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October 14, 2010

Breakfast with the Hummingbirds

HSI and The HSUS lead trip to Ecuador

Humane Society International

  • Swimming under a waterfall. Toby Bloom/HSI

  • Lodge owner Dr. Jorge Cruz points out a bird. Toby Bloom/HSI

  • Frog closeup. Toby Bloom/HSI

  • One of many beautiful birds sighted. Toby Bloom/HSI

  • Looking out from the lodge. Toby Bloom/HSI

  • Choco Toucan at San Jorge de Milpe Orchid and Bird Reserve. San Jorge Eco Lodge

  • Cock-of-the-rock in the Tandayapa Cloud Forest. San Jorge Eco Lodge

  • Rose-faced Parrot at San Jorge de Milpe Orchid and Bird Reserve. San Jorge Eco Lodge

by Toby Bloom

Breakfast with the hummingbirds, hiking through cloud forests, swimming in waterfalls and falling asleep to the sounds of tree frogs under a canopy of a million stars... What more could a nature lover ask for? This is just a taste of how seven HSI/HSUS supporters, I and another HSUS staff member spent our time during an HSUS/HSI-sponsored ecotour [PDF] to Ecuador and the San Jorge Lodges.

Shared interests

As the Director of Wildlife Ecotourism for HSI, I was thrilled when I was asked to accompany the group on their trip. Martin Stephens, Vice President of Animal Research Issues for The HSUS, also joined us, adding his birding expertise and expansive knowledge of HSUS programs, having been with the organization for 25 years. The other travelers were a diverse bunch, ranging in age from their mid-30s to their early 80s, and hailing from Georgia, California and Washington, DC. Despite our varied backgrounds, we quickly bonded over our love of animals, nature, and good food, and we created some memories to last a lifetime as we toured the circuit of San Jorge’s three lodges. The group was pleased that a portion of their trip cost was going to fund HSI’s local partners in Ecuador to support their companion animal welfare work in their respective communities.

Struck by beauty

The first full day was spent riding mountain bikes from the highlands outside of Quito, down 6,000 feet to the cloud forest of Tandayapa. Along the way, we enjoyed the striking mountain scenery and noticed the changes in foliage and the sounds of the different animals as we dropped in altitude. When we arrived at the Tandayapa lodge, we were treated to spectacular views of the cloud forest valley outside our windows, with cows, donkeys and hundreds of colorful birds dotting the bright green fields and crisp blue skies. Although everyone was tired after the long ride, we spent that first evening marveling over the delicious vegetarian meals, getting to know each other, and excitedly discussing the events of the past day and our expectations for the rest of the trip.

Over the next few days, we happily tramped along the rain-soaked trails at the Tandayapa and Milpe lodges. In Milpe, we took a night hike, which turned out to be my favorite of the whole tour! We saw five different species of frog, as well as several amazingly beautiful and unusual insects and spiders. Another highlight of the trip was the day we spent hiking at 13,000 feet and relaxing in the beautiful Papallacta hot springs. This definitely ranked up there as one of my favorite work trips!

Tangible impact

Before returning home, the group exchanged emails and pictures, and discussed plans for future trips to HSUS and HSI program locations. I am now more committed than ever to developing eco-tours, with the hope that even more of HSUS and HSI’s supporters will have the opportunity to see up close just how we celebrate animals and confront cruelty worldwide. Please visit our website for information about future destinations. I hope you’ll join me on a trip sometime soon!

To inquire about Humane Travels with HSI, please email humanetravels@hsi.org.

Note: Read about the top five reasons to use a community tourism operator.

Toby Bloom is Director of Wildlife Ecotourism for HSI.

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