National Protected Areas
Ecuador is the only country in the world where 1/5 of the territory is Protected Area; there are 48 of them distributed through the four regions, covering the 20% of the country’s surface.
Requirements to be a Protected Area
Must have one or many ecosystems, within a minimum of 10.000 hectares. It is considered the flora and fauna species, geologic features, important habitat to science, education and recreation. Its natural condition’s maintenance is important due to preserve ecologic, esthetic and cultural features.
Goals of Conservation.
Protect the ecosystem.
Preserve the species (flora and fauna).
Work on natural and cultural management.
Places capable of research.
Favorite destinations for tourism.
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
Consider one of the inhabited craters in the world at 10 km north from Quito and 3.383 hectares, this collapsed crater counts with warm currents that hit the cold wind of the place making a “foggy area” mostly in the afternoon, host over 1.000 plant species and the opportunity to climb its different volcanic domes; Cerro El Chivo, Cerro Pondoña, Moraspungo, camping, horseback riding and hostelling are some of the options in the area.
Pasochoa Wildlife Reserve
Located 45 km from Quito, at the flanks of the blown off “Pasochoa” volcanic crater at 4.200 m and 500 hectares extension forming an unaltered spot for flora and fauna typical of the highlands regularly seen by taking the 9 different medium/easy difficulty trails or going down to its crater in a walk. Due to its location, near the old “inca trail”, the chance to enjoy of the springs, waterfalls or seeing the other extinct peaks, part of the “central highlands fault” Ilalo and Rumiñahui altogether.
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Its location shares both, the Putumayo Canton in Sucumbíos Province and the Aguarico Canton in Orellana Province. It was decreed on 26 July 1979 as part of the creation of the national protected areas system based on the recommendations of the FAO report on the “National Strategy on the Conservation of Outstanding Wild Areas of Ecuador”.
From east to west, the elevation gently slopes from about 300 meters to slightly under 200 m above sea level and has an area of 603,380 ha (1,490,000 acres). The upper watershed being still close to the Andes, the weather seems slightly milder than more eastern parts of the Amazon, with temperatures a bit lower during the day and at night usually cooling to the low twenties (Celsius) or seventies (Fahrenheit).
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is an important nature reserve in Amazonia with rather unique ecological characteristics. Located at the foothills of the Andes, it is different from any other Amazon protected area in the world. The area encompasses a poorly drained plain with a network of periodically inundated forests, lakes and creeks. Such conditions are rare so close to the Andes, where the drainage in the foothills prevents the development of swamps and lakes. Given its proximity to the mountains, combined with a slightly cooler and wetter climate it may be expected to have a partly different species composition than other areas in the upper Amazon watershed. As all protected areas in the Amazon region, the area has a high biodiversity, but possibly a bit lower than better drained protected areas like the neighbouring Yasuni National Park, which is considered the most diverse park in the world.
Located in the western slopes of the Andes, approximately 2 hours from Quito, 50 km from the “Guagua Pichincha” volcano and a fertile cloud forest, remains of old eruptions and approximately 2 hours from Quito, it’s part of the Chocó bioregion, one of the most biodiverse regions of any mainland area, holding over 70 endemic birds and half of them in Mindo town and the reserve itself, consider one of the highlights for bird watching activity (350 species), it also shares, rivers, waterfalls and a wild and interesting flora and fauna species recorded same as permanent adventure sports practicing like zip lines through the forest, waterfalls rappelling, tubing in the river altogether with walking and exploring the intriguing forest and their inhabits.
Antisana Ecological Reserve
Located 50 km-30 miles from Quito, its named after one of its highlights, the Antisana Volcano (5.760 m), which means “Black mountain”, due to it fumaroles and ash spreading all over, record in the past last eruptions not from its main crater but by crevices formed on its sides. Place where we could see “Antisanilla”, a flow lava formation with rough topography and some lagoons like Muertepungo or Santa Lucia, exceptional for fishing, camping in the surroundings and watching its wide flora and fauna in both, lowlands and mountain forest of Napo – Pichincha provinces with high chances to watch condors at “El Isco” cliffs rocky area where they nest, as well as the “Ecuadorian hillstar” hummingbird that lives near the shrubs. Other representative animals from the area are the spectacle bear, pumas, mountain tapir, among others are some of the 552 vertebrates’ species in the reserve.
Machalilla National Park
Located in Manabi province, Machalilla occupies 56.000 has-136.000 acres, takes its name from one of the pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited the area, same as The Valdivia, Chorrera and Manteña Cultures shared their land of mild weather (24°C-75°F) and extraordinary beaches. Influenced by the Chongon Colonche Range “hydro region” it shares with both ecosystems, a cloud forest area and dry forest on the upper parts. In addition, its archeological sites Agua Blanca and Salango are main attractions likewise “Isla de la Plata” (Silver Island) in refer to the treasures took from there by pirates in the XVI century. The island is surrounded by Coral Reefs turning into an exciting and plentiful place for diving but also for hiking the two routes available where more than interesting vegetation you will find some colonies of blue footed boobies, masked boobies, frigate birds and albatrosses, some of the species record in the island, same as whales watching during breeding months of September – October.
Ilinizas Ecological Reserve
Named as one of the youngest reserves but also one favorite to admire the majesty of the Andes walking and climbing its peaks in 149.900 hectares, being both, north Illiniza (5.116 m) and south Illiniza (5.305) the result of a collapse crater forming the two summits; the south one is consider one of the most difficult to climb in the country, requiring equipment but also a medium/high level condition due to its pronounced iced slopes and enjoying at the same time of both, highlands and transitional forest influenced by coast wind currents and amazing rivers to practice white water rafting activity.
Yasuní National Park
It is located in an area of 9,820 km2, (982.000 has – 2’426.281 acres), between the Napo and Curaray rivers in Napo and Pastaza provinces in the Amazon. In Napo, The National Park lies within moist forests Eco region and is primarily rain forest. It is about 250 km from Quito and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, within the claimed ancestral territory of the Huaorani indigenous people: it is also home of the two unconnected indigenous tribes, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane. Yasuni National Park is the most biologically diverse spot on Earth per square kilometer, an important biogeographical area where endemic species of plants and animal have been preserved since the Pleistocene Period (20,000 BC). It is one of nine places in the world that has over 4,000 vascular plant species per 10,000 km2, the uniqueness to contain several species of trees, shrubs granting many world records and documentaries about the Tropical Forest’s richness and diversity including lianas and woody plant species.. The park also hosts a list of endemic species such as 43 different vertebrates and 220 different plant species, it counts with at least 596 bird species, it has over 100,000 different species of insects, it hosts the 57% of all the country’s fauna. The presence of big predators like jaguars and puma is an example of natural balance in the area, giant otters, ocelots, collared peccaries, tapir and pink river dolphins are some goodness shown off often by taking Tiputini river, but also other important all year navigable rivers such as Coronaco, Curaray and Napo River, considered the main access to the park.
El Cajas National Park
This Park, which name means “boxes” due to its countless peaks’ shapes; is only 50 km-21 miles away from Cuenca, being 3.900 m-11.480 its highest point, including mountains and 232 glacial lagoons connected each other by small rivers and streams, becoming the original source of the two Cuenca’s surrounding rivers Tomebamba and Yanuncay but also feeding the Paute Hydrologic Project that provides electricity to a great part of the country. Cajas with 29.000 hectares is home of birds like the spectacle duck, Andean toucan, pumas, among others but also some endemic conifers such as paramo grass, chuquiragua, yagual, romerillo among the most representatives. It also hosts remains of one of the inca trails in their strategic cross to the coast lands to check what historians believe were “tambos” (resting spots for the inca couriers towards Cuzco and Quito).
Sumaco – Napo – Galeras National Park
With 205.249 has-507.181 acres it houses a wide diversity of ecosystems, ranging from high mountains to cloud and lowland forests. Sumaco Volcano (3.732 m-12.792 feet) is one of the attractions and the highest point at same time, isolated from the rest of the Andes but part of the Napo Galeras Mountain range that allows springs and waterfall formations feeding rivers, turning the place rich in animal species due to its untouched areas, like the spectacle bear, bats, armadillos, otters, counts with 654 bird species, 470 of fish, reptiles and amphibians, same as tree species like cedar, canelo and rubber, native Indigenous Quichua communities and the archeological sites of Cosanga culture nearby are some highlights in the area declared “Biosphere Reserve” by the UNESCO in the year 2000.
Podocarpus National Park
It got the name due to the major existence of the only native conifer plant “podocarpus”. Located in both provinces, the 15% in Loja and 85% in Zamora Chinchipe, its 146.280 hectares-351.436 acres shares two ecological zones, jungle and Andean highlands, fact that makes it a great endemism influence (species record only here) like the Tumbes area in the south of the country, regions with a great diversity of lagoons, canyons, waterfalls, flora (close to 4.000 species) and fauna such as exotic orchids, 46 mammals species like the spectacle bear, dwarf deer, 560 bird species like hummingbirds, woodpeckers and reptiles, an ideal place for average explorers, botanical, ecological or zoologist researching.
Llanganates National Park
Named after the quichua “Llanganati” which means “Beautiful Mountain”, is home to one of the most exotic and inaccessible regions in Ecuador, including rough moorlands, deep valleys, rivers over 40 lagoons and several waterfalls, most of it covered by dense vegetation and mostly cold and rainy weather, being Cerro Hermoso hill (4.750 m-15.700 ft) the highest point in the area. Declared by the World Wild Foundation “Gift for the land”, some common species records here are rabbits, weasels, spectacle bear, white tailed deer, mountain tapir as some of the 46 mammals, 231 bird species including condors, 23 of reptiles and amphibians same as 800 different plant species. Throughout history, explorers have been attracted to this area in search of the elusive old “Quito’s Kingdom gold”, which according to the legend is hidden in the Llanganates, no one has found any of it, however, visitors bear witness the region’s mysteries and keep the legend alive.
Galapagos National Park
This Archipelago, located 1000 km-600 miles west off the coast is a living museum of evolutionary changes where free fearless mild animals different from any others are found elsewhere in the 13 large islands, 6 minor ones and more than 40 islets which appeared from lava eruptions that came from the bottom of the ocean and raised as much as 800 m-2.600 ft. Declared by the UNESCO a World Natural Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve, is home to an incredible high rate of endemic species, being the different species of giant “Galapagos” tortoises, gives the name to the islands; a variety of birds such as the blue footed, red footed, masked boobies, flamingos and a unique small penguin specie are just some of them, marine mammals such as sea lions, dolphins and whales are also found as well as multitudinous colorful fishes, altogether with distinctive plants, mangroves and endemic cacti. The inner waters of the islands plus those within 40 nautical miles measured from the baseline of the Archipelago is consider de only protected coastal marine area en the East Pacific and the second larger in the world.
Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve
Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve
With 403.130 hectares its part of the “Fire Pacific Belt”, due to the potential active volcano “Reventador” (3.490 m) and its constant fumaroles activity makes the “Oyacachi” hot springs one of the attractions here, same as “Papallacta” hot springs influenced by the “Antisana”. In addition chances to climb other hills such as Cayambe (5.790m), Sarahurco (4.725 m) and Puntas (4.425) are good training to acclimatization. Also important to host important watersheds rising from the upper slopes Napo-Marañon-Amazonas flowing to the Atlantic Ocean and Mira-Esmeraldas to the Pacific, therefore is a suitable habitat for wild animals and plants (over 100 endemic species), 395 bird species and similar number of mammals, reptiles and amphibians through the different altitudinal floors.
Sangay National Park
It shares borders with three provinces, Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Morona Santiago, 517.700 has-671.654 acres offering mountain climbing, walking trails, horse rental, camping, among other activities. It counts with 327 lagoons including Atillo, Ozogoche, Laguna Negra and many others less explored; from the 500 vertebrate species in the area, 343 are birds, 100 mammals, 25 amphibians and 14 reptile species. The three volcanoes, their different summits and countless lagoons inside of the park are also its main attraction: the constantly active Sangay (5.270 m – 17.154 ft), Tungurahua volcano (5.200 m-16.452 ft) and the extinct Altar (5.290 m, 17.446 ft).