We really enjoyed the tour and being with Dušan again, as we were in Argentina with him in July of this past year. He was one of the good reasons for taking this tour. He is a great guide and fun to be with.
Ecuador Birding Tours
Ecuador, boasting a bird list of over 1,700 species, has entrenched itself as a premier South American birding tours destination. Furthermore, its small size, great infrastructure, spectacular scenery and friendly people make Ecuador birding a highly productive and enjoyable experience.
Birding the Choco Cloud Forest is a classic tour that covers all the important birding sites found northwest of the capital city of Quito. This area is part of the Chocó bioregion that hosts a great number of endemics and specialties that are only shared with neighbouring areas of Colombia to the north. We will be based in the Tandayapa and Mindo valleys from where we will set out to birds the various renowned private reserves affording us an outstanding opportunity to support local conservation projects for long-term habitat protection. A wide array of habitats will be birded, starting with the mystical elfin forest of the temperate zone, followed by bird-rich subtropical cloud forests. We will also venture deeper into tropical foothill forests to reach the mega diverse lowlands. Iconic species that we will be searching for include Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Giant Antpitta, Plate-billed Mountain and Choco Toucans, Toucan Barbet, Club-winged Manakin, Glistening-green Tanager, Orange-breasted and Scaled Fruiteaters and Velvet-purple Coronet to mention but a few. In case rarities such as Banded Ground Cuckoo or Rufous-crowned Antpitta show up in the area, we will do our very best to fit in a twitch. A great network of birding reserves together with excellent infrastructure, unsurpassable scenery and friendly people make the Northwest of Ecuador one of the planet’s most delightful birding destinations.
Eastern Andes: Paramo and Cloud Forest, is a great introduction to birding the mighty Andes of South America. We will be exploring the vast east slope for local specialities, and will visit a wide array of fascinating habitats and elevations. Travelling from snow-capped volcanoes down to pristine cloud forests will be not only an incredible experience, but will also offer superb birding and scenery every day!
Stunning species that we will be searching for include Andean Condor, Carunculated Caracara, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Torrent Duck, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Inca Jay, White-bellied Antpitta, the San Isidro “mystery” Owl, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals and Masked Trogon to mention a few! Rare species that we will also be searching for include Black-faced Ibis, Andean Potoo, Red-rumped Bush Tyrant, Greater Scythebill, Bicolored Antvireo, Peruvian and Crescent-faced Antpittas, White-capped Tanager and Masked Mountain Tanager. A great network of birding reserves, together with good infrastructure, unsurpassable scenery, fine dining, and friendly people make the eastern Andes of Ecuador another key destination on the world birding circuit.
Ultimate Amazon: Sumaco Foothills & Rio Napo explore the tropical foothills of the eastern Andes taken together with the lowlands of the Amazon basin boast an incredibly high biodiversity and is arguably the most species-rich region of the world. The Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary bird list alone surpasses 500 species, while the number of bird species recorded at Sani Lodge is fast approaching 600! The tour will focus on finding as many species and local specialties as possible by visiting multiple micro-habitats within the Upper Amazonian biome. Although the list of possible birds is immense, some of the more interesting species that we have good chances of seeing include: Hoatzin, Zigzag and Agami Herons, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Sungrebe, Scarlet, Blue-and-yellow, Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied Macaws, Gould’s Jewelfront, Wire-crested Thorntail, Great and Long-tailed Potoos, White-throated, Black-mandibled and Channel-billed Toucans, Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracaris, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous Kingfishers, Gilded and Scarlet-crowned Barbets, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Attila, Screaming Piha, Golden-headed and Orange-crowned Manakins, Bare-necked Fruitcrow and dozens of antbird species!
As a result of incredibly complex geology and topography, southern Ecuador boasts the most diverse habitat ranges in the world. Within 200 miles of the Pacific Coast, one can travel from arid xerophytic habitat, through semideciduous tropical forest, over the continental divide’s treeless paramos and down to lush foothill forests of the eastern Andes. Within these varied, pristine habitats, the evolution of many fine endemic species has occurred, and our South Ecuador Endemics tour will sample seven distinct habitats in search of these and other specialties. Our Ecuador birding targets include El Oro and White-breasted Parakeet, El Oro Tapaculo, Watkins’s and the fantastic Jocotoco Antpitta, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, the fabulous Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Rainbow Starfrontlet and the vociferous, colorful and extremely localized Orange-throated Tanager.
Our Shiripuno Amazon Adventure Extension takes us to another very remote Ecuadorian location, Shiripuno Lodge situated in hilly, upper Amazonia. Boasting a bird list of over 450 species within walking distance of the lodge, it’s no wonder that this humble, research-orientated venture has caught our attention. On this Ecuador birding tour, our targets include Nocturnal Curassow, Rufous and Long-tailed Potoo, Ringed Woodpecker, Black-necked Red Cotinga, Lunulated, Hairy-crested and Wing-banded Antbird, and Rio Suno and Yasuni Antwrens. To reach our destination we will travel down the mild-flowing Shiripuno River, where Jaguar, Brazilian Tapir and anacondas are encountered, along with Fiery Topaz, Brown Jacamar and other riverside specialists.
To complete our Southern Ecuador endemic quest, our Cuenca Extension targets further iconic endemics and several of the North Andes’ rarest species. Commencing with birding in Cuenca, we will search for Crescent-faced Antpitta and Chestnut-bellied Cotinga, both of which are threatened and known from only a handful of locales. Other possibilities include Red-faced Parrot, Undulated Antpitta and a host of elfin forest birds. We also take in Yunguilla, the only accessible site for the endemic and critically endangered Pale-headed Brush Finch, and Cajas National Park where we search for Violet-throated Metaltail, almost impossible to see elsewhere, as well as other specials such as Ecuadorian Rail, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Tit-like Dacnis and Giant Conebill, all the while surrounded by glorious towering peaks, glacial lakes and rolling paramos.
Our new Western Ecuador birding tour completes our tour coverage of this incredibly diverse country. Long ignored and historically tricky to reach, the lowland Chocó forests of North West Ecuador and the coastal littoral now make for a very appealing tour. Departing Quito we are introduced to the Chocó region with a bevy or normally difficult species including Moss-backed Tanager, the endemic Indigo Flowerpiercer, Beautiful Jay, Chocó Vireo and Glistening-green Tanager. As we move into the Chocó lowlands, we target Long-wattled Umbrellabird, the endemic Brown Wood Rail and even Banded Ground Cuckoo if it is showing. Five-colored Barbet, Black-tipped Cotinga, Lita and Chocó Woodpeckers, Yellow-green Bush and Golden-chested Tanagers provide the supporting cast to the drab but monotypic Sapayoa and the exceedingly tricky Rufous-crowned Antpitta. Leaving the Chocó forests behind, we travel along Ecuador’s Pacific shores visiting Isla de las Plata for the much sought-after Waved Albatross, both Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, the odd Humpback Whale and Red-billed Tropicbird before completing our journey searching for the endemic Esmeralda’s Woodstar, Pacific Royal Flycatcher, Elegant Crescentchest, Chilean Flamingo and the smallest bird in South America, the Short-tailed Woodstar.
The famous Galápagos Islands straddle the equator in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1000km west of mainland Ecuador. The archipelago is volcanic in origin and is still one of the most active volcanic areas in the world. The islands are named after their endemic Galápagos Giant Tortoises (‘galapagos’ means tortoise in Spanish), of which some subspecies still survive. In the 17th and 18th century, the tortoises were an easy and principal food source for pirates and whalers seeking shelter in what they called the ‘Enchanted Islands’. The harsh desert-like environment and desolate scenery made the islands unattractive for human settlement. When Charles Darwin arrived in the islands aboard the Beagle in 1835, he wrote: “Nothing could be less inviting – the country is comparable to what one might imagine the cultivated parts of the infernal regions to be”. Nevertheless, this visit provided Darwin the foundations for his theory of evolution, thereby making the islands, ‘the world’s natural laboratory’, famous worldwide.
Today, the Galápagos Islands attract roughly 100 000 visitors a year. The beautiful volcanic formations together with the matchless wildlife and natural history make it a unique place on earth. The birds and other animals are remarkably fearless of man and one must really be careful not to step on a Galapagos Sea Lion, a Marine Iguana or a Blue-footed Booby. The islands are a popular destination for birders, especially because of the high number of island endemics and specialties. Moreover, the birds are all tame, which means outstanding opportunities for bird photography. Also, the snorkelling is fantastic, even for the birder: imagine being encircled by a raft of Galápagos Penguins!Our special island hopping tour differs from the standard Galápagos cruises in being a land-based tour, which means that we sleep overnight in a hotel rather than on a boat.