Alto Coca Reserve
The Alto Coca Reserve is one of the few conservation and ecotourism projects that offers comfortable accommodations deep inside the roadless wilderness of Ecuador.
Volcano watch; bird watch; explore a systems of trails in primary forest; ramble down stream canyons and bath in pools below waterfalls; cook over a wood fire; or practice some yoga to the rumbling of eruptions of the Reventador volcano. Or just relax on the porch and enjoy the solitude of an isolated and untouched ecosystem.
“An overnight weekend hike to Alto Coca. Scouted a trail to Alto Coca and completed some biological surveying. Highlights included seeing Woolly Monkeys, a pair of threatened White-capped Tanagers, and crossing the Rio Lisango.”
“Alto Coca is a great place to volunteer. It has amazing scenery and wildlife. There is Reventador, the most active volcano in Ecuador, glacial covered peaks, and cloud forest. The accommodations are top notch. It is high end camping. There is a bunk house with hammocks and, always, a great view. The kitchen area is set up around an open fire. Alto Coca is a great place to volunteer there are many different types of work from placing steps to clearing trail and exploring. The best way to relax after a long day is going for a swim in one of the rivers that flow nearby. Alto Coca is a place where it is easy to spend a lot of time.”
“The birds of the cloudforest are still most active when the conditions are wet, and the birds still sound the same – I recognized without hesitation the familiar calls of the White-Bellied Antpitta, Black-Mandibled Toucan, Wattled Guan, and Crested Quetzal. Because we had to first climb up 500m, then slog through 5km of knee-deep mud, and finally cross a surging waist-deep river, I didn’t actually see many birds through my binoculars. I lagged behind a few times to sort through a flock or follow up on an unusual bird call – Chesnut-Bellied Thrush? Bicolored Antvireo? Rufous-Breasted Woodquail? – but we really had to hustle to arrive at camp by dusk. As we arrived in a small clearing, muddy and exhausted, I spotted a flock of scarce and spectacular White-Capped Tanagers, which performed nicely for us before retiring for the night.
After a restless night listening to Mark’s fitful snoring, I rose before dawn to follow up on the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock I had heard nearby. It was rocking with activity, although I didn’t bushwhack deep enough off the trail to actually see one of the raucous males whooping and displaying their magnificent plumage, which is bright orange on the eastern slope, instead of blood red on the western. The return hike yielded more rain and fewer birds, but I still saw a few eastern slope species, including Inca Jay, Emerald Toucanet, and Saffron-Crowned Tanager – surely the Tangara tanagers are among the most gorgeous birds in the word. Riding back to Quito, after lunch and a dip in the thermal baths at Papallacata, I reflected whether I wouldn’t have been happier staying in Ecuador even longer. This jewel of a country has certainly sated birders, naturalists, and adventurers with greater curiosity and wanderlust than me. But as Heraclitus once said, you cannot step twice into the same river.
Notable birds seen: Scaly-Naped Amazon, Chestnut-Fronted Macaw, White-Collared Swift, Speckled Hummingbird, Booted Racket-Tail, Long-Tailed Sylph, Emerald Toucanet, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Strong-Billed Woodcreeper, Long-Tailed Antbird, Torrent Tyrannulet, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Smoke-Colored Pewee, Barred Becard, Inca Jay, Blackburnian Warbler, Slate-Throated Whitestart, Three-Striped Warbler, Golden-Collared Honeycreeper, Saffron-Crowned Tanager, Flame-Faced Tanager, Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanager, Blue-Gray Tanager, Summer Tanager, Palm Tanager, White-Capped Tanager, Russet-Backed Oropendola.”
We had an amazing trip up to Alto Coca. Although the path is steep and at times hard going through mud, being surrounded by beautiful, pristine forest made the hike up enjoyable and the reward of the view at the top was the icing on the cake. The views from the hammocks on the veranda of the cabin were stunning and a constant changing picture depending on the weather. We were fortunate enough to have great views of Volcan Reventador erupting both in daytime and at night - one of the most spectacular sights we've seen in our travels all around the world. We also had a great time birdwatching - so many different species of brilliant birds to spot from the comfort of the hammocks and dining area. I only wish that we'd had more days to spend up there as we would've been happy to have had more time to wander around the various trails at the top and just relax and enjoy the surroundings from the cabin!
C’est la seconde fois que je visite la réserve de l’Alto Coca et que je séjourne dans le « Rancho » situé au sommet de la réserve. Et ça en vaut la peine. A la fois rustique et confortable, convivial et écologique, le Rancho offre une vue imprenable sur le volcan Reventador (très actif en ce moment). Il domine la forêt tropicale humide environnante par sa position et permet la nuit de plonger son nez dans la voie lactée. Ce circuit nous est offert par les créateurs de cette réserve dont l’objectif est la conservation de ce bout de nature luxuriante et vierge, conjugué au désir de la faire découvrir. Il peut surprendre le touriste habituel. Ici, une fois franchi le pont piétonnier sur la rivière Quijos (affluent du Coca), il faut être disposé à l’aventure physique et humaine que représente ce voyage. L’effort nécessaire pour monter au refuge est juste suffisant pour être fier(e) de l’avoir atteint. L’accueil est aussi chaleureux et sans artifice que le lieu. Une fois au refuge de nombreux sentiers offrent la possibilité d’observer oiseaux, plantes et cascades. Bref un paradis pour les amoureux de la nature sauvage… J’envisage sérieusement une troisième visite.
I can safely say that my most memorable hiking experience by far has been at Reserva Alto Coca. It is such a privilege to see truly pristine wildlife in one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet. Once up there, not only did Reventador spoil us with natural “fireworks” and sound effects on new year’s eve, during our stay we also got to see a troop of about 10 capuchin monkeys with their young, as well as countless birds. Don’t miss the canyoneering experience down the waterfall: it’s absolutely enchanting with the unique limestone formations. After this you will dread getting back to civilization… That’s why I’m getting ready to go again – totally worth it!