An birding and photographic tour through the different altitudinal gradients on either side of the Andes in search of excellent bird photo opportunities.

Throughout the trip we will cross different altitudinal gradients on either side of the Andes to explore the most renowned conservation projects in northern Ecuador. These natural and bird sanctuaries offer excellent opportunities for bird photography. Although hummingbirds, tanagers and toucans will be the main targets of this bird photography trip, all other neotropical birds such as trogons, antbirds, tapaculos, antpittas and the incredible cock of the rock will also be searched. We will also see and photograph the most remarkable fauna of these neotropical ecosystems.

Ecuador
17 days
From 3635 US$
Birding tours Birding tours
Photo and bird watching tours Photo and bird watching tours

Your travel expert

Xavier Amigo

Responsible for naturalist, botanical and ornithological travel. Responsible of fixing and profesional contact.

Xavier Amigo
xavier@ecuador-experience.com
Contact our expert
17 17 days

Day 1: Arrival in Ecuador - Quito

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After your arrival at Quito International Airport (2800 meters / 9200 ft high), your guide will welcome you and give you a short briefing about the upcoming trip.

Immediate transfer to your hotel close to the airport and check in. Depending on the time of arrival, it will be possible to stroll around the hotel and make our first observations and photographs of typical species of the inter-Andean valley, around the feeding and watering areas.

Transfer, English-speaking assistance

Sparkling Violetear, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Giant Hummingbird, Wester emerald, Great Thrush, Saffron Finch, Scrub Tanager, Blue and yellow Tanager

Day 2: Quito - Alambi - Tandayapa

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Early departure from our hotel to the Chocó mountain region. The winding descent along the western foothills of the Andes will allow us a first immersion in this Andean forest ecosystem. Arrival at the entrance of the Tandayapa valley where we will visit the small ornithological reserve of the Alambi river (1550 meters of altitude). This first stop will allow us to easily observe and take pictures around a large number of hummingbirds' feeders, but also a floral vegetation rich in textures and colours, inviting us to happily press the shutter. Lunch in front of the hummingbird feeders. In the afternoon, we leave for our next lodge located a little higher up in the Tandayapa valley (1650 meters), in a transition zone between high subtropical forest and cloud forest. After settling into our rooms, we will go to the hide to continue our photography with several species of undergrowth.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

white-capped Dipper, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Rufous Motmot, Streak-capped Treehunter, Zeledon’s Antbird, Uniform Antshrike, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Russet-crowned Warbler

Day 3: Lower Tandayapa Valley

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This morning we silently go to the photographic hide near the lodge to wait for some of the undergrowth birds that come to drink from the artificial waterhole. Depending on the climate and the food resources available in the forest, the diversity of species can vary greatly. A second, more open lookout in front of the Lodge will allow us to complete our observations. From the platform we will wait for the tanagers and other colourful species. The lower part of the Tandayapa valley is a transition zone where some species from the subtropical Chocó mix with other species from the more mountainous areas. The rest of the day is spent discovering this important part of Ecuador's biodiversity.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Golden-headed Quetzal, Western Hemispingus, Streaked Tuftedcheek, White-throated Quail-Dove, Rufous Motmot, Streak-capped Treehunter, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Zeledon’s Antbird, Uniform Antshrike, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Russet-crowned Warbler

Day 4: Tandayapa - Bellavista

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Depending on the species not photographed the day before, the light and the opportunities, we will head to the most appropriate photographic sites to complete our portfolio of the lower Tandayapa valley. In the afternoon we climb to our next lodge located in the cloud forest (2250m). After settling into our rooms, we will take a moment to look at and photograph some new species of hummingbirds not seen until now. First trip at dusk in search of birds and nocturnal mammals including the Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), a new species of carnivore belonging to the same family as raccoons and kinkajous. The lodge has a number of hides around the lodge where you can get some great shots of these nocturnal, tree-dwelling animals.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Booted Racket-tail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca

Day 5: In the heart of the cloud forests

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This primary forest in the middle of the Chocó mountain region will allow us to discover the biogeographic altitudinal stage of the subtropical rainforest, otherwise known as the "cloud forest". Here, at an altitude of 2100 metres, we are in the midst of one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. We will spend the day walking the trails of the reserve for the undergrowth species. The edges of the wider trails will also allow us to observe more easily and try to understand the phenomenon of mixed flocks in the birds. Finally, the hummingbird feeders will allow us to relax while continuing our observations in this comfortable lodge. If we are lucky, we will be able to observe some of the endemic birds of the mythical Chocó mountain area in good conditions.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Turquoise Jay, Golden-headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Spilmann’s Tapaculo, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Plushcap, Tanager Finch

Day 6: Bellavista – Sant Tadeo - Sachatamia

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This morning among the various options, a first dawn viewing session will be possible with a large number of insectivorous species around the lodge, which come in the early morning to feed on moths and other insects extenuated from their twirling dances around the lights. In the middle of the day, we descend to the Mindo Valley. Another photographic stop at the "hides" of the small San Tadeo reserve (1750 meters) for more Tanagers and other passerines, before heading to our new charming accommodation, on the heights of the Mindo valley. This day may vary depending on the photographic opportunities at the various known sites in the area.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Ecuadorian Thrush, Hoary Puffleg, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Toucan Barbet, Sickle-winged Guan, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Golden Tanager, Crimson-rumped Toucanet

Day 7: Mashpi Shungo - Amagusa

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Today we will reach one of Ecuador's newest birding hotspots. The Mashpi Mixed Protection Area is made up of various conservation initiatives isolated from the main roads and is still covered with original vegetation. This makes it an incredible site for birdwatching as it has surprising climatic characteristics for the region with humidity levels reminiscent of the Chocó lowland forests, while the area is located around 1400 metres above sea level. Located at the crossroads of the biogeographical influences of the lowland Chocó and the mountain Chocó, the reserve is home to several species of different altitudes. A large number of Chocó specialities are present. During the day we will follow the owner of the small reserve of Amagusa, to try to find the majority of the flagship species of the area.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Scaled Fruiteater, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Long-wattled Humbrellabird, Rufous-brown Solitaire, Black Solitaire, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Moss-backed Tanager, Choco Vireo

Day 8: Sachatamia – Milpe – Paz de las Aves

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At first light, we walk a few steps to the lodge and start a new photo session. After breakfast we head to the small Milpe Reserve. This reserve, managed by the Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation, is located in the heart of a subtropical foothill forest (1100 meters). The rest of the day we will explore the trails that criss-cross this beautiful forest and the surrounding semi-open areas. We will visit several leks of different species of Manakins and take time for photo opportunities at the various hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders in the reserve. Mid-afternoon departure to our new drop-off point, the Paz de las Aves Bird Sanctuary, which we will begin to explore this afternoon.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Bronze-winged Parrot, Green Thorntail, Rufous Motmot, Red-headed Barbet, Choco Toucan, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Immaculate Antbird, Club-winged Manakin, Choco Warbler, Western Woodhunter, Brown-billed Scythebill, Rufous-throated Tanager

Day 9: Paz de las Aves

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After an early breakfast, we start exploring the Paz de las Aves reserve. We descend on foot to the cock of the rock lek (Rupicola peruviana sanguinolenta), where we will be able to photograph the nuptial parade of this unusual Continga. This reserve, situated at an altitude of 1800 metres, is above all the scene of an incredible show. Angel Paz, the owner, has managed to accustom five species of Grallaires, a Wood quail, a Antthrush and a few other rarities to come and look for their food on regular sites, thanks to unique techniques. We will have the opportunity to observe and photograph these almost invisible undergrowth birds. We will also spend some time near the hummingbird feeders and the fruit feeders. We have lunch here and then return to the trails to try and complete our shots. In the late afternoon, we will again attempt the Lek of Cock of the Rock with different lights. Dinner and overnight at the same hotel.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Andean Cock of the Rock, Giant Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Flame-faced Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager

Day 10: Paz de las Aves – Santa Rosa – Pintag

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In the morning we will consolidate our photo album with the last shots of these rare birds. The rest of the day will be organised according to the species missing from our record of achievements. Departure in the middle of the morning for Santa Rosa. Situated at 1850 meters above sea level, this small reserve, run by a bird photographer, offers great opportunities to photograph a large number of normally rare species in complete tranquillity. There is no shortage of activity here, from hummingbird feeders to tanagers and toucans. In the late afternoon we continue our journey to the inter-Andean valley, which we will cross to reach the Antisana reserve, where we will spend the night.

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Hacienda Tambo Condor - (3500 metres / 11500 ft above sea level)

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Metallic-green Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Golden-napped Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanage, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush

Day 11: Antisana

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After an early breakfast, we will take the short road to the Antisana Ecological Reserve. From a platform, we will scan the Condor nesting cliffs with a telescope, in this site where one of the most important populations of the country is found. We will then explore the greasy and scrubby vegetation of the highlands in search of hummingbirds and alto-andine passerines, and then climb to the expanses of Andean steppe called páramo. Diversity at this altitude (almost 4000 metres 13000 ft) is low, but the species visible here are all adapted to this particular ecosystem. Then, a short walk along the lagoon of La Mica will allow us to observe some aquatic birds. In the early afternoon, we return to the lower areas to have lunch around hummingbird feeders and to try to observe one of the rarest mammals of this ecosystem: the Spectacled Bear.

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Hacienda Tambo Condor - (3500 metres / 11500 ft above sea level)

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Variable Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Andean Tit Spinetail, Tawny Antpitta, Andean Teal, Andean Ruddy Duck, Andean Lapwing, Andean Ibis

Day 12: Papallacta – Guango – San Isidro

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This morning we will have the choice between enjoying the Papallacta thermal complex or exploring the super wet Páramo areas of the Cayambe Coca reserve. From the Papallacta Pass at an altitude of over 4000 metres / 13000 ft, we will search for Ecuador's main highland species in a mosaic of ecosystems: temperate forest, super humid páramo, lagoons, elfin scrub and Polylepis woodland. If the weather is good, we will climb up to the antennas, at an altitude of more than 4300 meters / 14000 ft, in search of the most specialized species. We descend to the small reserve of Guango for lunch. In the late afternoon we continue our descent along the eastern foothills. We will cross a wide altitudinal gradient between elfin, alto-andine and cloud forests to reach our next lodge where we will spend two nights.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Andean Guan, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Viridian Metaltail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Giant Conebill, White-throated Tyrannulet, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Red-crested Cotinga, Andean Condor, Black-backed Bust Tanager

Day 13: San Isidro

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These high altitude tropical forests are also called cloud forests because of the magical fog that covers them for part of the day. This almost constant humidity allows the development of a vegetation rich in epiphytes, mosses, orchids, bromeliads, cacti, etc... as well as frogs, birds and small mammals. In the afternoon we will visit the scientific station of Yanayacu where scientists have developed several research projects on the reproductive biology of Ecuadorian birds, as well as a project to study the parasites of several particularly attractive species of caterpillars, which will be the occasion for a macro photo session. One of the scientists from the station will present all these projects in more detail. After dinner we will try to observe an owl (Choliba sp.) which might be a new species for science.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Black Tinamou, Happy Eagle, Military Macaw, Wire-crested Thorntail, Gray-tailed Piha, Black-mandibled Toucan, Andean Laniisoma, Red-billed Tyrannulet, Paradise Tanager, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Yellow-throated Spadebill, Fiery-throated Fruiteater

Day 14: San Isidro – WildSumaco

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At first light we will go to the hide of this lower land lodge to try to observe and photograph some additional species. We will stay there for most of the morning before taking a moment around the hummingbird feeders. Then it will be time to resume our long drive towards the eastern foothills of the Cordillera to our next lodge located in the buffer zone of Sumaco National Park, in the middle of the Amazonian subtropical forest (1500 meters), where more than 500 species of birds are listed on the lodge, which is enormous for a site in the upper Amazon.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Berlepsch’s Tinamou, Grey-lined Hawk, Purple Quail-dove, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, One colored Becard, Bicolored antbird, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Bay Wren, Scally-breasted Wren, Emerald Tanager

Day 15: WildSumaco Wildlife Sanctuary

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WildSumaco is one of those isolated reserves which, although little known to the general public, are extremely rich in terms of birdlife. Conservation and research projects carried out there have documented the presence of a large number of species that are normally rare and difficult to observe. Its accommodation infrastructure and numerous trails provide access to an ecosystem that has long been isolated because it is wedged between the Amazon foothills and the high Andes. It is therefore at the confluence of these two very different habitats that we will evolve over the next two days. We will explore the roadsides, the subtropical rainforest trails and the forest creeks. We will also spend some time around the feeder areas and on the viewing platforms in front of the lodge.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Short-tailed Antthrush, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Gould’s Jewelfront, Plain-backed Antpitta, Striolated Puffbird, Black-mandibled Toucan, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Buff-throated Todi-Tyrant

Day 16: WildSumaco – Quito

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The reserve, located at the foot of the extinct Sumaco volcano, protects a huge area of untouched foothill forest, dotted with clearings, ancient grasslands and secondary forest in recovery. During this last morning we will enjoy the hummingbird feeders which are among the most impressive lists in South America with 24 visiting species. Around the lodge there are several hides to photograph the rarest birds in the area. After that, it will be time to drive back to the Ecuadorian capital. On the way we stop at a brand new reserve near Baeza for some surprises. Arrival in Quito at the end of the afternoon.

Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Wire-crested Thorntail, Gray-tailed Piha, Black-mandibled Toucan, Andean Laniisoma, Red-billed Tyrannulet, Paradise Tanager

Day 17: Yanacocha – Zurro Loma - Quito

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Early departure from Quito to the entrance of Yanacocha, a private reserve owned by the Ecuadorian foundation Jocotoco. It covers 960 hectares on the northwestern slopes of the Pichincha volcano. From the car park, we will take the path on the side of the volcano which will lead us through typical Andean highland temperate forest vegetation. We will be attentive to the numerous mixed flocks of high altitude tanagers that feed in the heart of this dense forest. The various hummingbird feeders along the short trail will allow us to immortalize these beautiful sightings of common highland species. A little further down, the small hummingbird garden of Zuro Loma, allows us, with a lot of luck, to observe the rare Black-breasted Puffleg, one of the hummingbirds with the smallest distribution in the world. Late afternoon return to the international airport for our flight back home.

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Transport, English-speaking guide, entrance fees to the sites

Shining Sunbeam, Great Saphhirewing, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Black-breasted Puffleg (May to December), Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Golden-beasted Puffleg, White-browed Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager

Dates of the next departures

You want a personalized departure date? Contact us Request a personalized date

Prices per person

2 travelers 4 travelers 6 travelers
5,595 US$ 4,275 US$ 3,635 US$

You are a group of travelers and want a special rate? Contact us Request a personalized quote

Options

Single room
2 travelers 4 travelers 6 travelers
385 US$ 385 US$ 385 US$

Included

  • Private transport (gas, road taxes, parking, insurance of vehicle and passengers).
  • All transfers, as mentioned.
  • Bilingual naturalist guide for the mainland
  • Entrance fees to the reserves
  • 24-hour assistance
  • Accommodation in a double room with private bathroom
  • Meals as mentioned, picnics for some hikes.
  • Ecuador Bird Guide
  • Checklist of the birds of Ecuador
  • Telescope if available to participants
  • Water during transportation.

Not included

  • International flights (you can consult our list of tour operators offering flights).
  • Excursions and activities indicated as optional in the programme.
  • Some meals (count between 10 and 18 US$/meal)
  • Single room supplement.
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks during meals.
  • Personal expenses.
  • Personal insurance.
  • Bank commissions related to payments.

Payment and reservation terms

To book your tour, please confirm your agreement in writing to the local Ecuador Experience agent.

  • Deposit of 30% of the invoice amount at the time of booking
  • Secure online payment by credit card (Visa, Master Card or American Express) (a payment link will be sent to you at the current USD/EUR exchange rate).
  • The balance must be paid at the latest 45 days before the arrival in Ecuador according to the same modalities.

The agency declines all responsibility for the execution of the confirmed services in case of non-compliance with the above payment terms.

Important note

Itineraries may be subject to last-minute changes due to natural events or changes in domestic legislation. The visitor must take into account and accept the possibility of last-minute changes in the organisation of the trip. The operator therefore reserves the right to make the necessary changes to ensure the safety and integrity of the travellers and to respect the laws in force. The hotels are given as an indication only and are subject to availability at the time of booking the tour. In case of unavailability, a hotel of the same category will be proposed.

Formalities

Formalities: Passport valid 6 months after your return date. No visa is required at this time. Your health insurance (private or public) is mandatory to enter Ecuador.

Vaccinations: Although no vaccinations are compulsory, we advise you to consider vaccinations against tetanus, yellow fever and hepatitis A and B as essential.

We recommend that you consult your doctor before departure and that you take out insurance to cover medical expenses and repatriation.

Concerning parasitic diseases transmitted by mosquito bites (such as malaria, dengue fever, Chikungunya), please note that Quito and the centre of the country and the Galapagos are not affected. Furthermore, the majority of the country's risk areas are not in the areas we visit on our tours.

* In US dollars based on double occupancy (single supplements not included). These rates are valid for the dates selected but may be subject to increase at the time of booking and depending on the tourist season and local holidays. Our quotations are calculated in US Dollars and we are committed to this amount. The equivalent value in Euros or in any other currency is therefore indicative and calculated on the basis of the exchange rate on the day of the offer.

Characteristics of the trip

Travel theme

Birding and naturalist observations and photographs

Accompaniment

Bilingual specialist guide

Group

From 2 to 6 people

Arrival city

Quito

Departure city

Quito

Accomodation

Charming hotels, lodges and haciendas

Physical condition

Easy to moderate (some walks at altitude, although slow, can be tiring)
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