Ecuador Herping Suggestions

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Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by PhillipsJaR »

Hi all,

I'm a grad student that studies herps in the northeast US and I've traveled a fair amount on a couple continents herping and birding, but I have zero experience in Ecuador. I have some family that wants to do a trip down there and have asked me to do a fair amount of the planning, as I travel the most. I've been thinking something along the lines of flying to Quito, getting to Coca and doing an amazon lodge (see below) for 4-5 days, then heading back to Quito where some members of the family are interested in the city. After a day or so there, I was thinking of heading to Mindo for the birds and possibly herps as well. This is always the balancing act of putting myself in places I can pick up the birds and herps I want while other family members still have fun.

For the amazon, I see many conflicting things online. Has anyone been to any of the lodges there recently? I would like to stay somewhere with a guide that has a clue about the snakes, and is willing to spend several hours every night out looking for shushupe (bushmasters). I'd also love to stay somewhere with a competent bird guide, and I've just been reading a lot of horror stories about guides out there. Hopefully, you'll all tell me that there's nothing to worry about. In my previous experiences in Central America, I've never had a bad guide, so I'm not particularly picky as long as they are willing to go look with me at night.
Is there an advantage to going deep into the river for herps? I think in a perfect world we'd stay at the Napo Wildlife Center or Sani Lodge - I've heard very good things, but both are very expensive. There is a much cheaper lodge nearby called the Napo Cultural Center or Kichwa Ecolodge, but again very mixed reviews online.

In Mindo, I was looking at El Monte Ecolodge, which seems like its in a generally nice place, but the key is being in a place where I'll be able to walk at night with someone (no one in my group is likely to come), that is unless you tell me that I won't find any snakes anyway so I might as well just go look for Centrolenids alone.

Finally - Is there a place that isn't a bajillion dollars (Mashpi) to see the lowland Choco?

Sorry for all the questions, but I thought I'd check here to see if anyone has any advice

- Jack

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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by Tremarctos »

Hi Jack,

In the Amazon, I highly recommend Shiripuno Lodge for birds, herps, and mammals. It is remote and relatively inexpensive, without the luxuries of the expensive Napo lodges. I walked the trails alone on my two visits, but Fernando (the lodge owner) would be an excellent guide for birds and herps. One downside: I haven't heard of any Bushmaster sightings there, though I've seen Bothrops brazili and Bothrops bilineatus. Also, I would recommend at least a week, especially since you want to see both birds (mostly diurnal) and herps (mostly nocturnal). Let me know if you're interested in visiting Shiripuno - I'm planning to write a detailed report in the next couple months.

Another option would be Reserva Rio Bigal in the foothills. It is also pristine and relatively inexpensive. I have not been there, but I have heard great things.

In the Choco, birders like to visit Canande and Playa de Oro. I recommend searching the trip reports on for information. I was very lucky to spend two nights with the lodge biologist at Mashpi, where I saw a Bushmaster (a bit too close for comfort).


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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by tomharten »

It's been about 25 years since I visited Ecuador. One of the highlights for me was a visit to Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve At that time you could stay fairly inexpensively in cabins at the reserve as well as take your meals there. Incredible biodiversity at the site. I got to hang out for a day in their canopy observation tower helping out with a bird census after chatting up one of the scientists at lunch.

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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by frankc »

I can highly recommend Canande lodge in the Choco. I’ve just returned from a trip with the Tropcial Herping guys and we had a very cool trip. I’ve made a series of videos about the trip that can be seen here if you’d like to get an idea of what we found ... fObODvSfYw

The JocoToco foundation runs this lodge and their info can be found here

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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by Joseph S. »

I’d second Rio Bigal. Higher snake density than just about anywhere I’ve been in the Amazon(admittedly not too many spots). Bushmasters have been seen. It isn’t really a large scale thing so I’m not sure if the owner would be free or have folks to take you out...but the trails are well managed.
Highly recommend Mindo for family and you. Reserva Mindo Lindo is a great hummingbird spot(on the main highway at higher elevations than Mindo town). I saw several anoles there as well on the trails. And the pinnochio anole does occur. There are guides willing to attempt to find these at night). I cannot speak for the lodges as I went as a budget backpacker

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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by DanW »

Hey Jack,

FYI a truck from Quito to Coca runs $140-180. Don't have rec for lodges with herp guides, sometimes its nice to have a guide who knows the trails even if they don't know much else.

Not sure you need to go far down river, but others may disagree. I just spent some time in the area that was accessible by car and had ~35 snakes of 14 species in 3 nights, no vipers though.

I dropped by Napo Cultural Center for a cold beer and short walk while in the Napo for the day. It seemed like a good place to herp at night. Had anaconda, dart frogs (ameerga and allobates), and collared tree runner in my 2 hours there (2-4pm and it was hot!).

Mindo is a fun and easy place to visit, $30 per person at septimo paraiso to hike at night with a guide. The guide I had was really good.

You can contact and possibly hire Eric at Mindo Night Walks, look on facebook. Snakes are few and far between around Mindo, but can be found.

For Choco there are some reserves near Pedro Vincente Maldonaldo which is 1-1.5hrs from Mindo, but you will need to hire a taxi to take you there and back as well as paying for their time while you herp or take a bus earlier in the afternoon and pre-arrange a pickup time.


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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by PhillipsJaR »

Thanks all for the suggestions -

Looks like Ecuador won't happen this summer, but this research has made it a firm destination for me as a herping/wildlife trip in the next year. If anyone else is doing similar research and sees this post: if I was going I would do Quito to Canande, then Mindo, and then if I could afford it an amazon trip. My buddy just spent some time in Canande and saw an unbelievable amount of stuff

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Re: Ecuador Herping Suggestions

Post by stlouisdude »

Mindo is a cool town and the lizard with the long nose is there, but overall I saw more frogs and basilisks than snakes. Amazing birds of course.

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