Most people drive right by the Alambi Reserve never realizing that they are missing one of the best hummingbird gardens near Quito. The small property provides an oasis from the big city. It is a spot where you can spend a few minutes or stay for an hour or more. Bring a picnic lunch or arrange a meal onsite. It’s even possible to stay overnight in a beautiful farmhouse. All you need is a reservation.

Where is the Alambi Reserve?

The Alambi Reserve lies about an hour outside of Quito along the highway heading to Mindo. Before Nanegalito, a small dirt road heads up into the cloudforests on the southside of the highway. This turnoff is the fastest way to the subtropical cloud forests of the Tandayapa Valley.

We only discovered the Alambi Reserve after visiting another destination further up this dirt road, the Bellavista Lodge. The driver on that trip also happened to be the caretaker of Alambi. He had us visit for a few minutes so that we could marvel at the plethora of hummingbirds in the small garden. Since then, I had been waiting for an excuse to return.

White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird, Alambi, Nanegalito, Ecuador
Green-crowned Brilliant, Alambi, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake
Green-crowned Brilliant hummingbird, female; Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador

Visiting Alambi

On my first visit back, I was with a large group of friends visiting the Bellavista Scientific Research Station for a long weekend. Our itinerary included a morning visit to Alambi. I wanted to spend an hour or more. Therefore, I arranged for our group to have a meal. For a very reasonable $10, we breakfasted on the back patio with a view of at least a dozen hummingbird feeders and the constant movement of tiny birds. This included the normal $5 entrance fee.

Alambi, Nanegalito, Ecuador

I found it very hard to sit down even for the excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs, yuca croquettes  stuffed with fresh cheese, home-made ají, freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly brewed coffee, and a bowl of fruit salad. The stellar breakfast didn’t stop me from walking into the garden to see the birds, their tiny feathers shining in the mid-morning light. Both my husband and I photographed prolifically.

Green-crowned Woodnymph, female; Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador
Brown Violetear; Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake
Andean Emerald, Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

Hummingbirds at Alambi

I have never counted the species of hummingbirds in the Alambi Gardens but there must be at least a dozen. Let me name a few of the regulars: the White-necked Jacobin, all three species of Violetear Hummingbirds, the Green-crowned Brilliant, the Purple-throated Woodstar, the Andean Emerald, the Green-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and the Purple-bibbed Whitetip.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

The garden is often a blur of activity. Some birds have their favorite feeders. They perch nearby to guard their territory, often defending it with a stab of their beak. The Violetears are especially impressive when they get angry. Small purple feathers pop-straight out of either side of their heads, literally looking like violet ears.

Agitated Brown Violetear hummingbirds, Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador

Other Birds At Alambi

Of course, other birds also visit the garden. Off to the left-hand side, plantain feeders attract many different tanagers, the Red-headed Barbet, the Crimson-rumped Toucanet, and more. With return visits, we’ve seen the occasional woodpecker, the odd brush finch, and others. In short, you just never know who might show up.

Red-headed Barbet, female; Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

Whether you are an avid birdwatcher or just want to stretch your legs, you might want to head out on the trails. Alambi lies along the river. In fact, the trail runs under the highway alongside the river that hundreds of people drive over every day, never realizing what lies below. In some seasons, an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock builds a nest under the highway. We have very poor photos of a practically unidentifiable bird sitting atop its nest in near darkness. I dream of one day returning to see fledging Cock-of-the-Rocks take flight!

Silver-throated Tanager, Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake
Lemon-rumped Tanager, female; Alambi Reserve, Nanegalito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

 

Information For Your Trip

Alambi is open most days. Simply drive up, pay the $5 entrance fee per person, and enjoy. The fee includes access to both the garden and hiking trails. Guests are welcome to bring their own picnic or outside food. Meals at Alambi must be arranged beforehand. Our best luck has been to call the Bellavista Lodge and have them make the connection for us.

  • Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for the Alambi Reserve, Distrito Metropolitano de Quito, Ecuador.
  • Direction by Public Transportation – you can ask to be dropped off by the bus that travels from Quito to Nanegalito or head all the way into Nanegalito and take a taxi back.

We originally published this article on July 1, 2014. It has since been updated with new photos, edited text, and updated information.

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