Neblina Forest Birding Tours

Lowlands

Itinerary

Itinerary

Daily Itinerary for "Eastern Bolivia"

Day 1

Arrival to Santa Cruz. Upon landing, have your binoculars ready: The Viru Viru airport (named for a local plant) is surrounded by beautiful natural grasslands and it is hard to get out without seeing Burrowing Owls, a Whistling Heron, or even a Rufous-rumped or White-bellied Seedeater if the time of year is right.

Assuming an on time arrival, we will bird some of the nearby woodlands and grasslands in order to absorb some new birds for a couple of hours (you'll have access to your luggage and to nice restrooms at the airport if you need to change clothes).

We'll have lunch and a rest at our hotel before doing some more birding in the late afternoon. Overnight: Hotel in Santa Cruz

Day 2

Transfer to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Early this morning, we will be transferred to a local airport for our charter flight to Los Fierros, a converted park ranger station found in the heart of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. The facilities here are comfortable but not elegant, and include 3 to 4 double rooms (for couples) and 1 or 2 (as needed) very large, multi-bed rooms with dormitory style facilities for singles. All food is brought in from Santa Cruz, so despite the more rustic accommodations we are assured of quality meals.

The birding virtually begins at our doorsteps and it is fortunate that easily accessible from the lodge are large expanses of cerrado vegetation, periodically inundated savannas, terra firme and igapo rainforests, semi-deciduous woodland, and the savannas found on top of the Huanchaca Plateau. We will spend the afternoon exploring the forests and expansive grasslands found close to the lodge, a hike which will offer the opportunity to see Bat Falcon, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Blue and Yellow Macaws, Toco Toucan, Brazilian Tinamou, and White Woodpecker. An optional night drive will also be offered in an effort to locate the Great Potoo and Scissor-tailed Nightjar. Overnight: Los Fierros

Day 3-5

Los Fierros: Periodically Inundated Savanna, Cerrado, and Terra Firme Forests. Using Los Fierros as our base, we will explore the surrounding forests and a nearby savanna over the next three days. We will be up early for walks into the forest, and we will make several night drives in an effort to spotlight nocturnal birds and mammals.

The area is probably one of the best on the continent for viewing large mammals and we have a good chance of seeing a large cat (jaguar and puma are surprisingly numerous in the area), tapir, savanna fox, or even the rare and endangered Maned Wolf.

A special effort will be made to see some of the regions most distinctive birds such as the Razor-billed Curassow, Red-throated Piping Guan, Spix's Guan, Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Long-tailed Potoo (rare), Red-necked Aracari, Barred Woodcreeper, Sclater's Antwren, Pompadour Cotinga, Fiery-capped Manakin, Snow-capped Manakin, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, Tooth-billed Wren and Gray-chested Greenlet (rare). Other rarities we have found on past trips include Tiny Hawk, Gray-bellied Hawk, Pheasant Cuckoo, Festive Coquette, Ringed Woodpecker, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, and Dot-backed Antbird.

The large periodically inundated savanna found a few kilometers south of Los Fierros has also been a very productive site throughout past tours, often providing the rarest and most interesting birds and mammals of the trip. This is the habitat where Maned Wolves spend most of their time (we are sure to see tracks and with a bit of luck may even see the animals themselves). We have also found Ocellated Crakes here, as well as Greater Rhea, Hudson's Black-Tyrant, Horned Sungem, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, and the beautiful, but shy, Collared Crescentchest. If the grass has not recently burned we may also have a chance to see the very rare Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant. Overnights: Los Fierros

Day 6

Transfer flight to Flor de Oro. Our final morning in Los Fierros will take us in search for the species that may have eluded us during the previous four days. That means we could be visiting any of the trails found around Los Fierros before our mid-morning flight to Flor de Oro, the center of ecotourism in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. With newly remodeled and recently completed cabins, Flor de Oro now ranks as one of the most comfortable guest facilities available anywhere in the Amazonian region. Flor de Oro is located right on the banks of the Iténez River in the extreme north-central section of the park.

Therefore, en route we will fly over hundreds of kilometers of pristine rainforest, as well as the magnificent Huanchaca Plateau with its red cliffs and two very impressive waterfalls Ahlfeld and Arco Iris. The entire plateau along with the surrounding rainforests make Noel Kempff Mercado National Park exactly what it is - a large, well protected area encompassing more than 3.8 million acres of wilderness.

Following an excellent lunch, we will spend the afternoon exploring the gallery forests found along the Iténez River and the large expanse of savanna located close to Flor de Oro, offering the opportunity to see Aplomado Falcon, Toco Toucan, White Woodpecker, Band-tailed Manakin, Rusty-necked Piculet, Rusty-backed Antwren, and the rare Black and Tawny Seedeater. An optional night hike will be offered. Overnight: Flor de Oro

Day 7-9

Flor de Oro: Oxbow Lakes, Gallery Forests, and Periodically Inundated Savanna. We will spend three full days at Flor de Oro, almost all of it within sight of the magnificent red sandstone cliffs that form the northern edge of the Huanchaca Plateau which can be seen stretching away to the south. Easily accessible from Flor de Oro are large expanses of cerrado vegetation, periodically inundated savannas, riverine forests, terra firme and igapo rainforests, and an extensive system of oxbow lakes and rivers.

More than 300 bird species have been recorded within walking distance of Flor de Oro, and our excursions through the nearby forests and savannas should provide us with looks at Undulated, Cinereous, and Little Tinamous, Muscovy Duck, Southern Screamer, Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Blue-throated and Red-throated Piping Guans, Razor-billed Curassows, Pale-vented Pigeon, Ruddy and Picui Ground-Doves, Blue and Yellow, Scarlet, and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, White-eyed and Peach-fronted Parakeets, Turquoise-fronted and Orange-winged Parrots, Tawny-bellied and Tropical Screech-Owls, Band-tailed Nighthawk, Black-throated Mango, Glittering-throated Emerald, Horned Sungem, Short-tailed Swift, Black-tailed and Violaceous Trogons, five species of kingfishers, Spotted Puffbird, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut-eared and Lettered Aracari, Toco Toucan, Yellow-throated, White, Red-necked, and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Striped and Straight-billed Woodcreepers, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Amazonian Antshrike, Rusty-backed and White-fringed Antwrens, Silvered and Band-tailed Antbird, Fiery-capped Manakin, Gray Monjita, Dusky-tailed Flatbill, Cinnamon Attila, Stripe-throated Tody-Tyrant, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, White-lored and Plain Tyrannulet, Moustached Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Purple-throated Euphonia, and Turquoise, Burnished-buff, and Sayaca Tanagers.

Local specialties include Crimson-bellied Parakeet, Red-necked Aracari, Rusty-necked Piculet, Spix's (formerly Elegant) Woodcreeper, Saturnine Antshrike, Leaden Antwren, Zimmer's Tody-Tyrant, and Black and Tawny Seedeater. We should also see a variety of exciting mammals, including Pink River Dolphins, Silvery Marmoset, Black Spider Monkeys, and if we are lucky we may even spot a family of Giant Otters while traveling along one of the bays. The Giant Otter is just one example of the many endangered mammal species that thrive in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.

During our nearly four days here, we will make several trips upriver exploring the flooded forest regions, accessing various forest trails, and observing wildlife from boats in the late evening and after dark. Our spotlights should pick up the much sought after Scissor-tailed Nightjar, as well as both Great and Common Potoo. We will also walk through the periodically inundated savannas, and visit several nearby forests via nicely constructed, relatively level trails. Some trails are close enough that people often wander back during the lazy, early afternoon hours to sit beside a quiet pool where there is always the possibility of seeing a Pygmy or Green and Rufous Kingfisher, a shy Antwren, or even the rare Zigzag Heron. Overnights: Flor de Oro

Day 10

Transfer flight to Trinidad, Department of Beni, Bolivia. Our final morning in Noel Kempff will take us in search for the species that may have eluded us during the previous three days spent at Flor de Oro. That means that we could be visiting any of the trails located around Flor de Oro in search of Pompadour Cotinga or Crimson-bellied Parakeet for example, before our charter flight to the city of Trinidad.

Trinidad lies approximately two hours (flying time) to the west of Noel Kempff, in a region that is mostly grassland mixed with gallery forest and seasonally inundated woodlands in low-lying areas. Though many birds can be seen right at the edge of the town of Trinidad, we will probably have little time for exploration since we will not arrive until late in the afternoon. Most participants will appreciate the hot showers and added comforts of the hotel where we stay tonight. Overnight: Hotel Aguahi

Day 11-13

Beni Savannas. As mentioned, the primary reason we visit this remote region of Bolivia is to give our clients the opportunity to see the very rare, endangered, and endemic Blue-throated Macaw. However, you will see many other birds here as well! In fact, this region of grassland and seasonally flooded woodland is very reminiscent of the more open parts of the famous Pantanal found in far eastern Bolivia and Brazil, and we are likely to be treated to a spectacular array of birds here - almost all of which will be different from those of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.

Some of the common species that are found in the open areas and woodlands on the drive between Trinidad and the ranch include Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Capped Heron, Green Ibis, Limpkin, Savanna Hawk, Pale-vented and Scaled Pigeons, Ruddy and Picui Ground-Doves, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous Hornero, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Streaked and Vermilion Flycatchers, Cattle Tyrant, Gray, White-rumped, and White Monjitas, Green-backed and White-winged Becards, Black-capped Donacobius, Sayaca Tanager (very common), Black-faced Tanager, Red-capped and Red-crested Cardinal, Crested Oropendola, Epaulet Oriole, and Troupial. In marshes and reed beds we may also see such exciting, but less numerous species as Stripe-backed Bittern, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, and Long-tailed Reed-Finch.

In addition, throughout our three days at the ranch we should see most of the following: Greater Rhea, Maguari, Wood, and Jabiru Storks, Plumbeous, Buff-necked, and Green Ibis, Southern Screamer, Whistling Heron, Brazilian Duck, Orinoco Goose, Snail Kite, Long-winged Harrier, Great Black-Hawk, Limpkin, Sunbittern, Picazuro Pigeon, up to six different species of macaws including the Blue-throated, Blue and Yellow, Scarlet, Red and Green, Golden-collared, and Chestnut-fronted, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Ash-colored Cuckoo, Campo Flicker, Blue-crowned and Black-tailed Trogons, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Great Rufous, Straight-billed, Buff-throated, and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, Red-billed Scythebill, Rufous Cacholete, Greater Thornbird, Plain Softtail, Great Antshrike, Rusty-backed Antwren, Band-tailed and Mato Grosso Antbirds, Band-tailed Manakin, Hudson's Black-Tyrant, Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant, Fuscous Flycatcher, Dull-capped Attila, Tawny-headed Swallow, Fawn-breasted Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Purplish Jay, White Monjita, Rufous-rumped Seedeater, Velvet-fronted Grackle, and Unicolored Blackbird.

Almost timeless in its location, the ranch blends the elements of the modern world (trucks, tractors, radio-phones, satellite TV, solar panels, etc.) with a great deal of the traditional lifestyle that has hardly changed since settlers first entered this part of Bolivia with their cattle in the 1660's. Our visitors agree that the ambiance of the cool and rambling old ranch house, the mingled sounds of children, dogs, girls sweeping the yard, and the soft hum of a Swallow-tailed Hummingbird probing a Hibiscus flower, makes the trip seem like a return back in time to another era. We think that you will be quite charmed with this ranch. Overnights: Estancia north of Trinidad.

Day 14

Beni Savannas. We should have some time for birding early this morning on the ranch, after which we will transfer overland to the city of Trinidad for an afternoon flight to Santa Cruz. Overnight: Hotel in Santa Cruz

Note: if flying with Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (LAB), you will be transferred to the international airport this evening for your departure flight.

Conditions

Conditions

Rates and Fares

The per person fee for this tour is based on double occupancy from Santa Cruz. The fee includes all food beginning with lunch on Day 1 and ending with breakfast on Day 14, lodging from arrival in Santa Cruz, ground transportation, tipping, park entrance fees, charter flights, the commercial flight from Trinidad to Santa Cruz, and guide services provided by tour leaders.

The tour fee does not include international flights to Bolivia, airport departure taxes, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry service, or items of a personal nature. Changes in cost would only be made to reflect similar changes in airline fares, land services, or currency exchange rates.

The single supplement for this tour is US $150. Please note that there are only a limited amount of single rooms available at some of the accommodations; therefore we must honor a "first come first serve" policy for single rooms. You will be charged a single supplement if you desire and are given single accommodations or if you prefer to share but have no roommate and we cannot provide one for you.

Tipping

FTipping (restaurants, porters, drivers, local guides) is included on all of Neblina Forest's tours. However, if you feel that one or both of your tour leaders or any local guides have given you exceptional service, it is entirely appropriate to tip. We emphasize that such tips are not expected and are entirely optional.

Tour Registration and Payment Schedule

To register for this tour, please complete the enclosed registration / release form and return it with a deposit of US $350 per person. If registering by phone, a deposit must be received within twenty one (21) days, or the space will be released.

Full payment must be received 30 days prior to your intended travel date to ensure your reservation. Early reservations are essential to guarantee your accommodations on the date that you wish to travel. Reservations made within 30 days of the departure date require full payment at the time of booking plus any additional charges incurred from expenses related to special mailings, handling, fax charges, etc.

Tour Size

This tour is limited to 8 participants.

Cancellation Policy

We strongly recommend you consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance to cover your investment in case of injury or illness to you or your family prior to or during a trip. Because we must remit early (and often substantial) tour deposits to our suppliers, we cannot offer a refund when a cancellation occurs within 30 days of your planned departure. All cancellations must be made in writing and are effective immediately upon receipt at our offices in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Cancellations received up to 31 days prior to your departure will be fully refunded, less the initial deposit. Cancellations between 30 and 8 days prior to departure are limited to 50% of the total trip cost.

Thereafter, all refunds are limited to amounts recoverable from land operators or airlines. No refunds will be given for unused accommodations, meals, or services for any reason whatsoever, unless arranged in ample time prior to departure, as all arrangements are quoted as a package. In the unlikely event that an expedition is canceled, due to circumstances beyond our control, and you are unable to schedule for another time, all moneys will be refunded with the exception of your personal expenses in preparation for the expedition.

Responsibilities and Conditions

All services described in our itineraries are organized by Neblina Forest. Notice is hereby given that all arrangements made on behalf of customers are made by the organizers on the sole condition that they shall not be held responsible for any damage or inconvenience which may be occasioned through acts of any company and or persons involved with carrying out the arrangements and services described in the itineraries - other than those occurring by reason or negligence on the part of the staff of Neblina Forest.

Neblina Forest acts as an agent for transportation companies, hotels, and other contractors and shall not be held liable for any injury, damage, loss, delay, or irregularity that may occur including, but not limited to, any defect in a vehicle or any other form of conveyance, the acts or defaults of any company or person engaged in conveying a traveler, acts of God, detention, delays or expenses arising from quarantine, strike, theft, force majeure, civil disturbance, government restriction or regulation; accident by aircraft, boat, bicycle, motor vehicle, or any other form of transport or in any hotel, guest house, pension, or other form of accommodation.

The organizer reserves the right to alter any itinerary or service in order to improve the quality of the tour for the benefit of the passenger at any time without penalty to the organizer. Any additional expense or cancellation shall be borne by the customer. The organizer also reserves the right to withdraw or refuse service to a customer at it's own discretion.

Payment of the deposit is taken as acknowledgment and agreement of the above mentioned items

Tour Size

This tour is limited to 8 participants.

You need to know

Other Things you Need to Know

Information

  • Electricity: 220 volts (110 available in some areas – please ask before using!)
  • Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
  • Time: 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time
  • Departure Tax: US $20; US $1.50 for scheduled domestic flights

Climate

This tour is scheduled (and only available) during the dry season, but you may still encounter rain. Weather is generally warm and humid in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia with daytime highs averaging 81-90 degrees F; nights 68-79 degrees F. In any month, but especially June through August, unexpected Antarctic cold fronts from the south can bring days of rain and cold temperatures, which may range from 50-60 degrees F during the day and 38-50 degrees at night. Combined with damp conditions, these temperatures can be very chilling.

Insects

Biting insects, ticks, and mosquitoes are a problem in eastern Bolivia, most especially in open areas, and insect protection is very important. Please follow these precautions: · wear loose fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts · bring several squeeze bottles of Cutters lotion or another repellent · we strongly recommend pre-treating field clothing with premethrim · consider bringing a fine-mesh head net for head protection against insects · consider bringing along a pair of lightweight gloves for hand protection against insects

Health

It is always best to consult directly with your doctor about any medications, vaccinations, and preventative medicines that you may need for your trip. For your convenience, however, we have compiled the following list of excellent resources that will help to inform you about health issues and international travel.

CDC Home Travel Information page http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm
An excellent and comprehensive resource to learn about necessary health precautions for country destinations. From the US government's Center for Disease Control.

High Altitude Acclimatization & Sickness http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitud.html
From Princeton University, warnings and recommendations regarding altitude sickness.

World Health Organizationhttp://www.who.int/ith/english/welcome.html
The World Health Organization's Yellow Book on international travel.

Lonely Planet Health Check http://www.lonelyplanet.com/health/health.htm
Good tips for international travelers.

MCW International Travelers Clinic http://www.intmed.mcw.edu/travel.html
Provides comprehensive preventive health care services for travelers planning trips abroad.

Travel Health Onlinehttp://www.tripprep.com/index.html
Country profiles, health recommendations, necessary vaccinations, travel medicine providers in foreign countries.

Clothing

Lightweight, loose-fitting, field clothing (preferable cotton) is the rule, but avoid white or brightly colored clothes (including hats) as movements in such clothing frightens shy birds and animals. Bring plenty of long pants and long sleeved shirts as insects can be a problem (see above). Short-sleeved shirts and or T-shirts are not sufficient protection against black flies and other "no see-ums", which are common in the Noel Kempff area. Bring a good hat for sun and rain protection, a rain jacket, and a sweater for unexpected cold nights.

Wear sturdy walking shoes or sneakers; rubber boots are not essential but some people wear them for chigger protection. Thongs or Tevas may be useful for showers and when relaxing inside your room. We suggest about three to four sets of field clothes, and you should note that regular laundry facilities will generally not be available except in the cities of Trinidad and Santa Cruz.

Baggage

Limit your baggage to 40 pounds. This includes all of your gear! This is for your own safety, as we will be making several charter flights in small planes where weight restrictions are extremely important (there is no margin for error) and space for stowing is limited. It is highly recommended that you pack all of your luggage in duffel bags or similar soft sided bags. No hard-sided suitcases will be allowed, as they do not fit in the compartments of the small planes and will be inconvenient to use in some of the small rooms.

Documents

A valid passport is necessary for entrance into Bolivia. A tourist card will be issued free upon arrival to the airport; please keep this in a safe place throughout the tour as you will need it to depart from Bolivia.

Equipment

You should pack a pair of binoculars that are in good condition along with a belt pack or day pack (good for carrying books, sunscreen, extra film, etc.). As a precaution, it is a good idea to pack your binoculars, a change of clothing, toiletry items, medications, and travel documents in your airline carry-on bag.

Your leader will have a spotting scope and recording equipment (in most cases) but if you have one and wish to bring it, please feel free to do so. You should also bring snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, gorp, etc. for between meals.

Checklist of Essential Materials

  • * 2 good flashlights
  • * insect repellent (as recommended above)
  • * water bottle (1/2 to 1 quart plastic bottle)
  • * towel, washcloth, and soap
  • * sunscreen lotion and good hat
  • * supply of plastic bags
  • * walking shoes (boots) and a pair of sneakers (thongs optional for showers)
  • * all personal medication, including first aid items; extra eyeglasses
  • * small pocket notebook and writing materials
  • * binoculars
  • * day pack or small backpack
  • * passport

Some other useful but optional items include: compass, cigarette lighter (for lighting candles, repellent coils, etc.), iodine water treatment tablets, pocket knife, and raingear.

Suggested Reading

Birds
· Dunning, J., South American Land Birds. Harrowood Books. (Reprinted and updated), 1989. A photographic aid to identification.

· Hilty, S.L. and W.L. Brown. A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton: Princeton University press, 1986. Very useful in eastern Bolivia despite Colombia coverage.

· Meyer de Schaunesee, R., A Guide to the Birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Company, 1970. (Reprinted 1982, paperback). No pictures, but basic written descriptions of nearly all species; taxonomy now rather dated.

· Narosky, T. and D. Yzurieta., A Guide to the Identification of Birds of Argentina and Uruguay. Buenos Aires: 1987. (English edition available 1991). Very useful for the chaco, and adjacent areas of southeastern Bolivia.

· Remsen, J.V. and M.A. Taylor, An Annotated List of the Birds of Bolivia. Buteo Books, 1989. Good, updated list by region.

· Ridgley, R.S. and G. Tudor, The Birds of South America. Volume 1. The Oscine Passerines. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989. Excellent reference but too large to carry.

· Ridgley, R.S. and G. Tudor, The Birds of South America. Volume 2. The Suboscine Passerines. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. Excellent reference but too large to carry

Butterflies

· D'Abrera, B., Butterflies of South America. Australia: Hill House, 1984. Good pocket guide, covers many genera, nice pictures.

Mammals

· Emmons, L., Neotropical Rainforest Mammals. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1990. Paperback with good pictures and excellent text.

General

· Forsyth, A. and K. Miyata, Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rainforests of Central and South America. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984. Excellent introduction to tropical ecosystems.

· Kricher, J.C., A Neotropical Companion. An Introduction to Birds, Animals, Plants and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics. 1989. Another good introduction to tropical ecosystems.

· Hilty, S.L., Birds of Tropical America: A watcher's introduction to behavior, breeding and diversity. Shelburne, VT: Chapters Publ. Co., 1994.

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