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You are here:4.1.2 Antisana Ecological Reserve

4.1.2 Antisana Ecological Reserve

This 120,000 hectare Reserve covers vast expanses of cloud forest that cannot be visited from Quito in a single day visit.  The most accessible area from Quito is the highland grassland Páramo surrounding the astonishing Antisana snow-capped volcano, and several high elevation lakes.  One of these lakes is the La Mica Lagoon, from which the city of Quito gets a great amount of its drinking water.  The drive to the high elevation Páramo also provides the opportunity to bird some high elevation scrub habitat increasing the number of species that can be seen in a day visit to this wonderful reserve.  The elevation ranges for these birding areas are between 3100 to 4050 meters.  The reserve was created in 1993, and a great amount of the lands are still in the hands of private landowners, still ranching inside the borders of the reserve.  As a result of this activity, there are several hundred fighting bulls roaming freely, and several hundred thousand sheep grazing the high elevation grasslands.  This reserve is the most important stronghold for the Andean Condor and the Black-faced Ibis in Ecuador.



Andean Montane Scrub and Grassland Páramo.



Antisana Ecological Reserve

From Quito you can have an easy birding day trip to Antisana Ecological Reserve.  The Antisana Reserve is located only to an hour and a half drive from Quito and the site can be accessed yearround with any kind of vehicle.

There is bus transportation from Quito to Pintag.  These buses can be taken from the intersection of the Avenue Simón Bolívar and the General Rumiñahui Highway at a roundabout in the central east end of the city.  This roundabout is known as “El Trebol”. Make sure to take a bus running along the General Rumiñahui Highway heading to Pintag.  If you take the bus to Pintag, you can hire a taxi or pickup truck to take you Antisana Reserve.

The areas of interest close to Intag, inside the Antisana Ecological Reserve, are under the control of the private owners.   In order to visit the reserve is necessary to contact Mr. José Delgado at the email address;  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., calling to the phone number in Quito (02) 243 5828, or the cell phone 093108499 to organize the visit.   At this time payment can be arranged for the entrance fee which is US $ 10 per person.  Once the payment and the permit had been settled, Mr. Delgado will issue a written permit to visit the Antisana Ranch and Laguna La Mica.  Make sure your permit allows you to also visit Laguna La Mica.  The day of your visit you will have to take the two copies and the original of the written permit to visit the reserve.  This is important to remember.



Antisana Ecological Reserve

The four-lane Ave. General Rumiñahui Highway starts at the intersection of Calle Pichincha and Ave. Simón Bolívar at the roundabout known as “El Trebol” (0.0 km) at the central eastern side of the city.  Take the Ave. General Rumiñahui Highway east and stay on the main highway without taking any exits.  From here to a point 4.0 km down the highway there will be a toll booth. 

(Click here to download Map. Antisana Ecological Reserve).

Drive another 8.2 km, or 12.2 km from Quito, and you will arrive at a major intersection at the small town of San Rafael.  Remain on the main street straight on and drive for another 1.6 km, or 13.8 km from Quito, and you will arrive at a fork in the road.  Avoid going right as that street heads into Sangolquí.  Take the left hand turn and drive for 100 meters at 13.9 km from Quito.  At this point you are passing by the “San Luis Shopping” on your right.  Take the street to your right and drive for 3.8 km, or 17.7 km from Quito.  At this point you will reach a roundabout with a colorful hummingbird statue in the middle.  At this roundabout take the third exit to the right.  Avoid the first two exits as they go to Sangolqui and Amaguaña.  From this roundabout drive for further 7.9 km or 25.6 km from Quito. At this point there is an exit to your right heading to Pintag.  If you continue along the main road you will get to the E28 Interoceánica Highway at about 16 km more.  Once taking the exit to Pintag, drive for another 5.8 km, or 31.4 km from Quito.  At this point you will reach the main plaza of the small town of Pintag.  Here, turn right and immediately left to drive along the left side of the main plaza. Once you get to the end of this street turn left and immediately right to leave the Pintag downtown behind and drive for 6.9 km more, or 37.3 km from Quito.  Stay along the main road until arriving at the first check point, located at an elevation of 3110 meters. Here you leave the first copy of your entry permit.

At this checkpoint, reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references.  Drive for 1.2 km until you can see a scrub covered slope on your right, and rocky slope on your left.  Walking for some 0.8 km along the road might produce several interesting species that could include: Giant Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Grass Wren, Spectacled Whitestart, Black-crested Warbler, Cinereous Conebill and Northern Rufous-naped Brush-Finch.

Continue driving up the road until you get to 6.5 km from the first check point. At this point you will see a gated overlook on your right. Stop here and take some time to scan the rocky outcrops ledges across the valley in search of resting Andean Condors.   White guano washes will be a good hint as to where to look.  After this survey drive 1.5 km, or 8.0 km from the first checkpoint.

Here you will get to a second checkpoint where you will have to leave the original of the permit issued for your visit to the reserve.  Reset your odometer to 0.0 km one more time for future references.  Drive for another 3.0 km until you reach to a concrete bridge at a sharp bend to the left at 3490 meters in elevation.  Park just before the bridge and look for the narrow trail heading upstream on the right side of the bridge. A female Ecuadorian Hillstar builds its nest under this bridge.  Several individual hillstars can be seen visiting the Chuquiraga jussieui, or Chuquiragua bushes, along both sides of the stream.  Here also look for Stout-billed Cinclodes, Streak-backed Canastero and Black-winged Ground-Dove.  From this area onward the Carunculated Caracara will be increasingly common.

Drive 2.0 km further, or 5.0 km from the second checkpoint.  Here there is a narrow gully.  Backtrack some distance, and look for the Many-striped Canastero in the bunchgrass along the road. 

Drive another 1.5 km, or 6.5 km from the second checkpoint, until you find an abandoned house on the right.  Inside the house, look for a family group of Barn Owls.  While in the area surrounding the house, look for Páramo Pipit and Bar-winged Cinclodes.

Continue for 8.0 km, or 14.5 km from the second checkpoint.  At this point there is a dirt road off to the left.  This dirt road eventually leads to an old house, which is the Hacienda Antisana base camp.  The high plateau around this area is a good place to look for the Black-faced Ibis, Andean Gull and Carunculated Caracara.

Continue driving along the asphalt to your right for 2.6 km, or 17.1 km from the second checkpoint.  Don’t forget to look for the ibis as you drive down to this spot. 

At this point you will get to a fork. The left had road goes to a camp belonging to the water company, and the right continues deeper into the park.  Take the right hand fork and drive for 0.5 km to reach another checkpoint. Here you will have to leave the second copy of your permit. Reset your odometer to 0.0 km one more time for future references.  The scrubby habitat behind the house is a good place to look for the Andean Tit-Spineatil.  Do not forget to search the sky to look for the Andean Condor.  From this point you can see La Mica Lagoon, but to get access to the shore you have to continue driving for 3.0 km.  Here at the end of road you arrive at the lake, where Andean Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Ruddy-Duck, Andean Coot and Silvery Greebe can be seen.

Return back to the road heading to the old Antisana Hacienda House.  You have to take the dirt road leaving the asphalt.  Only 0.2 km after leaving the asphalt behind you will find a fork. The right hand fork goes down and after only 0.7 km,  reaches the Hacienda Antisana House where the Ecuadorian Hillstar can be seen visiting the hummingbird feeders.

The left hand fork continues deeper into the grassland habitat. After driving for 1.6 km, you will reach a plain where during certain times of the year the ibis can also be seen.


Birds to look for

Antisana Ecological Reserve

Wet   Montane Scrub (WMS), Grasslands (G), Lake (L).

Common: Andean Teal (L), Yellow-billed Pintail (L), Andean Ruddy-Duck (L), Carunculated Caracara, Andean Coot (L), Andean Lapwing (G), Andean Gull  (G,L), Shining   Sunbeam (WMS), Black-tailed Trainbearer (WMS), Tyrian Metaltail (WMS), Bar-winged   Cinclodes (G), Tawny Antpitta (G), White-crested Elaenia (WMS), Tufted Tit-Tyrant (WMS), Páramo Ground-Tyrant   (G), Grass Wren (WMS, G), Spectacled Whitestart (WMS), Black-crested Warbler (WMS), Cinereous Conebill (WMS), Black Flowerpiercer (WMS), Glossy Flowerpiercer (WMS), Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (WMS,G), Northern Rufous-naped Brush-Finch (WMS).

Uncommon: Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Silvery Greebe (L), Black-winged   Ground-Dove (WMS), Giant Hummingbird (WMS), Ecuadorian Hillstar   (WMS), Stout-billed Cinclodes (G), Andean Tit-Spineatil (WMS), Streak-backed   Canastero (WMS), Many-striped Canastero (G), Chestnut-crowned   Antpitta (WMS), Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant (WMS), Páramo Pipit (G).

Rare: Andean Condor, Black-faced   Ibis (G), Red-crested Cotinga (WMS).

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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