Bird Watching Tour in Ecuador
I'm writing to give you a few thoughts on the trip. I know that different people have different experiences and preferences, so I don't pretend to know what's best for everyone. I can say, though, that you probably don't have many more experienced travelers in your stable of clients.
Our 22-year old birding guide, Josue Arteaga, was mature, knowledgeable and wise way beyond his age. He was an ideal guide and companion in every way, from identifying and explaining everything we encountered to handling and catering to all of our needs to finding a deck of cards and playing with us, when rain prevented outdoor activity. We hope to stay in touch with Josue, and perhaps even to help with his career. I don't think you could find a better--or more personable and sensitive--birding guide. We're I in your position, I would use him whenever possible.
Two things about Quito stand out. The amazing Casa Gangotena is one of our top couple hotel experiences anywhere, including both the facility and the service. Frankly, I can't imagine anyone not loving it. And the Chapel of Man that houses the work of painter, Guayasamin, completely blew us away. Anyone with even a remote interest in art would find this place fascinating.
All three of the "birding personalities" we met--Alejandro at San Isidro, Angel Paz, and Mercedes at Puembo Birding Garden--were terrific. Going out with Angel is a must. I think I'd seriously consider having guests stay overnight at Puembo Birding Garden. It's a delightful spot, and Mercedes is a wonderful character.
One thing went "wrong" that was clearly not your fault. We had lousy weather in the east at San Isidro, which created landslides that slowed traffic and cut off electricity and hot water at San Isidro. This was bad luck. But my impression from talking to Alejandro is that our experience was not unusual or unexpected. He "joked" that there are two seasons, the rainy season in which it rains all day every day and the non-rainy season in which it just rains every day. The rain created very muddy and slippery paths that would have been difficult to traverse, had we tried. I'm not sure what you should make of all this, but it's something to consider. Maybe we're just wimps. Despite all of this, we did enjoy our time there (somewhat).
Overall, we had a really terrific trip. Thanks for all your help in planning it.
I want to tell you again how much we appreciate your having borne with us on the two trips you've planned for us, both of which you've had to do twice, changing Bolivia to Brazil and Peru to Ecuador. This is not our typical way of planning trips and I'm embarrassed to have put you through this twice. Still, I think you can tell somebody's mettle by seeing how they react in difficult situations. You deserve a medal for your mettle.
We will not hesitate to recommend you to others, and would be happy to serve as references. I'm not sure whether we'll be headed to South America again, but, if we do, you'll hear from us."
Arnie Kanter, Illinois, USA
Arnie Kanter's Travel Blog: See more photos and read more about Arnie's bird watching experience in Ecuador!