Recognized by leading ornithologists as one of the most highly diverse countries in terms of bird species, Ecuador has officially registered more than 1,600 endemic and exotic species – and the list keeps growing!
This is why our tours appeal to birdwatching aficionados and experts alike. These are people who journey to this marvelous country to see recorded species ...and who might just discover a new one!
A South American birding experience can be anything from condors circling a high mountain pass, throngs of hummingbirds buzzing on steep Andean slopes, or jays, foliage gleaners and finches spotted on dry wastelands. But there's also the Amazon, where the name itself evokes images of pre-historic looking hoatzins on an ox-bow lake, or antbirds, antthrushes, small flycatchers and ground-cuckoos feasting on swarms of ants. The beauty is that all of these images — as numerous as they are — can be found in this compact country that's not much larger than Britain or the US state of Colorado.
“We loved the time at the lodge in Cuyabeno. It was so genuine and natural there and the crew was so knowledgable and helpful. Thank you so much for the recommendation of the real Amazonia-experience.”
Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and taken to the hotel in the modern part of the city for your first night’s stay.
After an early breakfast, you will depart from your hotel around 6:00 a.m. and be driven to the Yanacocha eco-resort, situated in the 3,600-meter-high Guagua Pichincha Volcano. In this area, famous worldwide for its great diversity of tanagers and hummingbirds, you will have a chance to observe several species that won’t be found elsewhere on the tour. These species include Black-breasted pufflegs, Rainbow-bearded thornbills, Sword-billed hummingbirds, Buff-winged starfrontlets, Shining sunbeams, Golden-crowned tanagers, Black-chested mountain tanagers, Hooded mountain tanagers, Buff-breasted mountain tanagers, Scarlet-bellied mountain tanagers, Giant conebills and many others. After observing as many birds as possible, we will continue traveling along this famous route to reach the Tandayapa Lodge for dinner and an overnight stay.
After an early breakfast, you should be ready to leave by 5:45 a.m. for birdwatching in the Mindo Valley, at 1,200 meters above sea level. In this area you will find a mixture of flocks that include tanagers, Wood creepers, Fly catchers, toucans, and many different types of hummingbirds. At 1 p.m. we will have lunch and take a short break before continuing to birdwatch. Later we will return to the Sachatamia Lodge for dinner, at which time you can again record the species you've seen during the day.
After breakfast at 5 a.m., you should be ready to leave by 5:30 a.m. with your packed lunch for a day of birding in the Pedro Vicente Maldonado zone, a northeastern tropical forest situated at between 400 and 450 meters above sea level. This is an incredibly lush forest that’s home to many endemic tropical forest species found only in southern Colombia, northwestern Ecuador, and a few areas in Panama. Some of these species are Banded ground cuckoos, Rose-faced parrots, Choco screech owls, Five-colored barbets, Orange-fronted barbets, Black-tipped cotingas, Choco toucans, Stripe-billed aracaris, Choco woodpeckers, Double-banded graytails, Long-wattled umbrellabirds, and many tanagers and hummingbirds. In the evening we will return to Sachatamia Lodge for dinner and to record the day’s bird list.
After a 5:30 a.m. breakfast, we will head out for some birdwatching in the Nanegalito area. Here, you will visit the private reserve of Angel Paz, where the diversity of species is abundant – especially tanagers and hummingbirds. In one day it's possible to spot up to 20 different species of hummingbird, 12 species of tanager, as well as Giant antpittas, Yellow-breasted antpittas, Ochre-breasted antpittas, Moustached antpittas, Cock-of-the-rocks, Plate-billed mountain toucans, Oscellated tapaculos, Green-and-black fruit eaters, Golden-winged manakins, Blue-winged mountain tanagers, Grass-green tanagers and Tanager finches. In the evening we will return to Quito.
After breakfast we will pack up at your hotel and drive to the Antisana Volcano, in the eastern Andean mountain range. Living here are up to 90 different registered bird species, ranging from the world’s largest bird (the condor) to the smallest (a species of hummingbird). Also visible in this area are Andean hawks, falcons, tapaculos, ducks, Andean gulls and many other species. Antisana is a region located at 3,000 meters above sea level, where its vegetation is comprised of dense alpine tundra undergrowth. We will birdwatch up to approximately 4,000 meters above sea level, and also do some afternoon hiking in this area. During the whole time, you will have sensational views of the Antisana Volcano. After this, you will be driven back to Quito for dinner and spend the night at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.
This morning you will be driven to the airport for your flight to the small Amazonian city of Coca. You will be picked up at the airport and taken for a short drive to the Napo River to then board a motor canoe and travel downriver to Napo Wildlife Center, a trip of around two hours. Lunch will be provided en route.
During this trip, a good number of birds can be spotted along the way, including herons, kingfishers, and ospreys. Once the canoe arrives at the northwestern boundary of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, you will have a choice of two routes to the Napo Wildlife Center: either taking a guided 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) hike through the forest, or continuing to travel by water in a dugout paddle canoe, a ride of about 11/2 hours through dense flooded forest. Whichever route you choose, as you go deeper into the protected area you'll have the chance to see several species of monkeys, many birds and other wildlife. At the end of your trek or canoe trip, you will enjoy a superb view of Napo Wildlife Center from across the lake. You will reach the lodge in time for dinner and to settle in for a 4-night stay deep in the remote jungle of the Amazon basin.
Built and administered by the native Añangu Kichwa community on ancestral land, this exclusive lodge is on the south bank of the Napo River. It offers access to over 550 bird species and is considered one of the best wildlife experiences available.
You have three full days here to scratch the surface of the avifauna in the western Amazon and to get a feel for the rich habitats within easy reach of the lodge. (The program is subject to change depending on the weather conditions.)
On one or two mornings you will visit the canopy tower, a sturdy structure that provides privileged access to a world apart from the rest of the rainforest. Flocks of oropendolas, aracaris, tanagers and euphonias fly above the canopy in search of fruit. Spangled and plum-throated cotingas alight in the treetops, raptors perch on branches to dry off in the morning sun, white-browed purpletufts and crowned slaty flycatchers sally for insects, numerous parrots and macaws fly by or drop in if there’s a fruiting tree nearby, and many other species wander past (and through!) this tower.
Good forest trails offer access to yet another component of the avifauna, where wood creepers, antbirds and tinamous are particularly well represented. You should encounter the vocally impressive Screaming piha and the visually striking Black-necked red cotinga here.
A number of clay licks (saladeros in Spanish) exist in the area, places where you should see (and hear!) the spectacle of hundreds of parrots and parakeets coming to eat nutrients in the clay. You will also enjoy numerous canoe rides around the lake by the lodge and along adjacent creeks. These are sites where you will hear the songs of silvered and plumbeous antbirds reverberating through the flooded forest. The birds you should be seeking here include the Zigzag heron, the Point-tailed palmcreeper, the orange-crested manakin, and the striking long-billed woodcreeper, as well as several species of monkey and the impressive Giant river otter.
The river-edge forest — where you will visit the local community that built and so ably runs the lodge — is home to numerous other species, such as Turquoise and Magpie tanagers, Rufous-headed woodpeckers, and Swallow-winged puffbirds.
The islands in the Napo River, depending on their age, support varied avifauna distinct from that found on the “mainland” only a few hundred yards away! Island specialties you will hope to see include the Black-and-white antbird, the Olive-spotted hummingbird and at least three species of spinetails, plus more “common” river birds such as the Capped heron, Collared plover, and the Yellow-billed tern.
We will get up early to reach the best and most assessable parrot clay lick in all of Ecuador. Located about an hour from the lodge, guests must reach the site just before the daily parrot activity kicks off at the clay lick, at between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. A total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws can be seen here. Though actual sightings depend on the weather conditions, these excursions are usually rewarding.
Later, we will hike through the forest along a trail that leads to the local Kichwa community of Añangu, where we will share some time with a family in their day-to-day activities. Then we will return to the river and hike through a terra firme forest for about 30 minutes until we arrive at a second parrot clay lick. If the weather conditions permit, we should be able to find different species of parrots, parakeets and macaws. A box lunch will be served at the parrot clay lick observatory. Late in the afternoon, we will return to the lodge.
After an early breakfast, we will head out from the lodge en route to the finest experience at a canopy tower on the Napo. A 36m high canopy tower opened to guests in November 2004 as a great way to experience the life above the forest floor. This is the second tower at the Napo Wildlife Center (the first is attached to the dining hall and allows great views of the lake). The tower is located about 30 minutes from the lodge itself, deep within a terra firme forest.
As you ascend the 12-floor tower, you pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform, which is actually built into the tree, and experience the view formerly reserved only for birds. The metal tower was constructed to the highest standards, galvanized, and carefully inspected by engineers. Safety is the priority, as the platform at the top of the tree was constructed by tree platform specialists.
From top to bottom, there is no finer canopy experience in eastern Ecuador. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, as do Blue and Yellow macaws, while in nearby trees Spider Monkeys search for fruit, and two species of large toucans call out in the early mornings and afternoons. Indeed, the life of the forest canopy opens up before you. Birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence.
Later in the afternoon, we will hike through a marvelous terra firme forest to learn about the ecology and the role of plants in the complex world of the tropical rainforest, where vines, primordial trees, bromeliads and orchids stand out in this extraordinary natural garden.
After the hike, we will explore surrounding creeks in which you have a good chance of running into a Giant otter family.
After an early breakfast, you will be taken again in canoe up the Napo River to Coca Harbor. Your guide will meet you there and you will then drive down Loreto Road to Wild Sumaco Lodge. There will be opportunities for birding along the way. You will have dinner and spend the night at the lodge.
After your 5:30 a.m. breakfast, we will leave the lodge to start birdwatching close to the lodge and along Loreto Road. In this area you are likely to encounter several species that are considered rare and endangered, such as Scarlet-breasted fruiteaters, Fiery-throated fruiteaters, Chestnut-crested cotingas, Striped manakins, Plain-backed antpittas and Thrush-like antpittas. This excursion can be tailored to suit your own interests, and the lodge will provide information as to the best birding area for the time of your visit. In the late afternoon you will return to the lodge for dinner and the night, as well as to register the day’s bird list.
After breakfast at 5:30 a.m., you will pack and leave the lodge with a box lunch provided. We will travel on the road between Coca and Loreto, and then take the road connecting Quito to Tena. Along this route will be opportunities to see more of the bird species of the Amazon. At the beginning of the day you may encounter some of the same species that you saw the day before; however, in the afternoon we will enter a sub-tropical zone where the following species can be observed: Orange-breasted falcons, Many-banded aracaris, Yellow-eared toucanets, White-throated toucans, Paradise tanagers, Yellow-bellied tanagers, Turquoise tanagers, Golden-eared tanagers and Magpie tanagers. In the afternoon we will drive to the town of Cosanga, birdwatching the whole way along right up until the time we arrive at San Isidro Lodge. On this journey it's possible to see as many as 80 species, including tanagers, woodpeckers, toucans, kingfishers, aracaris, cotingas and more. You will have dinner and spend the night at the lodge.
Following breakfast at 5:30 a.m. — everyone with a packed lunch in hand — we will leave for birdwatching in an area known as the "Parrot Range," an old path between the rainforest and temperate climate of the Amazon. This spot is rich in bird species such as tanagers, toucans, and hummingbirds. You are likely to see Orange-eared tanagers, Rufous-crested tanagers, Black-capped tanagers, Chestnut-breasted chlorophonias, Grass-green tanagers, White-capped tanagers, Black-chested fruiteaters and Crested eagles. In the afternoon you will return the lodge for dinner and to register the day’s bird list.
After breakfast at 6 a.m., we will pack and begin the journey to the cloud forest and the main road that leads to Quito, ascending slowly up the Andean slopes, passing the town of Baeza and arriving at Guango Lodge in time for lunch. Along the way you are sure to see many species of the temperate and mid-elevation climatic zones. Some of the species are the Booted racket-tail, Blue-fronted lancebill, the Rufous-vented whitetip, the Sword-billed hummingbird, the Bronzy inca, Long-tailed sylph, Shining sunbeam, Collared inca, Buff-winged starfrontlet, White-tailed hillstar, Glowing puffleg, Mountain avocet bill, Golden-breasted puffleg, Golden-headed quetzal, the powerful woodpecker, Inca jay, Black-billed mountain toucan, Grey-breasted mountain toucan, the Bicolored antvireo and many hummingbirds. In the afternoon you can do some birding around the lodge, returning for dinner and to register the day’s bird list.
In the morning following breakfast at 5.30 a.m., you will leave the lodge with a packed lunch. We will continue towards the Papallacta region in the highest páramos (alpine tundra) of Ecuador, birdwatching along the way. In this area you may observe the following bird species: Andean condor, Caranculated caracara, Black-chested buzzard eagle, Andean tinamou, Yellow-billed pintail, Andean teal, Peregrine falcon, Rufous-bellied seedsnipe, Ecuadorian rail, Andean snipe, Noble snipe, Imperial snipe, Andean gull, Black-winged ground dove, Andean tit, spinetail, many-striped canasteros, and the most sought after hummingbird: the Ecuadorian hillstar. In the evening you will be driven back to Quito and the comforts of the upscale J.W. Marriott Hotel.
After breakfast, you will be driven to the international airport for your homebound flight. We hope you have had a lovely birding adventure in Ecuador! Completion of our services.
“I was very happy in every way with your booking and Cuyabeno Lodge. It surpassed my expectations in every way. No hitches with flights and transportation. The lodge was beautiful. The staff was professional and friendly.”