A Custom Tour in Ecuador That You Won’t Believe Exists

Nancy Miorelli runs SciBugs, an Ecuador-based custom tour business that helps deepen people’s understanding of the ecosystem. Specifically, she guides people through an ecosystem that they probably rarely even consider—the insect world.

It all started with a trip to Australia. “I came back with one picture of a kangaroo and 300 pictures of insects. But no one could tell me what they were. I was so upset,” Nancy says. Thanks to that trip, she pursued the study of entomology (bugs) and got her master’s degree from the University of Georgia.

As Nancy says, “There are so many things that people don’t even know exist or what they do. Can you imagine going to the Galápagos Islands and having the guide point out a sea lion? Then, if you asked what the sea lion eats, the guide says, ‘We don’t know.’ That’s how it is with a lot of nature.”

After graduation, Nancy wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. “I joke that I ran away to the Amazon to figure it out.” And in a way, she did. “I wrote to a couple of eco-lodges in the Amazon and asked them if they’d like an entomologist to visit for a month or two.” The eco-lodges were happy to have an expert on hand to talk with their guests and before she knew it, a couple of months had turned into a year and a half.

Four years later, Nancy runs her own nature-themed tours throughout Ecuador. “For several years, I had a blog called ‘Ask an Entomologist’ and I used Twitter for science-related material. So, when I was wondering if people would be interested in bug tours, I just asked and people said yes.

Nowadays, she creates customized tours for groups both large and small.

“I send them a survey to see what they want. I ask questions like are you more interested in a cultural tour or bird-watching? I also want to find out the types of lodging they’re interested in. I can arrange anything from homestays to 5-star hotels.”

Based on their tastes and interests, she organizes the accommodation, food, and activities. Nancy has even organized a photography workshop for this summer where the participants will learn more about the intricacies of photographing bugs.

Nancy’s enthusiasm for bugs is infectious and she says that many of her guests develop a healthy curiosity by the time they leave. “They even hold them by the end of two or three days.”

When not out with a tour sharing her passion for insects and birds, she can usually be found at home in Quito. “I have a modern, fully furnished one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in an upscale part of Quito for $400 per month. I even have a view of the volcano from my huge, wrap-around window. Electricity runs about $50 a month and internet is $40.”

She spends about $200 a month on food. “I could probably do it a little cheaper if I shopped at the local markets, but I like the convenience of the supermarket.”

Quito is Ecuador’s capital, with all the conveniences of a major city, including high-speed internet and shopping malls. Nancy lives near Parque Carolina, a city park that spans several blocks in a modern part of town and features botanical gardens and a reptile house.

The Connecticut native says her family have been to visit her many times since she’s been in Ecuador and she makes it back to the U.S. once or twice a year.

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