Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — Planning a wildlife vacation abroad can be overwhelming, especially because Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands provide travelers with an arsenal of incredible wildlife-viewing locations. Visitors will have the opportunity to travel through terrain teaming with wildlife; quetzals in the cloud forest, howler monkeys in the Amazon, and giant tortoises in the Galápagos Islands.
For a magnificent wildlife expedition to Ecuador, Ben Westwood—respected journalist, teacher, and author of Moon Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands—offers his selections for Ecuador’s top wildlife wonders:
1. Quito: In Quito, excite the senses at the Botanical Gardens and the New Town’s Vivarium as well as the Quito Zoo in nearby Guayllabamba. To get an early start on birding, stay at the Hostería San Jorge in the Pichinacha foothills.
2. Western Andean Slopes: Head up to the Mindo area in the cloud forest for some world-class bird-watching. Stay either in Mindo, or at nearby comfortable lodges such as Tandayapa and Bellavista that cater to birders. Reserves such as Maquipucuna and Yanacocha are also packed with life.
3. Central Sierra: Book a day tour up into the foothills of the Antisana Ecological Reserve, where the South American condor—the largest flying bird in the world—still soars. Alternately, visit Cotopaxi National Park for another chance to spot this magnificent creature.
4. The Amazon: Take a four-day or preferably five-day tour of the Amazon. Stay at a lodge such as Napo Wildlife Center and experience the incredible diversity of the rainforest: pink dolphins, parakeets, alligators, and anacondas. Get the adrenaline pumping at night with walks to tarantula holes and canoe rides to spot the eyes of caimans peeking from the water.
5. The Galápagos Islands: What could possibly beat the Amazon forest for wildlife enthusiasts? One of the few places on earth is the Galápagos archipelago. Naturalists and photographers are thrilled because the species have no fear of humans: Whether you take a land-based tour with day excursions or a cruise, opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife are all around, including snorkeling with sea lions off Floreana, scuba diving with sharks at León Dormido on San Cristóbal, and grumbling with giant tortoises at Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz.
6. Guayaquil: Head up to Machalilla, where hikers can marvel in the coastal dry forests, watch whales on the coast (June-September), or simply relax on the beach at Los Frailes. For additional bird-watching, head to Isla de la Plata to see blue-footed boobies or farther up the coast to the mangroves around Bahía de Cáraquez, which are teeming with frigate birds.
For more information on Ecuador, or more detailed travel tips and advice on planning a trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, visit the Moon Travel Guides website.
About Moon Travel Guides & Moon.com Moon Travel Guides make independent travel and outdoor exploration fun and accessible. With expert writers delivering a mix of honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor, Moon guidebooks ensure that travelers have an uncommon and entirely satisfying travel experience. Moon not only guides, Moon inspires. Based in Berkeley, Calif., Moon is published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Visit Moon at http://www.moon.com.
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