ECUADOR: 15 Days Birding or Photography - Central Ecuador including 5 days Amazon
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.
Birding: Our specialist bird guides have years of experience to make this an unforgettable birding trip,
Photography: 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 trip we will focus on Central Ecuador Cloud Forests, the Andes and the Amazon Rain Forest where 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
Day 1 Quito
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. Bird feeders attract hummingbirds and several other species around the accommodation.
*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.
Day 2 Mindo, Yanacocha, Zuro Loma, Alambi
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. From here we will continue to Zuro Loma to focus on three species of Antpitta, Chestnut-napped, Chestnut-crowned and Ruffous Antpitta
After lunch we will visit Alambi Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the best places for hummingbird sightings In Ecuador. 32 Hummingbird species have been recorded here. Departing late afternoon from Alambi we will head south to the Mindo Valley and our accommodation for the night in Sachatamia 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, Chestnut-napped Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and Ruffous Antpitta
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 Silanche
We will drive to Rio Silanche today. This important site, one of the last remaining accessible forest remnants found in this key life-zone, is situated in hilly lowland forest at an altitude between 300-350m. Río Silanche is known for the mixed-species foraging flocks packed with many important Chocó regional endemic species. Many of these bird species are otherwise difficult to find without arranging a far more logistically complicated expedition to Esmeraldas province or even Colombia. We will explore the trails and canopy tower.
The Long-wattled Umbrella Bird lek is a strenuous 45 minute walk, often in muddy conditions, for those that are strong enough to do the trek.
Target species: Purple-chested Hummingbird, Chocó Trogon, Double-banded Graytail, Moustached/Griscom’s Antwren, Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager.
Day 7 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 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.
You will take lunch boxes with and spend the day at the feeders and in the forest. We will visit a new established Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek facility, an excellent addition to our itinerary with great photographic opportunities. In the late afternoon we will return to Quito.
Target birds: Toucan Barbet, Glistening-green Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Day 8 - 12 The 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 Lapwings.
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 where we will relax for the rest of the afternoon.
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.
Day 13 Antisana and Papallacta
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 14 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 15 Baeza
Depending on your departure flight today we may have time to visit Beaza in the morning which lies further down the road, south-east of Guango. Our morning will constitute visiting special hummingbird feeders with great photo opportunities before returning in the afternoon to Quito for your transfer to the airport or other destination. Dinner will be provided if you have a late night flight.
*Please inquire if you'd like to book an extra night
Target species: Green Hermit, Long tailed sylph, White Tailed Hillstar, Violet fronted Brillant, Booted Rackettail (Peruanus - this species has orange boots).
Birding in Ecuador is not seasonal and is excellent all year round.
22 August to 5 September 2022 (group size: 4-6 persons)
17 - 31 March 2023 (group size: 4-6 persons)
Please inquiry for custom dates
2022/23 Prices per person sharing:
2 persons: 6,900.00 USD per person
4 persons: 5,400.00 USD per person
6 persons: 4,800.00 USD per person
8 persons: 4,250.00 USD per person
Included: Transfers to and from airport, return air tickets from Quito to El Coca (Amazon), specialized photography guide, all meals, all accommodation, entrance fees to reserves and national parks, transport, bird list
Excluded: International flights, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, travel and medical insurance, laundry or any other additional services, tips.
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