This field course was designed to allow students to visit two of Ecuador's (and South America's) most bio-diverse regions, the Choco Endemic Region (CER) and the Tumbesian Endemic Region (TER). Southern Ecuador is ideal to visit these two biodiversity hot spots because they are found next to each other in this part of the country. Thus, travel time is kept to a minimum and field time is maximized for the benefit of students. Below we present a reference itinerary (11 days long) to showcase the potential of a field course in Southern Ecuador. ETV can customize the itinerary shown below to better suit the particular needs of any academic institutions. Please contact us for more information.
The map below shows the main travel route and places visited during this field course. Please use this map to explore the areas visited during this field course.
Day 1, Quito
The city of Quito is the capital of Ecuador and the starting point of our field trip. Quito was founded in 1534 by Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Benalcázar. However, the area has been inhabited since pre-Columbian times by several tribes of native South Americans peoples such as the Quitus. The altitude of Quito is around 2,850 meters above sea level (masl). The city is divided in two main parts, the old colonial city and the modern city. We will spend our first and last nights of our field course in Quito.
Days 2-5, Choco Endemic Region (CER)
The Choco endemic region mainly extends from Southern Colombia to Northern Ecuador. However, some pockets of this highly diverse region are also found in Southern Ecuador. The forests found in this region are extremely wet receiving around eight meters of rain per year. After the rise of the Andes, this area became isolated from the Amazon basin producing the high endemism we presently find. During this field course we'll stay at Buenaventura Reserve, which is located within this highly endemic region.
The Buenaventura Reserve protects about 2,000 hectares of lower montane cloud forests on the Western Andes. It is estimated that less than 10% of this type of forest remains in Ecuador. Buenaventura is managed by the Jocotoco Foundation, an Ecuadorian conservation NGO. To date more than 330 bird species including 34 endemics, have been recorded in the reserve. We'll stay 4 days at this unique reserve. While at Buenaventura we'll do a day trip to the beautiful city of Zaruma, an Ecuadorian National Heritage Site. Zaruma is known for its unique architecture, gold mining history and its coffee.
Days 6-9, Tumbesian Endemic Region (TER)
The Tumbesian Endemic Region lies between Ecuador's Pacific coast and the western flanks of the Andes and extends from the Tumbes region in Northern Peru to Central Ecuador. This region shows high local and regional endemism. The forests in this region are deciduos (plants drop their leaves during the dry season) and the dominant tree species are acacia and ceiba (Ceiba trichistandra). Less than 5% of the original forests remain.
Seventeen threatened bird species are confined to the TER. Some examples are the crtically endangered white-winged guan (Penelope albipennis) and the endangered Peruvian plantcutter (Phytotoma raimondii).
While at the TER we will stay at the Arenillas Ecological Reserve. This reserve protects about 17,000 ha of tropical and subtropical broadleaf forest and mangrove forests. The altitudinal range of the reserve goes from 0 to 300 masl. While at this reserve we will go on a day-trip to Puyango Petrified Forest, Jambeli Archipelago and Costa Rica Island's beach.
According to Conservation International the Choco and Tumbes regions together with the Magdalena Endemic region found in Northern Colombia, have an estimated 11,000 vascular plant species, out of which 25% are endemic. In terms of birds, about 900 species are found in these regions including 110 endemics.
Day 10, Mitad del Mundo
Today we'll have to wake up very early in the morning to catch a 7:15 AM flight to Quito. It takes about 40 minutes to travel from the airport located in Santa Rosa to Quito.
By 8:05 AM we'll arrive to Quito's airport and then we'll make our way to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth), a tourist complex located on the Equator. Here you'll have a chance to have one foot on the Northern hemisphere and the other on the Southern hemisphere. Also, you'll have a chance to buy your souvenirs. We'll be back in our hotel by 4:00 PM.
Day 11, Departure
Today we'll wake up early in the morning to go to the airport for our trip back home. (End of field course)
AT A GLANCE
|Life zones, Ecosystems visited||Foothill cloud forest (1200 masl) on the western slopes of the Andes, Tumbesian dry forest (100 masl)|
|Day trips||City of Zaruma (National Heritage Site), Puyango Petrified Forest, Jambeli Archipelago and Costa Rica Island's Beach (Pacific Ocean)|
|Max Group Size||20-24 people|
|Accommodation||Double (2 twin size beds) rooms in hotels, lodges, eco-lodges and camping.|
|Transportation||Plane (two in-coutry flights); private coach bus|
|Reference Price||$1,400- $1,600 USD per person|
|Meals||Three meals a day (except on first and last day)|