Cabañas San Isidro is a nature lodge tucked into the East Slope cloud forest of the Andes in Ecuador. It sits at 2,050m (6,800 ft.) above sea level in a zone that is mostly blanketed by damp, lush forest. The reserve is home to hundreds of bird species, many of which can only be seen in this unique location. Careful observers might also catch a glimpse of rarer mammals, like the Andean Tapir or the Black Agouti. The lodge has even captured video of the rare Spectacled Bear walking their trails.
I have a few favorite spots at Cabañas San Isidro. One is the hummingbird garden. It is set away from the main lodge and the viewing platform holds a couple of comfortable chairs protected from both rain and sun. The hummingbirds can enjoy the feeders at a comfortable distance away from their human watchers.
We have regularly seen about six different varieties of hummingbirds in this single spot, the Speckled Hummingbird, the Long-tailed Sylph, the Bronzy Inca, the Collared-Inca, the Chestnut-breasted Coronet, and the Fawn-breasted Brilliant.
It is a good place to bring a long lens or a camera that has a good digital zoom.
Another favorite location is the orchid garden that runs along a path near the cabins. Damp weather in the cloud forest often means that water logged trees drop branches from up high and orchids find themselves perishing on the forest floor. At Cabañas San Isidro, every attempt is made to bring these orchids back to the orchid garden and place them in a location where they can thrive. The orchids deserve a little extra effort to see as they sometimes hang upside down or hide under large leaves. For the best quality photos, take a tripod with you as the conditions, even on a sunny day, can be shady and dark.
Unofficial Butterfly Garden
If you are a butterfly fan, we recommend walking down the trail that starts at the community room near the cabins. About a kilometer or so in, there is a side trail leading to the right. The ground is covered with low-lying plants with delicate, lacy, white flowers. And clear-winged butterflies love to flock to those flowers. On the day we visited, we saw at least three different varieties of clear wing butterflies sipping nectar.
From the Patio
And if you are not an adventurer and prefer to stick close to the lodge, don’t despair! Several types of birds come to the trees near the patio off the dining room. In June, when we visited last, the Green Jay, the Subtropical Cacique, and the Russet-backed Oropendola were regulars. We also spotted a couple of types of thrushes and were teased by some tanagers. In fact, while hiking to another location, we supposedly missed a great mixed flock that came through. It’s always a debate to sit still or to go hike in order to see the most of anything!
All in all, Cabañas San Isidro is a comfortable lodge with great staff who make your visit to the wilds of Ecuador just a little more special than it might have otherwise been.
Tips for Cabañas San Isidro
- The lodge has a family room with children’s toys, a pool table, hammocks for hanging out, and a television with several dvds on offer.
- The lodge is located near Cosanga; it is possible to drive yourself but we warned that the highway through Papallacta often closes during the rainy season.
- During the summer season, rooms can fill with university students. On those nights, dinners are served buffet style.
- Trails can be very muddy, be prepared for rain in all seasons. The lodge does have mud boots for adult sized feet.
- A guided visit to the Antpitta feeding is included in your stay. If you want a guide for other birding, please let the staff know before you arrive.
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