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You are here:2.2.12 Rio Canandé Reserve

2.2.12 Rio Canandé Reserve

The Rio Canandé Reserve is owned and managed by the Jocotoco Foundation.  The reserve is 2500 hectare in size, and there are plans to increase this protected area to 10000 hectare.  There are a few small settlements on the way to the reserve and the closest big city is Quinindé. This reserve is located in Esmeraldas Province.  The reserve lands are located at elevations between 300m to 620m.  The access area to the preserve is on the CanandéRiver at an elevation of 150 m.  As of January, 2009, reserve staff and visitors recorded 345+ bird species with some additional 20 species occurring in the region but just outside the reserve.  The Jocotoco Foundation is the leading organization protecting land for the most threatened and endangered bird species in Ecuador.



Chocó lowland rain forest, the “Pluvial Forest”.



Río Canandé Reserve

The Canandé Reserve is fairly isolated, and a visit here requires a long drive from any of the other birding sites described in this book.   There is regular bus transportation from Esmeraldas to Quinindé, and from La Concordia to Quinindé.  You can get to La Concordía from Quito via the Quito-Calacalí-La Indepndencia highway, or along the Quito-Aloag-Santo Domingo-Esmeraldas highway.  From Quinindé to Buenos Aires/Golondrinas and Zapallo by bus, even when it exists, is very complicated and I strongly recommend that you hire a high clearance vehicle from Quinindé to Canandé.  During the rainy season from December to March, a four wheel drive vehicle is essential.  If you are planning to drive yourself, make sure the vehicle you are driving is high clearance and a four wheel drive car. The last part of the road to access Canandé is rough and at times can be in terrible condition.

To visit the place you can arrange you visit directly through the Jocotoco Foundation at: or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   Jocotoco Foundation can be reached at Phone: 02-2457090 during working hours, Monday to Friday.   Visits can also be arranged through any of the birding tour agencies in Ecuador.  The lodge is simple and adequate with 4 rooms each with private bathrooms with hot water, kitchen and dining room.  The lodge will provide you with full board during your stay.  The only way to visit this site is by pre-arrangement, as the staff needs time to prepare the lodge and purchase supplies for your stay.   In addition to this, passage on a barge is necessary to cross the Canandé River to get to the lodge.  The barge crew must be presented a letter from the Jocotoco Foundation that shows you have permission to enter the lodge and reserve.   A two or three full day stay at the lodge will give you a nice amount of time to explore and bird the reserve and some neighboring areas to look for the many specialties of the site.



Río Canandé Reserve

There are two main ways to get into Canandé Reserve. The first one requires you to drive to Quinindé.  A second way is via an unsurfaced road from the city of Pedro Vicente Maldonado along the Quito-Calacalí-La Independencia Highway.

Beginning in San Lorenzo, in the extreme north-west Ecuador, you start your journey at the beginning of the “Ruta del Spondylus” Highway which is 1.4 km from Tundaloma entrance or 16.8 km from San Lorenzo town respectively. The “Ruta del Spondylus” was formerly known as “Ruta del Sol”

From the start of the “Ruta del Spondylus” Highway, 0.0 km, drive south toward Esmeraldas city for 39.7 km.   Here there is a fork to your right heading to Borbón.  Continue along the main road on your left toward Esmeraldas city for further 23.1 km, or 62.8 km from the entry to the “Ruta del Spondylus” Highway.    At this point there will be a fork.  Take the road to the left, as the right hand road head to “Las Peñas” town.   Continue toward Esmeraldas city for another 66.1 km, or 128.9 km from the start of the “Ruta del Spondylus” Highway.   You will pass the small town of “Las Piedras”.   Another 15.7 km, or 144.6 km from the start of the “Ruta del Spondylus” Highway, you will come to a fork in the highway.   There is a lot of action here, with vendors, bus stops, groceries and merchants.  Here at this road junction you must turn to the left toward Quinindé.  Do not turn right as that road goes to the city of Esmeraldas. You will arrive at Quinindé also known as Rosa Zárate after 80 km, or 224.6 km from the beginning of the “Ruta del Spondylus” Highway.

(Click here to download Map. Canandé and Botrosa Roads).

Ask for the road heading to Simón Bolivar- La Sexta and Buenos Aires/Golondrinas.   Just after leaving Quinindé you will cross a big river (Quinindé River) driving over a long bridge. Reset your odometer to 0.0 km to start our drive toward the Canandé.  Drive for further 27.7 km along this road and after passing through the small town of Simón Bolivar- La Sexta, you will reach a fork. Make a turn to the right. Do not turn left as that road goes to an oil extracting factory.  Continue for further 6.3 km or 34 km from Quinidé, toward Las Golondrinas. Here you will find a fork on the road. The right fork takes you to Pedro Vicente Maldonado, Mindo and Quito without having to return Quinindé.

Continue to your left and ahead to Las Golondrinas / Buenos Aires for 1.4 km more or 35.4 km from Quinidé.  At this point two small towns Las Golondrinas and Buenos Aires are separated by a narrow but long bridge over the Guyallabamba River.  Here we reset the odometer to 0.0 at this bridge one more time.  We will resume the instructions to get into Canande Reserve after explaining how to get into this point by taking the Quito-Calacalí-La Independencia highway.

If you coming from the Mindo Valley or Milpe Bird Sanctuary please see the birding instructions on The Silanche Bird Sanctuary subchapter on how to get to Pedro Vicente Maldonado. The entrance to Pedro Vicente Maldonado is 37.5 km from the “Mindo turn off”.  Exit the main highway and drive into town for 1.4 km and exit to the right sign-posted “La Celica”.   Here we set the odometer to 0.0 km at Pedro Vicente Maldonado also known as “PVM” for further references.  After driving for 9.8 km from Pedro Vicente Maldonado you will come to a fork.   Stay to the left and ahead toward “La Celica”.  Drive through “La Celica” and beyond for another 11.7 km or 21.5 km from “PVM”.  Here you will come to a fork.  At this point take the left fork and drive for another 17.8 km, or 39.3 km from Pedro Vicente Maldonado.   Along the way you will pass by a couple of exits. Stay on the well marked main road.   Right after crossing over a small wooden bridge you will get to another fork. At this point turn to the right and drive for 1.9 km or 41.2 km from “PVM” and you will get to yet another fork.  Here take the left hand road and drive for 1.9 km or 43.1 km from PVM. Here you will get to fork. The left hand road takes you to Simón Bolivar/La Sexta and Quinidé. Take the right hand road and drive to Las Golondrinas/Buenos Aires for 1.1 km or 44.2 km from PVM. At this point the two small towns of Buenos Aires and Golondrinas are separated by a narrow long bridge over the Guyallabamba River. Drive across the bridge and while in the middle of it reset the odometer to 0.0 km for future references.

Drive north for further 8.9 km heading to a site known as “La Te” or in English “The T”.  Here you will get to a fork. Avoid entering the road on your right going to Diez de Agosto/Cristobal Colón. Turn left heading toward Zapallo and drive for further 5.8 km or 14.7 km from the bridge over the Guayllabamba River. At this point you will come to yet another fork.  Do not go left to Zapallo. Take the right hand turn and drive for further 5.7 km or 20.4 km from the bridge over the Guayllabamba River. At this point the road gets to the Canandé River and the barge.

The 300 m stretch of road before you get to the river is a good place to look and listen for the much localized Slate-colored Seedeater.   This bird seems to be quite fond to the second growth and planted trees on your right as you approach the Canandé River.  To use the services of the barge and get across over the Canandé River you will have to show the barge operators your permit to enter the area.  The barge also has a schedule of operation, working between 06:25 to 08:00 hours, 08:30 to 12:30 and from 13:10 to 18:20 hours.   It is important to plan your crossing time by this schedule or else you might face the unpleasant surprise of not being able to get across the river.

After crossing the river and driving through “Pueblo Nuevo” for further 0.9 km or 21.3 km from the bridge over the Guayllabamba River you will come to a fork.  Take the road to the left and drive for another 10.9 km, and after a series of up and downs you will reach the Canandé Reserve Lodge, The lodge is 32.2 km from the bridge over the Guayllabamba River.

(Click here to download Map. Canandé Trails).

There is a nice system of trails behind the lodge that is worth exploring. In particular try the main trail heading to the Mirador, or the outlook viewing point, where after a long climb you will reach a ridge.   Here the trail levels out and continues along the bridge.  Another alternative to reach the Mirador will be taking the “Banded Ground-Cuckoo Trail”. This trail despite been longer is less steep and easier to walk.

The area close to the Mirador, and beyond on top of the ridge for the first 500 m is a good place to look for the Baudó Guan, Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove, Chocó Tapaculo, Northern Tufted-Flycatcher, Green Manakin,  Pale-vented Thrush and Golden-chested Tanager. When visiting the Mirador consider taking your telescope for you can use it to scan the treetops in search for the Black-tipped Cotinga.

This overlook and ridge trail is some 5 km away from the lodge.   In order to get to them you must have a good back and knees. Deep inside the forest along this ridge trail, the Canandé rangers have recorded the Great Green Macaw.  This flagship species shows up in Canandé from April to May. There are plenty of opportunities to look for birds along this main trail as many species worth mentioning occur here. Soon after starting from the lodge, the main trail crosses over two streams where the Rufous-crowned Antpitta has been recorded.   Before the main trail joints the Banded Ground-Cuckoo trail close to the Mirador, you will see the start of the Chocó Tapaculo Trail on the right. The area close to the start of the Tapaculo trail is worth searching for Broad-billed Sapayoa. Walk the first part of the Tapaculo trail and look for the bird giving the name to the trail, the Chocó Tapaculo.

Other birds to look along the main trail to El Mirador are:

Plumbeous Forest Falcon, Rufous-fronted Wood Quail, Tawny-faced Quail, the enigmatic Banded Ground Cuckoo has been seen following an ant-swarm, Chocó Trogon, Great Jacamar, Lita Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Chocó Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Brown-billed Scythebill, Western Slaty Antshrike, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren, Spotted Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Black-headed Antthrush, Pacific Flatbill, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Speckled Mourner, Rufous Piha, the exceedingly rare Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Red-capped Manakin, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Dagua Thrush, Stripe-throated Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, Song Wren, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Ochre-breasted Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager and Blue-black Grosbeak.

The road running in front of the lodge and reserve is worth walking along to look for forest edge and canopy birds that will be better seen here than on trails inside the forest. Look for:

Semiplumbeous Hawk, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Black Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Ruddy Pigeon, Dusky Pigeon, Pallid Dove, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Rose-faced Parrot, Pied Puffbird, Barred Puffbird, Orange-fronted Barbet, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Chocó Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Chocó Tyrannulet, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Northern Tufted-Flycatcher, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, White-vented Euphonia, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Slate-colored Grosbeak.

When walking down to the right from the lodge, and just along the road, look for the start of a trail 0.3 km from the lodge on your right hand side.  This trail is long loop coming out of the forest onto the road, close to the town of Hoja Blanca.  This narrow trail has a lek of the Tooth-billed Hummingbird shortly after you enter at its upper part.  Here along the first part of the trail I have also seen the Berlepch’s Tinamou.

Continuing down the road until reaching 1.4 km from the lodge, there is an open area on your right. From this site you can see a tree in the distance which is loaded with the dangling nests of the

Chestnut-headed Oropendolas.

One of the worth visiting areas in the vicinity of the Canandé Reserve is the area known as the Botrosa Road.  To visit this site you need a full day with box lunch, after an early departure from the Canande Lodge.   From the lodge drive down the road to the right for exactly 5 km until the small town of Hoja Blanca.  Here in Hoja Blanca you will reach to a fork.  Avoid the right hand road heading to Chontaduro.  Take the left road and start driving up the hill for 6.8 km, or 11.8 km from the Canande Lodge. At this point there is a gate and a booth before entering the Botrosa property. Bird the road from the gate into the Botrosa property for the next 2.5 km or 14.3 km from the Canande Lodge.At this point you will find another road heading to the left which is also worth exploring. The Botrosa base camp will be slightly ahead along the road to the right. The section found near the entrance of the Botrosa road is at a slightly higher elevation than the rest of the surrounding forest.  Here you should look especially for Red-headed Barbet, Russet Antshrike, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Pale-vented Thrush, Chocó Warbler, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Emerald Tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Golden-chested Tanager and Gray-mantled Wren.  Many of the previously mentioned birds also occur along this road.

From the lodge you can also bird sections along the road heading back toward the Canande River.  Near the point where the Tapculo Trail connects with the main road, look for the Central American Pygmy-Owl and the Choco Screech-Owl.  Driving for 3.5 km from the lodge toward the Canandé River at a narrow bend down the hill, look for the Chocó Tapaculo along the outer side of the bend.  From this point go along for further 1.3 km or 4.8 km from the lodge until the road begins a long descent for more than 3 kms.  Walk this 3 km stretch and find places to look over the canopy to the right.   Any of these places with such views, like the one 6.1 km from the Canandé Lodge are worth exploring and scanning for the Black-tipped Cotinga.


Birds to look for

Río Canandé Reserve

SecondGrowthForest (2GF), Forest   (F).

Common: Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail (2GF, F),  Ruddy Pigeon (2GF, F), Maroon-tailed Parakeet (2GF,   F), Bronze-winged Parrot (2GF, F),    Mealy Amazon (2GF, F), Band-tailed Barbthroat(2GF, F), Green-crowned Woodnymph (2GF, F), Purple-chested Hummingbird (2GF), Chocó Trogon  (F), Broad-billed Motmot (2GF,   F), Rufous Motmot (2GF, F), Rufous-tailed Jacamar (2GF), White-whiskered Puffbird (F), Orange-fronted   Barbet (2GF),  Chocó Toucan   (2GF, F), Cinnamon Woodpecker (F),   Red-rumped Woodpecker (2GF, F), Slaty Spinetail (2GF),  Plain Xenops (F), Plain-brown Woodcreeper (2GF,   F), Northern Barred Woodcreeper (F),   Black-striped Woodcreeper (F), Fasciated Antshrike (2GF, F), Spot-crowned Antvireo ( F),  Moustached   Antwren (2GF,B), Checker-throated Antwren   (F), White-flanked Antwren (F), Dot-winged Antwren   (2GF), Chestnut-backed Antbird (F),   Chocó Tyrannulet(2GF, F),   Sooty-headed Tyrannulet (2GF), Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant (2GF), Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet (2GF), Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (F),   Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant (2GF), Cinnamon Becard (2GF, F), One-colored Becard (2GF, F), Rufous Piha (F), Purple-throated Fruitcrow   (F),  Red-capped Manakin (F),   Bay Wren (2GF, F), Dagua Thrush (F), Lesser Greenlet (2GF, F), Southern Nightingale-Wren (F), Tawny-faced Gnatwren (F),  Green Honeycreeper (2GF, F), Purple Honeycreeper (2GF, F),    Scarlet-thighed Dacnis (2GF, F), Thick-billed Euphonia(2GF, F), Fulvous-vented Euphonia (2GF, F), Gray-and-gold Tanager (2GF, F), Golden-hooded Tanager (2GF, F), Ochre-breasted Tanager, (2GF, F), Orange-billed Sparrow (2GF),    Scarlet-rumped Cacique (2GF,   F).

Uncommon: Double-toothed Kite (2GF, F), Semiplumbeous Hawk (F), Black Hawk-Eagle (F), Barred Forest-Falcon (2GF,   F), Crested   Guan (F), Tawny-faced Quail (F), Dusky Pigeon(F), Pallid Dove   (2GF, F), Olive-backed Quail-Dove (F), Rose-faced Parrot (F), Chocó Screech Owl (F),   Chocó Poorwill (F), White-whiskered Hermit (2GF, F), Stripe-throated   Hermit (2GF, F), White-tipped Sicklebill (2GF,   F), Tooth-billed Hummingbird (2GF,   F), Great Jacamar (F), Barred Puffbird (F), Lita Woodpecker   (2GF, F), Chocó Woodpecker (F), Guayaquil   Woodpecker (2GF, F), Western Woodhaunter (F), Black-striped Woodcreeper(2GF, F), Russet   Antshrike (F),  Pacific Antwren (2GF), Dusky Antbird (2GF), Spotted Antbird (F), Inmaculated   Antbird (2GF, F),Bicolored Antbird (F),   Ocellated Antbird (F), Brown-capped Tyrannulet (F), Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher (2GF, F),Gray Elaenia (F), Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher (F), Pacific Flatbill (F), Golden-crowned Spadebill   (F), Northern Tufted-Flycatcher (F), White-ringed Flycatcher(F), Black-crowned Tityra (F), Speckled Mourner (F), Rufous Piha (F),   Purple-throated Fruitcrow (2GF, F), Green Manakin (F), Broad-billed Sapayoa (F), Band-backed   Wren (2GF), Gray-mantled Wren (F), Stripe-throated Wren (F), Song Wren (F), Tawny-faced   Gnatwren (F), Buff-rumped Warbler (2GF, F), Yellow-tufted Dacnis (2GF, F), Scarlet-breasted Dacnis(2GF, F), White-vented Euphonia (2GF,   F),  Guira   Tanager (2GF, F), Emerald Tanager   (F),  Rufous-winged Tanager, (2GF,   F), Tawny-crested Tanager (2GF, F), Dusky-faced Tanager (2GF, F),   Gray-and-Gold Tanager (2GF, F), Scarlet-and-white Tanager (2GF, F), Scarlet-browed Tanager (2GF, F),Lemon-spectacled Tanager  (F), White-vented Euphonia (2GF, F),  Chestnut-headed   Oropendola (F), Yellow-bellied Siskin (2GF).

Rare: Berlepsch’s   Tinamou (F), King Vulture (F), Hook-billed   Kite (F), Tiny Hawk (F), Bicolored   Hawk (F), Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle (F), Ornate Hawk-Eagle (F), Semiplumbeous   Hawk (F), Plumbeous Forest-Falcon (F), Baudó Guan (F), Great Green Macaw (F), Blue-fronted Parrotlet (F),   Central American Pygmy-Owl (F), Pied   Puffbird (F), Crimson-bellied Woodpecker (F), Banded Ground-Cuckoo (F), Bronzy Hermit(2GF, F),  Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer (2GF, F), Great   Jacamar (F), Brown-billed Scythebill (F), Stub-tailed Antbird (2GF,   F), Streak-chested   Antpitta (F), Rufous-crowned Antpitta (F), Chocó Tapaculo (F), Black-tipped Cotinga (2G,G), Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (F), Long-wattled   Umbrellabird (F), Slate-throated Gnatcatcher (F),  Red-legged Honeycreeper (2GF, F),  Blue-whiskered Tanager(2GF,   F), Golden-chested   Tanager (F).

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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