but can be shallow in parts so the steerer hugs the deeper channels to avoid sandbars etc. and can make quiet sudden and dramatic alterations in his course at times so sit tight and enjoy the ride. A warm windcheater can be useful as the boat speed can create a chill effect. We had a packed lunch on the ride down which takes about four and a half hours.


And we were not the fastest boat on the river by far. Eventually we turned off the main river into a backwater and, after hitting a sandbar, drew up at a somewhat primitive jetty. Well if a fallen tree with a few planks can be called a Jetty. We were helped ashore over the sand/mud to terra firma by willing hands as our joints were a bit stiff after sitting still for five hours. We were expecting to see the lodge close by so were somewhat surprised, (this trip was full of surprises) to be asked to board the waiting school bus. After loading the cargo we set off on a 15 minute drive through small ‘farms’ and a village to a point near nowhere where we were invited to disembark. Hmmm! Still no sign of a lodge.

Then Bill told us that due to low river levels the canoe could not access the lodge directly and we had to walk for about 40 minutes along Jungle paths and to take care as some steep bits were quite muddy. Eh? Who said anything about us walking steep bits or muddy trails in the afternoon heat? But we had booked for some walks so may as well get on with it and get it over with. And so it was to be.

Oh how we yearned for walking poles. Nobody fell or slipped and the really wet bits had been bridged with wooden or metal walkways or bridges. There were seven of the latter, I know because I counted them when after the first three, Bill said there were only two more. He lied about distance too. After about an hour our trek ended at raised walkway #8 which morphed into a raised pier where we descended some stairs and clambered into a smaller paddle canoe. We were both well knackered by then so to sit anywhere was a relief as we were carried over a large lagoon and my tiredness waned as I noted several interesting waterbirds as we moved briskly along.

And when we arrived at another set of rickety landing steps which we were directed not to use we faced another scramble over what looked like a random set of planks on mud but there were many helping hands to guide us to the firm ground ahead. By this time Lady G was giving me some very hard looks forcing me to look away and dodge the daggers but I knew how she was feeling. . In no way am I whining or moaning but it would have been nice to know ahead of time rather than have it sprung upon us without notice. I think it was just not knowing what lay ahead rather than the exertion of the actual jungle trek that concerned us.

The Lodge was just across the well tended flower beds and lawns and after signing in and being orientated we were shown to our cabin to collapse on our beds. We were here at last despite all the issues.1-DSCN2503.JPG.757f70f1d6fb268a1c9ae8ee1bbcbe5e.JPG1-DSCN2397-001.JPG.c010032d8c13fd35c6f4d361c423b07f.JPG

The Lodge is a local community venture managed by the able Manuelle and employs many local people from the village that owned the School bus we had used. There was much interchange of personnel between the two but the Lodge was inside the Yasuni National Park whereas of course the village was not.

The Lodge grounds held the usual wooden decked buildings comprising Lounge and Bar, Dining room and  was set centrally between six wooden Cabins or Chalets that were served by neatly clipped pathways edged by trim hedges and shrubs.

1-DSCN2384.JPG.0dd46c5e68300da61644dfabca74007b.JPG1-DSCN2386.JPG.dd4f1cb509070165ac84a266a7f6255e.JPG1-DSCN2385.JPG.31f05c85665e63baa4d45b2a95fe1c3d.JPGInside we had two beds, a single and a double, electric ceiling fan and lighting all run from Photo-voltaic panels. Hot water was solar powered also and never ran out. The bathroom was clean and tidy and all services worked well. However the Flypaper was very unusual as it was very proactive at times.



To close this part of my report mention must be made of the cuisine. Breakfast was the usual buffet system, fruit, cereals etc., PLUS the most tasty and fresh bread rolls made each morning by the very competent local cook. They put the usual fare served by many much more up market Hotels to shame.

Lunch was well prepared and served and dinner was the same quality with many dishes completely new to us. Excellent soups, main courses and a simple dessert to finish. Not all what one would expect from a community run establishment isolated in the Amazonian rainforest and it stood comparison with other lodges we have used before and since.


The final part follows shortly.

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Wow, no small feat getting there. But you managed, well done. Probably wise to avoid the „dagger stare“.:D

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oh dear all those not really positive surprises during the journey would have tired anyone out. Thank goodness the lodge looked like a great place to recover from the exhaustion.  You both did well to complete the journey there!

Edited by Kitsafari
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10 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

You both did well to complete the journey there!

And BACK. Read the sequel.

But it was a lovely Lodge and I commend it to everyone. Management, Staff, Food, Wildlife were all wonderful. I will post what we did when there later.

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Wow quite the voyage you had @Galana. Good to see that the destination was worth the unexpected effort! 

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Part 6.

Eden Amazon Eco Lodge.

Well we got here so what did we do? Not a lot other than enjoy the jungle and the excellent cuisine. Manager, Manuelle, was a mine of useful information and a fair number of interesting stories of her life of travel. The staff were very friendly and helpful and anxious to make our stay an enjoyable one. We took local guided walks in the jungle looking for mammals and the abundant birdlife we could hear whistling, singing, squawking and piping in the canopy and undergrowth. We saw several Macaws and Parrots flying over but none deigned to stop for a photo call which was a shame. The lodge grounds were a hive of activity with nesting Caciques and other birds constantly coming and going.


Caiques nests.

There were Humming birds around but with no feeders to tempt them they were extremely hard to get close to.

On one walk we managed to get decent photos of White-fronted Toucan and a so so portrait of a Trogon which despite being visible just would not show itself fully.



White-fronted Toucan.

We also took morning canoe rides around the lagoon which was very successful in adding to our bird count but sadly the hoped for Giant Otters and Caiman failed to put in an appearance.


I do not want to bore non birders with a succession of birds that we found but it was so productive that I fear I must show a few which I will label for clarity although many will be found on my Big Year pages.



The primitive looking Hoatzin was very common.


The strangely but aptly named Horned Screamer. Ecuador's answer to the Indian Peacock?



Tropical Screech Owl.


Common Pottoo.


Sand-coloured Nighthawks roosted in large colonies.


Finally a mammal albeit rather small.


Lots of Sharp-nosed Bats roosting communally. Really cute.


This edition is going to be shorter than planned, as was our stay. We had concerns that as the time of our flight out of Coca was early morning and with the walk out, and five hour canoe ride up the river, with the current against us, the timing demanded a start at 4 AM and there was no way we were happy about walking that track in the dark. So after discussion we decided to leave a day early, at a civilised time, and spend a night in Coca which Manuelle kindly arranged for us. Indeed she is to be commended for her common sense and practical approach and an overnight stop may well be added to their itinerary from now on.



As it turned out I decision was justified as heavy rain had brought the river with a much stronger flow and whilst the boat had the power to push against it there was an awful lot of flotsam and even large trees coming down with the current and our speed had to be cut even more for safety reasons.



Indeed our whole journey home from here on was a series of mishaps and adventures and really deserves a chapter of its own. Let’s just say the return to Coca was a mere Bagatelle compared to what was to follow.

Edited by Galana
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Great sightings on your fascinating journey.  Very elusive, that Seed Snipe. Love the bats to go along with the very colorful tropical birds. It seems the journey will become more fascinating as it progresses.  Hopefully not too fascinating.  Looking forward to what's next.

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Don´t leave us hanging on such a cliffhanger Fred!

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On 12/3/2023 at 11:06 AM, michael-ibk said:

Don´t leave us hanging

Be careful what you wish for. A hanging is probably due here. More a rant really.


Part 6.

The Trail (TRIAL?) home.

It is never a pleasant experience to come to the end of an enjoyable trip and we all dream of being able to stay forever. Forget those dreams! But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go! However perhaps leaving Eden a day early upset Atropus and Clotho, but thankfully not Lachesis, as something or somebody was kept busy throwing obstacles on our smooth plans to return home.

Perhaps we should have been forewarned by the strong adverse current encountered on our return up the Rio Napo and not let down our guard during our stay in the lovely Gran Hotel de Lago el Coca?

This was a lovely place and very comfortable with a friendly receptionist who greeted us warmly and gave us the key to our large room. The dining room was on the same floor and very convenient that evening with an excellent menu and comprehensive wine list.


We enjoyed a good meal and slept soundly, blissfully unaware of what was to come on the morrow.

After the usual buffet breakfast we were packed and had checked out at the appointed time when Manuelle arrived to take us to the nearby airport. On arrival we presented our tickets only to be told they had been changed and we were to fly with a different airline. No big deal, no change of times (phew) just a change of Check In desk. And our Boarding passes were issued with a smile. Through security (twice) and to Departures. No sign of any planes waiting outside. Was our flight late or cancelled? There were only two gates so we knew we were at the correct one.

Outside our clear view of the airport enabled us to see a 737 taxiing very fast towards us on the taxiway to the apron. Then as it turned we realised it had just finished its landing run. Surely they don’t land jets on Taxiways? Er, no. It seems that’s the actual  Runway. Oops. Looked a bit tight to me.

The flight was duly called and we were guided on foot over the apron and up the mobile Air Stairs to our seats on the plane where after the usual bustle the plane’s engines fired up and it moved off. Only it turned left off the apron onto that ‘taxiway’ where it travelled a few yards before turning 180 degrees at what looked like a factory gate on a nearby trading estate, opened the throttles and took off right by the Air Stairs we had just boarded by. Blimey!

Happily the flight and eventual landing at Quito went well and we found our luggage waiting (unlike the booked lift to our Lodgings.) We eventually found him in the Bar and were driven off back to the same Hosteria las Cuevas where I had wisely booked our last night in Quito in order to be close to the airport for our 15.30 check in next day. The driver did not appear to know the correct road so again my memory proved of assistance.

The night was fine and we awoke to a nice Andean morning. Our pre-arranged lift to the airport for the final time was due at 13.00 so we just relaxed and indulged in a little more birding. 13.00 came and went with no sign of a car but just as apprehension was setting in a small black shoebox on wheels was seen struggling up the track towards us. And I mean ‘small’! The boot/trunk was hardly big enough for our modest two bags. We made the usual farewells squeezed in and got on the move at last. There had been overnight rain and the unmade track was not the place to take such a small car and, without being too critical, our lady driver was not really up to it and neither was the car. We initially made slow but steady progress going downhill but not so steady uphill and (inevitably) at one tricky point the car came to a halt from a combination of traction and poor use of gears.  After several attempts to reverse and take another run, during which her reversing technique was also seen to be lacking and the rear end did not escape unscathed, we got out, instructed her to keep the revs up, and pushed. Phew! We made it and breathed a sigh of relief as we eventually gained the main highway. 

Our relief was short lived however as she pulled over and dialled ‘my maps’ on her mobile phone. It seems she did not know how to find her own city’s airport despite the large green gantry signs with a bloody great plane and direction arrow painted on them!!   But with my assistance we eventually got there.

Are our troubles over? Read On. They are just warming up. Check in was open but a queue was forming. Nothing and nobody moved as two pax were arguing with the two Check In staff on duty over their ticket validity and luggage allowances. Eventually they were dragged away and we started the soft shoe shuffle forward until it was our turn. We went forward full of hope only to have them dashed when the lovely girl advised us that our connecting flight onwards from Amsterdam had been cancelled and we were to fly on to Frankfurt and stay the night there before flying on next morning to arrive Manchester just after our final flight to IOM would have left.

I explained the plan was unacceptable and unworkable and dug my heels in. No way! Please find us an alternate that would connect with our booked flight from MAN to IOM, or even re-route us elsewhere to England from AMS that did. Lots of telephoning and tapping of key boards led to us being offered a same night flight from Frankfurt to MAN that arrived at 22.00 which was fine as we had already booked our overnight  Hotel anyway. So we accepted that. We are getting there.

But not before I had a further experience that I could not have imagined. We were handed new Boarding passes but advised that new route itinerary could not be printed on their system so could I climb over the barrier and get on the luggage scales to photograph the Monitor screen with the booking on it? Of course dear. No problem!

Whoa! As I attempted this loud whistles sounded and “Security” rushed up, hands on Holsters, to drag me away until frantically re-assured  by the Check in girl.  Bloody Hell that was close! Phew again!


Now with boarding cards in hand we made our Gates and at last boarded the big blue plane and our reserved seats in Row 10. We had a layover in Guayaquil, where all Amsterdam bound passengers had to get off the plane as the Airport authorities insisted we try their nice expensive buildings or else!  And then, when having been allowed to get back on there was the usual hassle of missing passengers, new passengers struggling to find locker space and people in the wrong seats for the new crew to sort out. You could not make this up.

Happily memory and time has faded details of the transatlantic sector and we awoke somewhere over southern England before landing in Amsterdam more or less on schedule at 13.20 to transfer to our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt which left with German punctuality at 14.55.  We now had 5 hours to spare in Frankfurt between flights so enjoyed a lovely Pizza and wine whilst waiting for our Manchester flight which we boarded promptly after going through Security or Passport controls three more times.



Up and away to Manchester where we landed on schedule, suffered severe but pleasant surprise when our luggage appeared promptly down the carousel and used the free shuttle to our Hotel without further delay. After checking in we went to our room and fell into bed and went to sleep. However it seemed that the Fates were not done with us yet. We overslept and woke next morning with a start at 10 15. Our flight goes at 12.10!! EEEk!. We were up, dressed and out the door in 15 minutes having had to forego our prepaid and much anticipated leisurely breakfast. We got on the courtesy shuttle bus and just made the Loganair check in within limits.

The flight home to the Isle of Man was happily uneventful and we gained our waiting car and drove home at last.  That’s it for now.



For those who like to know these matters I saw 172 species of birds including 60 lifers. I could have done better of course if we had raced around the various different eco systems but this trip was more of a planned nostalgic re-visit to some favourite places and I am more than happy that we went and did just that.

Carmen and her sister Irene run a nice organisation through Bird Ecuador and both that and the lovely Lodges can be highly commended as can our excellent guide, driver and friend Gabriel Bucheli.


Not much else to add.

Christmas on the Island but not in Galana Towers so no report due.


Next trip is to an Island in an inland sea and the Papyrus swamps of the Mara. My third trip to Tanzania in less than a year.

Here is a preview.



Edited by Galana
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