Exploring Ecuador: with sea lions, butterflies and giant tortoises for company

Earlier this year, BIRD spread its wings and flew across the Atlantic with a group of incredibly talented photographers;  Tommy Clarke, Jack Anstey, Kyle Miller, Elke Frotscher and Jay McLaughlin. With our Olympus cameras ready to go and our minds eager to be amazed by the unique landscapes, flora and fauna of mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, our two-week adventure lay ahead of us. And with Tommy’s uncanny impersonation of the legendary David Attenborough on repeat, it really felt like we were in an episode of Blue Planet, only better as it was real life.

To celebrate the beauty of Ecuador and the photography shot, we’d love for you to come along and re-live the experience with us in person, at our dedicated photography exhibition at the After Nyne gallery in Holland Park from the 12 – 18 June.

Until then… here’s a sneak peak…

Credit: Jay McLaughlin

Our first stop on our Ecuadorian adventure was eco-conscious beach-front haven, Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on Santa Cruz Island. Here, sustainability is at the core of everything the hotel does. Within half an hour of arriving at this barefoot paradise, we were cooling off in the pool, beer in hand, gazing out to the sun setting on this fabled archipelago. This really was a dream come true.

Credit: Jack Anstey

Next on our itinerary was a four day expedition on the Santa Cruz II ship. From snorkelling with tropical fish, to admiring the red and blue footed booby birds protecting their chicks, and basking in the sun as the iguanas do whilst kayaking around rock formations, this cruise offers Darwin-fanatics a truly spectacular way to observe this pre-historic lands. With a gym, jacuzzi, games-room and an array of water-based activities, guests can experience sailing in upmost style and sophistication.

Credit: Elke Frotscher

Returning to mainland Ecuador, our bodies still swaying in sync with the ocean, we embraced a few days meandering the cobbled streets of Quito old town, treating our palate to world renowned chocolate and treating our eyes to the majestic baroque architecture of the capital. We were staying at restored mansion-house hotel, Casa Gangotena, overlooking San Francisco Square in Quito old town. Our days in Quito ended in the most perfect way; sipping on cocktails as we watched sunset from the hotel rooftop.

Credit: Kyle Miller

Our trip culminated in what can only be described as Tarzan and Jane’s heaven. Luscious green plant life and golden vines drape every inch of the Choco-Andean cloud forest, in which the glass-fronted eco-sanctuary of Mashpi Lodge resides. Founded by businessman and former mayor of Ecuador, Roque Sevilla, the hotel now leads pioneering work of protection and discovery in this area of astounding natural beauty. We glided through the canopy on the Dragonfly Gondola,  waded through flowing streams that led to the base of 60ft high waterfalls, and admired the multicoloured-winged butterflies at the Life Centre. Our time at Mashpi Lodge certainly developed an even deeper appreciation for the importance of ensuring the longevity of this slide of paradise in the face of climate change. This really was an adventure of a lifetime and we can only encourage you to make a trip there to experience it yourself.

Credit: Tommy Clarke

Credit: Jack Anstey