Spectacled Bear Guaranteed
Spectacled Bear Guaranteed
SouthWild is particularly enthusiastic about bears, any bears anywhere. Given our fanaticism about bears and our extreme specialization on South American wildlife, it is only fitting that we are the only agency in the world to guarantee Spectacled Bears, the normally-invisible denizens of remote cloud forests of the Tropical Andes.
How can we ensure viewing of such a shy, endangered, charismatic mammal? Well, we cracked the code on how to be in the right place at the right time. Now it is possible to show you Spectacled Bears every day, often climbing around, playing, and resting in large, moss-festooned fig trees near a rushing, Andean river.
In 2019 and 2021, SouthWild’s top brass and our lead videographer thoroughly explored the two most promising sites in the world for viewing Spectacled Bears in nature, and both paid off big time.
First, we visited the private, 15,000-acre Maquipucuna cloud forest reserve 2:15 h northeast of Quito, Ecuador. We timed our 2019 and 2021 visits to that reserve to coincide with the annual, three-week-long fruiting of the reserve’s thousands of “aguacatillo” trees. This wild relative of the avocado produces an annual crop of thumbnail-sized, oil-rich fruits that are one of the favorite foods of the bear. On 12 of our 13 days at Maquipucuna during the fruiting of these trees, we enjoyed hours watching bears skillfully climbing around and eating fruits in the tops of the 20-m-tall trees. During both years, however, we discovered that was very difficult to predict exactly when the fruiting would take place. Thus, it is hard for travelers to plan their visit to coincide with bear viewing at that reserve, and during the other 49 weeks of the year, the bears are invisible there.
All this changed in October 2021 when Charles Munn and Layra Martins learned that there was an avocado farmer 3.5 hours north of Quito who viewed Spectacled Bears at distances of 200-300 m from his home-made lookout platform above a river canyon. When we visited him in early November 2021, he made the apparently-impossible claim that bears were visible in the canyon on most days of the year. After only 20 minutes of standing on the viewing platform, we clearly saw TWO bears far below—the first wild Spectacled Bears that either of us had seen in our lives.
We decided to test his claim regarding almost daily sightings. Since our first visit on 10 November 2021 through the end of March 2023, SouthWild now has logged over 100 days of observation scattered over most months of the year, and on every single day, we have seen bears. Furthermore, the bear-loving avocado farmer introduced us to an excellent ecotour guide who from January 2018 through March 2020 already had accumulated 150 days of visits to Bear Canyon, and he saw bears every single day, as well. As a result of this perfect score, we named this valley “Bear Canyon”.
So, the jury is in, and Bear Canyon is the world’s first and only year-round site for reliable, daily viewing of wild Spectacled Bears. Of course, bears also are seen very reliably during the three weeks per year of aguacatillo fruiting at Maquipucuna, but you cannot tell ahead of time when that will occur.
Why are the bears so reliable in Bear Canyon? It comes down to four factors: 1) plenty of wild food, 2) plenty of cultivated corn and fallen avocado fruits on the hillsides, 3) large trees that have fat horizontal branches that offer safe, elevated sleeping spots, and 4) 15 years of being protected by the bear hero—the avocado farmer turned most extreme Spectacled Bear conservationist.
Come visit Bear Canyon and be amazed. SouthWild is forming and sending groups of guests regularly to observe and photograph these beautiful, rare, highly-entertaining bears, but space is extremely limited.