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December 28, 2010 / stephanie

Ecuador Adventures Part 1: going coastal

So if you’ve been following my adventures at all, you may already know I’ve made it safely back from my trip to Ecuador! But if not, I’ll clue you in my fabulous trip anyway. Like my last trip to South America, I found out about this trip from the absolutely awesome website/list-serv, Bird Jobs. It is the most helpful website that has ever been recommended to me and I always make sure to tell friends about it if they are ever interested in wildlife jobs.

Anyway, my trip to Ecuador was organized by Dusti Becker of the non-profit Life Net. She runs two volunteer projects every year. One is in the Cloud Forests of the Andes and one is in the Colonche Hills region on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. I volunteered with the latter, but am hoping to some day return on Dusti’s other volunteer project in the Andes  (they get to actually view the leks of the infamous Cock-of-the-rock, so cool!!) Well, even though I didn’t see any Cock-of-the-rocks in the hills of Western Ecuador, I still had a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip, thanks to Dusti, the fine folks of the Loma Alta Reserve community, students from the University of Guayaquil and the other volunteers.

My trip started out in the dead of winter in Wisconsin. We just got dumped on by maybe half a foot of snow and the roads weren’t fully plowed on Saturday morning.  Thanks to Tim, I got to the airport in time without us getting stuck in a snowdrift. To add to the joy of the middle-of-winter-travel-experience, I found out my first flight had been canceled. With no way of contacting my group members and knowing I would have no cell phone service in Guayaquil, there was a moment of panic. But luckily, they got me on a later flight and I was set to arrive in Guayaquil by 11:30pm. After the initial stress, plus arriving in Ecuador’s largest city in the middle of the night and a long line through customs, I have to say the rest of my trip went quite smoothly! I met up with my fellow volunteers at the hotel on Sunday morning and we gathered our bags into a van where we were whisked off to the coast. (Maybe that part sounds a little strange, but don’t worry, it was very legitimate and well-organized!)

ecolodge valdivia

It was quite a relief to get out of the van and be greeted by this beautiful view (above). The three other volunteers and I met Dusti at the Eco-Lodge outside of the city of Valdivia. The Eco-Lodge hosts about a dozen dorm room-size cabins with rustic conditions but all-you-need-amenities such as warm running water, electricity, beds, and prepared meals.

beds with mosquito nets


Hey, they even had a pool!

And outside my bedroom door was the Pacific Ocean. When I show people these pictures, I have to remind them that I only stayed here for two nights for the duration of the trip (one at the beginning and one night before I left). Otherwise I would have considered myself extremely spoiled. Things got much more rustic for the remainder of my stay.

So, once we were fed and had our bearings gathered, our group went for a walk along the coast and visited the city of Valdivia. We did some birding along the coast and within a nearby marshy area.

from left to right, Black Skimmer, Great Egret, Yellow-crowned Night Heron

It was interesting seeing some coastal bird species and getting acquainted with the scrubby desert-like habitat of Ecuador’s coastal cities, but I soon felt  anxious to delve right into Ecuador’s rich biodiversity lurking in its nearby rainforests. That is why I had come all the way out there, of course. …….But I’ll save that for my next post!


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