Friday, August 30, 2013

Male Howler Monkey at Sight!: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

The Yasuni National Park is the right place for to see the nature of the tropical Amazon Rainforest. I have seen the Howler Monkeys in the wild there, almost 100% sure in every trip that I have done. I have seen them also in the tropical dry rainforest in the coast, in the Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve, also very close and in a great setting to photograph.


The male in the picture above was crossing right in front of our canoe and was with a group of 5 individuals. All of them were looking for food and eating young brown leafs like "lettuce", tender and juicy. Our presence didn't bother them at all and this encounter lasted somehow 15 minutes. It was in the late afternoon when the monkeys prepare themselves to sleep, and are returning to their favorite trees.

I recall seeing that this individual was a male, due to other two prominent features of its body that were on display as we were siting in the canoe 10 meters away from it, and below it. Don't forget to brin good binoculars, maybe those offered for birdwatching, because they will bring you very close to the animals. The local guides in the lodges have usually a telescope to show things even closer.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

The Giant Anaconda is a mith: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

We are so influenced by all these horror films that loose the perspective of what is real, and what is not. I have been travelling many years to different areas of the rainforest, and have had very few encounters with snakes, and even less with anacondas. They are more scared of people than what we are from them. It is very likely to see them near on one of the ecuadorian jungle lodges whitin a nature reserve, where they have adapted themselves to a specific habitat and are confortable there for a while. The local guides know where to look for  several weeks until the habitat changes. Also, the luck factor is important, because things might change over the night in the rainforest due to a storm or wind.


I saw this anaconda whithin the Yasuni National Park and it was resting on a small wood and bushes raft or "islet" in the middle of a small creek. It was sun bathing, warming up, getting ready to look for something to eat. So, as you can see, they do exist but they are not as dangerous as what we thing, but in any case, I wouldn't dare to grab or bother one of them, since I have a lot of respect for wild animals, and they defend themselves from anything that tries to "hunt" them.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Morphos hard to photograph in the Nature: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

This is one of those insects that you see all the time when you do a nice hike in the cloud forest or rainforest, but that are almost impossible to photograph while they are flying. I am still trying to do it and have not succeeded. But if you really love buterflies, there are several places in Ecuador where you can get into one of this "farms" or stations where they get reproduced and well kept, and there you can make your best shots!

The intensity of its color is wonderfull, every traveller that has never seen them alive in the nature gets excited by the sight of them. And myself, I will keep looking for that perfect shot, but over all, will keep enjoying their flight and the nature where they live.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

A Spectacular Spectacle Bear: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

This was one of the most expected experiences for me in all my guiding carrier. I had always wanted to see a Spectacle Bear alive and in the nature, just wild. It happened some years ago as I was travelling with a german family and we had the chance to spend a couple nights in one of the cloud forest reserves from Ecuador, near Quito.

We left the lodge early in the morning and did some birdwatching. We were somehow ahead of the bear season and therefore we thought that we wouldn't see any of them. Suddenly our local guide heard a familiar sound, a wisteling that didn't belonged to any bird, but to a mother bear with  two cubs. It was not only a grown up bear! but a family with two cubs learning to climb and eat on a tree.

The sight was amazing, we spend at least one hour 15 meters away from the bears watching all they did: climb, play, sleep hanging on the tree, wake up, and eat all they coud. They didn't feel threated by us, nor us from then, but we kept our distance.

I had so much joy from this day that I steel recall the feelings of this great experience. We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

One of the most cool things to do if you are in the cloud forest, is an early mornig hike with a group of birdwatching fanatics, because you learn to put so much atention at the sounds, colors, movement, and learn to differenciate every tone of gray and green to be able to find the birds between the dusk and leaves.

I was waking on one of those mornings in the cloud forest and we heard the singing on the distance of the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, it was far away for our cammeras. Then, after some waiting and patience, they started to change from canopy to canopy and ended up right in front of us, and the result is the picture shown in this posting.

Every time we drive through this region or any tropical rainforest, we are looking for animals. My children slowly learn to see and enjoy the excitement of the flight of this animals crossing the highway or in the nature. Slowly they realize that Ecuador has an incredible biodiversity and landscapes where you will find always something unexpected.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Dolphins on Route between the main land and La Plata Island: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

On one of those many boat rides between the town of Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata, we had the sudden visit of a herd of dolphins, that decided on that day that our boat was something fun to play with. I have heard from biologists that this strategy that amuses us helps the females and new borns to swim away from potential danger. This was probably the case, and many of the dolphins swam by the boat for about 10 minutes, and juped ahead of us with all their splendor.

This part of the ocean in front of Ecuador is also well known for its sharks that duell between the shore and the island. Our many square kilometers of marine reserve around Isla de la Plata and in front of the main land, is where sharks find usually enough food to keep humans as a last resource for their diet. We didn't trusted ourselves into the water this time, but we certailny kept great memories about this incredible encounter. We did afterwards snorkeling by the rocks on Isla de la Plata, a great place for that too.

Also, last year I also saw dolphins from the highest point of Bartholomew Island in Galapagos, a huge heard of dolphins passing by this island. They still amaze me and make me want to go in the water after them.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

A Sloth Crossing a Main Road in the South: wildlife encounters in Ecuador

As we were driving back from the Puyango Petrified Forest in El Oro Province, near the southern border line of Ecudor, we sa two men parked with their pickup, observing something moving by the road. My eyes got a glimpse of the fur and hand, and I knew immediately that it was a three-toed Sloth, which I have seen only in nature reserves in the Amazon basin side of the country.

I was very enthusiastic about the encounter, all the people with me couldn't understand why, but after talking a bit about ecology and how hard it is to see one of this animals in the nature, due to their camouflage and slow living "habits", they were also fascinated about it.

We found a piece of a tree branch, and streched it to the animal so it can hung from there, then we were able to move it away from the dangers of the unconscious drivers on the highway. We crossed to the other side of the road and presented him a series of trees from which it could hang and wait for the night to cover his slow movements towards a deeper area of the forest.

I didn't know where it came from, although I suspect it was from a deforested area near by, and where it wanted to go, but I hope that our resque service was of good help to this elusive animal.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Guayaquil's History Reviewed: The encounter of Bolivar and San Martin to define borders in South America

The truth of this event, the encounter of this two major generals of the independance wars in South America, was recently found and published by a Colombian investigator through the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar Bookstore. This historian found the "copy" of the letters sent by Bolivar to two persons, that are part of the log registry of the events on that day on the copier's book that stood many years unseen in the National Archive of History in Quito.


According to an interview done in radio to the historian, the circumstances under which San Martin had to accept the terms "proposed" by Bolivar on the 26th of July of 1822 were not on his favor, since Bolivar had a bigger army stationed in the city of Guayaquil waiting for the results of this "secret" encounter (disputed as secret for may years among historians in Argentina, Venezuela and Ecuador).

Here the link to the note published by "El Comercio" on that day, 191 years later by Enrique Ayala Mora, a renown historian of Ecuador.

Guayaquil is a city that has seen a lot of the important history of the continent. There is a monument that conmemorates the meeting of this two important figures of the 19th century, that gave birth to the actual political division of our land and our neighbours.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Horseback riding at the Ecuadorian Andes: you will feel like a real chagra

Since my mid childhood I was surrounded by the nature and the haciendas. I had the chance to ride many times, specially in summer, in the haciendas from my cousins and experience the feeling of freedom that a horse can give you at full speed galloping.

I remember that summer vacation at Inguesa, when I was twelve years old, where I traded the sensation of fear, for the understanding of the meaning of respect and control over a horse, without loosing the notion that fear keeps you alive.

Then many years later I found myself riding horses chagra  style (as a highland cowboy), with ponchos, samarros (leather chaps), gloves, cabestro (leather rope or halter), and teaching other non-rider travellers how to enjoy the experience on the horses, while facing the challenge that are ahead of the paramo rider: steep muddy slopes, cold temperature and rain, and lidia bulls or brave cattle.


Many times we encountered the lonely bull posted by a gate, angry with the herd because of beein kiked out of it, that will charge to any horse and rider that comes too close to it. We had also some encounters with the famous Andean Condor, flying high above us in search for carrion.

But one of the most memmorable times was with a group of german expert riders that tought me how to improove my riding skills, the training methods they used, and how carefully and tender we have to be with our horses in order to have the desired response to our command. I don't consider myself an expert rider, but I can keep easily the pace of them. That trip really oppened my mind to new ways of handeling the horses and people over them.


There are many places where you can do horseback riding in Ecuador, many of them with spectacular views of the nature surrounding it, and some others that pass by country side villages where the horse is still beeing used as an important transportation method. We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Safra and Sugar Cane Molasses at the Salinas Valley in Ecuador

Some years ago I was hiking with a French-English couple in the Salinas de Ibarra Valley, and we had the chance to see the old method of producing molasses from sugar cane juice. They were amazed by the technology used to press, cook and solidify the juice that will end up as small rounded "bricks" or poudered hardened and unrefined brown sugar.

The sugar cane was harvested on the field where the machines were working, and also from the crop accross the road. They had to be transported with a donkey to the press site. The press was set up using a diesel runned motor that was powering a metal press to extract the juice. Then the juice flowed through a metal channel into several deposits where it was heated from below by the fire produced from the dried sugar cane fibers, that were the remains of the pressing processs. This remains are called by the locals "bagazo".

After some patience and heat, the juice is thick and ready to be poured to solidify over metal trays or in the "brickets" wooden shapes, and after both solidify, then they were packed in nylon sacks or in banana leafs (for the brickets).

This process happens during several weeks, as long as there is sugar cane near by. Then all is remooved and it will take again a year an a half before the field sees again this hard working people that earn their living this way.

Join us on one of this unique momments in Ecuador. We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Hiking on an active volcano near Quito: Guagua Pichincha Hike

I was introduced a long time ago to this incredible mountain by my best friend, although the mountain has been in my eyes since I was a small child. We used to live in the eastern side of the city, facing the Pichincha from the distance, and therefore every single day, as I was walking to my bus stop to wait for the school bus, I would see its beauty and perhaps dream a bit about what it meant to be at the top.

I can't recall when I hiked up to the antenas for the first time, nor the first climb to Guagua and or Ruco Pichincha, but I can tell you about many other memmorable visits that I have done to it in the last 25 years.

This place is ideal for many types of outdoor activities such as hiking, multiple day trekking, mountain biking, high altitude rock climbing, and sight seeing spot from the cable car station or above, to make the best pictures from the city below.

If you want to do a half day hike you can take a bus to La Pirmavera neighborhood and start the hike from there, reach the antenas, then reach Ruco Pichincha, and then take the path towards Guagua to hike "La Integral". This is a very long day for the experienced hikers. You can also start higher, near 4.000 meters of altitude, if you take the cable car and from there you attempt only the Ruco or "old" Pichincha. This will take you also near 4 hours.

If you want to go to Guagua Pichincha with the support of your car, then you have to drive towards south Quito, take the road that passes by Lloa, and drive higher towards the Civil Defense Hut. There you can plan how long you want to hike and from which height. This lower area is also great for a many-day hiking challenge.

I experience different feelings when I hike all the way up to the caldera rim. First of all I realize how small we are as human beeings compared to the nature, because you are standing next to an active volcano from which you smell every day the sulfur coming out of its vents and main crater, that could erupt at any time in the future; and also I have this great feeling of achievement by reaching this magnificent place after several hours of hiking upwards, while helping people marvel about this highlight of our country. Here a link to story from a local TV Channel in spanish, on the conmemoration of the 13 years of the last big eruption.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

What the Pichincha Volcano means for the people from Quito and our visitors

The Pichincha Massive is considered the "guardian" mountain from Quito. It has been part of shaping our history, religion, and economy in many ways.

For example, the lower eastern slopes of the Pichincha facing Quito, saw the fighting between the royal spanish army and the independance army from Simon Bolivar. The main incursion into Quito took place from above and early in the morning the city was under the control of the revolutionary army.

Almost all the colonial churches from the old town were built using the Basalt and Andesite stone that you can find in the Pichincha slopes, also the stone that forms the Inca and pre-Inca remains that were discovered in the late 80's by archeologists, below the old town.

The original source of the San Francisco Plaza water fount came from the Pichincha slopes. The fount is in the same spot since the last 300 years, and was very likely providing water before the Inca and Spanish time to the people of the so called "Quitu - Cara" Culture, that were doing food traiding on this same place.

The old Quitos and the Incas held the mountain as one of their "Apus" or god like entities, because of its beauty, ocasional tremors, and big roaring with eruptions, that happened throughout its history. The last eruption of the Pichincha was on the 8th of October 1999, when a massive ash mushroom was seen early on the morning of that day.

Now a days the Pichincha is a major attraction as a view point for the city visitors. A private company invested about 5 years ago in the construction of a cable car that covers a difference of altitude of 800 meters from its starting point to the end. It is considered the highest cable car whithin a city in South America, and the views on a clear day of the ecuadorian Andes towards the south, east and north are incredible. Hiking and high altitude rock climbing are also activities loved by the modern expeditioners.

As you can see, there are many ways to explore this volcano. We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Parrots Leck at the Yasuni National Park: Hundreds of birds eating mud

What do they do it for? They need to digest the seeds and get some minerals that are not availiable in other sources of food. That is the main reason for it. In the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, you find two of this spots with "easy" access for the visitors, you need only to travel from Coca about 2 hours in canoe down the river to reach the place.



There are for sure many other places that we are not aware of, but in this two places you can see how different types of parrots, perriquites, and macaws come slowly down, beeing very careful with everything that is happening in the surroundings, and then suddenly, one of them has the confidence to come down to drink water and eat cley, and then everybody else follows.


It is astonishing the noice that can be produced by hundreds of this birds, and how deep this places get digged in as the years pass by. The birds are naturally well camuflaged with the different tones of green. If they get on a tree they are extremely hard to see, but here the contrast with the wall gives you the chance to admire this beautiful birds.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Rainforest at Night: other senses, other inhabitants

At the beginning of the night in the rainforest you have to use your other senses, the ones that are usually a second hand device for all city duellers like me, to percieve what surrounds you. After a couple days in the rainforest somehow you are more conected with the nature, our innerself remembers that we are also animmals, and that we can also smell, hear, and feel the nature. All of these because you can't see that much at night.


One of the highlights of beeing at night at the rainforest, specially near a lagoon, is the possibility to see at night caymans. You have to paddle very slowly, don't make any noise, and have your eyes wide open, to see in the distance the shining red-golden eyes of the caymans floating by the lagoon banks, waiting for a pray. The eyes shine when a strong spot light meets he eyes of a cayman or other annimals too.

There are also other inhabitatns at night, specially bigger mammals, because since they evolved to become what they are now, they still do what they learned to do as they shared the habitat with the dinosaurs: be active at night when nobody sees you!

So, if you travell to this part of the world, be sure to have your flashlight ready to help your eyes, and the ones from your local guides, to spot at down all what moves around you at night, you will be surprised of the ammount of activity you can hear, but not so easily see.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.


The Igapo: A surreal view of nature at the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin


I always wanted to visit the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve. As a teenager I had my first encounter with it, as we were travelling to the best place in the area at that momment, the Flotel Orellana. It was a ferry transformed into a 3 story high boat-hotel. We had a great time in it back then, and there are still this type of ships in Ecuador that offer you an incredible experience there.

For me it turned out to be surreal because you see trees comming out of the water, and the only way to move around here during the flooded season, is on a canoe, just like in Venice.

My second visit to this incredible area was some years ago, when I had the chance to join a group of Canadians with whom I travelled around the country for a while. It was incredible for me to see the trees I had dreamed off in the middle of the big lagoon from the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve. We were at 200 meters of altitude above sea level in a rustic and comfortable lodge, it was humid an very hot one night, and during the hours with day light you could paddle a canoe between the trees that have adapted throughout milenia to be permanently in water during three quarters of the year.

This incredible Ecosystem is also very fragile and, although it sounds paradoxical, extremely sensible to fire. Too much vegetation accummulates at the base of the trees, floats building dense layers of vegetation that dries out and has no contact with water, and this small islands of leafs can catch fire and burne a whole forest whithin hours, althoug it is surrounded by water.


The Igapo is this permanently floded area that covers an area of about 2% of the whole of the Amazon Basin. Ecuador has a relatively easy access to it and good infraestructure for lodging whithin the reserve. You have a good chance to see here sweet water dolphins, caimans, different species of monkeys and many birds.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.