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“Ecuador: A Birding Wonderland”

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San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve
Ranked #26 of 116 Hotels in Quito
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 2 March 2014

For a very different festive season experience contact Cheryl Korowotny @ Birdwatching@eco-lodgesanjorge.com.

With Cheryl’s help, a year in advance, we planned a 27 day adventure from Cape Town, South Africa to Ecuador from Dec 11 2013 to Jan 6 2014.

Our Itinerary started at our ‘base-camp’ for the month, San Jorge Quito. This homely hacienda on the outskirts of Quito was where we kept returning to prepare for next leg of our trip. San Jorge Quito is one of three (currently) Eco Lodges owned by the Cruz family. Each lodge is at a different altitude and hence has its own birding specials.

San Jorge Tandayapa and San Jorge Milpe were the 2 destinations on our first 6 day excursion within the Pincincha province. The second (3 days) was over the Pappallacta pass via Cayambe Coca park (Paramo) to the East Andean slopes in the Napo province. Here we visited towns like Baeza, Cosanga and Hollin. The third was a short flight over the Andes to the Napo town of Coca, a 2 hour motor boat ride down the Napo river to Sacha Lodge, for 4 nights.

Additionally we had short excursions from San Jorge Quito to Yanacocha and Jerusalem dry reserve as well as day visits to Otavalo and Quito old city with Jorge Cruz snr.

Our transport, meals and guides were co-ordinated via San Jorge Quito. Bisente’ and Maria (who ran San Jorge while we were there) were wonderful hosts, making us feel like we kept coming home whenever we returned to San Jorge Quito. Staff at San Jorge Tandayapa (run by Starling and Pillar) and San Jorge Milpe (run by Secunda and Hercilia) were all equally warm and welcoming.

All 3 venues have very comfortable accommodation, excellent food as well as their own special views, walks and BIRDS. Mealtimes were special occasions and are geared toward birds visiting at any time. Adding a 4th San Jorge run Cosanga Yanayachu Eco Lodge will certainly add to the excellent birding on the Eastern Andean slopes.

We had the privilege of being allocated 3 excellent and very patient bird guides (Miguel, Danny and Julio) whist at the San Jorge Eco Lodges. Two of the short excursions were led by Jorge snr and jnr.

The last leg of our adventure was down the Napo River to Sacha lodge. This section of the trip into Ecuadorian Amazonia was extremely special. This professionally run, remote lodge is an Ecuadorian asset that is preserving Ecuador’s plants, animals, birds and people. Thank you to Pablo and Wilmer who were our bird guides at Sacha.

This trip was an adventure of a lifetime for us. It is highly recommended to birders. We saw just over 400 new bird species in 20 days of active birding.

Highlights – ALL the hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans and woodpeckers.
Specials – Crested Quetzal and Hoatzin
Unbelievables - Oropendulas (and their nests), Potoo and Umbrellabirds
CrazyNoisy – Parrots +++ at the licks in the Yasuni National park
Hard-work – Tinamou, Andean Guan and Mannikins
Amazing – Plate billed mountain toucan at a nest

Ecuadorians are very tolerant of birders. Go and see this ‘kaleidoscope of birds’ for yourself.

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled with friends
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5  Thank UrsulaA1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 8 February 2014

Our tour was in early July of 2013, and it is still a vivid pleasant memory of an enjoyable experience. Our tour was arranged through Natural Habitat Tours and included a day at San Jorge before going to the Galapagos. We extended the tour for an extra day at San Jorge. In addition to the beautiful grounds and tasty meals, the most memorable part of our stay was having the good fortune to have Jorge Cruz as our tour guide for two days. He is the owner of the San Jorge Lodges and shares his remarkable knowledge of the country and its biodiversity in a way that is unique. Jorge is a trained veterinarian with a love of nature. He can spot birds when they are nearly invisible to the untrained eye. He will then explain the type of bird, its gender, and whether it is an adult or an adolescent. Jorge is also extremely knowledgeable about using the native plants for medicinal purposes (so knowledgeable that he has written a book on the subject). If you enjoy nature, want to see a vast array of birds, want to learn about the people of Ecuador, want to learn about the geography of the Ecuador (like it has the highest mountain on earth if measured from the center of the earth), then you could not find a better guide than Jorge while staying at one of his Eco Lodges.

  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled with family
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4  Thank Barry B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 January 2014

Trip Adviser

My brother and I had tickets to Ecuador with the idea to travel on to the Galapagos Islands. We got a late start and as we researched our options mainland Ecuador emerged as more and more appealing for its highly concentrated biodiversity and unique and wildly varying geography. As life-long ardent amateur nature-lovers and hikers we agreed that birds were always “peak” experiences in our past adventures so we Googled birds & Ecuador and came up with links to San Jorge's Magic Birding circuit. After reading reviews and comparing this Eco-lodge with similar lodges and tours, my brother booked a 9-day tour(!). His contact, Luis, was extremely helpful in hoestly and completely answering all and any questions – there was no “hard-sell” just useful information and suggestions. We still had no idea what to expect, but from the moment we arrived until our tour was (regretfully) over, we were warmly welcomed and “taken under the wings” of this remarkable family-run system of lodges. Our guide Jorge Luis Cruz was remarkable for his breadth and depth of knowledge – not just in the field of birds (for which he had eyes and ears on the back of his head) but he was equally knowledgeable about the plants and other marvelous and unique creatures of Ecuador as well as the area's history – ancient to the present – Needless to say he was a fascinating guide for a “generalist” (which we are in comparison to “birders”) although I found it hard not to start a list ....– so who knows?

This would have been enough, but in addition the people who kept up the lodges were also extremely knowledgeable, warm and welcoming. The food was fresh, local (wonderful fruits and vegetables and spices I'd never tasted before) and delicious sometimes even spectacular – and always beautifully presented. The rooms were spacious with beautiful views, and for a moth enthusiast, there was never a dull moment late into the night. Jorge Cruz also took us on a night hike and we had the thrill of seeing an enormous bull and delicate tree frogs as well as experiencing our first encounter with a “common” (far from it!) night jar – its eyes gleaming like two perfectly round marble-sized vermillion high-beams in the middle of the path about 20 yards in front of us– Jorge immediately recognized what I had been thinking were some exotic bio-luminescent insects, called to it (he could recognize and return the calls of any and all of the thousands of area birds!!)-- and followed the night-jar with his flash light as it raised up from the path,unfolded itself and flew in the most bizarre and captivating display of wings and legs-- seemingly all akimbo – the feeling was of slipping into a time warp and encountering something prehistoric.

To try and sum it up -- this extraordinary trip was definitely a peak experience – not just for the astonishing beauty of the wildlife and dramatic rich landscapes but equally for the remarkable generosity, warmth and intelligence that Dr. Jorge Cruz and his entire family and staff brought to the experience of our stay on all levels. We were sorry to have to leave and are very much looking forward to returning--!

  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled with family
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7  Thank Tamarakrendel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 January 2014

My sister and I took a 7 day tour staying at all three lodges. The tour was perfectly pre-arranged by Luis before we started for Ecuador. He also recommended superb hotels in Quito where we stayed before and after our tour began. Hacienda Jimanez near the airport had its own small nature reserve to explore, and Patio Andaluz in the heart of the old town. Rooms at the lodges were fabulous. In the Quito lodge, we had a roaring fire lit in the room's fire place each night by Stephan, very welcome considering the cool evening temperatures at that altitude. The rooms at Tandanyapa and Milpe had wonderful panoramic views of the cloud forests. The birds were amazing. We needed only to stay at or near the lodges and wait for them to appear although we did also take some lovely guided walks through the forests. Jorge, our guide and owner of the properties, is absolutely brilliant. He knows virtually every species of bird in the area and can spot them at great distance. His knowledge of local plants and insects (such as beautiful butterflies) is also impressive. He is a master photographer and showed us ways to improve our techniques so that we came away with some great pictures. The meals were great as well. We particularly liked the exotic fruit juices they served, many from fruits we had never before heard of. I would enthusiatically recommend this to anyone and would love to repeat the experience myself.

Room Tip: Luis will choose the best rooms for you.
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  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled with family
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4  Thank dkrendel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 January 2014

Our visit to Tandayapa lodge by two couples in early December was excellent. The location in the cloud forest was well suited to seeing a wide variety of birds – especially hummingbirds! Booking over the internet was straight-forward and efficient, and the arrangements for transport from our Quito hotel to the lodge, and then to the Quito lodge and on to the airport were well-organized. The staff at the lodges were friendly and helpful, and their knowledge of local birds was impressive. The meals were very good (lots of fresh fruit and variety), and every meal came with delightful entertainment – a constant stream of hummingbirds visiting the feeders at the dining room terrace! We stayed in the new lodge, and the accommodations were lovely, comfortable and clean. Clearly the highlight of our stay was the guided walk with Jorge whose knowledge of natural history, birds and plants made the forest come alive. The only suggestion for improvement we would make would be better signage on the trails – we were never lost, but a bit unsure at times.

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled with friends
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4  Thank Greg U
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 December 2013

With 6 friends we stayed three days at the lodge in Quito and one couple spent a day at Tandayapa. We are not all birdlovers, but the accomodation was adequate to adapt to high altitudes after our trip to Galapagos Islands. The lodge in Quito is surrouded by wood and it is a nice area to hike and spot birds and enjoy botanical beauties.
Services are excellent: we were fetched from the airport with two cars for six persons and the Luggage. The meals are good and gorgeous and the caretaker was always at our service when we needed him. One of us was even guided to a hospital for medical reasons by dr. Georges Cruz himself.
Beware that the evenings are cool at this altitude and the appartments have to be heated.
For birdlovers: a Paradise, for others recommended if you want to be close to Quito but not in the city itself.

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled with friends
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2  Thank Klaas S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 December 2013

From the moment we booked our birding tour with Cheryl we were treated like family by the San Jorge family and team.We were picked up at the airport by Jorge and personally escorted by him for our entire stay .We stayed at three of the San Jorge lodges,Tandayapa, Milpe and Quito. They were all fantastic. We had million dollar panoramic views over the rainforest and canopy from our large rooms at Tandayapa and Milpe and you felt you could pick the stars from the sky while lying in bed. At Quito in a beautiful traditional hacienda the lights looking down on the city were magical. All the lodges had delicious, fresh traditional food. We even had a lesson on making tampanadas at Tandayapa. Jorge was a constant source of information on topics ranging from birds,wildlife ,trees , history,geography and cooking to world politics! You could do as little or as much as you wanted and Jorge enthusiastically filled our days with hikes up and down hills,over rivers,and past waterfalls . He and his wife even took us to the Otovalto market for a day driving through small villages to see rural life rather than the main highway. The birding was fantastic,beyond our imagination and Jorge enthusiastically pointed out and named every sighting for us never losing patience when we forgot the names again and again.My husband and I would highly recommend a visit to San Jorge lodges in Ecuador . Our only disappointment was that we couldn't stay longer !! Thank you again Jorge and family for such a memorable vacation. Gail from Ontario,Canada

Room Tip: They are all great rooms but some have panoramic views so ask for top floor and view.
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  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank Gail C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve

Address: Km 4 Cotocollao-Nono Road, Quito 00000, Ecuador
Region: Ecuador > Pichincha Province > Quito
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#2 Romantic Hotel in Quito
#6 Family Hotel in Quito
Number of rooms: 30
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve/Quito (High Barren Plains/Highland Rainforest) 18th Century Spanish Hacienda located in the Pichincha Foothills offering airport transfers 24/7 or pick up from downtown Quito. Comfortable Andes hacienda rooms with private bath/hot shower, decorated in typical decor; game room, lounge, restaurant, bar and small museum. Free Wi-Fi offered in upper level rooms. We are the only private nature reserve near the city of Quito, situated on a 230 acre reserve, offering nature and complete relaxation, yet 25 minutes away. Explore our beautiful gardens, birdwatching & hiking trails, hummingbird feeders, delicious cuisine and views of 11 mountains & volcanos in the distance overlooking Quito. Pre-reserved guided tours are available for birdwatching, hiking & natural history, medicinal plants, cultural tours & add on extension cruises to The Galapagos Islands or Amazon Jungle. We also own San Jorge de Tandayapa Hummingbird Lodge & Sanctuary (Cloud Forest) & two Lodges at San Jorge de Milpe Orchid & Bird Reserve - San Jorge Cliff Lodge & NEW San Jorge Forest Lodge (Upper Tropical Rainforest) listed #1 in Trip Advisor. All private reserves & lodges are within 2 hours radius of Quito. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve Hotel Quito
San Jorge Eco-Lodge And Botanical Reserve

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