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Milpe Ecuador, an Oasis in the Rainforest

Updated on May 17, 2011
Milpe Bird Sanctuary
Milpe Bird Sanctuary | Source

The Milpe Bird Sanctuary lies in the Los Bancos-Milpe rainforest valley in the western foothills of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. It is one of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation acquisitions dedicated to the preservation of the avifauna treasures of the northwestern slopes.

MCF purchased the original 62 ha (155 acres) of land that extended from 1020-1150m (3350-3770ft) altitude and prepared it for tourists. Recently they have added an additional 40 ha. to the property. Birdlife International recognizes the reserve as an Important Bird Area (IBA) due to its many endemic and threatened inhabitants. Since opening in 2004, there have be more than 250 bird species identified within the reserve. Hummingbird and tanager feeders have been erected near the main entrance and they are continually bustling with activity. A Club-winged Manakin lek is located in the sanctuary that can be very entertaining when the energetic males strut and dance to attract the attention of apathetic females.

Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii)
Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii) | Source

Birding in this area is sensational all year round but the rains of January through March can hamper the frustrated traveler. However, since the more inclement weather occurs in the afternoons, the early explorer can avoid spending the day confined to the hotel room. Temperature average between 22 - 25 degrees C (72 - 78 degrees F) and are quite comfortable. The abundance of biting insects require the use of repellent and clothing covering most exposed body parts is recommended. Rain gear and boots are advisable in case of a sudden shower. Trails range from easy to moderate regarding their construction and accessibility.

History and Use

The Milpe Bird Sanctuary was dedication and opened to the public in March 2004 with a total of 62 ha (155 acres) of land designated as protected. Mindo Gardens, an adjacent reserve, was acquired in August 2010 by Mindo Cloudforest Foundation and was incorporated into the sanctuary, bringing the total land holdings to 100 ha (250 acres). A new trail connects the two properties providing easy access to new birding areas. 

Nearby Accommodations

There are many lodges, hotels, hosterias and hostals available within a 20 minute drive of the Milpe sanctuary. Mindo is located about 20 km north of the area and has a great diversity of accommodations and activities. This area is know worldwide for its avifauna diversity and is on the must-see birding areas from many birding enthusiasts. Hiking, zip-lining, horseback riding, etc. are just a few of the many pursuits available for the adventurer.

San Miquel de los Bancos is about 10km south of Milpe and provides additional lodging and restaurant opportunities. The Rio Blanco Mirador is a wonderful place to relax, have a cup of coffee, and watch the multitude of tanagers that visit the feeders just outside the glass walls of the cafe.

Pale-mandibled Aracari (Pteroglossus erythropygius)
Pale-mandibled Aracari (Pteroglossus erythropygius) | Source

How to Get There

Lat: 0 01' 26" N Lon: 78 53' 39" W

The Milpe Bird Sanctuary is easily accessible from Quito using public transportation. There are numerous busses traveling to the coastal towns. This transportation is quite inexpensive and readily available. There are also daily excursions to Mindo and is a favorite means for conveyance for the vacationer on a budget.

If traveling by private vehicle it is necessary to go north from Quito past Mitad del Mundo, the National Park and Monument marking the 16th century discovery of the equator. The road ascends through the mountains past volcano Pululahua and the village of Calacalí. After passing Calacalí the road will descend towards the coast and Esmeraldas. A toll both ($.80 per car) is located outside this little burg, just before tackling the unending cutbacks along the mountain roads. Nanegallita is the only town of significance that will be encountered along the route where it is possible to obtain some refreshments. At Km 78 there will be a sign indicating the left turn towards the town of Mindo. Passing this turnoff and continuing on the main road until Km 91, a sign will be visible on the right designating the way to the entrance of the Milpe Bird Sanctuary. There is a bus stop located at this corner. Travel down the gravel road .7 km to access the reserve on the right.

There is an entrance fee of $6 per person, $9 is you wish to visit both reserves. There is also a three day pass if a visitor wishes to include a trip to Rio Silanche, which is part of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. There are clean restrooms available and a small restaurant and a gift shop are on site to purchase food as well as t-shirts, bird books, and other novelties. The parking area has ample space for various sized vehicles. Hummingbird and Tanager feeders are set up near ranger station and special lighting has been installed to attract butterflies to the area. The paths are well maintained and range from easy to moderate in accessibility. There are two overlooks for viewing the surrounding mountains.


Milpe Bird Sanctuary is a must-see destination for the avid birder. Its tremendous diversity of avifauna and picturesque pathways provide the enthusiastic traveler with an extraordinary opportunity to see and record birds species that can be found nowhere else in the world. The variety of other activities available can occupy the time of non-birding companions while a world of adventure awaits the eager explorer.


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