The Tumbes bio-region, which straddles southern Ecuador and the north of the country, is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in South America.

Southern Ecuador is probably one of the most exciting regions in terms of ornithological and naturalist discoveries. Off the beaten track, each corner offers a varied, exotic and rich nature, especially in terms of endemism. Of the country's large continental bioregions, the Tumbes region, which straddles the Peruvian border, is the richest in terms of the concentration of species whose populations are restricted to a single ecosystem or geographical site. From the mangrove swamps bathed by the cold currents from distant Chile, through the great undulating plains where deciduous kapok forests abound, the terrain rises towards the páramos, passing through magnificent alto-andine groves and great herbaceous steppes, before losing itself, in the east, in the tepuys of the Cordillera del Condor and the Cutucú. We will also explore the lush rainforests of the eastern Andean foothills and the Amazon basin. This kaleidoscope of atmospheres constitutes a very specialised birdwatching tour, which will lead you in search of many national and regional endemics such as the elegant Orces's conure, one of the most endangered psittacids in the country, Fraser's warbler, a Tumbesian endemic with melodious vocalisations, and of course the Oro's hummingbird, the newest species of hummingbird endemic to Ecuador.

Ecuador
19 days
Birding tours Birding 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
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19 19 days

Day 1: Guayaquil

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Arrival in Guayaquil. Transfer from the airport to our hotel. Briefing on the upcoming trip. Dinner and overnight stay in a standard hotel.

Day 2: Manglar Churute Ecological Reserve

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From Guayaquil we will take the road south to the Manglar de Churute reserve. This reserve is mainly dry woods and scrubland with a large area of mangroves where local fishermen hunt crabs. After walking the often mosquito-infested trails of the reserve, we will also have the opportunity to take a boat ride through the intricate mangrove forests in search of aquatic species that thrive in peaceful mangroves. We will then continue our descent towards the south in the middle of hectares of rice fields, banana and cocoa plantations. Arrival in the late afternoon at the private reserve of Buenaventura where we will spend the night.

Dinner and overnight in a charming lodge.

Target birds: Horned Screamer, Pacific Royal Flycatcher, Little Blue Egret, White Ibis, Jet Antbird, Rufous-necked Woodrail, Common Black Hawk

Day 3: Buenaventura

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This reserve belongs to the Jocotoco Foundation. Located between the subtropical and foothill forest altitudinal levels, it hosts a large number of threatened species. The area is located on the contact zone between the Chocó bio-region at its southern end and the Tumbesian bio-region at its northern end. The reserve therefore benefits from both influences and its species richness reflects this. We will first explore the upper part of the reserve, which is more humid, in search of species influenced by the Chocó and the two ultras endemic to the reserve (endemic to the Province of El Oro). Afterwards, we will walk through the lower part of the reserve, which is drier for the Tumbesian species.

Dinner and overnight in a charming lodge.

Day 4: Buenaventura

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The afternoon is dedicated to visiting new trails, then a photographic session around the hummingbird troughs will allow us to enjoy the aerial sweep of these flying jewels, essential pollinators of many floral species. The Buenaventura reserve is home to a large number of endangered and endemic orchid species such as Dracula cordobae and the spectacular Cattleya maxima. Some mammals are also present in this area, such as the Coatis and Agoutis. We will also spend a lot of time around the fantastic Hummingbird troughs for beautiful observations. A final night out is possible to try and add some owls and nightjar to our list.

Dinner and overnight in a charming lodge.

Target birds: Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Rufous-headed Chachalaca, Black-and-white Owl, Slaty-winged Foliage Gleaner, Uniform Antshrike, Brownish Twistwing, Song Wren, Thrush like Schiffornis, Club-winged Manakin, El Oro Tapaculo, El Oro Parakeet, Spotted Nightingale Thrush, Emerald-bellied Woodnymph, White-vented Plumeleteer

Day 5: Buenaventura - Zapotillo - Jorupe

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We will leave Buenaventura early in the morning and head south-east, more precisely to the Peruvian border near the town of Macara. The few stops along the way will allow us to look for some species typical of the semi-desert ecosystems of the Tumbesian region. Arrival in the late afternoon in the Jorupe reserve.

Dinner and overnight in a charming lodge.

Day 6: Jorupe

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The Jorupe Reserve also belongs to the Jocotoco Foundation. It protects several hectares of typical Tumbesian forest made up of tall, intractable scrub and low deciduous forest dominated by Kapok trees (or Ceibos) with gigantic trunks. These dry forests have largely been destroyed to make way for agriculture. This ecosystem is home to many endemics and specialised species. We will search for all these specialities throughout the day from the access track and the paths that penetrate this dense forest.

Dinner and overnight at the charming lodge.

Target birds: White-tailed Jay, Slaty Becard, commun), Plumbeous-backed Thrush, Ecuadorian Piculet, Blackish-headed Spinetail, Rufous-necked Foliage Gleaner, Watkins Antpitta, Pale-browed Tinamou, Henna-hooded Foliage Gleaner, Ochre-bellied Dove, Gray-breasted Flycatcher, Long-billed Starthroat

Day 7: Utuana

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Today we will drive to Utuana Reserve, a new reserve owned by the Jocotoco Foundation. Our first stop will be in the village of Sozoranga to look for a colony of Red-banded Swallows. We will then spend most of the day exploring the trails of the reserve. The reserve is home to dwarf highland forest mixed with scrub and dense patches of Chusqueas bamboo. Many of the species can only be seen here in Ecuador.

We return to our lodge to spend the last night.

Target birds: Jelski Chat Tyrant, Loja Tyrannulet, Chapman Antshrike, Three-banded Warbler, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, Rainbow Startfrontlet, Purple-throated Sunangel, Gray-headed Antbird, Black-cowled Saltator, Piura Hemispingus, Chestnut-collared Swallow

Day 8: Jorupe - Catamayo - Vilcabamba

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Climb up to the Andes. We will slowly climb the foothills of the western cordillera passing through the semi-desert valleys of Catamayo where a new vegetation of savannahs and scrub awaits us. In the middle of the day we pass through the peaceful village of Vilcabamba and then continue our journey to the Tapichalaca lodge.

Dinner and night in a charming lodge.

Day 9: Tapichalaca - Vallée Du Marañon

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This mythical reserve is located in the heart of the temperate forest floor and is home to the only known population of Ridgely's Grallary. The story of the discovery of this Grallaire is quite simply magical and represents one of the historic achievements of neo-tropical ornithology in the last twenty years. The reserve is also home to a large area of temperate forest on the edge of the Podocarpus National Park, which is threatened in this area by the rapid increase in agriculture and livestock farming. Several rare and hard to see species are quite common here. During the three days we will explore the different trails in the reserve which will allow us to access different high altitude ecosystems. We will also take half a day to descend into the upper valley of the Rio Marañon which is home to several endemic species with a limited distribution.

Dinner and night in a charming lodge.

Day 10: Vallée Du Marañon – Yankuam

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We will take some time on this last morning to descend into the upper valley of the Rio Marañon and explore this very special area which is home to several endemic species with a restricted distribution. We will then continue eastwards into the Jivaro territories of the upper Nangaritza Valley to the Yankuam Lodge. This small reserve and its standard category lodge are located in front of the mythical Cordillera del Condor, at the gateway to Shuar territory. Here many surprises await us, but the star of the place is indeed the Orange-throated Tanager.

Dinner and night in a standard lodge

Day 11: Yankuam

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This reserve, located in front of the mythical Cordillera del Condor, at the gateway to the Shuar territory, is home to many ornithological surprises. We will walk along the road that goes from our lodge to the small Shuar village of Shaime in search of the local birdlife. A walk along the pleasant trails of the lower part of this area will allow us to approach the new low altitude species. We will go out at night in search of some local rarities.

Dinner and overnight in a standard lodge.

Day 12: Maicu Nuevo Paraiso

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Today we will leave early to explore the impressive tropical vegetation of the Nuevo Paraiso reserve, located opposite the Cordillera del Condor and protected by the Shuar Indians from the advancing mining industry. These places, isolated from the world, are home to a wide variety of rare species.

Dinner and overnight in a standard lodge.

Day 13: Yankuam – Copalinga

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Early departure from our lodge to go along the Cordillera del Condor one last time, for our last observations of this low altitude birdlife. The return to Zamora, will allow us to split our ascent to the north, but also to finish exploring the Copalinga reserve, but also to rest. We will spend the rest of the day in front of the hummingbird troughs and fruit bird feeders of the lodge, where we will be able to take pictures in front of our lodge.

Dinner and overnight in a charming lodge.

Day 14: Copalinga - Rio Bombuscaro

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Copalinga is located in the foothills of the eastern cordillera near the city of Zamora and on the eastern edge of the Podocarpus National Park. Many species are restricted to this altitudinal range. We will first walk the trails of the Copalinga lodge for low altitude species. Then we will go to the Bombuscaro entrance of the Podocarpus National Park, for species limited to higher altitudes. We will walk through the different trails of the Park.

Dinner and overnight at the same lodge.

Day 15: Zamora - Saraguro

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A long day of driving awaits us today. We will leave the warm tropical atmosphere of the far east and head north. On the way, we will take time to explore the tropical vegetation of the old road from Loja to Zamora, very well known by the ornithologists of the region, for the presence of numerous uninterrupted rounds of Thraupidae. Depending on how much time we have left, we can make a stop in the town of Loja to try and see the rare Kopecks Screech Owl. Along the cordillera, we will stop in the alto.andine vegetation to make some observations of high altitude birds, Rainbow Thornbill, Red-bellied Tanager, Green Thornbill, Mountain Caracara, Pale-naped Tohi, Blue-capped Conirostre. Arrival at the indigenous villa of Saraguro in the late afternoon.

Free dinner and nights in a hostel.

Day 16: Saraguro - Huashapamba - Acanama

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Going back along the E35, some remote and little visited Andean areas allow you to combine beautiful naturalist and ornithological encounters. Near Saraguro, the forests of Cerro Acanama offer the opportunity to explore a little frequented ecosystem rich in birdlife. In the bamboo, we will patiently search for the half-moon grallaire and the agile taurillon. Higher up, the Flammulated Anabate and the Rough-legged Fritillary can be seen. We will also try to find the very rare Remsen's Cotinga, whose populations are extremely small. Around 3000 metres, the Huashapamba Community Conservation Area, protects one of the last remaining alto-andine forests in the region, a rare refuge for the Salvin's Caicos which feeds on Miconia, and Viburnum berries.

Free dinner and nights in a hostel.

Day 17: Cerro de Arcos - Yunguilla

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The grasslands and shrubbery of the Cerro de Arcos highlands, a remote, hostile and wind-whipped rock formation, were the scene in 2017 of one of the most surprising ornithological discoveries of recent decades. No one expected to find a population of a strange and unknown hummingbird here. At an altitude of 3700 meters, between the provinces of El Oro and Loja, the Chilla mountain range is home to only a few islands of native vegetation, mainly composed of terrestrial bromeliads and especially chuquiragua, whose orange flowers, typical of Ecuadorian páramos, are the food base of this trochilid named the El Oro hummingbird. Once our observation session is over, we will go back up to the Santa Isabel valley, along the Giron road until we reach the Yunguilla reserve.

Dinner and overnight in a standard hotel.

Day 18: Yunguilla - Cuenca

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Early lunch and transfer to the Yunguilla reserve to observe the only population of the endemic Grey Bushfinch and some other complementary species of this small area of foothill forest; Striped Bushfinch, Red-headed Grasshopper, Tawny-crested Tyrannulet, Ecuadorian Blackbird, Yellow-headed Cardinal. We will arrive in Cuenca in the evening. Dinner at leisure and overnight in a colonial hotel where we will enjoy a peaceful return to civilization. If you don't arrive too late in Cuenca, take the time, even at night, to visit the city centre, which is considered one of the most beautiful and pleasant in the country.

Dinner at leisure and overnight in a colonial hotel.

Day 19: Parc National Cajas - Guayaquil - International Flight

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Today we will visit the Cajas National Park or the park of a thousand lakes. In the heart of sumptuous and grandiose landscapes, we will explore different high altitude ecosystems: temperate forest, Polylepis forest, páramos, high altitude lagoons. In these high altitude areas we will look for specialised species.

After a lunch at an altitude of more than 4000 meters, we will drive through the tropical heat of the banana, oil palm and cocoa plantations to the largest city in Ecuador. We will arrive in Guayaquil in the afternoon for our international flight.

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Target birds: Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Andean Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Ruddy Duck, Tawny Antpitta, Giant Conebill, Tit-like Dacnis, Red-rumped Bush Tanager, Violet-throated Metaltail

Dates of the next departures

Departures possible all year round (best period between October and March), contact us.

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

Prices per person

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

Included

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

Not included

  • International flights (you can consult our list of tour operators offering dry flights).
  • Excursions and activities indicated as optional in the programme.
  • Some meals (count between 10 and 18US$/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 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, etc., 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 arrival according to the same procedure.

The agency declines all responsibility for the performance 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.

Your guide 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.

Characteristics of the trip

Travel theme

Ornithological and photographic journey

Accomodation

Standard, charming and superior hotels and lodges

Physical condition

Moderate

Best season

Between October and March
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