Cabañas San Isidro Lodge and Cloud Forest Reserve is just a 2 hour drive from Quito’s new international airport. San Isidro is located between two large national parks at an altitude of about 2,000m. Wonderful cuisine, cooking classes, primary forest trails, mammal watching, birding and archaeology are some of the activities on offer.
Cabañas San Isidro Lodge was founded over 50 years ago by Simon Bustamante, originally from Quito. The Ecuadorian government made the eastern lands available to pioneers to convert into farms. Rather than clear the land for farming, Simon left most of his land untouched. Today, the lodge is in an area still largely covered by extensive humid forest and is run by Simon’s daughter, Carmen. Carmen has run the lodge with her husband, Mitch Lysinger, for the past 20 years. They set up the Napo Andean Forest Foundation to acquire and protect additional forest adjacent to the reserve. The Foundation has strong links with the most influential local and international conservation organisations – including World Parks and Fundación Jocotoco.
The lodge is located in the Quijos Valley, one of the westernmost headwaters of the Amazon. There are 13 comfortable en-suite rooms, each with a private veranda, coffee maker, hummingbird feeder and sitting area. The lodge is surrounded by extensive gardens. The main house has a cosy living room and dining room serving traditional Ecuadorian and international cuisine. There is a comfortable Mirador (viewpoint) lounge, Wi-Fi is available in the dining room, and other amenities include a pool table, TV room, book exchange, dart board, and laundry service.
The lodge has several well-maintained forest trails. And boasts a bird list of 330 species. There is plenty of other wildlife too, including mammals such as night monkeys, kinkajous, spectacled bears, wild cats and black agouti.
The area has habitats from 2,400 metres all the way down to 1,850 metres. It is an ideal base for observing Andean birds from the lower temperate to the subtropical zones. Birds such as highland tinamou, greater scythebill, bicoloured antvireo, Peruvian and giant antpittas, and white-rimmed brush-finch are a few of the rarities found here. Others include the powerful woodpecker, smoky bush-tyrant, Inca jay and black-billed peppershrike. You don’t need to go any further than the veranda or the hummingbird garden to enjoy the dazzling array of hummingbird species. 18 of the 30 known species of the area are either resident or seasonal visitors: sparkling violetear, speckled hummingbird, fawn-breasted brilliant, bronzy and collared incas, buff-tailed and chestnut-breasted coronets, tyrian metaltail, long-tailed sylph and gorgeted woodstar can be found much of the year, while species such as brown and green violetears, rufous-vented whitetip, violet-fronted brilliant, white-tailed hillstar, mountain velvetbreast, wedge-billed hummingbird and white-bellied woodstar are seasonal. The hummingbird garden is a great place to relax.