Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Ian Segebarth photo)
For additional information about this tour please call Steve Hoffman (406-461-5714).
Single Supplement: $370
Participant to Guide Ratio: 5 to 1
Accommodations with private bathrooms.
Activities and meals as mentioned in itinerary.
Donation to local conservation efforts.
Private transportation and driver for the duration of the program.
Travel protection, post-departure coverage (excludes trip cancellation).
Carbon offset contribution.
Cost is based on a minimum of 6 participants (double occupancy). This trip may incur unforeseen fuel surcharges.
A $500 per person deposit and enrollment form is due to hold your space on this trip. This deposit is refundable 120 days prior to departure, excluding a $200 cancellation fee. Cancellations after this date will result in loss of full deposit. Final payment due date: November 15, 2022.
Travel/trip cancellation insurance is strongly
recommended. For more information call Travel Insured (800-243-3174) or visit travelinsured.com.
Please note: Itineraries may be subject to change due to protocols and adjustments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the latest information regarding our COVID-19 policies, please visit holbrooktravel.com/covid19.
Birding the Choco-Andes Region of Ecuador: 27 February-9 March 2023
Exceptionally rich in biodiversity, Ecuador is a birder’s playground, with some 1,640 species of birds, many of which are rare and endemic. With your expert local guide’s assistance discover the exceptional avian fauna and other wildlife (sloths, monkeys, Andean Bears and more!) residing in Ecuador’s multitude of ecosystems. Experience many of the finest natural reserves in all of Ecuador, including Antisana National Park (famous for exquisite views of Andean Condors, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles and a array of other high-elevation species!). Search for the unique and stunning Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe above Papallacta Pass (in the high Andes at 14,000 feet elevation). In Guango Reserve find the Sword-billed Hummingbird, with its distinctive long bill; identify a great many species of colorful tanagers within the Wildsumaco area. Explore the remarkable beauty and biodiversity of the High Andes and Cloud Forests on this 11-day trip, visiting unique avian hotspots that are sure to thrill bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Merlin Birding is offering this trip in partnership with Holbrook Travel. To register, please click HERE.
ITINERARY AT A GLANCE:
February 27: Arrival in Quito; check into Rincon de Puembo.
February 28: Depart from the hotel early in the morning for Mindo via the Yanacocha and Quinde Eco-route for birding. Travel to Mindo for check in, program orientation, dinner and overnight (Sachatamia).
March 1: Visit the Milpe Bird Sanctuary (subtropical rainforest); in the afternoon we’ll visit the San Tadeo Feeders, and then to Sachatamia for dinner and overnite.
March 2: Visit Mashpi-Amagusa to find more Choco-endemic birds (altitude range is 2450 to 5600 ft.). Boxed lunch during this excursion. In the afternoon return to the lodge. Overnight at Sachatamia.
March 3: Depart early for Rio Silanche Reserve. Continue to Mirador Río Blanco for lunch and birding. Return to the lodge late afternoon. Overnight at Sachatamia Lodge.
March 4: TBD (remain at Sachatamia overnite).
March 5: Early morning we shall visit Refugio Paz de las Aves, a cock-of-the-Rock and antpitta sanctuary. We then travel to hotel in Sangolquí. Dinner and overnight at Hacienda La Carriona.
March 6: Full morning birding along the roads of Antisana Ecological Reserve (11,500 feet). Best chance for Andean Condors, Carunculated Caracara, Giant Hummingbird, etc. In the afternoon to Cabañas San Isidro. Overnight at San Isidro Lodge.
March 7: We'll explore the bird-rich San Isidro Lodge area. Overnight again at San Isidro Lodge.
March 8: Check out of San Isidro and continue to Guango Lodge, a one- hour drive from San Isidro; Guango sits at 8,900 ft. elevation. Sword-billed and many other hummers abound here! Enjoy lunch at Guango. In the afternoon we continue through the Cumbayá Valley to Quito. (If you are continuing on the Amazon Rainforest trip extension, bid farewell to your travel companions and begin your journey to WildSumaco.). Overnight at Rincón de Puembo (Quito).
March 9: Quito: Transfer to airport for flights home.
FEBRUARY 27 - QUITO
Upon arrival in Quito, you’ll be met by your guide at the airport and transferred to the hotel. Overnight at Rincón de Puembo.
FEBRUARY 28 - MINDO
Depart from the hotel early in the morning for Mindo via the Yanacocha and Quinde Eco-route for birding. Arrive to Yanacocha, a moss-clad temperate forest and Polylepis woodland on the side of Volcán Pichincha located at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. Yanacocha is the last refuge of the emblematic bird of Quito, the Black-breasted Puffleg (categorized as critically endangered). Other birds seen in the area include the Black-chested and Scarlet-bellied mountaintanagers, Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented pufflegs, and Great Sapphirewing and Sword-billed hummingbirds. Enjoy lunch at the reserve and continue along the Eco-route; there will be several stops to watch many spectacular birds, like the Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and Beautiful Jay. We will then head down to a lower altitude to get into the subtropical forest; here we might see the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager and White-winged Brushfinch. We’ll visit Alambi Cloud Forest Reserve for hummingbird observation. The reserve sits at the junction of two major valleys and covers a wide range of altitudes (4,750 to 7,210 feet), thus comprising many different habitats. Alambi has a recorded list of 250 species of birds (including 32 hummingbirds), seen at feeders and throughout the reserve. Continue to Mindo for check-in, program orientation, dinner and overnight. Overnight at Sachatamia Lodge. (BLD)
MARCH 1 - MINDO
This morning we shall visit the Milpe Bird Sanctuary, located in the subtropical rainforest. Milpe Bird Sanctuary covers 49 acres with an altitudinal range of 3,350 to 3,770 feet. Located in the Chocó Andean foothills, Los Bancos Milpe is within one of BirdLife International’s Important Bird Areas (IBA), and birding guides consider this one of the finest birding locales in all of Ecuador. Many of the most spectacular Chocó endemics are protected here, including Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Glistening-green Tanager, Chocó Trogon, Club-winged Manakin, and Long-wattled Umbrellabird, to name a few. This site is also known for the rare Moss-backed Tanager. In the afternoon we’ll visit the San Tadeo Feeders, where you can easily see a dozen different tanagers, aracaris, toucanets and barbets. Return to the hotel for dinner. Overnight at Sachatamia Lodge. (BLD)
MARCH 2 - MINDO
Mashpi-Amagusa is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador. Its unique location makes it particularly attractive for birders looking for the highest biodiversity with Chocó-endemic birds. The altitude range is 2,450 to 5,600 feet. Chocó endemics that can be seen in the reserve or along the road: Rose-faced Parrot, Orange-fronted Barbet, Toucan Barbet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Moss-backed Tanager, Chocó Vireo, Long-wattled Umbrellabird as well as brightly-colored passerines like the Indigo Flowerpiercer. We will have a boxed lunch during this excursion. In the afternoon return to the lodge. Overnight at Sachatamia Lodge. (BLD)
MARCH 3 - MINDO
Depart early from the hotel for a 1-hour drive to Pedro Vicente Maldonado where the Rio Silanche reserve is located. This important site is one of the last remaining accessible forest remnants found in this key life-zone. It is situated in hilly lowland forest at an altitude between 985-1,150 feet. The main attraction at Río Silanche is its exceptional birding: mixed-species foraging flocks abound, often packed with many important Chocó regional endemics. We will spend much of the day here searching for species like Purple-chested Hummingbird, Gray-and-gold Tanagers, Orange-fronted Barbet, Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, and Blue-whiskered Tanager. Continue to Mirador Río Blanco for lunch. This place is a birder’s dream, great for seeing tanagers. Return to the lodge in the late afternoon. Overnight at Sachatamia Lodge. (BLD)
MARCH 4 - Another full day in the Sachatamia Eco-Lodge Area (TBD).
MARCH 5 - SANGOLQUI
Early in the morning we shall depart towards Refugio Paz de las Aves located near Nanegalito (13 miles northeast of Mindo, at 4,590 feet). Angel Paz is the owner of this magical place; he is a resident of the Nanegalito area who decided to protect his property and convert it into an antpitta and cock-of-the-rock sanctuary. In recent years the reserve has become popular, as it is easy to spot at least three species of antpittas: Great, Yellowbreasted and Mustached antpittas. Other birds that might be seen in the area include the Crested and Golden-headed quetzals. En route we might make an additional stop in Quito at the Mitad del Mundo Monument and then continue to the hotel in Sangolquí. Dinner and overnight. Overnight at Hacienda La Carriona. (BLD)
MARCH 6 - COSANGA
Full morning birding along the roads of Antisana Ecological Reserve (11,500 feet). Located between the high Andes and the Amazon lowlands, the privately-owned, 297,000-acre Antisana Ecological Reserve is composed of varied ecological zones ranging from páramo to lowland rainforest. More than 70 bird species can be found in the high-elevation páramo region, including the Andean Condor, Giant Hummingbird, Carunculated Caracara, Black-faced Ibis, Speckled Teal, Andean Duck, Silvery Grebe, Slate-colored Coot, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing and Aplomado Falcon. The snowcapped Antisana Volcano may be visible, and is the fourth highest peak in Ecuador, with an altitude of 18,900 feet, adding to the breathtaking Andean scenery that can be enjoyed here. In the afternoon we shall continue to Cabañas San Isidro. This private reserve forms an important bridge between the Antisana and Gran Sumaco Reserves; the area boasts a list of about 330 bird species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country. Overnight at San Isidro Lodge. (BLD)
Velvet Purple Coronet
MARCH 7 - COSANGA
Explore the area accompanied by your guide. San Isidro Lodge is situated at about 6,726 feet above sea level, but the trails lead through elevations ranging from 7,874 feet all the way down to 6,069 feet, making this an ideal base to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down to the heart of the subtropical zone. Among the rarities here are Highland Tinamou, Bicolored Antvireo, Peruvian Antpitta, and White-faced Nunbird. Frequently spotted species often include Powerful Woodpecker, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Inca Jay, Black-billed Peppershrike, Wattled Guan, and Glossyblack Thrush. We’ll also search for Sickle-winged Guan, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Streak-capped and Striped treehunters, Long-tailed Antbird, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Black-chested Fruiteater, Pale-footed Swallow, and a variety of colorful tanagers in the mixed understory. Overnight at San Isidro Lodge. (BLD)
MARCH 8 - QUITO
After breakfast, check out of San Isidro and continue to Guango Lodge. Located about one hour away from San Isidro, Guango lies at an elevation of about 8,858 feet on Ecuador’s eastern slope. This area is classified as humid temperate forest, a habitat distinctly different from San Isidro and characterized by its more stunted trees, thicker canopy, cooler climate, and completely different bird and plant composition. The hummingbird feeders here are especially popular, with some of the more noteworthy species including Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Golden-breasted and Glowing pufflegs, Mountain Avocetbill, and White-bellied and Gorgeted Woodstars. Other birds of particular interest that are seen regularly include the Andean Guan, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Turquoise Jay, Scarlet-bellied, Lacrimose, Buff-breasted and Hooded mountain-tanagers, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Blackheaded, Black-capped and Black-eared hemispingus, and Slaty Brushfinch. Enjoy lunch at Guango, and in the afternoon continue through the Cumbayá Valley to Quito. (If you are continuing on the Amazon Rainforest trip extension, bid farewell to your travel companions and begin the journey to WildSumaco.) During a lecture given by a local ornithologist, learn more about some of the species seen throughout the tour. This evening we will reflect on the journey during a farewell dinner. Overnight at Rincón de Puembo. (BLD)
MARCH 9 - DEPARTURE
Transfer to the airport for the flight home. (B)