The lakes and lagoons of Ozogoche are one of Ecuadors most enigmatic and sacred sites which are infamous for being an “Elephant Cementary” for birds. The Ozogoche Lake Complex consists of 45 separate lakes and lagoons located at 3,700 meters and surrounded by the snow-capped Andes mountains inside Sangay National Park.
The lake complex is beautiful all year round but its at the end of August and for all of September when thousands of migrating Plover birds leave their breeding habitat in the artic islands and coastal areas of Alaska and Canada to make the great journey south to Argentina and Chile.
When they reach the Ozogoche Lakes thousands of these Plover birds seemingly “commit suicide” by diving into the icy waters in a mysterious and sacred tribute to the indigenous Quichua people of the region.
HOW TO GET THERE
The nearest town to the Ozogoche Lakes is Alausi, famous for the Nariz del Diablo Train and Devils Nose Hike that follows the train tracks.
In Alausi you can take a taxi to the Ozogoche lakes for about $80USD.
The kick-ass Killa Wasi Hostel in Alausi often organizers groups of backpackers to go to the Ozogoche Lakes in a cheap minibus.
Why do the birds “commit suicide?”
According to one scientific theory trying to put sense to this mysterious natural phenomenon is that the birds that “commit suicide” by diving into the lake are older and weaker Plovers that are dead tired from their migratory journey and fall to their death into the lake after hitting a change of air pressure above it.
The Quichua myth which is much more interesting says that many years ago when the birds reached the “Sacred Tribute” or the Ozogoche Lakes they were accompanied by fog and rain as well as thunder and lightning and a cold wind in the mountains so strong that it howled like wolves scaring the indigenous god-devil Supay into runnning away.
Then suddenly thousands of Plover (or Cuvivis in Quechua) began falling from the sky crying a distinctive song of pain until they hit the freezing waters of the Ozogoche lakes in a mysterious, ancient, and cosmic tribute which they continue to do to this day.
The Festival of Ozogoche in September
So you are interested in visiting these fascinating lake complex? Well there is no better time to do it than in September during the “Tributo de las Aves” or Tribute of the Birds at the annual Ozogoche Festival.
This years Ozogoche Festival is on Saturday the 24th of September
At the festival there will be a number of activities that you can participate in including dancing with the locals dressed in traditional clothing while bands play folkloric music. There will also be typical food at the festival (like Guinie Pig) and no doubt lots of cheap, strong “Puro” or Sugarcane Alcohol that the locals love to share at celebrations like this.
The great thing about the Festival is that the local council has taken great proportions to protect the environment in Sangay National Park during the festival. There will be plenty of rubbish bins and paths for you to take to explore the Ozogoche Lakes to make sure the impact on the environment is as minimal as possible.