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Cajanuma entrance is located very near Loja City, and a mere 45 minutes drive can take you from downtown to the pristine Temperate Forest protected in this area. The elevation in Cajanuma ranges from 2200 meters at the entrance road to 3100 meters at the elfin forest treeline.

Elfin Forest, Temperate Forest.

Cajanuma entrance to Podocarpus NP

No special arrangements are needed to visit the park. The best place to stay in order to visit it is in the city of Loja nearby. You could also stay at the ranger station for US $ 3 per person per night with bunk beds, shared bathrooms, no hot water and no place to eat.  If you choose to use the ranger station you will have to take your own supplies.

To get to Cajanuma, you can take the Vilcabamba bound bus from Loja and get off at the National park entrance.  There is no public transportation from the entrance to the ranger station and you will have to walk for 8.0 km to reach the station.  Loja is so close to Cajanuma that you could hire a taxi from Loja to the station and arrange to be picked up at a later time.  A high clearance vehicle is not needed but is recommended.  The entrance fee is US $ 10 per person per day for foreigners and US $ 2 person per day for Ecuadorian residents.



Cajanuma entrance to Podocarpus NP

Staring in Loja city you have to follow the Eduardo Kingman Ave. in the southeast end of the city.  Follow Eduardo Kingman Ave. to the south until it ends at a roundabout. This roundabout is close to a gas station and the road descending to the right is signed to “Universidad”.  The road straight on is signed to “Vilcabamaba”.  

(Click here to download Map. Cajanuma entrance to Podocarpus NP)

Take the road heading to Vilcabamba and drive for 6.8 km.  At this point you will see the park entrance road on your left.  Reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references.  Here at the gate and at the beginning of this gravel road you must register and pay for your entrance ticket. Drive up the road for 5.5 km to where the forest begins.  Some of the birds that can be seen along the first stretch of road include: Bearded Guan, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant. Here, in the bamboo dominated forest, is where my fellow birder Mitch Lysinger once saw the rare Buff-fronted Owl.

The next 2.5 km stretch of road, or 8.0 km from the highway, runs along a wonderful and pristine forest with plenty opportunities to find:  Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Maroon-chested Ground-Dove, White-throated Quail-Dove, Golden-plumed Parakeet, White-capped Parrot, Scaly-naped Amazon, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Flame-throated Sunangel, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rufous Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Antbird, Barred Antthrush, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Ocellated Tapaculo, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Sierran Elaenia, White-banded Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Barred Becard, Turquoise Jay, Andean Solitaire, Pale-footed Swallow, Rufous Wren, Plain-tailed Wren, Russet-crowned Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, Capped Conebill, Blue-and-black Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Red-hooded Tanager, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Plushcap, Páramo Seedeater, Northern Mountain-Cacique, Stripe-headed Brush-Finch and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.

At the end of the road you will get to the ranger station and a parking lot.  The area around the parking spot is an excellent place to look for birds, as it provides good views of the canopy surrounding it.  From the parking lot look for the seasonal Red-faced Parrot and Orange-banded Flycatcher.

A couple of trails start at the parking lot.  The right hand trail heads to “Laguna del Compadre” and the left road heads to “El Mirador”.

Follow the “Mirador Trail” and walk slow and quietly, for at times Undulated, Chestnut-naped Antpitta and Rufous Antpittas can be seen as the birds feed on the wet ground for the first 300 meters of trail.  Continue birding up the hill for a few inside forest birds that are better seen along this trail, notably:  Sword-billed Hummingbird, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous Spinetail, Chusquea Tapaculo, White-throated Tyrannulet, Barred Fruiteater, Citrine Warbler, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus, Black-headed Hemispingus, Masked Saltator, Pale-naped Brush-Finch and Yellow-billed Cacique.

Once you reach an elevation of 3100 meters the tall forest gives away to an area dominated by bushes and grass. Here at the elfin forest look for:  Shining Sunbeam, Neblina Metaltail, the very rare Chestnut-bellied Cotinga and Masked Mountain-Tanager.

This trail makes a long loop following the ridge of the mountain and I recommend returning the same way you entered.  During the nights you can try to look inside the forest for White-throated Screech-Owl and Rufous-banded Owl. While driving in the lower part of the forest and during the nights look for Band-winged Nightjar.

Returning back to the highway you can choose to continue further south to Vilcabamba, Cerro Toledo and Tapichalaca Reserve or return to Loja to head towards Zamora and visit the San Francisco and Bombuscaro entrances to Podocarpus NP.


Birds to look for

Cajanuma entrance to Podocarpus NP.

Stunted Forest (SF), Forest (F), Second-growth (2G).

Common: Band-tailed Pigeon (F,2G), Speckled Hummingbird (F,2G), Buff-winged Starfrontlet (F,2G), Tyrian Metaltail (F,2G), Azara’s Spinetail (SF), Pearled Treerunner (F,2G), Chusquea Tapaculo (F,2G), Sierran Elaenia (F,2G), White-throated Tyrannulet (F,2G), Brown-capped Vireo (F,2G), Brown-bellied Swallow (F,2G), Blue-and-white Swallow (2G), Rufous Wren (F,2G), Plain-tailed Wren (F,2G), Gray-breasted Wood-Wren (F,2G), Spectacled Whitestart (F,2G), Black-crested Warbler (2G), Masked Flowerpiercer (F,2G), White-sided Flowerpiercer (2G), Blue-and-black Tanager (F,2G), Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager (F,2G), Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (F,2G), Common Bush-Tanager (F,2G), Orange-bellied Euphonia (F,2G).

Uncommon: Bearded Guan (F), White-throated Quail-Dove (F), White-capped Parrot (F,2G), Scaly-naped Amazon (F), White-throated Screech-Owl (F), Andean Pygmy-Owl (F), Rufous-banded Owl (F), Band-winged Nightjar (F,2G), Shining Sunbeam (SF), Mountain Velvetbreast (F,2G), Collared Inca (F,2G), Flame-throated Sunangel (F,2G), Crested Quetzal (F), Masked Trogon (F,2G), Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan (F), Bar-bellied Woodpecker (F), Rufous Spinetail (F), Streaked Tuftedcheek (F), Strong-billed Woodcreeper (F), Long-tailed Antbird (F,2G), Chestnut-naped Antpitta (F), Rufous Antpitta (F,2G), Ash-colored Tapaculo (F,2G), Black-capped Tyrannulet (F,2G), White-banded Tyrannulet (F,2G), Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant (F,2G), Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant (2G), Smoky Bush-Tyrant (F,2G), Red-crested Cotinga (F,2G), Barred Fruiteater (F), Barred Becard (F,2G), Turquoise Jay (F,2G), Andean Solitaire (F,2G), Pale-footed Swallow (F), Russet-crowned Warbler (F,2G), Blue-backed Conebill (F,2G), Capped Conebill (F,2G), Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia (F,2G), Golden-crowned Tanager (F,2G), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (F,2G), Hooded Mountain-Tanager (F,2G), Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager (F,2G), Grass-green Tanager (F,2G), Red-hooded Tanager (F,2G), Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager (F,2G), Black-capped Hemispingus (F,2G), Superciliaried Hemispingus (F,2G), Plushcap (F,2G), Páramo Seedeater (2G), Stripe-headed Brush-Finch (F,2G), Northern Mountain-Cacique (F), Yellow-billed Cacique (F).

Rare: Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Maroon-chested Ground-Dove (F,2G), Golden-plumed Parakeet (F,2G), Red-faced Parrot (F), Buff-fronted Owl (F,2G), Neblina Metaltail (SF), Barred Antthrush (F,2G), Undulated Antpitta (F), Ocellated Tapaculo (F,2G), Orange-banded Flycatcher (F,2G), Chestnut-bellied Cotinga (SF), Masked Mountain-Tanager (SF), Masked Saltator (F,2G).

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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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