El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve is a 650 hectare (approx. 1,500 acre) cloud forest reserve located only one hour from Quito. The establishment of the reserve was Ceiba’s first conservation project in Ecuador. We worked with the local landowners, the Lima family, to establish the reserve as a destination for ecotourists, birdwatchers, student groups and researchers. The Limas continue to own and manage this beautiful forest, where they set an example throughout the region of how conservation can work by keeping lands in local hands; indeed, many similar operations have sprung up, and now the entire area is a popular weekend destination for Quito families seeking a leafy respite from the city, as well as international tourists longing for their first views of wild orchids and brilliant hummingbirds. We welcome researchers interested in studying the vast biodiversity of this unique reserve and the surrounding region.

The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve directly benefits the conservation of orchids and other cloud forest species via protection of this threatened habitat.  Cloud forest is well-known to support an exceptionally diverse biological community that includes numerous endemic species:  plants or animals found nowhere else on earth.  In fact, Andean cloud forests harbor up to ten times as many endemic species as lowland Amazon rainforest! Conservation of the El Pahuma forest also helps protect the livelihoods of farms and communities located downstream. Rapid deforestation in northwestern Ecuador is linked not only to critical losses of plant and animal species, but also to steep declines in water quality and flow rates of local rivers. El Pahuma’s forested watersheds capture rainwater and cloud moisture, and steadily deliver this water to major regional river systems that reach all the way to the Pacific coast.

El Pahuma is located between the Maquipucuna forest reserve to the north and the Mindo-Nambillo reserve to the south, and thereby protects a portion of a potential biological corridor between the two larger reserves. The success of El Pahuma has encouraged neighboring landowners to protect their forests, contributing to large-scale conservation programs working to bridge these two large forests. Such a connection is essential to the conservation of rare, mobile species such as the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger), and the stunning Plate-billed Mountain Toucan (Andigena laminirostris).

Members of the nearby community of Nanegalito have directly benefited from the reserve through employment during the construction of reserve facilities and their participation as guides, managers, park guards, and gardeners. Moreover, local involvement will help spread conservation awareness in the community, and encourage people to value the biological resources that surround them. El Pahuma provides the owners of the reserve with a sustainable income that is an ecologically sound alternative to logging or pasture, and the many locals now take pride in the strides their region has made towards becoming a top ecotourism destination.

The natural beauty of the forest and its waterfalls, the abundance of spectacular birds and mammals, and the singular opportunity to walk the ancient Yumbo trail, are unforgettable attractions that bring visitors to El Pahuma for reasons beyond orchid viewing. These visitors help support the reserve’s conservation, education and research programs, and gain in return an awareness of the diversity of orchids and the value of protecting their habitats.  Once revealed in detail, the splendor of a montane forest’s diversity of plants and animals is undeniable, and visitors to El Pahuma depart bearing a unique appreciation of the worth of a forest left standing.


Ruth Lima is El Pahuma’s general manager, providing oversight and accounting for the reserve’s daily operation. Her training in reserve management and accounting was organized by Ceiba, and she has proved to be a dedicated and talented administrator.


Rene Lima is El Pahuma’s on-site guide.  He is extremely knowledgeable about the local bird and orchid species. Rene recently founded the Local Naturalist Guide Association for the region, and is actively involved in the promotion of other sites of interest, both natural and cultural, around El Pahuma.

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