Ecuador Birding and Nature
A CUSTOM JOURNEY
At any time
Explore Ecuador, a peaceful, beautiful country that offerssome of the best birding in South America.
Your custom itinerary includes some of our favorite lodges in a mix of regions on both sides of the Andes so you can experience Ecuador's remarkable wildlife and spectacular scenery and birds. You are likely to find over 400 species of birds, including 40 or more hummingbirds! An expert guide from Neblina Forest will join you for your entire journey.
Day 1. Arrival in Quito
Arrive today at the International Airport, Quito, where a representative of Neblina Forest will meet you for the transfer to Hotel Sebastian. Rest up from your flight and enjoy dinner at your leisure. If you arrive in time you canenjoy some great shopping just a few blocks away where you will find bookstores, wonderful delicatessens, quality craft and art galleries, sweater stores, and more!
Accommodations at Hotel Sebastian, Quito
Day 2. Yanacocha / Bellavista Could Forest
Start your grand adventure with a visit to Yanachocha Reserve, situated on the slope of Quito's proximate volcano – Volcan Pichincha. Here, walk a trail with fabulous mountain vistas. Preserve biologists have set up a series of feeders to entice a variety of hummingbirds in to viewing areas. Look for Golden-breasted Puffleg, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Shining Sunbeam, Giant Hummingbird and the endemic Ecuadorian Hillstar.
The rare Black-breasted Puffleg is known to breed on the reserve and with any luck you may catch a glimpse of this small beauty. In small patches of Polylepis forest, you may find Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Blue-backed Conebill, Superciliaried Hemispingus or one of the colorful mountain-tanagers. We walk gently at the 10,000 ft. plus elevation and then continue on our drive on the old Nono-Mindo Road towards Bellavista.
Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, a private 1,000-acre nature reserve, encompasses a mix of primary and secondary forest. One of the top birding locations in Ecuador, the reserve is known for its diverse hummingbird species – which visit hummingbird feeders allowing close-up views -- as well as a colorful array of toucans and tanagers. At 5,000-7,000 feet we encounter spectacular cloud forest on the steep slopes above us. Here we may find a number of bird species with limited range, including Giant Antpittas and the Tanager Finches.
The forest and gardens are draped with orchids and bromeliads, and butterflies abound. Some of the most beautiful birds of the forest include the Plate-billed Mountain Toucans, Toucan Barbets, Golden Tanagers, and Flame-faced Tanagers. After walking some of the trails, enjoy the comeraderie of other guests at the lodge while enjoying dinner. Then, listen and look for nightbirds from the porch and grounds of the lodge.
Accommodations at Bellavista Lodge and Reserve (B,L,D)
Day 3. Bellavista / Mindo / Sacha Tamia
Spend much of the morning walking a quiet road in dense cloudforest, looking for Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans, Ocellated Tapaculos and a great variety of birds known to associate in mixed flocks. Walking this road, unaware of time, is one of the great pleasures of Neotropical birding!
This afternoon, spend time in rural and agricultural areas and in small patches of secondary forests close to the town of Mindo. At feeders near the Tandyapa Valley, where we look for Violet-tailed Sylphs, Empress Brilliants, Tawny-bellied Hermits, Green-fronted Lancebills, Purple-throated Woodstars, White-bellied Woodstars, Green-crowned Woodnymphs, Brown and White collared Incas, Western Emeralds and more.
SachaTamia is a beautiful lodge located on a private reserve. Once again, legendary birding is right outside your door. Hummingbird feeders surround the dining room, often distracting you from dinner! A hint to be most comfortable here: Bring easy to slip off shoes, as you will go in and out of the lodge in search of birds. (Ecuadorian custom is to remove shoes to protect their beautiful wooden floors!)
Accommodations at SachaTamia Lodge (B,L,D
Day 4. Mindo
One can keep busy for a week in the Mindo area, searching for birds of the western cordillera of the Andes. Today your expert guide from Neblina Forest will weave the best plan to see key species of the area. Perhaps you will start at the famous streetlight, close to our lodge, where Blue-crowned Motmots lurk to feed on large insects still there and moving slow in the cool temperature of morning. Within just a few hundred yards of the lodge one can often find mixed flocks of tanagers representing every color of the rainbow.
Return for a delicious breakfast after an early outing and take time to admire the many species of hummingbirds at the feeders. From various viewing areas you can hope to observe hummingbirds such as Fawn-breasted Brilliants; White-whiskered Hermits; Purple-bibbed Whitetips; Velvet-Purple Coronets; Brown Violetears, Empress Brilliants, Hoary Pufflegs and the adorable Booted Racket-tails. Then, drive out to surrounding areas in search of raptors, guans, jays and other species. In the afternoon you may want to relax at a local coffee shop known for its excellent feeders and hummingbird gardens. Dinner will be back at this lovely lodge. Sitting by the fireplace, record your daily sightings with input from your guide.
Accommodations at SachaTamia Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5. Silanche / Milpe / Mindo
Today we go a bit lower in elevation in search of different species at two delightful private reserves run by the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. This allows us to look for Choco region endemics such as Choco Toucan, Choco Trogon, Long-wattled Umbrellabird and the fascinating Club-winged Manakin. Milpe is recognized as an Important Bird Area in Ecuador. It is a small reserve located at an elevation of 3500 feet. It is perhaps the best place to find three lovely but very local species of tanagers – Moss-backed, Ochre-breasted and Glistening-green.
At Rio Silanche, look for Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Dusky Pigeon, Rose-faced and Bronzed-winged Parrots, Pale-mandibled Aracari and Choco Woodpecker. This new and very small (200 acres) but important reserve hosts a mix of primary forest and a regenerating plantation. Here you have access to a 50 ft. canopy tower platform where you can relax and let the birds come in to view – it's hard to rip yourself away! By nightfall, return to your most comfortable accommodations and an excellent dinner at SachaTamia.
Accommodations at SachaTamia Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6. Mindo / Return to Quito
This morning we rise VERY early to be out at dawn at the farm of Angel Paz, who has become famous for providing great views of Giant, Yellow-breasted and Moustached Antpittas as well as Andean Cock of the Rocks that display from forest lek sites. Walk into dense forest and then back up to a clearing where we relax over breakfast and the amazing experience here. Mid-morning we start back to Quito, stopping at several locations en route. One of these is a lovely El Pahuma Orchid Reserve located near a picturesque waterfall. This is another Important Bird Area, and here you can hope to find the endemic White-tailed Hillstar amid a host of blooming orchids.
We arrive back in Quito late afternoon and you'll have time to get organized for the next part of your journey to Ecuador's Amazonia. The hotel will store your heavier clothing so you can travel the next day unemcumbered by plane, then boat, then dug-out canoe to this remote region. Your guide will provide a briefing, and give you a time to be ready in the morning for a transfer to the airport. Your guide while at Sani Lodge is a local guide from the lodge. You'll then meet back up with your Neblina Forest guide when you return to outings from Quito.
Accommodations at Hotel Sebastian, Quito. (B,L)
Day 7. Flight to Coca / Ecuador's Amazonia - Sani Lodge
Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Hotel Sebastian – its buffet fare is included with your stay – just give the servers your room number. A representative from Neblina Forest will meet you at the hotel at a specified time to take you to the airport for your flight over the Andes. If the weather is clear this is a spectacular flight. Just as soon as you cross to the east (west) side of the Andes, unbroken rainforest stretches for miles.
The flight takes about an hour, and soon you touch down in Coca where you are met by staff of Sani Lodge. With other guests destined for the lodge, you'll transfer over to the nearby Napo River, where you board motorized canoes to travel down the Rio Napo. Watch for Swallow-wings, Mangrove Swallows, Yellow-billed Terns and a variety of herons and egrets along the river. You will have a snack on the boat as you motor down the river, and dinner and meals on the following days will be provided by the lodge. Your guide for this portion of the journey is a local guide from Sani Lodge.
Accommodations at Sani Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8. Ecuador's Amazonia - Sani Lodge
Deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon you will find a mysterious lake called Challuacocha, where floating water hyacinths and grasses obscure the shores. And if you venture out on this lagoon in a dugout canoe early in the morning when it is quiet and the light is still low, you just might see, somewhere out there, lying hidden in the vegetation a rare and wild Manatee or Anaconda. Float here for a while, scanning the horizon and you would probably notice the yellow banded chest of an Aracari or hear the hoarse whisper of the Hoatzin. Eventually, the day would pass and you could peer out across the shimmering black water towards the setting sun, and almost certainly see the gleaming orange eyes of the Black Caiman. Come to Challuacocha and feel the mystery. Come to Challuacocha and experience the world of Sani Lodge.
To the north of Challuacocha lies the massive Cuyabeno Reserve and along the southern border stretches the vast Yasuni National Park. In the corridor between, located on 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of untouched rainforest lies Sani Lodge, a unique Ecuador ecolodge. Here, the biodiversity will amaze you! On your adventure, you will walk through a pristine rainforest gallery that is home to 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines, and exotic flowers, as well as 550 species of tropical birds, 13 species of monkeys and 1,000 species of beautiful butterflies. Sani Lodge is truly a one of a kind Ecuador ecolodge dedicated to ecotourism, environmental conservation, and community projects in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. Sani Lodge is owned and operated by members of the Sani community, meaning that with their extensive knowledge of the Amazon wildlife and biodiversity they can give Sani Lodge guests the true experience of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle.
In addition to providing excellent service to its guests, Sani Lodge participates in community ecotourism - profits from the jungle lodge are reinvested into the community, improving the lifes of all who live there. Sani Lodge accommodates only 40 guests, between the cabins and the camping, emphasizing quality rather than quantity, and thereby offering you a more intimate experience with the rainforest. The lodge itself consists of ten, private, thatch-roofed cabanas, each with a modern bathroom. The cabanas are spaciously designed for double or triple occupancy, and have screened in windows to guard against insects while you sleep. Electric lights at the lodge run from ecological friendly solar energy instead of a noisy generator so the night sounds will be pure and natural. Oil lamps are also provided for those who appreciate that rustic feel. The bar, lounge, and dining room at Sani Lodge overlook the lagoon and offer both first class service, as well as, premier views of wild life and of the setting sun.
The cuisine during your adventure will be innovative, combining examples of fresh, local ingredients with an international style. Vegetarian, chicken, meat, and fish dishes will be served. Fresh bread, baked daily and scrumptious exotic fruits will greet you in the morning. At lunch, sip on refreshing exotic juices, like guanabana, guava, passion fruit, cactus fruit, citrus, and coconut. And in the evening after a beautiful meal, original deserts and fine Ecuadorian coffee will send you happily satisfied to a comfy chair or hammock in the lounge to reflect on the day's adventures in the Amazon.
Accommodations at Sani Lodge (B,L,D all days)
Day 12. Napo River / Return to Quito
This morning you travel back to the Rio Napo, and motor up to Coca where you meet the plane for Quito. At the airport a representative from Neblina Forest will meet you for the transfer back to Hotel Sebastian. You should arrive by mid-afternoon, with time to see a bit of Quito or to relax at your hotel. Historic downtown Quito has a host of museums, churches and vendors while close to your hotel you'll find the Rio Amazonas shopping area. Meals in Quito are on your own.
We can recommend La Choza restaurant as one of our favorites or you can find excellent food right at your hotel. If you are in the mood for simple fare, there is great pizza right down the street. You'll want to reorganize your gear and pick up colder weather clothing such as a fleece and windproof jacket for the next section of your journey.
Accommodations at Hotel Sebastian, Quito (B,L)
Day 13. Papallacta Pass / San Isidro
This morning you can enjoy breakfast at the Hotel Sebastian. Your guide will pick you up to travel up in elevation to almost 14,000 ft., crossing extensive, open paramo habitat en route to our lodgings at Cabañas San Isidro. Papallacta Pass offers you a chance to see several key higher-elevation species, including Andean Condors. You will pass through a fascinating change in vegetation as the road you drive crosses the Andes. Stop at key points to observe wildflowers, birds and spectacular scenery. Enjoy time at the hummingbird feeders at Guango Lodge, owned by the same family that hosts us at Cabinas San Isidro. Here you can hope to observe the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird at close range!
Lodgings at Cabinas San Isidro are surrounded by a private 1,300 hectare forest reserve. The Bustamante family, owners of this outstanding lodge, is recognized as pioneers in establishing private conservation reserves and Ecuadorian eco-tourism on the northeast slope of the Andes. For forty years they have protected and welcomed guests at this picturesque cloudforest location at 6700 ft. The lodge's website describes species such as White-capped Parrots, Powerful Woodpeckers, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatchers, Pale-edged Flycatchers, Smoky Bush-Tyrants, Inca Jays, Black-billed Peppershrikes, Andean Solitaires and Saffron-crowned Tanagers – seen right from the doorstep! Wattled Guans are also possible here. Meals are provided by the lodge in a lovely sunlit setting.
Accommodations at San Isidro (B,L,D)
Day 14. Ecuador´s Could Forest at San Isidro
San Isidro is a place to be to enjoy the beauty of Ecuador's Cloud Forest, where you can find magical species such as Golden-headed Quetzals, Masked Trogons and Green-and-black Fruiteaters. On this side of the Andes you are perched on the headwaters of the Amazon basin. The lodge and immediate surroundings boast a bird list of about 310 species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country. On one of your days, you will drive down the east side of the Andes to explore a canyon at a lower elevation where you will find additional species.
Birding groups have been visiting Cabañas San Isidro for years with impressive results. They report seeing rarities such as Highland Tinamous, Greater Scythebills and Bicolored Antvireos. The lodge has several feeding stations and a mix of trails and quiet back roads for you to explore in detail. Look for night birds, including what may turn out to be a new species of owl, closely related to the Black-banded Owl.
Accommodations at San Isidro (B,L,D)
Day 15. San Isidro / Guango
Today you will make our way back over Pappallacta Pass, spending most of the day exploring montane cloud forests, lush Polylepis forests, wind-stunted elfin forests, and paramo (similar to tundra) habitats. One of the most beautiful birds you may find is the Lacrimose Mountain Tanager. You may also see Viridian and Tyrian Metaltails, Rainbow-bearded Thornbills, Sword-billed Hummingbirds, Tourmaline Sunangels, Giant Conebills, Turquoise Jays, Green Jays, Gray-breasted Toucans, Black-billed Peppershrikes, and Buff-breasted and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers.
In streams, look for Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dippers. Overhead, watch for daring Aplomado Falcons or a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. Another specialty of Pappallacta Pass is the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. With luck you'll encounter mixed flocks of tanagers, which may include three species of Mountain Tanagers as well as Golden-crowned and Black-backed Bush Tanagers – these two often act as core species of the flock.
By late afternoon you will return to Quito to settle into the Hotel Sebastian. Dinner is at your leisure -- choose to dine at the hotel, or in a nearby restaurant – your guide will be happy to make recommendations. This is when you say good-bye to your Neblina Forest guide and prepare for your journey home tomorrow.
Accommodations at Hotel Sebastian, Quito (B,L)
Day 16. Departures
A representative from Neblina Forest will take you to the airport in time to meet your outgoing flight. As you depart early, plan on coffee and a roll at the hotel and you can purchase breakfast at the airport. (CB)
EXTENSION TO ECUADOR BIRDING AND NATURE
- November 16th to November 30th / 2009
Fluent English speaking birding guide, all meals (including water and soft drinks), accommodation (Hotels/Lodges), ground transportation, entrance fees at National and State Parks.
Price does not Include:
International airfare, alcoholic beverages, room service, medical costs or hospitalization, departure taxes, excess baggage charges, laundry, insurance, telephone calls or other items of personal nature.