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“Wow! What a fabulous experience!”

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San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve
Ranked #23 of 111 Hotels in Quito
Certificate of Excellence
Challis, idaho
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Wow! What a fabulous experience!”
Reviewed 7 April 2010

Trip report for San Jorge Magic Birding Circuit March 1-12

Falma Moye, Ph.D.
Geologist
Challis, Idaho 83226

I knew that I wanted to go to Ecuador for a birding trip; however could not decide whether to wing it and see what I could find on my own or go on a guided tour. I am genetically wired to avoid tours and groups of people. However, after much research and discussion with my two birding companions, also ladies from Idaho, we decided to try the San Jorge Magic Birding Tour and Eco-lodges. Their website caught my attention immediately with the lure of multiple birding localities and varied habitat. I was also intrigued by the idea of having an Ecuadorian guide, who could also introduce us to the many facets of his country.

Selecting San Jorge was a GREAT! decision. We had a fabulous time with George, who I prefer to call Jorge, his delightful and talented wife Irina, and all of the kind and efficient staff at his lodges. Fabulous birding! Five star food—and lots of it! All of the accommodations were comfortable. If you do not speak Spanish, not to worry. Jorge’s English is excellent. Jose –probably your first contact when you arrive at Quito—speaks excellent English and is always ready to help. Now a little more about the experience.

Jorge is an amazing man and naturalist. He’s full of energy and even a bit of mischief! I especially liked his approach to the birding part of the trip. We were up at the crack of dawn and out in late afternoon to maximize opportunities to see birds. Jorge works incredibly hard to help you see birds and is very effective (but sensitive to the birds) with the laser pointer. That is no easy task in the dense vegetation. I especially liked the fact that he would continually point out birds that we had already seen. As it turned out, this technique gave us many views in different lighting, and by the end of the trip, I quickly recognized some birds by sound or general impression. I also learned to spot birds better in the dense foliage. Jorge’s English is excellent—as is his sense of humor. He is also very sensitive to the varied physical abilities and birding skills within the group. He works hard to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to see the birds. We were also lucky that there were no scope hogs in the group.

The group size was perfect. We never had more than 8 people. For a few days the three Idaho ladies had Jorge and Irina to ourselves. How lucky we were! It gave us a chance not only to have incredible birding but also to get to know these two wonderful people much better.

What can I say about the diversity of birds! Ecuador is unbelievable, and we only scratched the surface. Hummingbirds at Tandayapa are abundant, varied, and enchanting. I—we all-- spent hours watching the hummingbirds. Tandayapa has been carefully laid out with many comfortable viewing sites to watch hummers on feeders and also in vegetation. Great photo ops! Coming from the US where there are only a few species of tanagers, I was astounded by the variety and beauty of tanagers in Ecuador. At Tandayapa, feeding stations and fruiting trees afford spectacular views of those gorgeous birds and lots others. I saw more than 325 species on this trip. Of those there were only a few migrants that we see in the United States. The burrowing owl near the field where workers were harvesting artichokes by hand was a special surprise, delivered by Jorge.

Jorge has thoughtfully laid out a birding circuit—if you take the 12 day trip-- which transects multiple habitats at varied elevations on the west and east side of the Andes. We birded on the west side of the Andes at about 1000 meters in tropical rainforest at Milpe, 1500 meters at Tandayapa, and from 1500 meters to about 3000 meters on the Nono Mindo road. San Jorge Lodge—the historic lodge and staging area is at about 3000 meters northwest of Quito. We birded around that property and also at Yanacocha, which is a reserve near San Jorge at +3000 meters. On the east side, Jorge does not have a private lodge, but instead we stayed ay at wonderful cabanas in Baeza called Kopal Cabanas. They also serve fantastic pizza—as good as anywhere in the USA. The east side trip took us from >4000 meters at Papaletta Pass to upper Amazon rainforest. Unfortunately some major storms kept us from Cosanga Reserve, but that did not deter Jorge. He always has an ace up his sleeve, and the alternate route led us to torrent ducks and quetzals. Wow!

If you can’t do the full 12 day trip, even the shorter trips will get you into many varied habitats and lots of birds.

I could go on and on about the birding part of this trip, but there were so many other aspects that made the trip even more special.

Irina—Jorge’s wife—is a talented chef who creates wonderful food with fresh, local ingredients. Fresh fruits and juices were on the menu every morning at breakfast. Delicious empanadas, fresh locally farmed trout, local vegetables were all perfectly cooked at artistically presented. Each plate was a work of art that we could not wait to dive into. Soups are standard in Ecuador, and Irina has created a variety of soups for lunch and dinner that were so delicious. You will not go hungry, and if you are not careful may even put on a pound or two.

More about Irina. Aside from being a creative chef, she is also an amazing bird spotter. We were so lucky to have her travel with us for much of the trip. At every opportunity, she would exit the car, pull out “largavistas” or binoculars. Soon thereafter, we would hear “Jorge! Arriba! Arriba!” Sure enough Irina had spotted a spectacular bird. Her passion for birds rivals her husband’s. Irina’s English is not as good as Jorge’s so I had a great time practicing Spanish and getting to know this wonderful woman. I would go back to San Jorge just to visit mi amiga nueva.

I am not sure this review has done justice to the San Jorge experience: birds, people, food, lodging, habitats, new friends. Memories of Stalin and his family at Tandayapa; Jose and Vincente at San Jorge; Carmello and family at Milpe. Wonderful, hardworking, people who have a passion for making the San Jorge experience special. Beautiful country and beautiful people.

With so many places to bird in the world, I would go back to San Jorge in a heartbeat! It is an incredible value for the cost. Jorge and his family put much energy and money into conservation efforts. Truly one of the greatest trips of my life. Check out the San Jorge Eco-lodge website www.hostsanjorge.com.ec. Be sure to go to the photo gallery and check out Jorge’s photos.

!If you want to bird in Ecuador, this is the way to go!

A few other points of interest for Ecuador: In Quito try either Hostel El Arupo in new town, or the Hotel San Francisco in the heart of old town. Both were nice and very reasonable. We planned to stay at the Secret Garden on out last night there, but one look at the place sent us to Hotel San Francisco. We also ventured into the Cuyabena reserve in the orient and stayed at Jamu Lodge. The reserve was interesting, hot and humid. At Jamu we had a very good guide named Washington, but the birding aspect was lacking. The guide knew birds, but it was not the focus of the trip. There were very few birds right around the primitive Jamu Lodge. If you want to go to Cuyabena, check out Cuyabena Lodge on the internet. When we went near there in a boat, it seemed that there was much more bird life.

Happy birding and travels.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled with friends
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2 Thank quailgirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Washington DC
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 April 2010

We started at San Jorge Quito and did the circuit to Tandayapa, Milpe, up over Papallacta Pass and to Cosanga. The magic comes from Jorge's ability to spot birds and find them in his scope so fast that even novices can catch a crystal clear view. We were the novices and struggled with sighting birds through our binoculars, but there were so many of them that finding some of them meant findings lots! We saw 90 species or so each day. Some of them were just spectacular. It was engaging and challenging and exhausting, but great fun with Jorge along. His knowledge of the birds is encyclopedic. His enthusiasm and patience with us were unflagging.

Don't miss the walk down to the waterfalls at Milpe! The hardcore birders went elsewhere, but we took a break and were guided by a staff member on a hike down alongside the river. I think there were 7 different waterfalls, most with pretty pools. It was a beautiful walk.

All the lodges are in beautiful settings. Tandayapa and Milpe are off the road by a hike of 15 minutes or so. There's no back road. We left our extra gear back at Quito and the staff lugged the backpacks, so the hikes weren't onerous, but the lodges are not accessible for people who have difficulty walking. The food at the lodges was delicious and varied. Near the end, we asked for scaled-down lunches, which worked well. It was hard to say "no" when the staff had cooked such wonderful meals, but it was too much food for us.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, even with the 5a wake up calls.

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
3 Thank SharoninDC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
BROOKLYN
Level 5 Contributor
71 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 April 2010

We had a wonderful stay at San Jorge, even our teenaged son was entranced. We found this to be a unique and special place to stay, where we were a mere 20 minute ride from downtown Quito (a truly lovely historical city) yet surrounded by mountains in a peaceful rural setting. We enjoyed several day trips to the other lodges and towns. In a relatively short 6-day stay we experienced at least 6 ecosystems and the city. And the birds, so many and so beautiful! Particularly the hummingbirds were charming.
The staff are very professional, knowledgable and attentive. One night Jose the manager offered to place eucalyptus in our room to ease our son's cold symptoms; a lovely gesture and effective. Vicente who is the waiter among other roles is very knowledgable about the local plants. Both were very attentive to our interests and comfort. Our guides were very knowledgable and the drivers on our tours very safe and competent. We felt very safe travelling. The trips were personalized; we travelled in small vans and most of the time it was just our family as the guests. Our guides graciously answered all of our questions which were numerous.
The meals were delicious, made with lots of fresh fruits, fish and vegetables, and wonderfully seasoned, and our room was spacious and comfortable.
The Quito lodge is a hacienda with a long history. This is not a place for someone looking for a hotel chain. The room is heated by a fireplace (lit at dinner every night). We found that we were quite warm in the bedroom, although the bathroom was a little chilly in the morning but we all figured out how to manage that.There is a lovely pool, it is not heated or chorinated but feels like you are swimming in a fresh lake. One of our favorite days was spent exploring the grounds and hiking on our own, with a break for lunch served on the patio.
Dr. Jorge Cruz has a strong sense of vision and passion to share the culture and nature of Ecuador. He has made it his life's work to share and make it accessible to visitors and we felt that as a result we learned a tremendous amount during our relatively short stay.
Probably best of all is that we felt that our trip was very personalized, from when we booked it through Cheryl (the US rep) through the very last day when Jose and Vicente served us a lavish breakfast at 3am before our early departure. It was clear from how we were accommodated and treated and our conversations with other guests that our hosts were making every effort to tailor each guests' trip to their own interests. We were each having our own vacation and learning experience in the same location but suited to our own interests.
The Andes and Ecuador are beautiful and this was a wonderful way to experience the region. We hope to return.
This was a wonderful experience and we are recommending our friends to visit San Jorge!

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank city-hiker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
California
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 20 March 2010

The service was wonderful - anything that was needed was dealt with immediately. The staff picked us up at the airport and returned us in a very timely manner.

The rooms were very clean - that is a must for me. They were decorated in a semi traditional style which greatly added to the atmosphere. Don't expect a modern, fancy hotel - that was not what we wanted. The rooms are nice, clean, quaint, and decorated nicely. I appreciated having the fire lit in the room when we returned from an outing on a cool evening. When the clouds lifted, there was a beautiful view of Quito. There is wi-fi in the rooms and in the courtyard.

The food was wonderful. I am a semi picky eater and there was something for me at every meal. The meals were formal four course meals. Something that I could get used to very quickly.

Jose and Vicente assisted us with everything. We really did not need to do anything. They were professional and extremely nice.

The staff organized our trip to the Galapagos and we were very pleased with that trip as well.There were many services available that we did not use as my husband was there for birding and photography. There is a library, a pool, etc.

Would I go back? Yes, we plan to.
Would I recommend San Jorge to my friends? Yes.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank njdwu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Manitoulin Island, Canada
Level 4 Contributor
27 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 March 2010

The lodge in Quito was 1 of 3 that we visited during our trip.
The others were an eco-lodge in The rain forest in Milpe and a lodge in the cloud forest in Tandayapa.
Everything is organized prior to the trip with all meals (delicious Ecuadorian food) the travel between the lodges and the birding guides.
All were excellent, with wonderful staff , clean and comfortable rooms and great birding.
We highly recommend this tour to all birders as you see them in pristine areas.
John & Nicole

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
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1 Thank pearlymay
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
los angeles, ca
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 23 February 2010

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. Although we're not huge birders we are very appreciative of the outdoors and beautiful natural settings. While staying at the lodge we truly felt a part of the hillside and the Ecuadorian lifestyle. I could have easily assimilated into living there forever :)

I would recommend this lodge to anyone looking for typical food and lodging to the area and a very relaxing setting to enjoy the country to its fullest.

  • Stayed January 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank californiagirl2007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Denver, CO
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 9 February 2010

My daughter in law, Pinnniped, and I traveled to three different lodges in Ecuador in search of new birds. We could not have been more pleased with the guides, the number of birds, the accomodations, the food, and the friendliness of the work staff and Dr Jorge Cruz himself. When we met Dr Cruz the second day, I was sure I had met the character straight out of the 1992 movie,"The Medicine Man" with Sean Connery. He not only knew all of his birds in English but was able to tell us all about them and their habitat but he knew his plants and flowers and their medicinal uses as well. He was absolutely fascinating. After birding, Dr Cruz served as informant about his country and its people, culture and history. It was exactly what I needed and had hoped for in introducing me to Ecuador. I felt like I had a school year course in history, birding, culture and biology in three days. This was because I asked hundred of questions and Dr Cruz was always willing to answer and offer more insight.
The food in each lodge was indiginous and quite good. I was pleased at the introducton to the food of Ecuador.
The transportation from lodge to lodge was good with stops to bird along the way. Lodges were in nature and well worth the extra effort it took to reach them. They were off the beaten path and very nicely nestled into the very area we were to bird.
I cannot imagine a better setting in which to observe birds and cannot think there would be a reason to go anywhere else if you want to see the bird life of the area.
We are looking forward to returning to bird elsewhere with Dr Cruz.. Nieves in Colorado

  • Stayed November 2009
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Helpful?
1 Thank birdwatcher641
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

Property: 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
#10 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 And Botanical Reserve
San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve Hotel Quito

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