San Martin Zoological Park in Baņos, Ecuador
The San Martin Zoological Park houses many species of animals found in
the Sierra and Orient regions of Ecuador (spanning diverse habitats:
grassy highlands, cloud forests, and amazonian rain forests).
The zoo's mission is to conserve and rehabilitate animals, and when possible to release them back into the wild.
For the past thirteen years, it has provided care to sick wildlife, shelter for
endangered species rescued from the international pet trade, and rehabilitated hurt animals brought to the zoo by local people.
Current efforts underway at the zoo will move it toward becoming a Biodiversity Center for central Ecuador: the
building of a conference center (hostel and meeting rooms now complete);
the building of a biodiversity library (under construction); the
building of an animal clinic that will service the community as well as the zoo (also under construction).
San Martin Zoo serves an educational function for both Ecuadorans and visitors to Ecuador: providing vivid
lessons in vital concepts like habitat and the value of biodiversity. San Martin plays a role in reshaping
attitudes about hunting, deforestation, ecology, and man's role as part of nature.
The San Martin Zoological Gardens are located approximately four hours from Quito, in the town of
Baņos, known as gateway to the Amazon. Situated at the base of
Tungurahua, at an altitude of approximately 6,000', the zoo is physically located within a series of canyon walls
next to the Rio Pistaza. Click here to view the United Nations' map of Ecuador.
Endangered Species Photographic Documentation Project
Wild Spots Foundation
Originally established as a college class in Biogeography (which is still offered by NSU
this project was first extended to science teachers (see Archives
), then to photographers and veterinarians, and is now
open to the general public.
Wild Spots Foundation provides an opportunity to visit the San Martin Zoological Park and surrounding areas
in Ecuador, and to support the mission of the zoo.
Project participants have the chance to photograph or sketch (many rare) species, to volunteer as needed by zoo staff, and
to experience the dynamic of a small, locally owned zoo first hand. Participants contribute observations, photographs, and/or
sketches to a growing historical database about the zoo animals. Participants stay in clean rooms within the zoo compound.
The zoo is less than a mile from the center of
with its shops and markets,
its famous Basilica,
and the hot-spring baths that give Baņos its name. Hikes to waterfalls, along and over mountain ridges offer participants
many glimpses of Andean culture and Ecuadoran life.
A day trip to the Amazon basin is part of the project week.
Participants observe the change of habitat first hand as dramatic
river gorges become shallow, and streams braid toward the largest body
of fresh water on earth. A small botanical garden outside the frontier
town of Puyo displays a broad range of indigenous plants & trees,
as well as many species of orchids. Garden guides explain the
traditional uses of plants and the interdependencies between plant and
The San Martin Journey
The trip generally runs from an early Saturday departure to a Saturday night arrival back home.
Round trip air travel from Miami International Airport to Quito,
Round trip van or bus to San Martin Zoological Park,
Round trip van or bus for the Amazon basin day trip
San Martin Hostel
Breakfasts and dinners
Additional expenses (not included):
Lunches, shopping, tips, Ecuador exit fee (approximately $40), travel insurance
Dangers and warnings:
please read our 10 reasons not to travel
The following outline describes broadly most foundation trips to San
Martin. Note that this schedule can be adapted for groups with
special interests (such
as photography, zoology, botany, veterinary medicine) or requirements
(such as departure from other cities). A Wild Spots Foundation
leader usually accompanies a group and may offer workshops in digital
photography or science education.
Day 1: Departure & Arrival
Meet at Miami International and
depart on a flight to Quito. Meet San Martin representative in
Quito and drive to traditional Ecuadoran hacienda for lunch and/or
photography. Arrive at San Martin for dinner.
Day 2, 3, 4: Observe, Photograph, Sketch, Volunteer at the Zoo
Zoo representatives, staff, and translator. View Zoo mammals,
reptiles, birds. By special arrangement with the zoo, Wild Spots
Foundation project participants are allowed into enclosures with
non-agressive animals & birds such as the Capybaras & the
Blue-crested Motmot, the Owl Monkey, and the Sickled-wing Guan for
purposes of photography. Special viewing arrangements are also made for
some of the other animals like the rare Spectacled Bear and the Andean
Depending on factors like weather, zoo needs, species availability, and individual interests, participants
can spend hours volunteering, photographing, sketching, or observing zoo creature.
Midday participants often drive into town (taxi: $1.25,
bus: $.20) for lunch at local restaurants, shopping, internet &
access, visiting the church with its famous paintings and its museum,
or otherwise exploring town.
On Wednesday and Saturday, a farmer's market in town provides an added incentive for town visits.
Day 5: Day trip to Puyo & Botanical Gardens
To view &
hear described a vast array of ingigenous plant and tree species, as
well as many carefully cultivated orchids. Several opportunities to
visit dramatic waterfalls and take hikes are available en route.
Breakfast and dinner are served at the zoo.
Choose your favorite zoo activities, hike the
surrounding terrain, or take an optional day trip to nearby indigenous
and local markets.
Depart after breakfast for Quito and the flight back to Miami.
For the upcoming schedule of trips to Ecuador, see the Calendar
Wild Spots foundation is building a small cache of trip
leaders who can escort groups to San Martin, work with staff on the
ground, and provide organization, travel experience, and people skills.
Photography leaders should have experience
in photographing wildlife and/or botanicals. The foundation is
also interested in leaders with other backgrounds such as veterinarian
medicine, zoology, and neotropical birding. If you are interested in
learning more about leading
trips to San Martin (as described on this page), please email Dr. Barry
Barker at: email@example.com