Explore the Diverse Terrain of the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve
It isn’t difficult to spot the beautiful Cayambe Peak that towers above surrounding mountains and hills at 5 790 m above sea level. This striking, often snow-capped mountain is Ecuador’s third highest and is also a dormant volcano. It has long been recognized amongst mountaineering enthusiasts as offering a spectacular climb, but is not recommended for amateurs since the strong southeastern winds frequently cause avalanches. The Cayambe Volcano is situated in the midst of the beautiful Cyambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and the village of Cayambe is one of the main points of access to the reserve since it is only one kilometer to the south of the volcano. However the reserve stretches across three different provinces – Pichincha, Imbabura and Sucumbios – and so there is more than one access point. Where you choose to enter should depend largely on which attractions in the reserve you wish to see.
The Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve covers some 400 000 hectares of land. It enjoys a great deal of biodiversity and the reserve can be easily divided into lowland rainforest and mountain rainforest regions. There are lakes, rivers and hot springs spread across the reserve and the hot springs have made the reserve a very popular weekend destination. There are three particularly high peaks in the reserve. Apart from the Cayambe, which was mentioned earlier, there is also the Sarahurco, which is 3 485 meters above sea level, and the Puntas, which is 4 425 meters above sea level. The newest volcano is Reventador, which is still active and should generally be avoided.
If you are able to enjoy one of the very cost-effective hikes through the reserve, you will find that there is plenty of chuguiahuas, moss, achupallas, romerillos and mortiños at high altitudes. As you lower your altitude you will find that there is an increase in the number and variety of natural flowers in the region. Near the bottom of the mountains the vegetation gets denser and slowly turns into jungle. It is amidst all this flora that some 900 different species of bird and over 200 species of mammal have made their home. There are also about 110 amphibian species and 140 reptile species that can be found in the Caya-Coca Ecological Reserve. Visitors will likely not get the chance to see them all but they may be able to spot Andean condors, turkeys, parrots, hummingbirds, toucans, deer, bears, squirrels, bats, rats and monkeys.