Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Protected Areas, Tourist Attractions

Situated in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador, the Cotacachi Cayapas Reserve is a beautiful nature reserve with a number of biological zones. The reserve covers approximately 752 235 acres of land and is part of the Ecuadorian reserve system. Since it extends from the heights of the Sierra Mountains to the western edge of the Esmeraldas region, it enjoys Andean, Sub-tropical and rainforest biospheres as well as interesting pockets of other bio-zones in between. The Reserve uses a condor as their official symbol, which is fitting as these massive birds often make their homes in the Andean mountains.

What makes the Cotocachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve so special is that the area has not undergone extensive farming and replanting and so there are a number of ecologically important plant species in the area that require special protection. These plants have adapted to the many difficulties associated with a high altitude and yet their adaptations are not as extreme as those plants situated at even higher elevations. The Reserve also serves to protect a portion of Ecuadorian coastal rainforest of which there is very little left in Ecuador. The small corner of rainforest that falls within the boundaries of the reserve is part of a protected biodiversity hotspot which stretches all the way from southern Panama to northern Peru, so its importance simply cannot be overstated.

There are many great plant and animal species that can be found within the confines of the Reserve. Besides more than 500 species of bird and over 2000 types of flora, there are anteaters, ocelots, foxes, raccoons, parmo wolves, sloths and deer. These are just a few of the more commonly found animals in the reserve and there are many others that are not seen quite as often. There are also a number of fish and amphibious creatures that live in or near the various lakes and rivers of the park. Many consider a trip to Cuicocha Lake a highlight of their visit, as this 200 m deep lake lies in a volcanic crater complete with volcanic domes that peak above the surface of the lake and brilliantly colored water. You might also consider visiting the Cayapa Indians who live in the reserve or taking an 8-day guided hike through the Reserve.

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