Birding & Photography - 19 Day ECUADOR including 5 Days AMAZON RAIN FOREST

With an impressive 1600+ bird species Ecuador is internationally known as one of the ultimate birding destinations. The country straddles the equator on South America’s west coast. Its diverse landscape encompasses Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands. In the Andean foothills at an elevation of 2,850m lies Quito, the capital, from where our trip will both commence and end.

Our Specialist Birding Photography focused trip in Ecuador includes:
- a highly recommended, experienced and knowledgeable local
photographer and bird guide to guide you through photography
challenges like backlit forest canopies and the low light forest floor
- four unique photographic insect & fruit photography hides/blinds
- hummingbird remote flash photography training
- macro photography training
- close-up photographic encounters
- incredible landscape photographic opportunities

Multiple visits to Ecuador is needed to explore all of it's diverse habitats. On this extended trip compared to the 15 day trip we will have more time at several key areas, additional destinations have been added as well. The focus is still on Central Ecuador Cloud Forests, the Andes and the Amazon Rain Forest. You will be introduced to some of the enigmatic and well sought-after species at close quarters.

Itinerary tab directly below, next to the gallery tab
Click on days to expand text

Camera gear recommended for this tour:

* Telephoto lens 400 to 600mm

* Landscape lens

* 2 cameras (if possible)

* Tripod

* 1 or 2 flashes

* Flash light

 


For macro photography

* 2 small flashlights

* 1 flash

* 100mm macro lens

* 15mm Sigma macro lens or similar. This is optional, but these lenses are very good at including the environment.

 


For multi-flash photography

* 1 person per time.

* Tripod

* 1 or 2 flashes

* Zoom lens preferably but a prime lenses will work.

* Your guide has backgrounds, more flashes and accessories.

Gallery

Itinerary

Day 1 Puembo Birding Garden

You will be arriving in Quito on your international flight. Your transfer will meet you in the airport arrival hall from where it will be a short 20 minute drive to your accommodation for the night. We will start birding as soon as you are settled in. 74 bird species have been recorded in the garden. Feeders, fruit and water features attracts birds providing photographic opportunities.

*Some international flights to Quito arrive at midnight. If you need help with arranging additional accommodation for the night before the beginning of the tour please let us know.

Target birds: Blue and yellow Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Saffron Finch, Sparkling Violetear, Vermilion Flycatcher, Blue gray Tanager, Black-tailed Trainbearer Hummingbird

Day 2 Yanacocha Reserve

Our adventure starts early in the morning as we depart at 6:30am for the Mindo Valley. We will first head towards the northwest of Pichincha where we will visit the beautiful Yanacocha Nature Reserve. Our focus here will be on hummingbirds and mountain tanagers. Departing in the afternoon we will head south to the Mindo Valley and our accommodation for the night in Sachatamia Nature Reserve.


Target birds: Sword-billed hummingbird, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Shining Sunbeam, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Andean Guan, Tyrian Metal-tail.

Day 3 Full day Sachatamia

Sachatamia is a private, ecological reserve exceeding 120 hectares of cloud-rain forest. Our lodge is located in the Sachatamia Reserve renowed as one of the foremost in terms of the wealth of biodiversity, rich in flora and fauna. The reserve has attained first place in the annual count of bird species on a global level.

Today we will have a full day of photography at Sachatamia Lodge visiting a photographic hide with a moth feeder for insect eating birds. We will also focus on remote multi-flash hummingbird photography.

Target birds: Rufous-breasted Ant-thrush, Masked Trogon, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Booted Racket-tail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Collared Inca, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Ornate Flycatcher

Day 4 The Birdwatcher's House

It is a short drive from Sachatamia to the Birdwatcher's House of Vinicio Perez. Located at an altitude of 1800 m the house is just off of the world renowned Nono-Mindo Road. A covered hide overlooking a clearing in the forest is lit by powerful lamps shining onto the surface of large white sheets pinned vertically on posts. Basically two huge moth traps – creating an artificially high concentration of food for the insect-eaters in the neighbouring jungle. As daylight breaks birds come to feast on all these moths. This gives us an extraordinary opportunity to watch forest birds that would normally be frustratingly difficult to observe. The same can be said for his other hide where the superbly placed natural-looking branches are stuffed with food to attract tanagers and toucans. This provides exceptional opportunities to photography.

Target birds: Strong-billed and Montane Woodcreepers, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Streak-capped Treehunter, Spotted Barbtail, Spillman’s Tapaculo, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Gray-breasted Wood-wren, Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush, Uniform Antshrike, Yellow-throated Antpitta, Lemon-rumped, Flame-faced, Golden, Golden-naped, Black-capped and Blue-capped Tanagers and Plate-billed Mountain Toucan

Day 5 Angel Paz

We’ll begin by getting up before daylight and driving 30 minutes to a site where Cock-of-the-Rock is known to display. The lekking site is in the Refugio Paz de las Aves a reserve owned and managed by Angel Paz and his brothers. Angel is famous for pioneering a way of attracting antpittas to particular locations where they can be easily seen by visitors. The most famous of these is ‘his’ Giant Pitta called ‘Maria’. He calls her name and if she comes he rewards her with grubs. So, instead of wandering through these jungles with the vain hope of seeing an antpitta, we’ll be able to follow Angel or his staff to particular spots where, all being well, the birds will come to us. In addition to Maria, we might also be introduced to ‘Shakira’, an Ochre-breasted Antpitta famous for her gyrating hips as well as a Moustached Antpitta, a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, several Dark-backed Wood-Quails and ‘Pepito’ a Rufous-breasted Ant-thrush – all ‘impossible’ birds made possible by Angel and his staff.  We will also keep an eye open for other species occurring in the reserve.

Target birds: Cock-of-the-rock, Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Tawny-bellied Hermit, White-whiskered Hermit, Chocó Trogon, Club winged Manakin, Rufous Motmot, Rufous throated Tanager, Silver throated Tanager, Green Thorntail, Umbrella Bird, Golden headed Quetzal

Day 6 Milpe and Silanche

Today we will visit Silanche, a private reserve of the Mindo Cloudforest in the northwest of Pichincha and the unique bird watching tower .

Target species: Hook billed Kite, Ruddy Pigeon, Bronce winged Parrot, White tailed Trogon, Collared Trogon, Chocó Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, green Kingfisher, Barred Puffbird, Chocó Toucan, Immaculet Antbird, Masked Tityra, Purple Throated Fruitcrow, Yellow tufted Dacnis, Bay headed Tanager.

In the afternoon we will visit Milpe Mindo Cloud Forest, located just 15 minutes from our lodge in Sachatamia. This is the best place for seeing Club-winged Manakin.

Target birds: Tawny-bellied Hermit, White-whiskered Hermit, Chocó Trogon, Club winged Manakin, Rufous Motmot, Rufous throated Tanager, Silver throated Tanager, Green Thorntail, Umbrella Bird, Golden headed Quetzal.

Day 7 Full day Mashpi Shungo

In Ecuador, the Mashpi Reserve is one of the few regions that encompasses both rainforest and cloud forest (as well as many other ecosystems). As you descend from the Andes traveling west, the montane forests give way to the cloud forest between 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) and at 900 meters (2,953 feet) above sea level. This cloud forest gradually transforms into a tropical, coastal rainforest that runs nearly all the way to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast. The total area of the Choco region (a major region in which the Mashpi Reserve is located) in Ecuador is approximately 47,000 km2 (18,146 mi2). The specific location of these forests makes it even more special since this area is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador.  Its unique location makes it particularly attractive for birders looking for the highest biodiversity regions with choco endemic birds. 22 Choco-region Endemic species occur here.

Mashpi Shungo ia a private reserve, a 2 hours drive away from Sachatamia. We will visit Mashpi Shungo, known for a unique feeding spot of Roufous Crowned Antpitta and a plethora of other species.

Target birds: Rufous-crowned Antpitta, Toucan Barbet, Glistening-green Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Orange-breasted Fruiteater.

Day 8 Umbrella Bird Lek

The Umbrella Bird is one of the most difficult birds to see and photograph in South America. Sometimes seen at a distance it's is rare to get a close-up view even harder to photograph at close-quaters. Today we will visit a leck and hide, a short walk from our hotel. A true highlight on this trip.

Day 9 Full day Mashpi Amaguza

In Ecuador, the Mashpi Reserve is one of the few regions that encompasses both rainforest and cloud forest (as well as many other ecosystems). As you descend from the Andes traveling west, the montane forests give way to the cloud forest between 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) and at 900 meters (2,953 feet) above sea level. This cloud forest gradually transforms into a tropical, coastal rainforest that runs nearly all the way to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast. The total area of the Choco region (a major region in which the Mashpi Reserve is located) in Ecuador is approximately 47,000 km2 (18,146 mi2). The specific location of these forests makes it even more special since this area is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador.  Its unique location makes it particularly attractive for birders looking for the highest biodiversity regions with choco endemic birds. 22 Choco-region Endemic species occur here.

Mashpi Amagusa Reserves is another private reserve near Mashpi Shungo, a 2 hours drive away from Sachatamia. This area is unlimited in species possibilities and an exciting spot for experienced birders. We will visit Mashpi Amagusa today and focus on getting more of the incredible Chocco Endemics.

Target birds: Toucan Barbet, Glistening-green Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Orange-breasted Fruiteater.

Day 10 Antisana and Papallacta pass

The Antisana Reserve is probably one of the best places for wildlife photography in the Ecuadorian Andes. We will also have opportunities to photograph landscapes and birds of prey.

Target birds: Andean condor, Black-faced Ibis, Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Giant Hummingbird, Carunculated Caracara, Curve-billed Tinamou, Andean Lapwing

Lunch will be at Tamba Condor with beautiful views of the Andes paroma. In the afternoon we will have time to visit Papallacta nestled in a high Andean Valley.

Target birds: Rufous bellied Seedsnipe, Tawny Antpitta, Red crested cotinga, Rainbow bearded Thornbill, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Purple backed Thornbill, Blue mantled Thornbill, Variable Hawk, Yellow Breasted Antpitta.

Day 11 Full day Guango

Today we will have a full day in Guango located in the eastern foothills of the Andes. Our location is near to Papallacta mountain pass, Papallacta lagoon and Las Antenas.  Visititing the forested slopes and streams will allow us to obtain different species of the páramo region with Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper high on our list of species to see. This is also the best area for observing the Spectacled Bear.

Target birds: Torrent Duck, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Turquoise Jay, Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-capped Dipper, Andean Potoo, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, White-bellied Woodstar, Long- tailed Sylph

Day 12 Termas de Papallacta and Antenas

15 minutes from our lodge lies the entrances to the Cayambe Coca National Park and Antenas. This is an excellent place not only because of the good landscape photography but to observe colourful mountain tanagers that won't come to any of the feeders we will visit in the area.

Target species: Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Masked Mountain Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Black-backed Bush Tanager and many more

Day 13 San Isidro

At San Isidro two species of antpittas have been conditioned to come into the open for native caterpillars, Chestnut-naped Antpitta and White-bellied Antpitta. Several hummingbird feeders near the lodge dining room regularly attract Tawny-bellied Hermit, Sparkling Violetear,Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Bronzy Inca, Long-tailed Sylph, and a number of other species. Species commonly seen right around the cabins include Masked Trogon, Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Black-billed Peppershrike, and Saffron-crowned Tanager. In very early morning before first light, Rufous-bellied Nighthawks can usually be seen swooping through the parking lot chasing moths attracted to the lights. An easy 20-minute walk from the cabins leads to an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek, which is most active from October-March.

Roadsides and trails through the forest of the private reserve offer superb birding opportunities. Two species of special interest commonly seen are Golden-headed Quetzal and Crested Quetzal. Many other birds can be found in the forest. Possibilities include Sickle-winged Guan, Highland Motmot, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Streak-capped Treehunter, Striped Treehunter, Long-tailed Antbird, Barred Antthrush, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Black-chested Fruiteater, and a good variety of tanagers.

Targets: White bellied antpitta, Inca Jay, Back-billed Peppershrike, Masked Trogon, Crested Quetzal, Gorgeted Woodstar, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Peruvian Raquettail, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Black-throated Brilliant, Long-tailed sylph, White-tailed Hillstar, Rufous-crowned Tody Tyrant.

Day 14 Hollin

The La cascada de Hollín is a waterfall in the Hollin river near San Isidro. Located on the winding road descending the Andes and eventually leads all the way downhill to the Amazon. We will spend time at and around the Hollin waterfall where hummingbirds feeders attracts several species but will also stop in several places looking for sought-after bird species

Targets species: Cliff Flycatcher, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Wire-crested Thornbil, Fasciated Tiger Heron, Fork-tailed Woodninph, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Violet-headed Hummingbird , Common Tody-flycatcher.

Day 15 to 19 Amazon Rain Forest

Today we have an early 30 minute flight from Quito to the town of El Coca. El Coca, is the capital of province of Orellana in eastern Ecuador. The city is located in the Amazon Rainforest at the confluence of the Coca River and the Napo River. At around 10am we will take a 3 hour canoe ride to our lodge for the next 4 nights. Mandi Lodge is located in the Yasuní National Park that is considered the most biodiverse area in the world. The area is managed by the community of Pilche. Our staying in the area contributes economically for the development of this community. After arrival we will do our first afternoon birding around the lodge and at the river’s edge.

On our second day here we will visit Sani Lodge located 1 hour from our lodge. A bird watching tower of 35 meters high offers very good opportunities for bird watching and bird photography. The surrounding river banks and flooded forests provide excellent habitat.

Our third day is focused on a clay lick. The famous Añangu community is a mere 15 minutes from our lodge. With luck we will be able to see not only parrots and macaws, but also mammals like monkeys and peccaries.

Day four will be time to pay a morning visit the Añangu Birding Tower managed by the Añangu community, which is 10 minutes from our lodge. In the afternoon we will visit islands of the Napo River looking for Sungrebe and Lapwing.

Our last day in the Amazon forest will be an early rise to go to another clay lick located 15 minutes from our lodge to observe different species of parrots and parakeets. Hereafter we will return to the city of El Coca and board our flight back to Quito and Puembo Birding Garden where we will relax for the rest of the afternoon before your transfer to either your next destination or your flight home. *Please inquiry if you need accommodation to be booked for an extra night.

Amazon target birds: Flocks of Oropendolas, Aracaris, Tanagers, and Euphonias roam the canopy in search of fruit, Plum-throated Cotingas in the treetops, raptors perch on vantage points to dry off in the morning sun, White-browed Purpletufts and Crowned Slaty Flycatchers sally for insects, numerous parrots and macaws fly by or drop in if there is a fruiting tree nearby, and many other species wander past (and through!) the tower trees. Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Sungrebe, Redbellied Macaw, and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Bare-necked Fruit Crow, Black headed Parrot, Blue- throated Pinping Guan, Capped Heron, Cobalt winged Parakeet, Crested Oropendola, Paradise Tanager, Double toothed kite, Opal crowned Tanager, Scarlet Macaw, Southern Lapwing and much more.