ECUADOR - Western, Eastern and the Amazon 15 days/14 nights Amazon Rainforest ECUADOR - Western, Eastern and the Amazon 15 days/14 nights Northeastern Slope ECUADOR - Western, Eastern and the Amazon 15 days/14 nights Northwestern Slope
Join us for this spectacular getaway through Ecuador, a safe and welcoming country with more birds than any place in the world! Ecuador offers extraordinary biodiversity, including unequaled numbers of species that occur nowhere else on Earth. Launching from Quito, we will explore all the major preserves, sanctuaries and hot spots across the northwestern and northeastern Choco-Andes bioregion. We’ll venture from the high temperate cloud forest all the way down to the magnificent Amazonian basin where only hand paddled canoes will take us. More than 800 bird species have been recorded at our tour destinations in Ecuador. Imagine the eye popping colors of 50 species of tanagers and the flurry of 60 species of hummingbirds! We’ll also catch glimpses of some of Ecuador’s most secretive birds, the antpittas. We’ve designed this tour for the highest quality birdwatching with a little extra savings for your pocketbook. Are you ready for a birding getaway in Ecuador? This birding adventure is just what you’ve been waiting for!
Day 1 – Arrival and Welcome
Arrive at Ecuador’s Quito Mariscal Sucre Airport (7,920 feet). The friendly staff from Puembo Birding Gardens will pick you up and get you settled in. The garden is full of feeders that attract a surprising array of birds including Sparkling Violetear, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Western Emerald and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds. We should also pick up Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and Blue-and-yellow Tanager.
Day 2 – Taking the high road
After a hardy breakfast, we will drive to the Jocotoco Foundation’s Yanacocha Reserve (11,155 – 13,123 feet), high in the Andes. Hear we should see Mountain-Tanagers and Sword-billed Hummingbirds. After local cuisine for lunch, we head down the mountain to Alambi Hummingbird Lodge. He has 20 hummingbird and several feeding stations. Get ready for seeing 100 hummingbirds at the same time. The Nono–Mindo Road will take us on our descent down into the Tandayapa Valley (5,643 feet), providing spectacular views of the cloud forest along the way (pictured above). Overnight in Bellavista Lodge will also offer a wide variety of feeders to explore after dinner (6,562 feet). Targets for today include Tyrian Metaltail, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Puffleg, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Mountain Velvetbreast, Montane Woodcreeper, Red-crested Cotinga, Spectacled Redstart, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Glossy Flowerpiercer, White-capped Dipper and the eye-popping Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager.
Day 3 – Clouds down to Sachatamia
Depart for Santa Rosa Bird Lodge north of the famous Nono-Mindo Road. We will experience a bird blind early in the morning and then head to the hummingbird and fruit feeders while enjoying lunch. In addition to 22 hummingbird species, they have had 22 tanager species at several different hides and blinds that attract an amazing number of birds. This region enjoys high bird diversity that the local Quechua people called the ‘Ride of Hummingbirds.’ This is one of my favorite places in all of Ecuador! The afternoon will be spent birding in the area as we head down to Sachatamia Lodge.
Day 4 – Antpittas and Hummingbirds
Refugio Paz de Aves private reserve (4,590 feet) has 74 acres of primary and secondary cloud forest, an antpitta show and hummingbird feeders. Some of the possible antpittas include Giant, Mustached, Scaled, Yellow-breasted and Ochre-breasted. Also, there is a Cock-of-the-rock lek and active fruit feeders that frequently have Toucan Barbet, Sickle-winged Guan and Crimson-rumped Toucanet among others. Other tantalizing targets include Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Masked Trogon, Dark-backed Wood-Quail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Booted Racket-tail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Andean Emerald, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, White-tailed Tyrannulet and Golden-headed Quetzal. Afternoon birding is down in Mindo in the lower Choco region which adds all sorts of new birds. Overnight back at the Sachatamia Lodge which is situated within about 300 acres of private reserve. After dinner, we will also embark on a night walk as the forest comes alive.
Day 5 – Milpe and Rio Silanche
We begin our day in a blind at Sachatamia Lodge where anything is possible up close. This day highlights the foothills and lowland Choco rainforest areas. We will bird from 3,600 down to about 1,000 feet. Milpe and Rio Silanche areas are the hotspots for the day. We’ll keep a look out for Thick-billed and Orange-billed Euphonia, Ochre-breasted, Golden and Bay-headed Tanagers, Bananaquit, Yellow-throated Chlorospingus, Buff-rumped and Golden-bellied Warbler, Club-winged Manakin, Ornate Flycatcher, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Spotted Woodcreeper, Bronze-winged Parrot, Choco Toucan, Collared Aracari, Ruddy Pigeon and hummingbirds Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Throntail, White-whiskered Hermit and White-necked Jacobin. Overnight near the town of Mashpi at the La Belle Vue Lodge.
Day 6 – Mashpi and up to Puembo
The Mashpi Road area will keep us fascinated all morning. Amaguza Reserve is our lunch spot where Choco species such as Glistening Green Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Crimson-rumped Toucanet and Orange-breasted Fruiteater can be seen. After exploring the northwestern slope from top to bottom, we’ll bird our way back up to Quito looking for any elusive species that we missed including the Nono Road. This is the day to enjoy the unbelievable views of the Choco-Andes bioregion. Overnight at Puembo Birding Garden.
Day 7 – On to the Amazon
The feeders and colorful flowers of the garden will delight us until we leave mid-morning for our 30 minute flight to Coca, Puerto Francisco de Orellana (977 feet). This starts the Amazon portion of the trip. A two hour motorized boat trip down the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon Rainforest, is the next leg of our journey. After a short break, local villagers will paddle our canoes through the final passage to Sani or Sacha Lodge (800 feet). This will be our home for the next four days. Inside 103,784 acres of primary forest, this stunning setting in the middle of the Amazonian Rainforest is a birder’s paradise. Up to five kingfishers and eleven herons will dot the shoreline. Other targets along the Napo River include Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Yellow-billed Tern, Gray-breasted Martin, Black and Yellow-headed Caracara and Pale-vented Pigeon. This lodge has over 550 species on their eBird list. Wow!
Day 8 to 10 – The Amazon region
We will bird the rich Amazonian Rainforest around the lodge and revel in its unparalleled biodiversity. 44 percent of all the birds found in the Amazon can be found in this region of Ecuador. Elevated trails, observation tower, river islands and oxbow lakes are all part of the experience. Parrots,
macaws and parakeets gather at the nearby mineral licks, creating a kaliedescope of color in motion. Observe mammals, reptiles and insects in this abundant habitat, including the endemic Giant Otter. Multiple species are likely within the Tinamous, Herons, Crakes, Trogans, Nunbirds, Woodcreepers, Flycatchers, Tanagers and Euphonias. If we encounter an ant swarm, mixed flocks of Antshrikes, Antwrens and Antbirds could move in for the feast. The species mix could be unbelievable! We’ll likely see Speckled Chachalaca, Hoatzin, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Gilded Barbet, Black-tailed Tityra, Violaceous Jay and Yellow-rumped Cacique.
Day 11 – Amazon to Puembo
After our last Amazonian breakfast, we’ll start the day riding in our canoes and motorized longboat back to Coca for a mid-morning flight to Quito. Enjoy a relaxed day of sightseeing in this capital city, taking in the sights, sounds and local cuisine. Overnight at what, by now, feels like our Ecuadorian home – Puembo Birding Garden.
Day 12 – Papallacta Pass and Guango
We will start early for a drive up and over the continental divide, crossing Papallacta Pass (13,500 feet). This road provides access to scrub, grassland, forest and paramo, including the Polylepis Forest. Wind, snow and rain could hit us at any time at the crest of the Andes so an early arrival is a must. Our targets include Rufous-bellied Seed-Snipe, Silvery Grebe, Giant Conebill, Variable Hawk, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Many-striped Canestero, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. Descending to lower elevations through the temperate forest of the northeastern slope will be a warming experience. Others birding spots include a trout pond, Cayambe Coca National Park and the Elfin Forest. At the famed hummingbird feeders of Guango Lodge we’ll look for Tourmaline Sunangle, Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and White-bellied Woodstar. The surrounding temperate forest might reveal Torrent Duck, Pearled Treerunner, White-banded Tyrannulet, Gray-headed Bush-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer and the raucous Turquise Jay among others. Overnight at Guango Lodge (10,078 feet).
Day 13 – Guango to San Isidro
Heading out early, we will descend further to Baeza, Cosanga, Guacamoyos Ridge, the Hummingbird House and then to San Isidro Lodge. The lodge trails go from the lower reaches of the temperate forest down into the heart of the subtropical zone (7,900-6,200 feet). Birding trails and roadsides through primary forest, identifying colorful tanagers at the feeders and quietly approaching the antpitta feeding station will keep everyone at the top of their game. Get ready to add more species and enjoy this beautiful setting. Wattled Guan, San Isidro Owl (undescribed), Sparkling Violetear, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy Inca, Crested Quetzal, Andean Motmot, White-bellied Antpitta, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Rufous-breasted and Pale-edged Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant, Smoke-colored Pewee, Brown-capped Vireo, Black-billed Peppershrike, Green Jay, Glossy-black Thrush, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Cacique and Russet-backed Oropendola are just some of the possible birds. Overnight at San Isidro Lodge (6,900 feet).
Day 14 – Loredo Road
For our last full day of birding, leaving early is a must. We’ll drive the upper Loredo Road, birding as we descending further down the northeastern slope of the Andes from 4600 to 2600 feet. Target species include Roadside Hawk, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Red-headed Barbet, Lined Antshrike, Cliff, Olive-sided and Boat-billed Flycatcher, Black-billed Thrush, Magpie, White-shouldered, White-lined, Silver-beaked and Paradise Tanagers, Yellow-billed Dacnis, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-bellied and Grayish Saltator and Yellow-browed Sparrow. As we head back to Quito, our last birding stop is the Guacamayos Cordillera Ridge (7,550 feet), where we’ll look for White-collared Swift, Emerald Toucanet, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Blackish and Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Cinnamon and Handsome Flycatcher, Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, Plain-tailed Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Great Thrush, Grass-green and Beryl-spangled Tanager, Common Chlorospingus and Mountain Cacique. Wow! Puembo Birding Garden will host our farewell party, while we share pictures and stories of our birding adventure together.
Day 15 – Departures
Car ride to the airport for the flight back home.
DATES: 2024 – January dates TBD
DURATION: 15 days, 14 nights
COST: $4995, double accommodations (price may increase)
INCLUDES: ground transportation, internal flight to the Amazon, all food, all lodging, natural area fees, 2 expert guides, double accommodations
ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE: Quito, Ecuador (UIO)
FOCUS: birding and feeder photography
FINAL PAYMENT: due 90 days out
MAX GROUP SIZE: 6 (+ 2 leaders, Ecuadorian bilingual guide, U.S. guide Sue Riffe)
EXPECTED BIRDS: 480+
SAVINGS: $25-$100 per day less than larger tour companies!