Sangay, Ecuador 2022
While trekking the highlands of Ecuador in March of 2022, my traveling buddy Mike Stevens and I decided to take a detour towards the Amazon Basin. To do this, we were lucky enough to briefly explore the Sangay National Park. Sangay National Park is located in the central part of Ecuador on the Andes mountains’ eastern side. The park covers an area of just under 5,178 square kilometers, making it the third-largest protected area in the country.
Luckily, there was a paved road that took us through the middle of Sangay National Park. It is called the Guamote-Macas road. It should be noted that mainland Ecuador is very commonly divided into a trio of geographical areas, each with its own unique characteristics, terrain, and wildlife. These are (from west to east): Costa, Sierra, and Oriente. On this trip, we planned to explore a small portion of the Oriente, after leaving the Sierra.
Protecting a range of elevations from 900 to 5319 meters above sea level, Sangay National Park contains a wide variety of habitats, including glaciers, volcanic landscapes, tropical rainforests, cloud forests, wetlands, grasslands, and one of the largest regions of paramo (high elevation moorlands) in Ecuador.
Due to the variety of habitats found within the park, the fertile volcanic soil, and the relatively unaltered landscape, Sangay National Park preserves an exceptional number of native species of plants, insects, and animals.
In the Sangay National Park there are 327 lakes that feed into a vast wetland system covering 31.5 square kilometers, (pictured below).
Because of its complex ecology and geology, as well as its outstanding biodiversity, the park has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
Pictured above and below, the Lagoons of Atillo / Colay are renowned across Ecuador for their natural beauty. The myriad of lagoons that exist in this area include the following: Laguna de Cuyo, Laguna Colay, Laguna La Magdalena, and Laguna Chapanapungo. Some of these lagoons are crossed by the Guamote-Macas road.
Folklore in Ecuador is steeped in mystery and intrigue much like other places around the world. Legend says that the Puruhaes (indigenous inhabitants) punished thieves and crooks by bringing them here to die of cold and hunger, or in some cases drowned them in the lagoons!
The Sangay Volcano is where the name of the park is derived. It is an active stratovolcano featuring a symmetrical cone. The summit of the volcano reaches a height of 5,300 m. While the Guamote-Macas road, we had the opportunity to see it, but the weather was very rainy and the clouds were to thick. So……..pictured below is a an image I borrowed from the Smithsonian Institute.
The Sangay Volcano is the most active volcano in all of Ecuador. Sitting atop the intersection of two pieces of the earth’s crust has kept the volcano active since it began erupting in 1934. The Andes mountain range is at the heart of the Sangay National Park, which features the extinct El Altar volcano and two active volcanoes known as Sangay and Tungurahua.
Pictured below, the various ecosystems of dense forests and thick vegetation serve as tremendous habitats for various unique wildlife. Some of the most popular animal predators include the jaguar, ocelot, cougar, paramo wolf, and pampas cat. Other hopeful wildlife sightings include Brazilian tapir, mountain tapir, margay, spider monkey, red brocket deer, Northern pudu, anteaters, spectacled bear, and the white-tailed deer. Of course driving on the Guamote-Macas road, we saw none of these.
Sangay National Park’s exquisite forest and lush landscape inspire admiration, especially among those with keen geological interests. The area attracts enthusiasts of flora, fauna, and volcanology respectively.
Since we saw so many waterfalls in extremely steep terraine, then it was expected to witness some major landslides. However, we didn’t expect a landslide to cover the road. While we were there in March of 2022, El Nino had come to Ecuador, 6 months ahead of schedule. In other words, the rain was significantly above normal, (pictured below).
Pictured below, Sucua is known as the “Paradise of the Amazon”, for its natural benefits. It was our destination, once we made it through the Sangay National Park.
While in Sucua, we visited a Botanical Park located in the El Kiim sector, south of Sucúa, 1.5 km on the Sucúa road – Seipa beaches (Upano River).
The Botanical Garden in Sucua has an interpretation center that exhibits a gallery of the fauna of the Amazon and seeks to convey a message of conservation. Similarly, in the orchid garden and the interpretive trail, 1100 m long, it allowed us to admire the species of flora and contemplate birds. Pictured below is a Ecuadorian friend that did some relaxing, while we were there.