Home /South America / Ecuador
Situated on the northwestern coast of South America, Ecuador or Republic of Ecuador literally translates as ‘Republic of the Equator’. With the Pacific Ocean on its western flank, the country is bordered by Peru and Columbia and also includes the absolutely breathtaking Galapagos Islands.
Originally inhabited by the Ameridian who were incorporated into the Inca Empire, the area was later colonized by Spain until it emerged as a sovereign state in 1830. The historical influence of its rulers and colonies can be seen in Ecuador’s cities, monuments and architecture, with Spanish as its official language. However, Ecuador is a strategically geographically placed nation that has given rise to its large biodiversity centers, and hosts of endemic plants and animal species. It is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world and the country recognizing its invaluable ecological systems, has incorporated the Rights of Nature in its constitution in 2008.
The country can be divided geographically into a few zones to get a sense of the overall physical layout.
The La Costa is the coastal belt and its largest coastal city is Guayaquil. The coast is of course popular for its impressive beaches and one can be spoiled for choices, from the small settlements such as Ayampe or Olon to the gracious beach towns in the Galapagos Islands.
La Sierra is the Andean and Interandean highlands that run parallel to the coast. This region is home to some stunning mountain views, hiking routes, volcanoes as well as picturesque mountain villages.
La Amazonia is the eastern region of the country and consists of the Amazon jungles. This region is home to Ecuador’s most important national parks and reserves and shelters most of its diversely flourishing wildlife. There are also many tribes that still reside in the deep jungles and co-exist along with the animals and birds.
La Region Insular comprises of the Galapagos Islands that are found west of the mainland.
Attractions in Ecuador range from historical monuments, bustling cities, beach towns, mountain villages and wildlife adventures. One could be in Quito to see the colonial buildings, the beautiful churches and elegant mansions, or cruise to the Santa Cruz Island or Baltra Island, or checking out the thermal pools at Banos. The artistic Cuenca is as inviting as the splendid Puerto Ayora.
The tropical climate coupled with diverse zones makes Ecuador one of the richest in wildlife species in the world. Ecuador has 1600 bird species, 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians and 6000 species of butterfly. These numbers alone are enough to prove that Ecuador is a nature lover’s absolute paradise. Each zone has its own unique wildlife and it is the overlap regions between different zones that see the maximum and most blooming biodiversity.
Ecuador has about 26 protected areas where most of its biodiversity lies. Some of the major biodiversity destinations of Ecuador are as follows.
Yasuni National Park – Home to a few native tribes such as the Huaorani tribe this national park is a birding haven. Sheltering about 600 bird species this rainforest reserve with its colorful flowers and diverse fauna is also home to the puma, tapirs, armadillos, monkeys, jaguars, ocelots and more. Most experts call Yasuni National Park the most biologically diverse place on earth. With an extremely high species count of amphibians, reptiles and birds this is a definite stop for wildlife lovers.
El Cajas National Park in the highlands is home to endemic as well as endangered species. Some of the species found here include the South American condor, the largest hummingbird in the world, the white and black raptor, the endemic violet throated metaltail as well as the opossum, bats, puma, coatis, pacas, porcupines, shrew, foxes, weasels and more.
Sangay National Park’s ecosystem ranges from tropical forests to glaciers and is home to two active volcanoes. The wildlife found here include, rare species found in the Andes such as, the mountain tapir, spectacle bear as well as, jaguar, giant otter, ocelot, margay, white tail deer, Northern pudu, cougar and about 300-400 bird species.
The fishing town of Puerto Lopez along the Ecuadorian coast is home to the Machalilla National Park that shelters some magnificent birds and sea animals. Some of these include the Frigate birds, blue and red footed boobies, giant sea turtles, the humpback whale and more.
Some other biodiversity reserves and areas in Ecuador are the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Chimborazo Wildlife Refuge, Podocarpus National Park, Vilcabamba and more.
The coastal and interiors of Ecuador are rich biodiversity hubs, however the Galapagos Islands off its west coasts in the Pacific Ocean is a reserve of absolutely delightful animals, sea creatures, birds and some breathtaking landscapes that work their magic with the turquoise waters and cloud whiffed skies. Some of the popular reserves and islands in the archipelago of the Galapagos Islands are:
South Plaza Island off the coast of Santa Cruz is famous for its golden iguana, as well as a number of sea birds.
A little away from the Isla Isabela islands is the Las Tintoreras a collection of islands that are known for their booming population of penguins. The clear waters give splendid views of penguins, sea turtles and sea lions wading in the waters.
On the San Cristobal Island stands the majestic volcanic outcrop Leon Dormido and this area attracts an impressive range of wildlife. The hammerhead shark, spotted eagle ray, Nazca boobies, frigate birds are some of the bird and wildlife that can be found here. The Punta Pitt located on the side of the San Critobal Island is a nesting ground for the three species of the Ecuadorian Boobies. Other sea animals and birds that are seen here include, Frigate birds, tropic bird and the marine water are fraught with colorful fishes and if one is lucky enough to see the humpback whale.
Other birds and wildlife that is found in the Galapagos islands, are the marine iguanas, Galapagos tortoise, sea cucumbers, Galapagos hawk, endemic mockingbirds, Galapagos sea lions, waved albatross, woodpecker finch and more.
Ecuador hence surprises travelers in every nook and corner with its variety in landscape and wildlife. Whether it is the birding destination Mindo, or the history of Quito, or the island hopping in the Galapagos, Ecuador never disappoints. It steps up magnificently for those looking for a calm vacation on its serene islands, those seeking adventure, the ardent lovers of spectacular avian and wildlife or those looking for a complete holiday package of architectural monuments, museums and delectable cuisine.