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z Ecuador: Northern

An abundance of hummingbird, tanager, and antpitta feeders coupled with excellent lodges and easy birding! From the Choco lowlands and across the Andes from west to east, it is no surprise that this comprehensive route is so well-loved by birders around the world! Includes three nights at the famous WildSumaco Lodge (one of the best birding destinations in the whole of the Andes) and three nights at the remote Playa de Oro Lodge (the best place from which to explore the Choco, and particularly reliable for the monotypic Sapayoa).

Next Dates

Accommodation:

All comfortable hotels and lodges.

Walking difficulty:

Mostly easy, but we might take a few longer walks for a couple of hours at birding pace.

Tour cost includes:

All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes:

Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks, and other items of a personal nature.

Day 1: International arrivals into Quito International Airport (UIO) and transfer to hotel for dinner.


Day 2: Early drive for 1.5 hours to the high montane forest and fantastic scenery of Yanacocha Reserve. Our first hummingbird feeders might be visited by Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, while other highlights include Scarlet bellied and Black-chested Mountain Tanagers, Andean Guan, and Grey-browed and Yellow-breasted Brushfinches. We will then continue on to Bellavista Lodge and reserve for afternoon birding and overnight.


Day 3: Morning around Bellavista, home to several Choco specialties like Beautiful Jay, Tanager Finch, Gorgeted Sunangel, Dusky Chlorospingus, Western Hemispingus, White-faced Nunbird, and others. After lunch, we continue into the Mindo Valley to Septimo Paraiso Lodge, our base for the next three nights. With luck, one of the rarer desirables like Banded Ground Cuckoo or Rufous-crowned Pittasoma will be staked out in the Mindo region during our visit, and we will of course rearrange the itinerary to accommodate these species if available! Night at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.


Day 4: Today, we will visit the famous Paz de las Aves Reserve, a magical site where difficult birds come to the calls of birding celebrity Angel Paz, who feeds them worms every day! Giant, Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted, Moustached, and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas, Dark-backed Wood Quail, and Rufous-breasted Antthrush are regular throughout the year but are not all guaranteed at any given time. After also checking out the phenomenal Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek and banana feeders with resident Toucan Barbets, we will visit a very easily accessible Oilbird cave and spend the afternoon back around our lodge looking for Velvet-purple Coronet, Ecuadorian Seedeater, Nariño Tapaculo, and the local Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl. Night at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.


Day 5: We will leave early to spend the whole day birding around Mashpi, with the majority of our time focused on Amagusa Reserve, a supreme birding site with highlights like Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black Solitaire, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Choco Vireo, Choco Warbler, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated, and Moss-backed Tanagers, and many others. We will also see some lower-elevation specialties like Barred Puffbird, Brown-billed Scythebill, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Orange-fronted Barbet, and Choco Trogon. Night at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.


Day 6-7-8: Leaving the Mindo area early on Day 6, we will first drive to Suamox Reserve (an excellent site for the shy Brown Wood Rail, Blue-chested Hummingbird, and Orange-crowned Euphonia) before continuing the drive towards Selva Alegre. From here, we will take a one-hour boat ride upriver to spend two full days at Playa de Oro Lodge, the best accessible Choco lowland rainforest site. Here we will have the opportunity to find specialties like Sapayoa, Choco Poorwill, Berlepche’s Tinamou, Rufous-winged, Scarlet browed, Blue-whiskered, Lemon-spectacled, Grey-and-gold, and Rufous-winged Tanagers, Five-coloured Barbet, Great Green Macaw, Rose-faced Parrot, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Double-banded Greytail, Baudo Guan, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, and many others. Nights at Playa de Oro Lodge.


Day 9: Boating back to Selva Alegre, we will drive to Yalare and try for Slaty-tailed Trogon and Pied and Black-breasted Puffbirds, then continue the drive towards Alto Tambo. Here, we will search for specialties like Yellow-green, Golden-chested, and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, Choco Woodpecker, and Choco Tapaculo. We will end up at Hacienda Primavera, where we will spend the next two nights.


Day 10: Birding the Chical Road all day morning between 1000 m and 2300 m elevation, we will look for specialties like Hoary Puffleg, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Star-chested Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Beautiful Jay, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, and have the chance to clean up any Choco specialties still missing. Night at Hacienda Primavera.


Day 11: A fairly long drive today towards Pululahua Volcano will include several stops along the way. These may produce Blue-headed Sapphire, Ecuadorian Rail, and Subtropical Doradito. In the afternoon, we will try for the local Rusty-breasted Antpitta and Rufous-chested Tanager before spotlighting, which may produce Andean Pygmy Owl, Stygian Owl, and hopefully the elusive Buff-fronted Owl. Night at Pululahua.


Day 12: Morning birding before continuing to Papallacta Pass, the highest point we will reach on the tour, at around 4000 m. Several Páramo specialties can be seen here, like Giant Conebill, Red-rumped Bush Tyrant, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Blue-mantled Thornbill, and Viridian Metaltail. We will arrive at Guango Lodge in the evening for overnight.


Day 13: Guango is famous for some amazing hummingbird feeders, but also some excellent garden birding. Highlights could include Mountain Avocetbill, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Slaty Brushfinch, Tourmaline Sunangel, Masked Mountain Tanager, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, White-chinned Thistletail, Agile Tit-tyrant, and more! After lunch, we will drive to San Isidro Lodge, stopping along the way for Black-chested Fruiteater, Yellow-whiskered Chlorospingus, Rufous-crested Tanager, Andean Motmot, Crested Quetzal, and several others. Night at San Isidro Lodge.


Day 14: Full day around San Isidro looking for specialties like Bicoloured Antvireo, Gorgeted Woodstar, Bronzy Inca, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, White-capped Tanager, Semicollared Hawk, White-bellied and Peruvian Antpittas, Barred Antthrush, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Andean Potoo, Rufous-banded Owl, and of course the strange “San Isidro” Owl. We might also see the strange Grey-bellied Night Monkeys, which are resident here! Night at San Isidro Lodge.


Day 15: Leaving early, we will drive down the eastern slope of the Andes to WildSumaco Lodge, making a couple of stops along the way. Guacamayos Ridge may produce Peruvian Antpitta and Dusky Piha, while at Wayra Reserve, there will be the chance to see the shy Rufous-breasted Wood Quail at feeders, plus several species of tanager with great photography opportunities! More stops en route to WildSumaco (if we have time) could produce Western Striolated Puffbird, Blackish Nightjar, Yellow-throated Tanager, Green-backed Hillstar, Orange-breasted Falcon, Cliff Flycatcher, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. Night at WildSumaco Lodge.


Day 16-17: Two full days birding the amazing WildSumaco Lodge will have us seeking out a great variety of eastern foothill specialties like Coppery-chested Jacamar, Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters, Buckley’s Forest Falcon, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Yellow-throated Spadebill, Grey-tailed Piha, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Foothill Screech Owl, Band-bellied Owl, Gould’s Jewelfront, Napo Sabrewing, Plain-backed Antpitta, Large-headed Flatbill, Military Macaw, and many others. With luck, we will find some of the harder species, like Black Tinamou. Nights at WildSumaco Lodge.


Day 18: After some final birding, we will drive several hours back towards Quito for overnight at Hacienda La Carriona.


Day 19: One final session of birding will see us ascending Antisana Volcano to look for Andean Condor, Andean Ibis, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Streak backed and Many-striped Canasteros, Black-winged Ground Dove, Paramo Pipit, Silvery Grebe, and several other specialties. After lunch, we will drive to Quito Airport for international flights this evening. Those continuing on the Amazon extension will stay overnight near the airport.



AMAZON: SANI LODGE EXTENSION (can be taken as a stand-alone tour)


Day 1: Short flight to Coca from Quito Airport, then a two-hour boat transfer down the Napo River to the wonderful Sani Lodge for a five-night stay.


Day 2-3-4-5: Sani Lodge is located on the north side of the majestic Napo River, and has earned a reputation as one of the finest places for birding in the whole of Amazonia. Run by an indigenous Quichua community focused on ecotourism, the lodge features an excellent canopy tower, very comfortable cabins, and access to a private lagoon containing Zigzag Heron, Agami Heron, and Sungrebe. On foot and by canoe, we will explore the superb rainforests and oxbow lakes of this extraordinarily rich area. Impressive species such as Hoatzin, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, the near-endemic and little-known Cocha Antshrike, the range-restricted Orange-crested Manakin, Red-capped Cardinal, Purplish Jacamar, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Short-billed Leaftosser, Spot-backed Antbird, Wire-tailed Manakin, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, and Ash-throated Gnateater all feature. One afternoon, we will visit a clay-lick with Dusky-headed Parakeet and Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and Blue-headed Parrots, and on one morning, we will explore for some river island specialists like Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Lesser Hornero, White-bellied and Parker's Spinetails, Castelnau’s Antshrike, Black-and-white Antbird, River Tyrannulet, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, and Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, among many many other species!


Day 6: Transfer back to Coca for a flight to Quito, where the extension ends this afternoon.

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