For centuries the magnificent landscapes around Antisana Volcano were only within reach of scientists, geographers and intrepid expeditionaries, but now, a good paved road takes you into this pristine moorland (paramo), full of wildlife and breathtaking scenery. The Antisana is a Condor Sanctuary, providing refuge for one of the largest concentrations of Andean Condors left in Ecuador, as well as many other rare and endangered highland avian fauna like the black-faced ibis, cinereous conebills, Andean gulls, brown speckled teal, Andean lapwings, many carunculated caracaras, Andean doves, and the rare siskin.
The Antisana Ecological Reserve, with 120,000 hectares (296,400 acres), includes the snow-covered Antisana Volcano, rising to 5758m (18,886 ft), and is one of the most rigorously protected natural areas in Ecuador. The Antisana’s massive glaciers feed water to the lakes and rivers of the reserve, which sustain the abundant wildlife of the region, and also provide much of Quito’s drinking water.
Although condors can be found throughout the Andes cordillera from Tierra del Fuego to southern Colombia, their habitat is shrinking. The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is the national symbol of Ecuador, prominently featured on its Coat of Arms. Conservation efforts in Ecuador are now underway to salvage one of the last populations of the world’s largest flying bird. What began as a minor movement in local communities is now supported by national non-governmental organizations with international technical and financial assistance.
The magnificent condor boasts a wingspan of over 3 meters (10 feet), has a bare grayish red head with a white ring on its neck. Its feathers are shiny black with white tips. They can easily be seen on a huge wall of cliffs across a narrow canyon on the way up to Antisana or soaring up near the highest peaks, a great distance away. Andean dwellers believed that the condor was a messenger to the gods, which flew into the upper world (hanan pacha) to carry prayers to the gods.
Guests will thoroughly enjoy a spectacular day trip out of Quito to watch condors in their natural habitat, in contact with undisturbed nature and away from regular tourist routes. Wear warm clothing and don’t forget your binoculars!