ABA Ecuador 2021 – Amazon and Eastern Ecuador extension (Birding and Birding with a Camera®)

This tour is designed to be taken together with the ABA Ecuador Birding Bash.

A superb extension that combines excellent lodges in very different settings. We will journey into the Amazon Basin by way of motorized and paddle canoes to a famous high-end lodge in the area, Sacha Lodge. From our comfortable setting (with full time electricity and hot water), we can explore the lakes and channels for species like Hoatzin, Long-billed Woodcreeper, and Black-capped Donacobious; further afield we can visit the famous Yasuni National Park parrot clay lick, where birds like Orange-cheeked Parrot, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Yellow-crowned Parrot come in. We’ll also spend time in the canopy tower and walkway, where we will see toucans, tanagers, oropendolas, cotingas, howler-monkeys, and many more at eye level. We will also visit WildSumaco Lodge in the Andean foothills, which comes stocked with two different sets of hummingbird feeders, and a reputation as one of the best birder-oriented lodges in the country. The feeders attract the likes of Napo Sabrewing, Wire-crested Thorntail, Black-throated Brilliant, Gould’s Jewelfront and sometimes even Ecuadorian Piedtail, while birding trails in the area can lead to sightings of Band-bellied Owl at a roost, Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted Antpittas at a feeding station, along with Coppery-chested Jacamar, Blackish Antbird, Wing-banded Wren, and White-crowned Manakin.

We are offering this itinerary as a Birding Tour and a Birding with a Camera® (BwC) tour. The itineraries visit all the same sites, but they will be guided differently, with the BwC tour spending more time on photography. Click here to see a comparison between our different types of tours.


Note: The post-tour extension visits WildSumaco before Sacha, but otherwise the itinerary is the same.

*Day 1: Arrival in Quito. (*Pre-tour extension only – for the post-tour trip, you will already be in Quito and this day is not necessary). After your arrival in Ecuador’s capital, you’ll be transferred to a hotel for the night.

Day 2: Quito to Sacha Lodge. We’ll catch a morning flight from Quito down to the city of Coca on the banks of the mighty Napo River, one of the biggest tributaries of the Amazon. We will board a long, covered boat for a two hour journey east along the river. Arriving at the main dock, we will then take a short walk through the rainforest, perhaps taking in odd species like Black-fronted Nunbird or a roosting Common or Great Potoo, or even some sleeping night monkeys, before we emerge at the edge of a large blackwater lagoon, where the lodge is located. As we are paddled across the dark waters to the lodge, we will likely see (and hear), hissing Hoatzins, acrobatic Lesser Kingbirds, and lumbering Greater Anis while Black-capped Donacobious gives whooping calls from the marshy edges. As we settle down for our first of four nights in our very comfortable rooms, we shall listen to striking frog chorus that kicks off right at dusk each day.

Black-capped Donacobious are one of the colorful characters of the Amazon
Black-capped Donacobious are one of the colorful characters of the Amazon (Sam Woods)

Days 3-5: Sacha Lodge area. Over 500 species have been seen in around Sacha Lodge, a truly staggering number. During our three full days, we’ll see a nice selection of them on our various outings from the lodge. Sacha’s canopy towers and walkway are truly superb and offer unparalleled views of the emerald green rainforest and birds like Many-banded Aracari, Gilded Barbet, Paradise and Opal-crowned Tanagers, White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans, Plum-throated Cotinga, along with numerous trogons, woodcreepers, and flycatchers. It’s can also be a good place to see several species of monkeys including Red Howler. The lake and forested channels at the lodge are great places to do some relaxing birding from canoes in the afternoon. It’s a nice way to see neat birds and a lot easier than the forest trails. Black-capped Donacobius, White-winged Swallow, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Pale-vented Pigeon, Lesser Kiskadee, and Greater Ani are some of the more conspicuous birds around the lake. The channel is like a tunnel through the towering forest, and is good for varzea (swamp forest) species like Long-billed Woodcreeper, Orange-crested Manakin, and Dot-backed, Spot-backed, and Silvered Antbirds, as well as squirrel-monkeys and capuchins. Depending on weather, we may take a longer day trip to the other side of the Napo river where parrot licks attract hundreds of these colorful birds along with parakeets and maybe even a macaw or two. River islands in the Napo are home to several other distinct birds like Castlenau’s Antshrike, Oriole Blackbird, and Black-and-white Antbird. Birding forest trails is challenging, but we’ll do some of it on or way too and from other sites, where antbirds, antthrushes, antwrens, manakins, trogons, flycatchers, woodpeckers, and numerous other species lurk below the towering canopy. Night excursions from the lodge might get us several owls such as Crested Owl and Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl. There is always something to keep us busy around this superb lodge!

Collared Puffbird, a striking and scarce Amazonian species
Collared Puffbird, a striking and scarce Amazonian species (Anders Vasquez)

Channel-billed Toucans are often seen from canopy platforms in the Amazon
Channel-billed Toucans are often seen from canopy platforms in the Amazon (Iain Campbell)

Black-mantle Tamarins are found around Sacha Lodge
Black-mantle Tamarins are found around Sacha Lodge (Pablo Cervantes D)

Day 6: Sacha to WildSumaco Lodge. There may be some time for some early morning birding before travelling by motorized canoe back to the city of Coca. We’ll then transfer into a van and drive back up into the foothills of the Andes to WildSumaco Lodge. We will get there by mid-afternoon and enjoy our first views of the nearby Volcan Sumaco, a prominent feature of the landscape. We will familiarize ourselves with some of the local avian characters on the lodge veranda, where Golden-tailed Sapphires fight it out with the Booted Racket-tails, Wire-crested Thorntails, Violet-fronted Brilliants, Many-spotted Hummingbirds, and Fork-tailed Woodnymphs for a place at the feeders. We have time for some late afternoon roadside birding, looking for species like Golden-collared Toucanet, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Golden-eared Tanagers, and others. We have two nights in this comfortable lodge.

Golden-collared Toucanet can be found along roadsides near Sumaco
Golden-collared Toucanet can be found along roadsides near Sumaco (Nick Athanas)

Day 7: WildSumaco. The forest at WildSumaco is loaded with east slope foothill specialties not easily seen elsewhere. We’ll spend much of our time birding the dirt roads and forest trails nearby. The possibilities are many, but here’s a list of a few of the more tempting birds: Coppery-chested Jacamar, Lined Antshrike, Blue-rumped Manakin, Rufous-naped and Olivaceous Greenlets, Spotted and Paradise Tanagers, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Gray-mantled and Coraya Wrens, and Black-billed Treehunter. There is also an antpitta feeder at WildSumaco, accessed by about a 20 minute walk down a well-built trail. Plain-backed Antpitta and Ochre-breasted Antpitta are the targets, and if they have been coming in recently we’ll devote time to seeing them. At night, Band-bellied Owl often sings its haunting song near the lodge. We’ll try to track it down, and there will also be chances to try for Foothill and Rufescent Screech-Owls. Hummingbird activity is best late in the afternoon. Napo Sabrewing will hopefully be the star of the show, with a great supporting cast that can include Brown and Sparkling Violetears, Green Hermit, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Wire-crested Thorntail, Booted Rackettail, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Golden-tailed Sapphire, and Many-spotted Hummingbird.

Wire-crested Thorntail occurs in the WildSumaco lodge garden
Wire-crested Thorntail occurs in the WildSumaco lodge garden (Nick Athanas)

Golden-eared Tanager roams the forest with mixed species flocks in the Andean foothills of the east
Golden-eared Tanager roams the forest with mixed species flocks in the Andean foothills of the east (Andres Vasquez)

Day 8: WildSumaco to Quito. After more birding at WildSumaco, we’ll drive back to Quito making various birding stops along the way to break the trip up. For the pre-tour extension, this is the first day of the main tour (July 17), and we plan to arrive by around 4:00pm to give you time to prepare for the welcome dinner. For the post-tour extension, the tour ends the following day on August 2 with transfers to the airport.

A feeding station in WildSumaco often allows rare views of the shy Plain-backed Antpitta
A feeding station in WildSumaco often allows rare views of the shy Plain-backed Antpitta (Andres Vasquez)

Click here to see a map of sites to be visited. This opens in Google Maps in separate browser tab.

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TRIP CONSIDERATIONS

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PACE: Moderate. Fairly early starts are necessary since birding is almost always best early in the morning, and breakfast will typically start between 5:00 and 5:30am. At least three lunches may be packed lunches. On several days. there will be some down time in the middle of the day to relax. The drive between WildSumaco and Quito is the longest drive, of about 4.5 hours, which will be broken up with birding stops en-route.

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Moderate. There will be a mixture of trail birding and road birding. Most of the trails and roads are flat or only slightly inclined, but we will bird at least one steeper and moderately difficult trail at WildSumaco (a walking stick helps a lot). Quite a bit of walking is required, and you can expect to walk around 3 miles (4.8 km) per day on average. Trails at Sacha are often very muddy; the lodge provides rubber boots free of charge. The canopy towers and walkway at Sacha involve walking up about 10 stories of stairs.

CLIMATE: At WildSumaco it is quite pleasant (usually 53°-78°F, 12°-26°C). In the Amazon it is hot and humid (usually 72°-90°F, 22°-32°C). Some rain can be expected, especially in the afternoons and evenings, but in the Amazon sudden downpours can occur almost at any time with little warning. Good waterproof rain gear is essential.

ACCOMMODATION: Excellent, all have private, en-suite bathrooms, and full-time hot water. Electricity is available everywhere 24 hours a day, including at Sacha Lodge. Wifi is also available everywhere on this tour.

ADDITIONAL NOTES FOR THE BIRDING WITH A CAMERA® TOUR: Binoculars are still essential and leaders will still carry a scope and do a daily bird list. As for gear, we recommend a camera and lens that can be easily carried around without a tripod on the trails, such as a 300mm with teleconverter, or a telephoto zoom such as a 100-400. Even a good all-in-one super zoom can get decent shots in many places, but it will struggle in low light conditions.

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required; the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Tourist visas are currently not required for citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and all European countries. Visas are currently only required of a few nationalities, mostly in Asia, Africa, and the middle East. Travel requirements are subject to change; if you are unsure, please check with the nearest embassy or consulate, or ask our office staff for help. Proof of medical insurance is required to visit Ecuador. While this is rarely checked, it is important that you have a policy that covers you in Ecuador, and to bring proof of coverage to present to immigration officials.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Domestic flights as mentioned in the itinerary; accommodation from the night of day 1 to the night of day 7 (accommodation for the night of day 8 is already covered with the tour fee for the Birding Bash); meals from dinner on day 1 (unless you arrive too late for dinner service) to lunch on day 8 (dinner on the night of day 8 is already included with your fee for the Birding Bash); safe drinking water throughout as well as tea and coffee are available at WildSumaco and Sacha Lodge at any time; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the morning of day 2 to the afternoon of day 8; local guide at Sacha Lodge; airport transfers; all necessary ground and boat transport as required by the itinerary (not that the boat trips between Coca and the Sacha Lodge dock are shared with other lodge guests, though while at the lodge the boats will be private to the group; entrance fees to birding sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips (it is customary to tip guides, drivers, lodge staff, and luggage carriers in the city hotels); international flights; excess baggage charges (the luggage allowance on the Coca-Quito flight is 50 lbs/23 kg + 1 standard carry-on + 1 personal item); snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.