It’s time for another unique animal sighting in Ecuador! Allow us to introduce to you, an opportunity to see the Oso Anteojo, aka Oso Andino, aka the Spectacled Bear. The Spectacled Bear, the only bear found in South America, is a tree-climbing wonder, and mostly vegetarian.
Throughout the year, they can be found all over Ecuador, from 14,000 ft above sea level in the cold and wet “páramo” ecosystems, to the warm, humid cloud forests at 4,000 ft, and even lower down than that. They travel these distances through varying climates to find food for their mostly-vegetarian diet. Believe me when I say, bears eating berries off of high-up tree branches is an amazing photo opportunity.
The best way to see these bears if you’re in Quito right now is to go down the road towards Mindo on the paved Calacali highway. About halfway between Calacali and Nanegalito, you’ll pass the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve. The folks at Maquipucuna are amazing biologists and guides, and you can set up a tour with them quite easily. During impossible to predict times throughout the year, it’s quite probable that you see a bear on a guided tour with them, but call them first to ask if there have been bears around recently. Either way you'll want a guide to help you spot them out.
This bear-watching adventure is also not for the dedicated bed-head. If you don’t want to stay at the lodge at Maquipucuna, it will be necessary for you to leave Quito - either in Taxi or with private vehicle or private driver - around 5 AM. The bears do most of their foraging early in the morning, and it behooves you to get there just after sunrise to start your search for this beautiful and rare species of bear.