NORTHERN ANDES PHOTO TOUR
|Duration:||9 days, 8 nights|
|* This tour is available for any dates of your choosing provided guide services and accommodations are available.|
DAY 1 - QUITO
International flights arrive by evening. A driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to Guango Lodge in the eastern Andes, about an hour's drive from the airport. Night at Guango Lodge.
DAY 2 - GUANGO RESERVE
All day photograph birds in Guango Reserve, a high elevation private reserve surrounding the lodge. An early morning walk around the grounds is usually very fruitful. The path through the gardens offers superb opportunities to photograph some high elevation birds, especially tanagers. The path is basically a grassy area surrounded by gardens and secondary growth along the river. There is also some forest edge where forest species often appear. Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper can sometimes be photographed along the river, and birds such as Black-capped Hemispingus, Black-eared Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Bush Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager can often be found in the gardens. A major attraction at Guango is the many hummingbird feeders just outside the entrance to the lodge dining area. The feeders are well positioned so that hummingbirds stage on nearby shrubbery or low tree limbs, allowing photography in natural settings away from the feeders themselves. Up to 15 species of hummingbirds vie for perches and feeding stations. Photo opportunities are some of the best in Ecuador. Species typically present are Sparkling Violetear, Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Glowing Puffleg, Purple-backed Thornbill, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Avocetbill, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, and Gorgeted Woodstar. Also usually present is Masked Flowerpiercer in the nearby shrubbery. Night at Guango Lodge.
DAY 3 - GUANGO RESERVE, PAPALLACTA PASS, TANDAYAPA
Early morning photograph birds around the lodge gardens. After breakfast, depart for the western Andes. En route take a side road up to the antenna area to hopefully photograph Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, which is usually present in alpine tundra not far off the road or parking lot. This area is one of the few places in Ecuador where it can be seen. Other likely high elevation birds there include Stout-billed Cinclodes, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, and Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant. Always possible, though rare, is an Andean Condor soaring above the valley below. Continue on to Tandayapa Bird Lodge in the western Andes, arriving mid-afternoon. Remainder of afternoon photograph birds around feeders, especially hummingbirds. Many species of hummingbirds are attracted to feeders behind the restaurant, including Violet-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, White-bellied Woodstar, Western Emerald, and Andean Emerald. Night at Tandayapa Bird Lodge.
DAY 4 - TANDAYAPA
All day photograph birds around the lodge. Tandayapa Bird Lodge owns some forest property that features numerous forest birds. A trail winds uphill and downhill around a gully, ending up on the road below the lodge. Bird photography along that trail and on side trails that lead farther uphill can be superb. A blind near the lodge is worth visiting in early morning. A number of secretive species such as Giant Antpitta, Scaled Antpitta, and Rufous-breasted Antthrush sometimes appear. Many visitors never walk the trails, but they are worth the effort especially in early morning. Among the many attractions are Golden-headed Quetzal, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Golden-winged Manakin, the endemic Ecuadorian Thrush, Blue-capped Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, and Beryl-spangled Tanager. Of special note is the endemic Beautiful Jay, which often shows on the far side of the ravine across from the lodge. Night at Tandayapa Bird Lodge.
DAY 5 - TANDAYAPA & MINDO
All morning photograph birds around the lodge. After lunch depart for Mindo farther downslope. Afternoon photograph hummingbirds coming to feeders outside the lodge dining room. Night at Hosteria Septimo Paraiso.
DAY 6 - MINDO JUNCTION, RIO SILANCHE, MILPE
Mindo Junction is the turn-off from the main highway that leads toward the town of Mindo. It's a mere 5-min from Septimo Paraiso Lodge. The attraction is the parking lot lights and a few trees around the old abandoned police station. Around dawn the lights attract numerous insects, which in turn attract a wide variety of birds. This is a great place to start off the day and can't be missed on a visit to Mindo. Even in early morning light photo opportunities can be very good. Among the many birds we've seen there are Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Masked Trogon, Toucan Barbet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Capped Conebill, Masked Flowerpiercer, and Tricolored Brush-Finch. After an hour or so at Mindo Junction, continue downslope to Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary, about a ¾ hour drive.
Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary features wonderful chances to photograph subtropical birds not found around Mindo. Birds there are quite different than the cloud forests around Mindo. Trails in the sanctuary are wide and mostly level. A short observation platform allows easy viewing and photography of birds in the mid-story of the forest. Possibilities include Tiny Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Blue-crowned Manakin, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, and Scarlet-browed Tanager.
Mid-day stop at a cafe outside Los Blancos where hummingbird and fruit feeders attract a nice variety of hummingbirds and tanagers. After lunch visit Milpe Bird Sanctuary. This small reserve features a variety of species not found at higher elevation Mindo. Several wide easy trails provide access to middle elevation forest, while hummingbird feeders in the open gardens attract a variety of hummingbirds. Birds of interest include the beautiful endemic Choco Toucan, Blue-tailed Trogon, Collared Trogon, the near endemic Guayaquil Woodpecker, Esmeraldas Antbird, Pacific Flatbill, Orange-crested Flycatcher, and various tanagers including Tawny-crested Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Gray-and-gold Tanager, and Ochre-breasted Tanager. Night at Hosteria Septimo Paraiso.
DAY 7 - REFUGIO PAZ & BELLAVISTA RESERVE
Extremely early departure for half hour drive to Refugio Paz, where the owner has conditioned several species of antpittas to come out on the trail for food. Following a 20-minute hike down a somewhat steep trail, we'll reach a blind where we can photograph male Andean Cocks-of-the-Rock displaying in the understory. Later Angel Paz will treat us to close-up views and opportunities to photograph extremely rare and locally distributed antpittas he has conditioned to come out onto the trail. Species that usually appear are Giant Antpitta and Yellow-breasted Antpitta. Less commonly, the very shy Moustached Antpitta also puts in an appearance. More recently, Angel has also conditioned Ochre-breasted Antpitta to appear as well. In addition to the antpittas, Angel can sometimes lure the rare and secretive Dark-backed Wood-Quail into the open as well. Many other middle elevation specialties can be photographed during a visit to this private reserve, including Golden-headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Ecuadorian Thrush, Flame-faced Tanager, and Black-capped Tanager. Angel has several hummingbird feeders that attract hummingbirds similar to those at Tandayapa Bird Lodge and Septimo Paraiso.
Afternoon transfer to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, located at higher elevation than Mindo or Tandayapa on a ridgeline between the two valleys. Everyone is likely to be rather tired from the early visit to Refugio Paz, so there will be time to rest and relax. Bellavista Lodge is the perfect place to do that. One can sit on the veranda outside the restaurant, enjoy a drink, and photograph birds in the surrounding trees. Toucan Barbet, Green-and-black Fruiteater Barbet, and Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan regularly put in an appearance, along with a variety of other birds. Night at Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge.
DAY 8 - BELLAVISTA RESERVE
Morning photograph birds on the lodge grounds and from the veranda. Numerous hummingbird feeders draw in a variety of species, mostly similar to those seen in Mindo and Tandayapa Valleys. After lunch transfer to Quito, arriving at the hotel before dark. Night at Hotel Sebastian.
DAY 9 - END OF TOUR
Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.