Southern Ecuador: lesser known natural wonders
A few weeks ago, we visited two private nature reserves located in the south of Ecuador that are owned and managed by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation (Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco), namely the Tapichalaca Reserve near Valladolid town and Copalinga Reserve in Zamora city, both inside the Zamora Chinchipe province. The reserves border with the Podocarpus National Park.
1. Tapichalaca Reserve
This place is particularly important since it’s the home to an endemic antpitta, the Jocotoco (Grallaria ridgelyi). It is precisely because of this bird that the foundation was established 20 years ago. This cloud forest ecosystem has rich biodiversity not only for birds, which are plentiful, but also for other animals such as pumas, tapirs, coati and spectacled bears that have been caught on trap cameras. The 3,500 hectares cover elevations ranging from 1,800 to 3,400 masl, where cooler temperatures prevail due to the high humidity and heavy rainfall, 5 meters per year on average.
2. Copalinga Reserve
With only 150 hectares, this cloud forest reserve has over 200 bird species, including hummingbirds, tanagers, doves, hawks, owls, parakeets, woodcreepers, and more. Here you can find one of the prettiest and most unusual hummingbirds, the spangled coquette. Also, it is a good place to spot the gray timanou. In addition, there are over 200 species of orchids. The hiking trails inside the reserve have different degrees of difficulty that span an altitudinal range of 500 meters and cover 8 km.
3. Podocarpus National Park
Comprising over 140,000 hectares, this park spans from Loja to Zamora Chinchipe provinces, ranging in elevation from 900 to 3,600 masl. The two main entry points are Loja city and Zamora city, one from each province. On our trip, we spent more time in the Zamora region. The various trails to be explored take you to waterfalls, riverbanks, and deeper into the forest. You can reach the bridge over the Bombuscaro River while you scout for birds. The park gets plenty of visitors over the weekend, but otherwise it is quiet. The name Podocarpus comes from a tree species that unfortunately was highly exploited since the 1940s. The creation of the park in 1982 has helped the conservation of this native tree and other endemic species. Studies have shown that this park has the highest records of endemism of any protected area in Ecuador.
Tourism can contribute to the protection of these fragile and diverse ecosystems by bringing awareness to their ecological importance. Moreover, your economic support will help to finance various conservation projects such as those run by the Jocotoco Foundation.
We recommend spending 4 to 5 days in this southern region. Contact us for a tailored program!