Santa Lucia Lodge
Located in the southern part of the Choco Bioregion in north-western Ecuador, one of the areas of highest biodiversity in the world, Santa Lucía is a community owned cloud forest reserve and a truly inspirational example of community eco-tourism at its best. The reserve contains 780 hectares of montane cloud forest, with over 80% still in its primary virgin state and ranges in elevation from 1400 to 2600 metres, the lodge is located at 1900 metres. Santa Lucía is home to an extraordinary diversity of birds with more than 405 species recorded from the lower elevations below the Reserve to the highest point of the Reserve. There are many endemics to the area such as the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, the Toucan Barbet, the Beautiful Jay, the Long-wattled Umbrella Bird, the Giant Antpitta and the Moustached Antpitta. As well as birds, they also have 45 species of mammals including pumas and the endangered Spectacled Bear; and thousands of tropical plants, native to the region, including an amazing variety of orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes. The lodge has recently built some new very comfortable accommodation, and its location on the top of a hill means it has fantastic views across the forest…..with a 500 metre climb up the hill it also means we recommend this lodge only for those who are in reasonably good physical condition.
In 1976, following a land reform act in Ecuador, a group of local landless campesino (countryside) families bought the land which is now the Santa Lucía Reserve. Originally they worked to farm the land, clearing parts of the forest, but then in the 1990’s the community started to look at different ways of making a living from the land, and identified ecotourism which would allow them to protect rather than clear the forest. In 1999 they began to build the lodge and trails with the help from volunteers and other organisations including Rainforest Concern UK and Quest Overseas. In an area of scarce paid employment, they provide jobs and a modest income for their members as well as other local people and strive to extend benefits to the wider community through their working practices, volunteer programme and environmental education.
Due to the range in elevation, Santa Lucia is home to many different species of birds and 405 species have been recorded. Many rare birds can be seen and heard, such as White-faced Nunbird, Giant Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Wattled Guan, Beautiful Jay, Long-wattled Umbrella Bird, Dark-backed Wood-Quail, Black-and -Chestnut Eagle and Powerful Woodpecker. In fact the nunbirds can sometimes be seen sitting in the trees by the lodge and the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans are frequently found feeding in fruiting trees close by. At the feeders you will see many endemic species of hummingbirds including Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph and Booted Racket-tail. While hiking the trails, look out for many different species of Cotingas, Parrots, Guans, Woodpeckers, Antthrushes and Hawks just to name a few. Over fifty species of tanagers have been observed in huge mixed flocks, among them the rare and beautiful Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain -Tanager and the stunning Grass-green Tanager. At higher elevations, the now endangered Beautiful Jay is present. Also on the reserve are several leks including those of the Club-winged Manakin, Golden-winged Manakin, and a very large and active Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek which is a definite must-see. There are seven species of Antpitta residing in Santa Lucía. They are a challenge to find, but with the help of our local guides and some patience, most birders will have good luck. It was only recently that the rare Giant and Moustached antpittas were discovered.