A while ago I was contacted by someone who was considering spending some time in Reserva Los Cedros in Ecuador, asking what my general opinions of that place might be. I made the website for the reserve and they found my email there. I finally got back to them today, and in case it might be useful for others thinking of spending some time up there, here’s what I thought to say.
Hey Jody, sorry for the long wait,
OK, Los Cedros.
What it isn’t: professional. There is no managed tourist program or sophisticated conservation apparatus at reserva Los Cedros. It’s really just a whole lot of cloud forest sitting on a mountain top. Occasionally some scientists go there, but that’s not especially common as far as I can tell. The guy who runs it is a crotchety old coot.
What it is: a whole bunch of cloud forest sitting on a mountain top. And if there’s anything better than that, it would be a whole bunch of cloud forest sitting on a mountain top without a bunch of smarmy professionals running the show. My experience with Ecaudor is that professionalism has a hard ceiling, and that the best thing that can happen there is for people not to screw things up too much. Conservation is mostly a matter of deliberate inaction. In that sense, Los Cedros is a conservation machine.
It’s also a treefort paradise. You can do practically whatever pleases you, live how you wish to live. They’ll probably expect you to cut some trail and tend the garden and if there are any active science programs going maybe you can census some monkeys or some orchids but I haven’t heard that there are any such programs at the moment. Ask Jose (crotchety old coot), he’ll know. It’s a lot of swinging in hammocks and watching the toucans break from canopy to canopy through the cloud mist and listening to the howler monkeys and occasionally trekking out for a dunk under the cascada. If I went back I’d probably try to repair the water line to the old middle house and set up my homestead there. And I probably could, it’s a very do-you-own-thing scenario.
One major variable is: who else will be there at the same time? There’s no guessing what other “volunteers” will be around, and it makes a difference. I’ve spoken with people who were practically alone for their entire stay, which could be lonely or marvelous depending on your inclinations. When I was there there was good little crew and we had a fine time.
Last time I was up was 3 (?) years ago and nothing much had changed since 2001 when I first went, which suited me fine. Some people would hate the experience as pointless and vague. Whenever I get too busy, I imagine a month in the cloud forest.
As for the cloud forest itself: I’ve spent a couple months in the jungle basin doing science stuff, and it is incredible. But the cloud forest has 80% of the biological incredibleness of the jungle (which is to say, more than I can imagine, even having been there), and %10 of the discomfort, and much better views into the canopy and into the valleys. It’s a mind blower.
If all of that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, do not go at all. It’s not a standard tourist activity. Nor is there any shame in not wishing to be bored and listless after walking 6 hours through the mud uphill. If that does sound like your kind of thing, I highly recommend it. I wish I was there now.