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You are here:3.6 El Angel Ecological Reserve

3.6 El Angel Ecological Reserve

The 15,715 hectare state run, El Angel Ecological Reserve is one of the wettest high grassland páramos in Ecuador.  The tundra-like habitat is dominated by the Frailejón, Espeletia pynochephala, a sunflower family plant with a woody trunk, unique to this type of highland habitat.  Frailejón only grows in similar areas in the Andes of Colombia and Venezuela.  The El Angel Ecological Reserve is located in the Carchi province, very close to the Colombian border.  The elevation ranges between 3000 m to 4000 m, though most of the easily accessed areas are only slightly above 3000 m.



Páramo Grassland, Polylepis Forest, Temperate Forest,



El Angel Ecological Reserve

You can visit this reserve after you have completed a tour of Cerro Mongus. The reserve is located very close to the small town of El   Angel, the town that gives the reserve its name.  From the city of El Angel there are several roads that provide access to the reserve. There is plenty of public transportation from Ibarra and Tulcán to El Angel.  There is, however, no public transportation that accesses the reserve.   You can hire a taxi or a pickup truck from El Angel to explore the reserve. A four wheel drive vehicle is not essential, unless you want to drive along the old road connecting the towns of El Angel and Tulcán passing through the El Angel Ecological Reserve.  For this route a high clearance vehicle is highly recommended.  If you want to visit the area known as Voladero, and the trail heading to the lakes in that area, you will have to pay an entrance fee of $2 US for children, $3 US for Ecuadorian citizens, $5 US for Latin-American foreigners, and $10US for foreigners of other nationalities. 

A great place to stay to explore the reserve is the Polylepis Lodge This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at the phone numbers, (6) 295 4009 or the cell phones, 095227472, 086155299 and 094031467.  The lodge is located in the buffer zone adjacent to the reserve, and they can also help you with organizing the transportation needed for your visit.



El Angel Ecological Reserve

If you are continuing from your visit to Cerro Mongus please see the birding instructions on the respective subchapter on how to get there.  From the Oasis Hosteria in Imbaquí drive for 7.0 km toward north until Piquiucho.   Here, after crossing the El Chota River bridge, Piquiucho will be on your right.   From this point drive for a further 52.6 km. This is 57.6 km from Oasis Hosteria and takes you to a virgin shrine along the road.  Beyond the shrine some 0.3 km more or 57.9 km from Oasis Hosteria, there will be a turn off heading to El Angel on the left.

We will call this point 0.0 km for future reference. From the El Angel turn off 0.0 km you will get to El Angel in some 17.5 km.   Here you will go to the northwest to exit the city toward the reserve. 

(Click here to download Map. El Angel Ecological Reserve).   

Once leaving the town of El Angel on a roundabout, also known as the “Redondel del Milenio” at 0.0 km, drive 1.8 km to a fork where the signs indicate Voladero 15 km to your right, and Salado 13 km and Polylepis Lodge 11 km to your left.

Head to the left to Salado and Polylepis Lodge on the asphalt that ends shortly after this spot.   Stay on the main dirt road another 11 km to reach the entrance of Polylepis Lodge.  Here the lodge is only 1.0 km from the main road.   To continue to Salado Lake carry on for 2 km more.   The habitat in the area before the Polylepis Lodge and around Salado is dominated by the Frailejon Espeletia. Birds in this area include the Ecuadorian Hillstar and the Black-thighed Puffleg, which can be seen in the forest behind the Polylepis Lodge.

If you decide to visit El Voladero Lake, return to the fork on the road which is 1.8 km from the “Redondel del Milenio” roundabout. Here you reset you odometer to 0.0 km again. Take the road heading to Voladero. Leaving the asphalt the road continues for 1.6 km, where you will find a fork in the road.   Here you must take the left turn for further 8.7 km or 10.3 k from El Angel to reach a ranger station where you can pay the entrance fee and walk the trail to the lakes. From this point you can drive for further 29.6 km to Las Juntas near Tulcán.   A warning is that this road is in bad shape and a 4 wheel drive is mandatory.  You might not see any different birds from the rest of the habitats recommended earlier, but at times a magnificent Andean Condor can be seen soaring in the sky.


Birds to look for

El Angel Ecological Reserve

Grasslands (G), Second-growth (2G), Forest (F), Lake (L)

Common: Variable Hawk (G), Carunculated Caracara (G), Andean Teal (L),   Shining Sunbeam (2G, F), Tawny Antpitta (G, 2G, F), Glossy Flowerpiercer (2G,   F), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (G,2G, F).

Uncommon: Andean Condor, Andean Lapwing (G), Ecuadorian Hillstar (G, 2G), Black-thighed   Puffleg, (2G, F), Sword-billed Hummingbird (2G, F), Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager   (2G, F), Golden-crowned Tanager (2G, F).

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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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