On the west side of Pichincha sits a wonderful little nature reserve covered in cloud forest. Yanacocha Reserve is not well known, even though it is mere kilometres from central Quito, and the two separate visits we have made have been all the better for it.
Yanacocha is one of ten private reserves set up and managed by the Jocotoco Foundation. Jocotoco identifies and establishes reserves in microclimates with endemic species, especially birds, many of which are endangered. Through education centres and eco-tours, Jocotoco provides a better understanding of the importance of conservation and retaining robust eco-systems throughout Ecuador.
A short drive out of the congested valley that houses Quito, you quickly climb the flank of Pichincha and into rolling farmland. Then a left turn onto a dirt track leads up through the paramo and up to the small administrative building of Yanacocha. With an education centre and small cafe as well, the main focus is really on the natural experience. And you don’t have to wait long – as usually within moments you see a hummingbird darting through the flowering bushes!
A dirt track that soon turns into a well-kept path follows the curves of the mountainside and the fog rolls up from out of the valleys or hangs in patches dotting the landscape. All this moisture allows for a wide array of plants to grow, including some leaves that could easy engulf not only Piper, but probably us as well!
It is a mystical place with the ever-changing fog, or cloud, enshrouding the path and giving fleeting glimpses of the surrounding mountains. And then suddenly the bright equatorial sun will power through and the full beauty of the place will be on display. The unique biodiversity right outside of Quito is a breath of fresh air – literally – and will keep your attention as you look left and right at new plants, flowers, or crane your neck to find the birds calling in the canopy above.
There are numerous bird species here, but the real draw is the variety of hummingbirds. Ecuador has around 130 varieties of hummingbird and around 15 are in Yanacocha. Hummingbirds are truly magical to observe with their wing speed and ability to hover in place. The colours on display are fantastic as well. The only shame is that the reserve uses plastic feeders to help sustain the population. Certainly a more natural solution would be preferable, but considering their hard work to help maintain native populations, it is hard to really argue with their methods.
All in all, this is a great little day, or even half day, trip out of Quito. It’s provides the perfect opportunity to connect with nature in a micro climate not readily available even within Ecuador.