Ecuador - Napo Headwaters
Mariposa Butterfly Tours Sample Itinerary
Day 1 - Into the Cloud Forest
We'll spend today making the drive from Ecuador's capital city, Quito, to San Isidro Lodge. If we're leaving Quito in the morning, we'll probably spend most of the day at Guango Lodge, just below the treeline on the E slope. If the weather's good, we can hope to find a good hairstreak or two among the more typical high Andean butterflies, such as various Leptophobia mountain-whites, Pedaliodes mountain-satyrs, and various skippers probably including some nice Dalla skipperlings. In the afternoon we'll arrive at San Isidro Lodge.
Days 2-3 - San Isidro Lodge
San Isidro is perfectly placed as cloud forest lodge, at around 2000 m. elevation. In the Andes, this means a LOT of satyrs, of all kinds - Lymanopoda, Corades and the other big genera, of course, but also the interesting smaller genera like Pseudomaniola, Daedalma, and Corderopedaliodes. For some reason, this is also one of the best places for Andean clearwings, including the spectacular Veladyris pardalis and plenty of others. We will also hope for various high-elevation metalmarks, skippers, and if we're lucky a few great hairstreaks!
Day 4 - To the Lowlands
Depending on how we've done at San Isidro - and the weather - we'll decide on a departure time for the two hour drive to Cotococha. There are some sites en route, but we will likely spend our butterflying time at one end or the other - these are two top-notch sites!
Days 5-9 - Tena Area
Our lodge outside of Tena is right on the banks of the Napo River, and is a perfect base to explore this world-class butterflying destination. We'll be looking for... well, just about everything here! We're right on the edge of the Amazon basin, and there is a huge range of butterflies from all families to enjoy. In particular, we can expect a nice variety of leafwing-types (Memphis, Prepona, Fountainea), Heliconius longwings, Adelpha sisters, and plenty of other Nymphalids. However, for many (including me!), the top attraction is the metalmarks - Euselasia and Caria are especially diverse and exciting in this area. And with a lot of luck, we can also hope to find some wonderful Evenus hairstreaks; even if we don't, there should be other neat hairstreaks around. Also, skippers of all kinds should be in evidence, hopefully including some nice firetips. We'll have many forest trails to work, as well as roadsides, and stream and river edges... all in all, this should be among the best 5 days of butterflying anywhere - just pray for perfect weather!
Day 10 - Uphill again!
At some point today, we'll tear ourselves away from Tena and head back up into the Andes. Part of the pain of leaving the wonders of the lowlands will be eased by the beautiful surroundings - and butterflyies, of course! - at WildSumaco, our next destination.
Days 11-12 - WildSumaco Lodge
WildSumaco is our "in-between" lodge at the fascinating elevation of 1000 m. - just high enough to get interesting Andean bugs, but still low enough for Amazonian variety. We'll spend a lot of our time along forested stretches of road here, but there are lots of trails to explore as well. As usual, there are butterflies of all stripes to find here, from the rare and gaudy Prepona praeneste to cute little spreadwings like Potamanaxas latrea. In particular, there are some unexpected hairstreaks to be found - on my 2016 visit we found an undescribed Camissecla, for exapmle. If the weather turns bad - or even if it doesn't! - we can enjoy the view from lodge balcony and the hummingbirds buzzing at the nearby feeders.
Day 13 - Out of the forest
Today we'll bid farewell to the forests of the Amazon basin as we head high up into the Andes again. We can spend our time at WildSumaco before heading out, or revisit Guango Lodge (see Day 1) on the way to Papallacta. We'll stay here in the beautiful hot springs hotel, and despite the cold outside, we're likely to enjoy the thermal baths in the evening - if we're not too busy identifying all our photos from the past 2 weeks!
Day 14 - Papallacta
Weather permitting - that's often a problem at this elevation! - we'll have a final morning of butterfly photography in the paramo habitat around Papallacta. Above 3000 m., we're likely to find mostly satyrs. We'll be hoping for some neat Neopedaliodes, Altopedaliodes, or some other such rarely-seen species. Depending on flight times, we'll make our way to the airport at some point during the day to conclude the tour.