"Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain" —Doug Coupland
HUMMINGBIRD ROUTE & WESTERN SLOPES
YANACOCHA-OLD MINDO ROAD-BELLAVISTA-ANGEL PAZ-MASHPI-MILPE
DAY 1 ARRIVAL TO QUITO
Transfer in from the new International Airport Mariscal Sucre in Tababela to Quito. Usually international flights arrive late in the evening. Overnight in Quito.
DAY 2 YANACOCHA & OLD NONO MINDO ROAD
Early departure as the sunrises, over the northwestern slope of Pichincha Volcano. Start birding in the enchanted, Protected Forest of Yanacocha for a surprising array of bird species; there are mixed flocks of gorgeous birds such as Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill, Golden Crowned Tanager. Hummingbirds are a major highlight here!! Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs,Tyrian Metaltail, Buff-winged Starfrontlet and the outstanding Sword-billed hummingbird are frequent visitors of the surrounding flora and the feeders scattered along the main trail.
Box lunch at the reserve; later on we’ll continue on down the old Nono-Mindo Road to Tandayapa Valley with remarkable landscapes. Following what is known as the Ruta del “Quinde”- kichwa word for hummingbird- with more fabulous birds and views, we make our way to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, at 7200 ft a.s.l.
The old Nono-Mindo Road is a great birding site with a great diversity of hummingbirds and many Chocó endemics.
The route offers a good chance for White-capped Dippers hopping around on the boulders within a rushing Andean river; the riverside banks along a section of the road also play host to Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrants.
We’ll try to arrive to the lodge before dark to get our first view of the incredible activity at the hummingbird feeders, which attract many species including Violet-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Western Emerald, Purple-throated Woodstar, Booted-racket-Tail, Gorgeted Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird among others.
Overnight at Bellavista Reserve Lodge.
DAY 3 BELLAVISTA CLOUD FOREST RESERVE - SACHATAMIA
Waterfalls on this 700 hectare property, all deep in the subtropical rainforest are breathtaking. This combination of water and exuberant vegetation invites you for day excursions in the surroundings, which will acquaint you with the uniqueness of the cloud forest, its bird diversity, and the fascinating adaptations to life in this special ecosystem.
Bellavista is recognized as one of Ecuador’s Important Bird Areas (IBA’s). It is located within the Chocó Bio-geographic Region. This area extends from Panama to the Ecuadorian Province of Manabi; this bio-region is considered one of the world’s hot spots of biodiversity due to its high levels of endemism.
Some of the target species here are the very rare and threatened Tanager Finch, the gorgeous Toucan Barbet, Ocellated Tapaculo and the spectacular Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan.
The reserve is a perfect host for other colorful subtropical species: the tanagers. Grass-green, Blue and Black, Beryl-Spangled, Blue-Capped, Fawn- Breasted, Golden, Flame-Faced and Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers occur frequently in the reserve. Beautiful birds abound in the cloud forest of the upper Tandayapa Valley like the Green and Black Fruiteater, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Turquoise Jay, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Rufous-Headed Pygmy- Tyrant, Flavescent Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Sierran Elaenia, Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner among many others.
Overnight in Sachatamia.
DAY 4 ANDEAN COCK OF THE ROCK LEK & ANTPITTA PARADISE AT REFUGIO PAZ DE LAS AVES
This now-famous antpitta reserve near Mindo will be one of the tour’s highlights. Here, the former local farmer Angel Paz and his brother Rodrigo have switched their activities to birding and conservation. They are pioneers in the Neotropics in hand-feeding several elusive species like Giant, Yellow-Breasted, Chestnut-Crowned, Moustache, Ochre-Breasted Antpittas with amazing success. These birds respond relatively easily to their voice, giving us a great chance to see these otherwise evasive birds. They have gained substantial fame for developing this technique of conditioning extremely rare antpittas and other rare birds to come out onto the trail. Here we’ll also visit an active Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek at sunrise. Hummingbird feeders attract some new species like Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant and Brown-Violetear. Other Chocó specialties sometimes found in the area include Nariño Tapaculo, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, and Black -chinned Mountain-Tanager. It is also a good site for birds like Olivaceus Piha, Golden-headed Quetzal, Golden-Winged Manakin and Crimson-rumped Toucanet.
Overnight at Sachatamia.
DAY 5 MASHPI - AMAGUSA
Start your day with some of the most fabulous views over the western Andean slopes. You'll be pick-up from your hotel at 4:30 am. We'll head out to an area which is known among birders as the “Mashpi road”, the birding area includes a small side road that forks off and heads a few km to the Mashpi Amagusa Reserve.
Mashpi is a recently popularized site in the northwestern foothills that has gained notoriety for its impressive collection of Chocó endemic bird species. The wet mossy forest along the roads in the area boasts Moss-Backed Tanager, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Orange-Breasted Fruiteater, Black Solitaire, Glistening-Green Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, and the very rare Choco Vireo.
Time and space will take on a different meaning as you become immersed in the deep green forest, exploring pristine landscapes.
In the afternoon a special visit to a private farm along the Chontal road will allow you to see the odd Oilbird, a great way to end your journey today.
Overnight and dinner at Kapari.
DAY 6 MILPE- SILANCHE BIRD SANCTUARY
After an breakfast, we'll head out to Silanche, a Mindo Cloudforest Foundation (MCF) reserve. This is a nonprofit conservation organization founded in 2001 that works to protect critically endangered natural habitats in Ecuador. We'll get to explore this sanctuary in the Chocó-Andean foothills. Silanche is one of the last remaining accessible forest remnants found in this key life-zone—is situated in hilly lowland forest at an altitude between 300-350m. The main feature at Río Silanche is its incredible birding from an observation tower: mixed species foraging flocks, packed with many important Chocó endemic species. Many of these bird species are otherwise difficult to find without arranging a logistically far more complicated expedition to Esmeraldas province or even Colombia: Purple-chested Hummingbird, Chocó Trogon, Double-banded Graytail, Moustached/Griscom’s Antwren, Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager. The MCF is working hard to repair and maintain a natural corridor between the Caoní and Silanche rivers, strengthening the Río Caoní IBA.
In the afternoon you'll visit Milpe reserve, which was established in 2004 and has recently been expanded to 100 hectares (247 acres), now including the adjacent ‘Milpe Gardens’ which has easier access to the Chalhuayacu river valley. The Bird Sanctuary covers an altitudinal range from 1020-1150m (3350-3770 ft). Both Club-winged and Golden-winged manakins are relatively easy to observe, photograph and enjoy. Seasonally, the White-bearded Manakin is here too, popping and whirring.
Overnight at Kapari.
DAY 7 UMBRELLA BIRD LEK AT 23 DE JUNIO - ALAMBI-QUITO
We will leave early to reach the small private reserve of 23 de Junio by dawn. In recent years a small population of the rare Long-wattled Umbrellabird has been found here. Birding at this wonderful place is always a great experience. We may encounter other rare species like the Moss-backed Tanager and Black Solitary next to the road that leads to the community. The aim of this trip is to get some great views of the Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephaloterus penduliger); this dispersed lek forming species is a Chocó endemic specialty whose conservation status has been raised to vulnerable due to the destruction of its habitat. We'll explore the reserve at its different altitudinal floors where we’ll have the chance to see different species of toucans like the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Chocó Toucan, Yellow breasted Toucan, and the Pale-mandibled Aracari; all in a matter of a couple of hours. There are not many places in Ecuador, or for that matter in the world, where you can see all these birds in the same area.
It is important for us to support local conservation efforts; through our visit we'll generate a direct positive impact and support for the local community. This place is an excellent example of the great diversity that is worth saving and seeing.
After exploring this location we'll head back to Quito, after lunch we'll stop at Alambi Cloud Forest reserve, a hummingbird paradise where over 18 species visit their feeders every day. It's an outstanding place right by the main road.
Dinner and Overnight at San Jose de Puembo
DAY 8 ANTISANA
The snow-covered top of Antisana Volcano is located at 18,886 ft a.s.l.. It’s the fourth highest peak of Ecuador. Something that makes this place wonderful is the contact with undisturbed nature apart from crowded touristic places and its beautiful Andean scenery. The reserve provides opportunities to understand the geological history of the Andes and the importance of this unique ecosystem.
We may see many high altitude and local specialties including Ecuadorian Hillstar visiting the Chuquiragua bushes, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spineatil, Many-striped Canastero, Tawny Antpitta, Tufted tit-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Paramo Pipit, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch and Black-winged Ground-Dove. We’ll have the chance to see many Carunculated Caracaras, Andean Gulls, Andean Lapwings, and many other species that are absent or difficult at other sites such as the rare Black-faced Ibis. This reserve has at least 4 different cliffs in which up to 30 Andean condors have been counted perching; this is a large number considering an estimated population of just 102 wild individuals in the country.
Birdlife categorizes Antisana as an Important Bird Area and is part of The Nature Conservancy's Condor Bioreserve, it is just a worthy glimpse between 10500 ft to 15000 ft a.s.l.
An early departure from Quito brings us to the western entrance of Antisana Ecological Reserve, just about 48 km (30 miles) southeast from Quito, with a mixture of elfin forest below and paramo grassland above.
Arriving at Lake "La Mica", we scan the lake shore for Andean Coots, Andean Teals, Andean Ruddy Ducks, and Yellow-billed Pintails. This is also the best place in Ecuador to observe closely the regal Silvery Grebe.
Lunch at the reserve, and return to Quito late in the afternoon. If not joining the available extensions to the eastern slopes , you will be transferred to Quito's international airport for your flight back home.
This is a sample itinerary subject to change due to weather conditions, safety, and particular interests of guests. Changes and additions are made in order to maximize your birding experience and wilderness enjoyment.
PRICE PER PERSON: Group from 2 or more participants. Solo travelers please contact us for more information.
-Private service of a specialized birding & naturalist bilingual guide
-Accommodation in double occupation, single room occupation adds $450 to the total price p.p
-All meals with soft drink and purified water
-All excursions and activities listed in itinerary
-Entrance fee to all the reserves and activities
-Any other item not specified
PLEASE ASK FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES AND DESTINATIONS TO EXTEND YOUR TRIP.