Andean bears in the north of Ecuador
At 2 pm we started our tour from the office – this time to the north of Ecuador. It will be one of our most diverse excursions! Because from the warm temperatures at Pimampiro in the Valle de Chota at only 1.300 meters the tour led us into the mountains of the Andes to observe the Andean Bears and the next day at almost 4.000 meters altitude at the lagoons of Mojanda, about which we will report in the next blog.
Overnight stay near Pimampiro
The Hosteria El Kibuz is located shortly after the toll station on the way to El Chota, directly at the Panamericana, which was a little problem for the night’s rest. But there were two swimming pools and a big Jacuzzi. Unfortunately it was a bit too hot, but it was great to swim in the dark in the evening without getting cold!
The second night we spent in our favourite hosteria Pantavi in Tumbabiro. Here you can get lost for hours in the picturesque garden. It gets its special charm not only from the colourful, lush variety of plants, but also from the omnipresent art. It gives the place its uniqueness. All the art has been specially designed and handmade for the Hosteria by the owner. So new details will surprise you in each of the picturesque courtyards, in each individually designed room and in each corner of the wild romantic garden!
In search of Andean Bears
Already at 6 am we started our tour to the viewpoint “Mirador del Oso Andino”. This is because you can best observe the Andean Bears in this part of Ecuador in the early morning hours. Our guide Don Danilo welcomed us at a small church.
After only about five minutes downhill through avocado and tangerine plantations we reached the view point: a quite adventurous wooden construction with a fantastic view to the opposite side of the canyon. There you can often see the Andean Bears. Also on this day we were lucky and could watch a pregnant Andean Bear searching for food for quite some time.
We learned that there are currently 31 Andean bears in the area. They only have offspring every two and a half years, so it takes time for their population to grow. Besides the improvised lookout tower, there was a huge seesaw and a swing over the one hundred meter lower canyon.
Spontaneously, we could also have lunch at Danilo’s (2,50 USD): naturally produced potatoes, mote, corn, avocado, fruits and fish.
Danilo's work and protection of the Andean Bears
In Danilo’s house he showed us recordings of the cameras that were installed in the forest: In addition to Andean Bears, this forest is also home to tapirs, pumas, ocelots, foxes and squirrels, in close proximity to the fields and pastures of Pimampiro’s farmers. Don Danilo saw the first Andean Bear in the area in 2011 and has been fascinated by the animals since then. He therefore does everything in his power to protect these endangered animals. Together with a team of biologists he has set up a YouTube channel.
It has cost Danilo a lot of work and also money to convince the farmers not to see the wild animals in their environment as enemies, to drive them away or kill them. With the promise to repair the crop failures and damages, Danilo has achieved the cooperation of the farmers in recent years. It was also important to educate them about the danger that really emanates from the wild animals. Biologists and television have indeed become aware of him and his work. But he still has to cover most of the expenses himself. “He has dedicated himself to rescuing the bears and there is no way back,” says Danilo’s wife with a sigh. His expertise after years of daily observation of the Andean bears in their natural habitat is in demand and probably unique in Ecuador. Unfortunately, there is no substantial and sustainable financial support for his work.
The university biologists run sponsorship programmes for the Andean Bears here in Ecuador, but these only cover the most basic needs of the bears.
A visit to Danilo
Since one year Danilo has two holiday homes, which he rents for 10 USD per person and night to 1-12 persons per house. An overnight stay at Danilo is ideal for observing the bears, as the bears are mainly active early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
In addition to a guided tour with Danilo, you can also plan a visit to a waterfall or an area on the border of the primary forest. It offers spectacular views of the valley. The climate varies greatly depending on the altitude. However, the base station at the viewpoint is quite low and therefore it is pleasantly warm.
For many people, the Andes are the most spectacular part of Ecuador. You cannot only spot bears there, but also enjoy fantastic views, visit local markets and amazing lagoons. The Andes are best do experience with our tour “Andes Experience with locals”.