The Reserve has an area of 243,638 ha and its altitudinal range varies
from: 30 - 4,939 masl.
It is located in the north western part of the Andes, and belongs
to the Biogeografical region of Chocó. The
oldest geological formation of the Reserve is Macuchi with 100 million years,
which comprises most of the Cordillera de Toisán and a large part of the Cayapas
Semi forested paramo.
More to the west, the mountains
slope down quickly with deep inaccessible valleys and wild-water rivers.
The most recent formations are recent undifferentiated volcanic
deposits of less than one million years old, covering almost the entire upper
part of the Reserve.
More to the west, the terrain descends rapidly
towards the extensive plains of the coast by a several of sub-mountain ranges,
such as the Toisán, Cayapas and Lanchas mountains.
The Andes flanks
with extremely steep slopes.
There are three volcanoes
in the park: the Yanahurco peak (4,538 masl), the Cotacachi volcano (4,939 masl)
and the Lake Cuicocha volcano. The Mount Yanahurco is a dead volcano which has
been eroded by Pliocene glaciers. The Cotacachi Volcano is a stratovolcano which
was also eroded during the Pleistocene, shaping it into a rocky pyramid. Back to menu
Hydrology The temperature varies between 4 and 24 ° C
and annual precipitation between 1,000 - 5,000 mm depending on the elevation and
exposure to the Andean winds.
La temperatura varía entre los 4 y 24 °C y la precipitación
anual entre los 1,000 – 5,000 mm dependiendo de la elevación y la exposición a
los vientos andinos.
Many creeks cut through the
One of the
many paramo lakes.
part of the Reserve consists of very mountainous paramos with lots of rivers
rocky streams, and in poorly drained areas, dozens of lakes and marshes of
Extensive water-drenched bogs
are important water containers.
Cushion plants are important water buffers as
The natural vegetation is
grassland, with soils between sods covered by moss that retain a large
quantities of water in the
poorly drained highland plains. Moreover, cushion plants
abound which also absorb lots of
water. That is why the reserve is considered a hydrological "sponge".
The interior of the park has extremely rugged terrain
with steep slopes giving rise to white water rivers and streams and lots of waterfalls.
The Reserve has many waterfalls.
The Reserve covers an extensive range of elevations which
accounts for a great diversity of ecosystems, ranging from the paramos in the
highlands surrounding the Cotacachi Volcano, to the moist premontane forests
along the San Miguel, Santiago, Bravo and Guaduero Rivers.
rivers that originate in the reserve and then drain to the Pacific Ocean are:
Santiago-Cayapas, with the largest watershed in the Reserve, as well as the
Esmeraldas and El Mira Rivers watersheds.
There are 24 micro-watershed in the Reserve, 8 of which have
their total area within the reserve while the others have their largest areas
outside the protected area.
The Santiago-Cayapas River watershed comprises the sub-basins of the Santiago,
Agua Clara, San Miguel and Cayapas rivers, of which the sub-basin of the
Santiago river, located in the western part of the reserve, is the largest area
within the watershed. The micro watersheds that drain the Mira River watershed
originate in the upper and northern part of the reserve, while the microbasins
supplying the Esmeraldas River watershed (Guayllabamba River subbasin) are
located in the southern part of the reserve.
The caldera of the Cuicocha volcano has a diameter of 3 km, which
lies at the foot of the Cotacachi Volcano. Its interior slopes are very steep.
the crater, is a crater lake at a level of 3,068 masl and of 132 m deep, without
With an area of 657 ha it is the largest permanent freshwater lake of the
Andean highlands of Ecuador. It came to be after a collapse of the caldera which
was then filed with melting water and rainfall.
Two little islands raise from the surface: Teodoro Wolf and
Yerovi Islands, separated by the Canal of Dreams.
Lake Cuicocha has an area of 657 ha
and is 132 m diep.
The Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve was created on August
29, 1968 by Executive Decree No. 1468, published in the Official Register of
September 24, 1968 r.o. No 17.
It is the most important reserve in the western Andes for protecting ecosystems
from almost the snow line to almost sea level in one single protected area.
Its ecosystems belong to the Biogeográfca region of Chocó, the rainiest region
of the world. In fact,
only a very small part of the original Ecuadorian Pacific forests are still
intact and the rest of the Andes flanks have mostly been deforested; remaining
forests are fragmented and heavily intervened at best. Thus the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve and the Awá
Forest Ethnic Reserve are two of the last relatively intact areas representing
the altitudinal gradients of vegetation and natural ecosystems of the Pacific
Administratively, this Reserve is divided into two zones: the
lowlands which extend from the flanks of the Andes to the Coast and the high
lands that cover the altimontane region passing through the Cordillera de Toisán.
Located 12 km southwest of the town of Cotacachi. A short distance
from the entrance to the park is a beautiful visitor center and a few hundred
meters further is the community tourism complex with a restaurant.There you can buy the tickets for a beautiful guided boat tour on
the lake which around the island where you can enjoy waterfowl.You can also do kayak and scuba go diving; for the
last two activities you need previous authorization from the park
The visitor center is one
of the most modern ones in the country.
the visitor center.
The visitor center has a
small botanical garden with flowers of the area like this orchid:
Epidendrum jamiesonis., as well as bromeliads and Pampas Grass,
entrance at Cuicocha.
resort with the marina for excursions.
Visitors can enjoy the view from land or from an excursion boat.
The Gorky Campusano trail around the
lake is self-guided. The Cuicocha offers an amazing view of the entire valley of Imbabura form
where San Pablo Lake, Otavalo, Altos de Mojanda and Atuntaqui can all be seen.
Piñán lakes: (4,000 masl): A lake complex north-west of Urcuquí, with
Lake Donoso (2.5 km long), Lake Susacocha and Lake Cristococha should be
mentioned, covered with pajonales. In Piñán you can fish for rainbow trout, do some great bird
watching at tjhe camp site.
(about 3,500 masl): Caricocha, Huamicocha and Yanacocha. They are located south of Otavalo.
Cotacachi volcano of 4,949 masl: You can climb to the top of this
active volcano. Its melt water runs into Lake Cuicocha.
You can reach the trail head from a side road of the road that leads to
Volcano yanaHurco of 4,538 masl:
This is the best place to look for the Andean Condors which are know to nest in
Yanayacu: Located 1 km north-west of Cotacachi are hot springs.
Nangulvi: Located in the
Nangulvi valley, 3 km from Apuela,
are volcanic hot springs, with temperatures up to 71 ° C.
Lodging: Along the highlands surrounding the reserve are
small accommodations like: Hosteria Los Pinos, Hosteria El Mirador and Hosteria
There are also community inns linked to the UNORCAC-RUNA TUPARI project and
there is the Cuicocha Lodge, at the lake.
In the lowlands, is a cabin in Charco Vicente in the San Miguel District within
the reserve, while three community tourist operators in the buffer zone are:
Playa de Oro, KUMANII Lodge and San Miguel Lodge.
Mountain biking: This is practiced along
the Cuicocha – Antenas provincial road.
Biological Reserve at 1,400 masl: 60 km northwest of
Quitoa and west of Cotacach.
Salto del Bravo: Small natural beach surrounded by tropical
vegetation, located near the Agua Clara and Bravo
Grande Rivers. To get there, it takes four hours from Bourbon to San
Miguel by boat on the Cayapas River.
Cascada de San miguel: 100 m waterfall,
which be reached after an 8 hours hike from Charco Vicente.
This waterall is close to the confluence of the Rivers Lachas and
Santiago, at about four hours by boat from Bourbon, which can be reached along
the Santiago River until the town of Playa de Oro.
exception of the islets in Lake Cuicocha, where the native flora has been
studied, no other botanic studies have been carried out in the park.
Still, 2,017 species of vascular plants are known to the area and
buffer zone, which represents 13.8% of the total number of Vascular Plants of
Ecuador.The family with the greatest
number of species is Orchidaceae with 201, followed by the family
Melastomataceae with 149 and Araceae with 45.
The islets of
Lake Cuicocha are characterized by having a tree stratum that reaches 15 m
in height, where the dominant species are
Columellia oblonga and Solanum sp.The tree
trunks are covered with mosses, lichens and bromeliads.The vegetation of these islets may be the last
remnant of this formation.
Of all the endemic
vascular plants growing in the country, 20% occur in the western part of the
Reserve, which is due to its location in the western flanks of the Andes
mountains, combined with being part of the a biogeographical region of Chocó in
Ecuador. The Red Book of Endemic Plants of Ecuador reports 78
endemic species known to the reserve and expects another 320 species to be
The reserve belongs to the floristic Northern
Subregion, and includes the following plant formations:
forest (0-300 masl): The canopies reach more than 30 m
in height, predominating arboreal species of the families: Myristicaceae,
Arecaceae, Moraceae, Fabaceae and Meliaceae, richly covered epiphytes and vines.
The herb layer is dense, with lots of Araceae and ferns. Some
characteristic species: Brosimum
utile, Poulsenia armata, Rubber, Castilla elastica, Phytelephas aequatorialis,
Wettinia quinaria, Astrocaryum standleyanum; Carapa guianensis, Guarea polymera,
gordoniifolia, Nectandra guadaripo, Humiriastrum
procerum, Theobroma gileri, Matisia alata, Cecropia garciae,
and the endemic tree
Swartzia littlei, Conostegia cuatrecasii, Tetrathylacium macrophyllum, Rhodospatha densinervia,
and the herb Xanthosoma daguense.
Bosque siempreverde de tierras Bajas (0 - 300 msnm): Tiene un dosel de más de 30
m de altura, predominando las especies arbóreas de las familias: Myristicaceae,
Arecaceae, Moraceae, Fabaceae y Meliaceae; cubiertas por abundantes epíftas y
trepadoras. El estrato bajo está densamente poblado de herbáceas, sobresaliendo
especies de la familia Araceae. También existe gran cantidad de helechos. Entre la ﬂora característica se encuentran: el
Evergreen Premontane Forest (300 -
1,300 masl): In the tree stratum is an abundance of palms, Mimosaceae,
Fabaceae, Burseraceae and Meliaceae. The canopy reaches 30 m or
higher, and the tree trunks are covered with orchids, bromeliads, ferns and
Araceae.Herbaceous species of the families Marantaceae, Araceae, and ferns
dominate the herb layer. Among the characteristic flora are these palms: Wettinia quinaria, Pholidostachys dactyloides, Iriartea deltoidea y
Aiphanes erinacea. Other arboreous specis are:
Virola dixonii, Otoba gordoniifolia; Protium amplum; Vitex ﬂavens; Caryodaphnopsis theobromifolia.
Irbachia alata; Begonia glabra; Monstera pinnatipartita.
low montane forest (1,300-1,800 masl): This forest
type covers only a narrow strip along the western flank of the Andes mountain
range.The canopy is between 25 and 30
m high and most species and families representative of the lowland trees are
absent, woody vines decline and certain families reach the upper limits of their
growth. Epiphytes on the other hand
increase in both species and abundance. Typical flora of this
formation includes:Oreopanax confusus,
Anthurium albispatha, Buddleja americana, Nectandra
membranacea, Cladocolea archeri, Byrsonima
putumayensis, Bellucia pentamera, Blakea punctulata; Siparuna laurifolia,
forest (1,800-3,000 masl): Forest with the canopy
between 20 and 25 m, trees, densely overgrown with mosses. IN this ecosystem
epiphytes reach their greatest diversity both in number of species and
abundance. About 95% of the trees in the hills of this cloud forest along the
Santiago-Cayapas River are represented by two species: Carapa guianensis
and Eschweilera sp., the former being the larger tree and possibly the
only place where you can still find adults of this species is in the
reserve. Typical flora of this formation includes: Anthurium mindense, Anthurium gualeanum;
Gunnera pilosa, Bocconia integrifolia, Piper aduncum, Miconia crocea,
Cedrela montana, Chusquea scandens, Puya glomerifera, Centropogon
calycinus, Meriania maxima, Cinnamomum
palaciosii, C. triplinerve; Freziera canescens.
In the montane forest, trees are covered
with moss and other epiphytes.
Tree ferns like Cyathea
sp. are characterize the forest.
Bromeliads are common epiphytes in the
Loasa tricolor is a
little flower of the montane forest.
forest (3,000 - 3,400 masl): Forest floor densely
covered with moss and irregular growth of trees with trunks branching out from
the base, hanging over, and sometimes almost horizontal. In this formation the
following species can be found: Cotula australis, Critoniopsis palaciosii;
Tournefortia fuliginosa, Valleys
stipularis, Gunnera pilosa, Nasa grandiflora, Brachyotum ledifolium, Siparuna
echinata, Aa maderoi, Passiflora pinnatistipula.
The transition from the
Altimontane forest to the paramo.
forest, with very gnarled trunks and a thick layer
of moss covering the ground.
Club, Puya-clava herculis, is a fascinating bromeliad in the paramo that
grows up to 4 m.
typical of transition zone of the Altimontane forest to the páramo.
Lupina Kunthii, live in the Altimontane forest and the paramo.
Ceratostema alatum, is
typical of the transition zone from the Altimontane forest to the páramo.
A begonia of the paramo.
is anorchid common in the paramo.
Mistletoe Shrub, Psittacanthus sp. is a
parasitic shrub common in them paramo.
(3,400 - 4,000 masl): It is dominated by graminoids of
the genera Calamagrostis and Festuca, intermingled with other
types of grasses and small shrubs. The species Calamagrostis
effusa is restricted to the paramos of the provinces of Carchi and Imbabura.
Characteristic flora: Chuquirahua, Chuquiraga jussieui,
Oritrophium peruvianum;Huperzia talpiphila,
Nototriche phyllanthos, Peperomia fruticetorum, Castilleja sp.and Valeriana sp.
Bomarea linifolia is a mini-shrub of
To resist the strong radiation in the paramo, the licopodium Huperzia crassa,
Gelidofitia (4,000 - 4,700
masl): Formation dominated by dispersed shrubs and xerophytic plants, lichens
and mosses. The rhizomes and roots are strongly developed and the leaves are
small, often protected by hair. Characteristic species : Draba aretioides,
Loricaria ferruginea; Valerian pilosa and species of mosses, Andreana sp.
and Grimmia sp. and lichens, Lecanora sp.
And Gyrophora sp.
Chuquiraja is a very hardy shrub that grows
anywhere in the paramo up into the gelidofitia.
Culcitium Nivale grows up to
close to the snow line.
Of the 139
known mammals of the reserve bats and rodents are the most common.
larger mammals living in tjhe area: Tigrillo, Leopardus pardalis, Leopardus
wiedii, Yaguarundi, Puma yagouaroundi, Andean Cat, Oncifelis
colocolo, Puma, Puma concolor, Jaguar, Panthera onca,
Bush Dog, Speothos venaticus, Coastal
Otter, Lontra longicaudis, Coastal Howler Monkey, Alouatta palliata
and Ecuadorian Capuchin Monkey, Cebus albifronsae quatorialis.
Omni present in large tropical parks, the Jaguar
also lives in the Cotacachi Reserve.
Pumas have an even wider distribution, as they
also like the cold areas of the Andes.
The Andean Red
Brocket Deer, Mazama rufina, is
omnipresent and rather common in the Andes, although permanent persecution keeps
occur in the park.
The Andean Fox is rather common
in the reserve but shy and not often seen.
The Brasilian Cottontail is an
important source of food for the Andean Fox.
Ocuring in all the Americas from Alaska to Tierra
de Fuego, the White-tailed Deer is common throughout Ecuador.
The Striped hog-nosed skunk, Conepatus semistriatus
too is rather common, but being nocturnal, it is not often seen.
13 species are considered
endemic for the Chocó region, among them a new species of Spiny Mouse,
Heteromys australis, and 20 species are threatened: Hippocamelus
antisensis; The Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, and the
Woolly Tapir, Tapirus bairdii, probably already disappeared in the area,
while the Pacarana, Dinomys branickii, is probably rare.
It is important to emphasize other threatened species: the Coastal Spider
Monkey, Ateles fusciceps, Coendou Quichua, endemic of Ecuador, the
Capuchin Monkey, Cebus capucinus; and the
largest bat in America: the Great False Vampire, Vampyrum spectrum.
La mayor riqueza de aves
que se estima entre 500 y 700 especies, se encuentra bajo los 600 msnm, aunque a esta altitud
el área que cubre la Reserva probablemente no es sufciente para mantener
poblaciones viables de algunas especies amenazadas que habitan principalmente en
las tierras bajas, como: Águila Arpía, Harpia harpyja, Pavón Grande, Crax
rubra, Guacamayo Verde Mayor, Ara ambigua, Barbudo Cinco Colores, Capito
quinticolor, Dacnis Pechiescar Lata, Dacnis berlepschi, y Tangara Bigotiazul, Tangara johannae).
En la Laguna Cuicocha se ha registrado la reproducción del
Zambullidor Plateado, Podiceps occipitalis juninensis, y Focha Andina, Fulica
The number of bird species belonging to
the lowlands under 600 m in reserve is estimated to be between 500 and 700
species. The area at this eleavtion covered by the Reserve is probably not
enough to maintain viable populations of some endangered lowland species such
as: Harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja, Crax rubra, Greater Green Macaw,
Ara ambiguous, Capito quinticolor, Dacnis berlepschi, and
The Reserve is possibly home to: Ognorhynchus icterotis, Micrastur
plumbeus, Neomorphus radiolosus and Cephalopterus penduliger.
In Lake Cuicocha, Podiceps occipitalis juninensis, and
Fulica ardesiaca are nesting.
The Andean Lapwing, Vanellus
resplendens, is a common bird of the paramo.
Northern Crested Caracara, Caracara cheriway,
can often be seen in the paramo.
The herpetofauna of the reserve consists of 235 species,
124 are amphibians y 111 are reptiles.
The greatest amphibian
diversity is found in the montane forests, while the reptiles are
concentrated in the lowland. The conservation status of reptiles is
not known, while the number of threatened amphibian species is as high as 40%,
including: Centrolene ilex, Atelopus elegans, A. coynei, A. longirostris
, A. mindoensis, Rhaebo blombergi, R. caeruleos tictus; Hemiphractus
fasciatus, Hyloxalus awa, H. chocoensis, H. toachi;
Euphorbiaceae, Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea,
Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea, Echinacea;Gastrotheca plumbea, Bolitoglossa chica, Caecilia
leucocephala and Caecilia pachynema.
Among the 100 y 150 species, the lizard Ameiva septemlineata
is the most common species. Also common are: the Chonta snake, Clelia
clelia, the South American Snapping Turtle, Chelydra acutirostris,
the White-lipped Mud Turtle, Kinosternon
leucostomum postinguinale, Basiliscos sp., Enyalioides
heterolepis, the Boa, Boa constrictor imperator, False Coral snake, Oxyrhopus
petola sebae, Coral snake, Micrurus dumerilii transandinus, Trachyboa
boulengeri, Mexican Pit viper, Bothrops asper, Lachesis
acrochorda, Porthidium nasutum, en the endemic snake Atractusdunni.
ichthyofauna of the area is made up of 33 resident species, of which 7 are eaten
by the local population.
the rivers and lakes of the high Andes were only
inhabited by species of the "preñador" genus,
Astroblepus, but last century several species of trout
have been introduced throughout the Andean region,
forcing the preñadores to places inaccessible to trout.
The Cuyabeno Loop explores
the breathtaking scenery of lower Cuyabeno and Zábalo
Rivers and the Cuyabeno Lake. Watch the amazing birds and
wildlife. Pass 2 nights with the amazing Cofan Indians in
the Cofan Lodge and enjoy 2 nights of comfort in the famous
The Lagarto Cocha Expedition on hidden
creeks and lakes is the best Amazon journey in Ecuador!
Discover Indian tribes in Ecuador, Monkeys, Sloths,
Dolphins. No other Amazon rainforest in any of the
Amazon-Andean countries can match the wildlife viewing
of Cuyabeno and it is far better than Yasuní!
The Cuyabeno Lake Program
explores all the wild places surrounding the Cuyabeno Lake.
Bonsai-shaped Macrolobia trees with the whispering of the
mysterious prehistoric Hoatzin birds and the noisy Blue and
Yellow Macaws. Our Cuyabeno Lodge is on the best location,
because we were the first and chose the best location on a
seasonal island in the Cuyabeno Lake itself.
Our Northern Andes Tour lets you get a
taste of some of the best Andean National Parks,
visiting the highest groves in the world: the Polylepis
trees, the highest mountain in the world calculated from
the center of the Earth, the Chimborazo with Vecuñas and
Lamas, the highest active volcano in the world, the
Our National Parks Tours take you on a fantastic
journey along the best possible sample of Andean and coastal
parks. They have been designed to complement
Galapagos and/or Amazon cruises. They can start from different places, particularly Quito,
Guayaquil and Cuenca. While the full program lasts 9 days, it is possible to
make a limited selection of parks, like the 6 days' "Andes
and Coast" module.
A fabulous program for visiting the most
famous cultural highlights Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu and the
Sacred Valley. At the same time it serves as the Lima hub
for the Peru National Parks Tour. This module is an
extension to our National Parks Tour Ecuador and/or Galapagos National Park
and/or Amazon Cruises.