Located just a few wingbeats northwest of the Ecuadorian capital, the Andean Shocko, recently promoted to Biosphere Reserve status by UNESCO, has become one of the most emblematic bioregions in the tropical Andes. About 850 species of birds are concentrated here, 62 of which are endemic. From the other side of the high Andes, the road enters the Amazon basin, crossing a large number of different types of forest to end up on the northern banks of the Napo River, the gateway to the Amazon, where some 700 complementary and different species of birds await you. For the avid bird photographer, this 16 day tour, ranging from 350 to 3900 meters in altitude, will be a real delight in terms of diversity and photographic opportunity. The route, easy to access, dotted with pleasant and diverse reserves and lodges, with a wide variety of hummingbird gardens, feeding areas and observation towers, has been designed by our photographers, for photographers. On the programme: toucans, hummingbirds, fruiteaters, motmots, tanagers, trogons and quetzals. A must for any birding photography trip in Ecuador.

16 days
From 4680 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
Contact our expert
16 16 days

Day 1: Arrival in Ecuador - Quito


After your arrival at Quito International Airport (2800 meters), 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 of typical species of the inter-Andean valley.

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

Day 2: Quito - Alambi - Bellavista


Early departure from our hotel to the Chocó mountain region. The descent by laker along the western foothills of the Andes will allow us a first immersion in this ecosystem of Andean forests. Arrival at the entrance of the Tandayapa valley where we will visit the small bird reserve of the Alambi river (1550 meters). This first stop will allow us easy observations and shots around a large quantity of hummingbirds' feeders, but also a floral vegetation rich in texture and colours, inviting us to cheerfully 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 (2200 meters), in an area of cloud forest. After settling into our rooms, we will have the opportunity to see new species of hummingbirds around the feeders.

Key species: Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Dipper, Western Hemispingus, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, 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 3: Cloud forests


This primary forest in the middle of the Chocó mountain range 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 reserve's trails for understorey species, the wider track edges will also allow us to observe more easily and try to understand the phenomenon of rounding 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 have the opportunity to observe some of the endemic birds of the mythical Chocó mountain area. We descend to the lower Tandayapa valley to our next accommodation.

Key species: Booted Racket-tail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Turquoise Jay, Golden-headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Spilmann’s Tapaculo, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-TanagerGrass-green Tanager, Plushcap, Tanager Finch

Day 4: Paz de las Aves – Milpe – Sachatamia


Early breakfast, then descent to the Paz de las Aves reserve. We walk down to the Rock Rooster (Rupicola peruviana sanguinolenta) arena, where we can photograph the courtship of this unusual Continga. Angel, the owner of the reserve, will accompany us along the trails to look for three species of Grallaires, the Giant, Yellow-breasted and Whiskered. These extremely shy undergrowth birds can be approached here without difficulty. Lunch and departure to Milpe, our new reserve. Here we will take advantage of the various trails that criss-cross this magnificent forest where you can visit several leks of different species of Manakins and you will be attentive to the abundant mega-rounds near the various hummingbird troughs and fruit feeders of midday we will head.

Key species AM: Andean Cock of the Rock, Giant Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Flame-faced Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager.
Key species PM: Bronze-winged Parrot, Green Thorntail, Rufous Motmot, Red-headed Barbet, Choco Toucan, Pale-mandibled Araçari, Immaculate Antbird, Club-winged Manakin, Choco Warbler, Western Woodhaunter, Rufous-throated Tanager

Day 5: Mashpi Shungo - Amagusa


Today we will reach one of the last trendy sites in Ecuadorian birding. The Mashpi Mixed Protection Area (MPA) is a collection of conservation initiatives isolated from the main roads and still covered with original vegetation. This site is therefore simply incredible for ornithology as it has surprising climatic characteristics for the region with a humidity level reminiscent of the lowland forests of Chocó while the area is located around 1400 meters 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. During the day we will follow the owner of the small reserve of Amagusa, to try to find the majority of the key species of the area.

Key species: 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 6: Sachatamia - Santa Rosa – Pintag


In the early morning we will head to the two Hides built near the lodge to wait patiently for the arrival of some of the undergrowth species. After breakfast, we leave mid-morning for Santa Rosa. Located 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.

Key species: Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Metallic-green Tanager, Toucan Barbet, Ecuadorian Thrush, Flame-faced Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Golden-napped Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Golden Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Hoary Puffleg, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Sickle-winged Guan, Grey-breasted WoodWren, Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush

Day 7: Antisana - Papallacta


After an early breakfast, we will take the short road to the Antisana Ecological Reserve. From a platform, we will scan the nesting walls of the Condor, one of the most important populations in the country, with a telescope. We will then explore the greasy and scrubby vegetation of the highlands, looking for hummingbirds and alto-andine passerines, and then climb to the expanses of Andean steppe called páramo. Diversity at this altitude (almost 4000 metres) 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 troughs and to try to observe one of the rarest mammals of this ecosystem: the Spectacled Bear. Arrival in Papallacta before evening, where you will have the opportunity to relax in the hot baths.

Key species: 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 8: Papallacta – Guango – San Isidro


This morning we will have the choice between enjoying the Papallacta thermal complex or exploring the super humid Páramo areas of the Cayambe Coca reserve. From the Papallacta Pass at an altitude of over 4000 metres, 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, 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.

Key species (Papallacta): 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 Bush Tanager

Day 9: San Isidro


These high altitude tropical forests are also called Cloud Forest 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.... But also 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. One of the scientists of 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.

Key species: Black-and-chestnut Hawk Eagle, San Isidro owl, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Crested Quetzal, White-bellied Antpitta, Powerful Woodpecker, Emerald Toucanet, Bicolored Antvireo, Peruvian Antpitta, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, White-capped Tanager

Day 10: San Isidro - WildSumaco


At first light we will go to the lowland 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 is time to take our long drive to the eastern foothills of the Cordillera to the eastern part of the Antisana Reserve, along the Ara Cordillera, where we make a short stop. The trail that runs along the heights of the Guacamayo mountain range takes advantage of the ridge effect, winding its way between subtropical and foothill forest on the eastern side of the Andes. We will explore its dense and humid vegetation for a while, before descending to the upper Amazon to our next lodge located in the buffer zone of the Sumaco National Park, in the middle of the subtropical Amazonian forest (1500 meters).

Key species: 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 11: WildSumaco Wildlife Sanctuary


WildSumaco is one of those isolated reserves, which although little known to the general public, is extremely rich in terms of birdlife. The 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, as 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 roadsides, subtropical rainforest trails and forest creeks. We will also spend some time around the feeder areas and on the viewing platforms in front of the Lodge.

Key species: 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 12: Wild Sumaco - Coca- Sani Lodge


It will be time to continue our descent into the lower parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon basin, to the town of Coca, located on the Napo River. From here we continue our descent into the lower Amazon to the Amazonian town of Coca (350 metres) (Francisco de Orellana) in the province of Napo. From the docks on the Napo River, Ecuador's largest tributary of the Amazon, we will board our motorized dugout canoe for a descent of about three hours, our first immersion in this green world. After arriving at the edge of the Yasuni National Park in the territory of the Sani community, we will transfer to smaller dugout canoes and then row along the black water canals to the lagoon on the edge of which the lodge is located (250 metres). After settling into our spacious cabins, our guide will give us a presentation of the site and a briefing on the upcoming trip. This day is essentially a travel day, but along the Napo River (riparian and "white water" ecosystem) and then along the narrow "black water" channels and around the lagoon we will have the opportunity to observe our first Amazonian species.

Day 13: Clay licks and black water channels


After an early and hearty breakfast, we will go by rowing boat and then by motorboat to the banks of the Napo River. From there we will visit two "saladeros": clay cliffs covered with minerals that several species of Psittacidae come to ingest to facilitate their digestion (diet composed almost exclusively of acidic fruits and vegetables). The first saladero is located directly on an open bank of the Napo, the second is inside the forest and is more like a cave. It attracts very different species from the first. After this incredible sight, we will take a trail in Terra Firme close to the second saladero in search of the characteristic species of this never flooded ecosystem. After lunch, we will take a motorboat ride along the Napo River to look for some interesting "white water" riparian species (named after the light brown colour of the great Amazonian rivers that carry silt and material from the high Andes where they originate). At the end of the day, we will return to our lodge via the "black water" canals, so called because of their dark tea colour (due to the tannins in the decomposing leaves washed by the Amazonian rains and accumulating in the rivers and lagoons).

Note: The activities on these two days will vary according to the climate.

Day 14: Observation tower - Terra Firme and Varzea


After crossing the lagoon, a 20 minute walk will take us to the observation tower. Built on the sides of a Kapokier tree, these 35 meters high will allow us to have an unobstructed view of the Amazonian forest canopy. The canopy birds, which are often much higher than 30 meters, are among the most difficult to observe in the Amazon. The construction of such towers makes our task much easier. In the middle of the morning we descend to ground level for a long observation walk in the forest in a seasonally flooded ecosystem: the Varzea. This is home to a significantly different avifauna than the Terra Firme and promises us some new species. After a well-deserved rest at the lodge, we set off again at the end of the afternoon on another trail. This one winds between Varzea and Terra Firme and will offer us the possibility to observe a great variety of species. After dinner, we will go on a torchlight trip in a rowing boat in search of many nocturnal species as well as black caiman.

Note: The activities on these two days will vary according to the weather.

Day 15: Sani Lodge - Napo Islands


This morning we will visit one of the most specialised and interesting ecosystems in the Amazon. The islands located on the large Amazonian rivers represent small independent ecosystems that evolve in a completely autonomous way. Depending on their age, height and stage of vegetation, these islands are home to a contingent of very different and specialised species. This morning we will travel along the Napo River to several islands of different ages, structures and vegetation cover in search of all these specialist species. After a return to the lodge during the hot hours of the day. In the afternoon, we will coordinate with our guide our final outing depending on what we want to rediscover: observation at the end of the day from the canopy tower, trail in Terra Firme, trail in Varzea, pirogue ride along the lagoon's shores and the "black water" channels. After dinner, we will take a final walk along one of the trails in search of nocturnal birdlife.

Day 16: Sani Lodge – Coca – Quito


Early in the morning we take our rowing boats back to the canals leading us to the Napo River. At the border of the National Park, our motorized dugout will be waiting for us to go up the Napo river where we will be able to enjoy our last observations. Arrival at Coca city around noon for our flight to Quito airport.

End of our services.

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Key species: (you will find here the most representative species. The list would be too long, but we will send it to you later) Anhinga, Zigzag Heron, Black Hawk Eagle, Sungrebe, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Black-headed Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Hoatzin, Crested Owl, Great Potoo, Amazonian White-tailed Trogon, Violaceous Jay, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Great Jacamar, Gilded Barbet, White-necked Puffbird, White-throated Toucan, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Great Antshrike, Grey Antwren, Yellow-browed Antbird, Black-faced Antbird, White-plumed Antbird, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Citron-bellied Attila, Plum-throated Cotinga, Bare-necked Fruitcrow

Dates of the next departures

Departure possible all year round.

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

Prices per person

2 travelers 4 travelers 6 travelers
6,210 US$ 5,220 US$ 4,680 US$

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


  • National flight Quito-Coca
  • Private transport (gasoline, road taxes, parking, insurance of the vehicle and its passengers).
  • All transfers as mentioned.
  • Bilingual naturalist guide for the mainland except Amazon
  • Local English speaking guide in the Amazon
  • Entry to the reserves
  • 24 hour assistance
  • Accommodation in double room with private bathroom
  • Meals as mentioned picnic for some hikes.
  • Ecuador Bird Guide
  • Ecuador Bird Checklist
  • Telescope at participants' disposal
  • Water during transportation.

Not included

  • International flight. (You can consult our list of tour operators offering flights).
  • Excursions and activities indicated as optional in the programme.
  • Meals in Quito on days 1 and 16 (count between 8 and 15 US$/meal)
  • Single room supplement (595 US$).
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks during meals.
  • Personal expenses.
  • Tips.
  • Personal insurance.
  • Bank commissions for payments.

Payment and reservation terms

To book your tour, please confirm your agreement in writing to your travel expert.

  • 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 terms.

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 any changes necessary to ensure the safety and integrity of the travellers and to comply with the laws in force. The hotels are given as an indication subject to availability at the time of booking the tour. In case of unavailability, a hotel of the same category will be proposed.


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

Vaccinations: although no vaccinations are compulsory, we advise you to consider those against tetanus, yellow fever and hepatitis A and B as indispensable.
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 zones we visit during our itineraries.

* 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.

** The values of the flights are given as an indication and are subject to possible change at the time of confirmation of the trip.

*** Some lodges are very small and the availability of single rooms must be confirmed at the time of booking and the rate revised accordingly.

Your guides for this trip

Xavier Amigo

Xavier Amigo

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A great enthusiast of the neo-tropical environment, he has now resided for more than 25 years in Ecuador, where he founded Nature Experience. A self-taught ornithologist and naturalist, he holds a diploma in Conservation Strategy and Techniques in the neo-tropical zone, an active member of several conservation foundations and a founding member of the National Bird Watch Network ( RedAvesEcuador). He will help you in the elaboration of your natural, ornithological and professional requests. He will also share with you his experience of more than fifteen years as a guide in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil but also in Peru and the Galapagos.
Pierre Ferron

Pierre Ferron

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Pierre went on a two year adventure with his backpack and camera throughout South America but all these adventures were not enough to quench his thirst for adventure. Adventurer in soul, his passion for felines taught him the patience to observe and photograph them. Self-taught naturalist, photography enthusiast since the age of 8 years, it is with his camera that he shares his passion for nature and travels. Also instructor of scuba diving, he will guide you as well on the ground as under water. Pierre will guide you to the best viewpoints to bring out the best in your photos. He gives as well great advice on how to handle your camera equipment and how to take advantage of settings to capture the best picture.

Characteristics of the trip

Travel theme

Ornithological and naturalist observations and photographs


English-speaking specialist guide


From 2 to 6 people

Arrival city


Departure city



Charming hotels, lodges and haciendas


Private transfers

Physical condition

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