Full Day Antisana excursion
Follow the footsteps of famous naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who dedicated an historic field study to the paramo highlands of present Antisana Ecological Reserve. Gaze soaring Andean condors, discover the unexpected rich birdlife and enjoy breathless panoramas of the High Andes. The 120,000ha/296,500ac reserve rises directly from dense cloud forests at the foot of the Andean Range (1,200m/4,000ft) and culminates in the glaciated peaks of Antisana Volcano (5,750m/18,870ft). All its climate zones guarantee an impressive biodiversity and many endemic species, even in its highest elevations. This region is home to emblematic but elusive spectacled bears, mountain tapirs and pumas and declared Important Bird Area (IBA).
A partly dirt road follows the 11km/7mi long Antisanilla lava flow. This solidified river of molten rock escaped from a lateral vent in the foothills (1728) and has become a quarry.
Wild horses run freely across the open paramo moorlands at the foot of Antisana Volcano. Scattered bones and raptors such as impressive black-chested buzzard eagles or groups of carunculated caracara's prove that the high grasses, cushions and endemic flowes on this plain hide rabbits, mice, rats, porcupines, lizards and frogs. Better chances to spot birds, including the highest living hummingbird (Ecuadorian hillstar) and a noisy group black-faced ibis (unique to Ecuador, hence critically endangered).
The asphalted road ends at the huge reservoir of Micacocha, which is principal source of tap water for south Quito. For its chilly altitude of 3,900m/12,850ft this lake and surrounding wetlands attract a whopping number of about 50 different species of bird. These include unexpected shorebirds such as Andean gulls, lapwings and Baird's sandpipers together with vulnerable silvery grebe and curved-billed tinamou and of course the Andean condor.
Depending on your physical and weather conditions you can hike from Micacocha Lake uphill to one of both viewpoints. Otherwise you can stroll around the lake or your guide will offer a more sheltered alternative at lower altitude.
Get impressed by the spectacular backdrop of Antisana on clear days, Ecuador's 4th highest volcano (5,750m/18,870ft; first ascent 1880). Its glacier-filled crater and frozen crown of atmospheric ice are not as eternal as may seem; surrounding lava flows and volcanic hot springs unmask the quick tempered character of this active volcano (last eruption: 1802).
Included : entrance Fees, English speaking guide, private transportation