On the advice of friends, we decided to stop at Tambo Condor last week. We were on our way to Laguna Mica, the large reservoir in the heart of the Antisana Reserve. I had often wondered about this restaurant with lodging as it lies less than a kilometer away from the viewing platform of the Antisanilla Reserve.
The Lodging At Tambo Condor
When we arrived, the grounds were practically silent. That didn’t stop us from walking around the restaurant to admire the hummingbird feeders and the nearby trail. And it didn’t take long for Vladimir, the owner, to come out to greet us. When we explained we were just looking around for a potential place to stay in the future, he handed us a set of keys and sent us down the dirt road towards the river. There, he said, we would find the rooms with views of the water.
As we walked down the hill, birds flitted in the high grass and scrub on both sides of the trail. This was definitely territory ripe for birdwatching. In fact, Vladimir told us that most of his guests come for exactly that. In fact, he was back at the restaurant setting up a spotting scope in hopes of showing us a real treat when we returned.
We had passed to very small cabins on the way in and expected more of the same. To our surprise, we found a large home. We entered and walked into a rustic living room with fireplace and adjoining dining room. A small but sufficient kitchen sat at the back. Off the main living space there were two bedrooms with views out over the bluff to the river far below. The view was stunning as this is where the river backs up as it tries to push pass the ancient lava flow of Antisana. It has actually formed a long finger lake called Secas.
It looked like it could get cold as all the beds were covered with several blankets and most rooms had small portable heaters. These are not what I would call luxury accommodations. But they were much better than the Research Station at Bellavista and I enjoyed our stay there. I figured this place would do for a future trip.
Andean Condors at Tambo Condor
We headed back up to the restaurant and Vladimir excitedly called us over. An Andean Condor was feeding its 4-month old chick. Of course, the distances involved meant that we couldn’t quite see them with our binoculars, much less the naked eye. Fortunately, the spotting scope made all the difference.
Across the farmland and the river below, on a cliffside marked with condor guano, a turkey-sized ball of fluff sat on a ledge. Its father was feeding it. We could tell it was a male because of he sported a crest of pink flesh on his brow. Even at this distance, it was an amazing site to see.
Birdwatching At tambo Condor
As we took turns looking through the scope and talking to Vladimir about condors, birdwatching and more, I also kept my eye on the birds. I was thrilled to see several kinds of hummingbirds at the feeders. My favorite by far was the Black-tailed Trainbearer, a hummingbird with a striking long tail of two feathers. When he whips his tail just right, it sounds like crackling electricity. The Giant Hummingbird also made an appearance as did the Sparkling Violetear. Those we could also hear high in the tree tops, their distinctive calls permeating the morning air.
A Golden Grosbeak perched in the distance and a curious Yellow-breasted Brushfinch bopped about in the scrub next to the outdoor patio. Best of all were the fast-flying Black Flowerpiercers who danced along the long branches of trees before diving to the feeders to sip sugar water.
The birds weren’t the only ones taking a drink. A young woman brought hot tea for us to share. It was zunfo, a tisane made from a local mountain herb that looks like miniature thyme. It is supposed to help prevent symptoms of high altitude sickness like headache and stomach cramps.
We thanked Vladimir for his time and headed on our way but not before asking about the lunch specials. With mentions of pan-fried trout and churrasco, we decided to come back later in the afternoon on our return from the Antisana Reserve. We partially hoped that by coming back, we might get a better look at one of the Andean Condor’s riding the thermals.
We managed to tally a decent showing for a short visit. If you would like, check out our list on eBird.
Lunch at Tambo Condor
When we arrived at lunch, several tables were already busy with customers. And after receiving our food, we could see why. The menu is not grand but the food is fresh, well-prepared, and a great price, a grand $5 per plate. We didn’t get to sit with a view of the hummingbirds, but several tables could watch the birds flit by through the large picture windows.
After lunch, we headed back outside for a little more birdwatching before heading home. We saw the gorgeous little Tyrian Metaltail, and iconic Eared Dove, and several Shining Sunbeams. I had hoped to catch the rainbow colors on the latter but they refused to perch with their tails towards me. While we didn’t get to see an Andean Condor fly by, we did watch as a Sharp-shinned Hawk attempted to take off with a dove. He missed but his attempt was beautiful to see.
You can see our afternoon bird list on eBird as well.
Overall, I definitely recommend a stop at Tambo Condor, if only to spend a few minutes watching the hummingbirds!
Reserva Antisanilla - the platform viewing spot next to Tambo Condor.
Area de Conservación Antisana
The Antisana Conservation Area (also called the Antisanilla Wildlife Reserve)
Laguna de Mica, Ecuador
We recommend eating either breakfast or lunch at Tambo Condor. This is a great place to see hummingbirds. They also have a spotting scope to make it easier to see nesting Andean Condors.
Information For Your Trip
While this is a possible day trip, we do not recommend driving this road in the dark. Sunrise and sunset are approximately at 6:15 am and pm year round. Since you are likely to lose coverage on these roads, consider downloading an app like Map.Me to keep you on the right track.
- Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Reserva Antisanilla, Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador.
- Direction by Public Transportation It is possible to arrive by bus to Pintag but past that point, you would need to hire a driver. Please consider contacting the Jocotoco Foundation to arrange for an affordable guided tour instead.