Ecuador Things to Do Tips by SanguiniA Top 5 Page for this destination
Ecuador Things to Do: 356 reviews and 680 photos
Blue Footed Booby on the Galapagos
These are the islands that ispired Charles Darwin's revolutionary Origin of the Species Jutting out of the ocean, without ever being connected to the mainland it is no surprise that there is a high level of wildlife endemism - so yes - there is nowhere else on earth like this place. Also, the fact of it being quite remote and not discovered by people until fairly recently and the lack of predators on the island, made the wildlife quite fearless of humans. Nowhere else on earth are the animals so friendly and they don't mind human presence at all - so you can get the unique opportunity of seeing them up close behaving in a natural way.
No visit to Ecuador is complete without visiting the inspiring Galapagos Islands - it's a sin if you are an animal lover and don't visit! It really looks expensive, but at the end it is worth each and every penny. I wouldn't recommend a 4 day stay at all - much more time is needed to fully appreciate the Enchanted Islands. If you have to save up and wait a bit longer :)
The Galapagos are an awesome experience year round but the best time to visit is between December and June; when the weather is warm and sunny and there are no winds. It may rain, but it will just be short showers. From June - November especially in September and October it will be cold, very windy and heavily overcast. I visited in September in these least favourable conditions but I still had a blast! Prices are a bit cheaper too but you have to contend with rough waters (you will probably be living on a boat), frigid snorkelling temperatures and constant cold winds. Let's just say I'll surely return but if I do I will visit in the nicer Dec-June season :)
Male Cock of the Rock
The Cock of the Rock is one of those birds every birder wants to see at least once in their lives. In the areas surrounding Mindo this is is very possible and quite accessible. This is due to the fact that Cock of the Rocks have 'leks' - specific places that the males use to display to attract females. These 'leks' are used throughout the year - and once you know where they are, and the weather is good you are almost guaranteed to see them. Fortunately, land owners in the area have realised the importance of these leks - but for monetary reasons - but who cares as long as these places get protected!? So land owners who have leks in their area leave the area undisturbed and charge visitors small fees (a few dollars) to go and see one of the bird world's most intriguing spectacles. You have to wake up very early to see this spectacle - it is best to be at the lek at around 5-5.30. Or else you could opt for the late afternoon, at which time the birds display as well.
Cock of the Rock fact: The leks are used by several different males which try to find the best possible patch of sunlight to display their bright plumage to the best. They call to attract the females and as soon as one passes by they go into a frenzy. They start calling more loudly and descend to the ground and start to hop on the spot. The female then chooses one male and mates with him. Interestingly it seems that females will always make the same exact choice; so just one male gets all the action...
Cute little hummingbird (Collared Inca)
Mindo is world-renowed for its hummingbirds, especially the Bellavista and Tandayapa areas. They can easily be seen near feeders or flowers and provide hours of enjoyment, even for those who are not particularly into birds.
Hummingbird fact: These amazing little birds have to go into a sort of coma each night to conserve energy! They lower their body temperatures and heart beats and go into a state of torpor. In fact it takes a hummingbird several minutes to 'wake up' in the morning to get their body back to normal before flying off for a busy day of nectar feeding.
Bellavista is a few km away from the Mindo village and is THE place for great scenery and hummingbirds. There is also a lodge and reserve in the area. There are no buses in the area and to get there you either have to walk (long way and uphill) or else hitch a ride with a pickup truck (they WILL expect a payment - and it's not cheap).
The Mindo village is tiny, quiet and has a unique laid-back atmosphere. It is a great place to hang out and watch life go by. There is plenty of cheap accomodation catering well for backpackers. For more 'luxurious' accomodation it is best to have a look around the outskirts of the village or in the forest.
The village is a great base for exploring the area, and there are plenty of small tour operators that can help you to organise the things you want to do. They will have some great suggestions as well.
This area, in northern Ecuador along the Andes mountain chain is well known for its spectacular birding - and is something of a hummingbird capital. It can obviously be enjoyed by non-birders as well as there are plenty of hiking opportunities with nice scenery, laid back Ecuadorian lifestyle and other sports such as tubing (like rafting in a rubber tube) in the Mindo river.
This area is a cloud forest area - cloud forests are misty forests; literally enshrouded in clouds. This creates a habitat ideal for birds (especially hummingbirds) and plants such as ferns and orchids.
Buses run regularly to and from Quito, around twice a day during the week and more often in the weekends when it is much much busier with the locals flocking to the area for some relaxation.
The real thing!
Well, the monument and its line are 200m off - I HAD to visit the real Equator. The real Equator is ironically much less visited than the other one - is it a secret that it's wrong? The open-air museum conducts some very interesting experiments. The first one is the water in the sink thing. In the northern hemisphere the water turns clockwise and in the southern it turns anticlockwise. Directly on the equator it doesn't turn at all - it just falls. Another interesting thing is that the equator is the only place on earth where one can balance an egg on a nail. You get a certificate if you manage to do it - guess who has a certificate stuffed somewhere at home :) If you are not convinced by these experiments you can always confirm by GPS that this is the real Middle of the World.
Apart from this interesting stuff, there is also an open air museum about indigenous people and the guides are more than happy to explain their life and traditions. Very highy recommended.
Standing on both hemispheres at once!
Well, one can't exactly say to have been to Ecuador without visiting the Equator after which it is named right? I am not one who does normal tourist things - but this I had to do: to stand with one foot on a hemisphere and one on the other.
So I went to visit the Equator monument, surrounded by a nice park with a big fat yellow line dividing our planet in half .... well not exactly. It seems that this line is 200m wrong. You have to go to the nearby museum with their GPS-calculated ecuator to REALLY stand on both hemispheres at once ...
Buses run regularly to and from Quito. Allow half a day for this visit, as at this site there is a small town with nice cafes and typical Ecuadorian food and crafts. Tip: Do try out the ice creams here, they are utterly delicious!
Flying parrots, parrots on the ground - utter chao
If you are in the Amazon, you can try to visit a parrot lick. These are special places with clay deposits that parrots visits often. They visit to eat the clay, to help them with their digestion. The parrot licks at Yasuni are particularly good and are one of the most accessible in South America.
A visit to a parrot lick is an unforgettable experience - hundreds of parrots start to congregate in the trees surrounding the lick and the cacophony of screeches is unreal. Patience is a virtue here - the parrots take their time to decide to descend to the lick as they are wary of predators - it may take as much as 1-2hours. Then out of the blue all you can see is a flurry of wings as they descend to the lick, go back up again to the trees, down again - complete chaos!
If a predator passes by, such as an eagle soaring overhead the parrots will fly away all at once leaving a really eerie silence. Then it's waiting time again for them to gain the confidence to return, if they do decide to return at all.
Red Bellied Piranha
Well, even though against my morals I just couldn't resist fishing for piranhas - its' relaxing, fun and the only way to get a real close look at those teeth :) This is a simple matter of a stick, hook and meat bait - the piranhas will do the rest ... mind you piranhas caught were immediately released back to the wild. It seems that although they are indeed edible, they have a lot of bones. Mind your fingers of those teeth - the stories of them being razorsharp are true!
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