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Trip Report Galapagos and mainland Ecuador

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Back from a fantastic 2- week trip to the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador.

Itinerary and trip highlights:
Day 1: Quito: Old town and historic center

Day 2: To Cotopaxi national park in a private car arranged through a local travel agent. We had spectacular views of Cotopaxi along the way. Hiked up to Refugio Jose Rivas (alt. 15,000 feet) from the parking lot. Stopped at Hacienda La Cienega for a meal. The hacienda was impressive, however, the food was overpriced and not very good.

Day 3: Early morning flight to Baltra, to board the motor catamaran Anahi, our home for the next 7 nights.

Day 4-10: Galapagos Islands: Shore excursions included Santa Cruz highlands, Chinese Hat, Puerto Egas, Sullivan Bay, Bartolome Island, Bachas Beach, Plaza Island, Tijeretas Hill, Isla Lobos, Espanola Island, Floreana island and Charles Darwin Research Station.

There were snorkeling opportunities almost every day. Water was a bit on the cold side, and most of us needed wet suites.

The boat had 16 passengers and 9 crew members. It was an extra-ordinarily congenial group which made the visit very enjoyable.

The boat had simple, wholesome food. They accommodated our vegetarian dietary requirements.

Flora and Fauna were very impressive. Plaza Island and Espanola were my favorites.

Day 11: Fly back to Quito

Day 12: Early morning drive (2 hours) to Bellavista Cloud Forest lodge, our home for the next 3 nights.

Day 12-15: Bellavista cloud forest (alt: around 7,000 feet). Spectacular primary and secondary forest and a birding paradise. Rustic but comfortable accommodation with wonderful staff. We saw 15 different species of hummingbirds alone duriing those 4 days. Lots of hiking trails of around the lodge.
A personal highlight for me was a visit to the nearby lek to see the Andean Cock of the rock. My guide was Angel Paz, who is quite legendary in those parts. (See link below for his claim to fame)
http://birdingwithkennandkim.blogspot.com/2010/02/antpitta-whisperer.html

After visiting the lek, Angel Paz took me around the forest for birding. It was an amazing and humbling experience to be with Senor Paz as he summoned the elusive Giant Antpitta, and several other antpitts and other uncommon species with earthworms. We visited his house afterwards for a delicious ecuadorian breakfast.

Day 15: Drive back to Bellavista cloudforest to Quito airport.

It was a great vacation. Ecuador is beautiful. I don’t think much is known about this hidden gem apart from the Galapagos. It has lovely landscapes, great biodiversity, interesting cuisine and most of all great people.

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