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EPIC Ecuador: ONE Month, 900 Birds.                                All in ONE. SMALL. COUNTRY - Birding Tour

Tour Overview:

Ecuador is one of the most impressive countries in the World for bird diversity, boasting more than 1680 species within its borders. This puts it amongst the giants of world bird diversity. Costa Rica, for example, has nearly 700 species less! While neighboring Colombia can claim more species, the advantage that Ecuador has as a “big bird list destination” is it is small (roughly equal to the US state of Colorado or half the size of Spain). Ecuador’s relatively good road network, complimented by an extensive domestic flight network make most of the country readily accessible, which adds to the allure of visiting here to get a massive list on one single tour.


This tour will cover all the major regions in mainland Ecuador, with sections in Eastern Ecuador (covering all the way from the high Andes down through the cloud forest to the vast Amazon lowlands), the endemic-rich Tandayapa-Mindo section of the Choco bioregion of Northwest Ecuador, as well as both slopes of the Andes in Southern Ecuador, which is loaded with specialties only possible in that part of this exceptionally diverse country. This includes the Tumbesian Region of the Southwest, which vies only with the Choco region of Northwest Ecuador for the title of most endemic-rich mainland area on Earth. This will all be combined with a visit to some wetlands and saltpans, where Chilean Flamingos congregated next to a slew of migrant shorebirds in this season to further enhance what is sure to be a massive trip list. The goal of the trip will be to find as many species as possible, and with all of the varied Ecuadorian regions covered, recording more than 900 bird species is entirely possible (though never guaranteed, of course)! While we cannot guarantee you 900 bird species, we can assure you that the set of guides used on this tour will work tirelessly for you to reach this objective and you will amass a wonderful list of endemics and specialties along the way. Ecuador, and its wonderful birding infrastructure, is arguably better placed than any other country in the World to achieve this goal. You will not feel the need to return to Ecuador on a follow up trip after this tour! There is no “roughing it” on this tour, and you will be based in a delightful set of birding-focused lodges and hotels during this tour. For the most part, these will be birding lodges, located right in the bird habitat, where the birds are, although there will be a limited number of unavoidable, good, city hotels peppered between these too.


(PLEASE NOTE: The tour runs in three broad sections (Eastern Ecuador, Northwest Ecuador & Southern Ecuador). We will use two different Ecuador-based guides on this tour corresponding to these three very different sections. This will ensure that your guides will not get tired and remain fresh throughout this month-long tour. All of these guides live in Ecuador and all of them have more than a decade of experience of leading birds tours in the country.)

Upcoming Departures:


1 - 31 August ($11990; single supplement: $1720)

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Other Tour Details:

Length: 31 Days

Starting City: Quito

Ending City: Guayaquil

Pace: Moderate to Intense

Physical Difficulty: Moderate

Focus: Birding

Group size: 8 + 1 leader

Detailed Itinerary

Section 1: Eastern Ecuador Part I (The High Andes to the Andean Foothills) – 6 days

The diversity on the East Slope of the Andes in Ecuador is exceptional, being even higher than that of the West Slope. It is also easy to drive between different elevations, with all of the elevational bands having birding lodges dedicated to them. We will begin by visiting the High Andes, where some of the easiest birding in the mountains can be found, to try and track down species such as Andean Condor (Ecuador’s national bird), Andean Ibis, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, as well as Andean wetland birds like Silvery Grebe and Andean Duck. Heading downslope from there, we will head to the rich Andean foothills to add a swathe of new birds, which could include Napo Sabrewing, Black-throated Brilliant, Peruvian Racket-tail, Wire-crested Thorntail, Black-chested Puffbird, Coppery-chested Jacamar, and a slew of foothill tanagers such as Paradise, Green-and-gold, Golden-eared, Orange-eared, and Spotted Tanagers, among others! The East Slope is the perfect location to start this month-long beast of a tour and will ensure we get a massive surge of birds right at the outset.



Day 1: Arrival in Quito (for start of tour)/Night at a Quito airport hotel.

Day 2: THE HIGH ANDES: Antisana & Papallacta/Night Guango or Papallacta.

Day 3: HIGH ANDES TO EASTERN FOOTHILLS: Guango & Papallacta to Sumaco/Night WildSumaco Lodge

Days 4-5: EAST ANDEAN FOOTHILLS: Sumaco area/Nights WildSumaco Lodge.

Day 6: ANDEAN FOOTHILLS TO THE AMAZON: Sumaco to Napo Wildlife Center/Night Napo Wildlife Center.

Section 1: Eastern Ecuador Part II (The Amazon) – 7 days

The Amazon is a place where diversity goes through the roof, and where so many birds can be added that are just not possible anywhere else on this tour. We have selected two different, high-end, Amazon lodges in which to be based for this section, which perfectly compliment each other. We will also be assisted in the Amazon by two carefully selected local guides with years of experience, (to ensure we are right up to date with the latest bird sightings, important roosting areas for nightbirds and so forth), in addition to your full-time, professional Tropical Birding bird guide.


Firstly, we will drive down to the port city of Coca from the Andean foothills, then take canoes to Napo Wildlife Center, our very comfortable base for the next 3-nights. The first part of the journey takes us along the Napo River by motorized canoe, before moving into small dugout canoes that are hand paddled by the local guides the final few hours to the lodge. This stretch is especially good for birding and will help us in building a good list of birds on this Amazon based section of the tour. The Amazon can appear like it is quite uniform though that is not the case, and we will take advantage of the varied opportunities there during our prolonged stay there. This will see us make multiple visits to one of the private observation towers for canopy birds like White-throated Toucans, roosting Great Potoo, White-necked Puffbird, perched raptors, flocks of parrots, and a variety of fruit eating birds, such as tanagers, barbets, and euphonias. A parrot clay lick will be viewed from a boat, where a gaggle of Blue-headed, Mealy, and Yellow-crowned Parrots and Dusky-headed Parakeets gather each day for their mineral intake, and various river islands will be visited too where specialists like Castelneau’s Antshrike, Oriole Blackbird, and Parker’s Spinetail occur. We will also venture into two distinct forest types, (with their very different bird lists), Terra Firma by foot and flooded Igapo Forest by boat for specialist species like Silvered and Dot-backed Antbirds and the impressive Long-billed Woodcreeper. While visiting Terra Firma forest we will be keeping a keen eye and ear out for any signs of an antswarm as this will represent our best chance at finding very scarce “obligate ant-followers” like White-plumed or Lunulated Antbirds. There is typically also the chance to see a variety of roosting nightbirds too, which may include Common and Long-tailed Potoos, or  Crested and Tawny-bellied Screech Owls!


Day 6: ANDEAN FOOTHILLS TO THE AMAZON: Sumaco to Napo Wildlife Center/Night Napo Wildlife Center.

Days 7-8: THE AMAZON: Napo Wildlife Center (WC) area/Nights Napo WC

Day 9: THE AMAZON: Napo WC to Sani Lodge via Parrot Clay Licks & River Islands/Night Sani Lodge

Days 10-11: THE AMAZON: Sani Lodge area/Nights Sani Lodge

Day 12: THE AMAZON TO CHOCO CLOUD FOREST: Sani to Quito (flight); to the Tandayapa Valley/Night Tandyapa Bird Lodge

Section 2: Northwest Ecuador - 6 days

The West Slope of the Andes in Northwest Ecuador are part of the endemic heavy Choco bioregion, which has some delectable specialty species, such as Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Blue-tailed Trogon, Violet-tailed Sylph, Gorgeted Sunangel, and Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanagers. One of the undoubted standout qualities of this region (in relation to the primary goal of this tour), is accessibility. It is close to Quito (most of these sites are within a few hours of the capital or can be visited as half-day or day trips from Tandayapa Bird Lodge, which is 2 hours or less drive from each of these). We will cover the Tandayapa Valley for species like Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Grass-green Tanager; Mashpi for Empress Brilliant, Glistening-green, Moss-backed, and Black-chinned Mountain Tanagers, and Indigo Flowerpiercer; and Canande for birds like Orange-fronted Barbet, Choco Toucan, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis and Blue-whiskered Tanager. This part of Ecuador is littered with many small reserves with feeders, which are likely to help us build a good bird list of hummingbirds (30-40 species), in particular. There will be a number of smaller sites slotted in between these, some of which will be decided at the time, based on what is being seen and where.


Day 12: THE AMAZON TO CHOCO CLOUD FOREST: Sani to Quito (flight); to the Tandayapa Valley/Night Tandyapa Bird Lodge

Day 13: CHOCO CLOUD FOREST: Mashpi & Guayabillas Road/Night Tandayapa Bird Lodge

Day 14: CHOCO FOOTHILLS TO LOWLANDS: Milpe to Canande/Night Canande Lodge

Day 15: CHOCO LOWLANDS: Canande/Night Canande

Day 16:  CHOCO LOWLANDS TO CLOUD FOREST: Canande to Tandayapa/Night Tandayapa Bird Lodge

Day 17: CHOCO CLOUD FOREST TO SOUTHERN ECUADOR: Upper Tandayapa Vally to Quito; fly to Guayaquil, drive to Salinas/Night Salinas


Section 3: Southern Ecuador – 15 days

In terms of area covered, this will be the largest section of the tour with some longer drives required to cover the myriad habitats in this part of Ecuador, which boasts a birdlist of more than 1000 species! Arguably though, this section may offer some of the greatest avian rewards, with some truly delectable specialties, like White-tailed Jay, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Elegant Crescentchest, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, and White-edged Oriole all being possible, along with Jocotoco and Watkins’s Antpittas, and Long-wattled Umbrellabird! We will also visit an area of extensive saltpans at Ecuasal, which should boost our list considerably with migrant shorebirds and wetland birds. We will also be on the lookout there for Chilean Flamingos, while the nearby desert scrub may get us Peruvian Thick-knee, Short-tailed Woodstar, Parrot-billed Seedeater, and Crimson-breasted Finch too, to round off the tour in some style.


Day 17: CHOCO CLOUD FOREST TO SOUTHERN ECUADOR: Upper Tandayapa Vally to Quito; fly to Guayaquil, drive to Salinas/Night Salinas

Day 18: SHOREBIRDS & SONGBIRDS OF THE SANTA ELENA PENINSULA AND TUMBESIAN LOWLANDS: Salinas to Guayaquil via Cerro Blanco/Night at an airport hotel in Guayaquil

Day 19: FRESHWATER WETLANDS & WEST ANDEAN FOOTHILLS: Manglares Churute to Buenaventura/Night Umbrellbird Lodge, Buenaventura Reserve

Day 20: WEST ANDEAN FOOTHILLS: Buenaventura (upper & lower parts of the reserve)/Night Umbrellabird Lodge, Buenaventura Reserve

Day 21: WESTERN FOOTHILLS TO TUMBESIAN HILLS: Buenaventura to Jorupe via El Empalme/Night Urraca Lodge, Jorupe Reserve

Day 22: TUMBESIAN HILLS & LOWLANDS: Jorupe & Zapotillo/ Night Urraca Lodge, Jorupe Reserve

Day 23: SOUTHWESTERN ELFIN FOREST TO EASTERN TEMPERATE FOREST: Utuana to Tapichalaca/Night Casa Simpson, Tapichlaca Reserve

Day 24: EASTERN TEMPERATE FOREST & FOOTHILLS: Tapichalaca & Valladolid/Night Casa Simpson, Tapichlaca Reserve

Day 25: EASTERN TEMPERATE FOREST & SOUTHEASTERN FOOTHILLS: Tapichalaca to Yankuam/Night Cabanas Yankuam

Day 26: SOUTHEAST ANDEAN FOOTHILLS: Maycu & Nuevo Paraiso Road/Night Cabanas Yankuam

Day 27: SOUTHEAST ANDEAN FOOTHILLS: Yankuam to Yantzaza/Night Yantzaza


Day 29: EASTERN TEMPERATE FOREST: Saraguro area (Cerro Acanama & Huashapamba)/Night Saraguro

Day 30: HIGH ANDES & INTERANDEAN VALLEY: Cerro de Arcos to Santa Isabel/Night at a Wellness Lodge in Santa Isabel

Day 31: INTERANDEAN VALLEY TO WESTERN LOWLANDS: Yungilla to Guayaquil via El Cajas or Manglares Churute/END OF TOUR

Trip Considerations

PACE: Moderate to Intense. Early starts are necessary since birding is almost always best early in the morning in most places in Ecuador, with breakfasts typically between 5:00 and 5:30am. There will be some boxed lunches, (on around 10 days), taken in the field at the birding sites. There are some longer drives on this tour, mainly on Section 3 in Southern Ecuador, when there are 4 days with drives longer than 5 hours. There is one motorized canoe ride of around 2 hours from Coca to the Napo Wildlife Center dock on Day 6, from there a hand paddled canoe is taken (paddled by the local guides), for the final 2 hours boat ride to Napo Wildlife Center. This latter 2 hours often takes longer as the birding can be fantastic along this narrow Amazonian waterway. Another 2 hour boat ride will be taken to transfer between Napo Widlife Center and meet the Sani Lodge staff on Day 9. Then to return to Quito from the Amazon, there will be an initial 2 hour boat ride from Sani Lodge to Coca, from where a plane will take us to Quito (a 30-minute flight on a large, commercial plane).


PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Moderate. The majority of the the birding will be on flat or slightly inclined roads or wide tracks. The exceptions to this will be at WildSumaco and in the Amazon, where some trail work will be needed. In the Amazon these will be on flat trails, although in Sumaco (2 days of the tour), some of these trails are steep, and can be opted out of if needed. The lodge is very nice to hang around too, instead! There are a variety of elevations covered on this tour, from sea level around Guayaquil and Manglares Churute to high passes in the high Andes (e.g., Up to 14.110ft/4300m for a short time only in Papallacta and up to around 13,125ft/4000m El Cajas in the south for a brief period too). Only around 5 days are spent at elevations above 9840ft/3000m, and most of the sites involve only driving to the birding areas, with only very limited walking at the highest altitudes.


CLIMATE: Almost every type of climate will be encountered on this varied tour. Both the East and West Slopes of the Andes are covered, and they are not influenced by the same climatic factors. Therefore, for some parts of the trip we will be in areas when in the midst of the dry season, while others will be visiting areas in part of the wet season (and the wet season is often a good time for birds to be at their most vocal). Generally, even in the wet season, the showers are concentrated in short, heavy downpours in the afternoons. Therefore, rain gear is essential as Ecuador is home to a wet tropical climate, and this should be carried on all outings. This should include at least a good waterproof jacket, and you may also wish to bring a small portable umbrella, or even rubber boots, which can be useful in the Amazon, and for some wet Andean sites in the south, like Buenaventura and Tapichalaca (in total around 10 days of the tour). The Amazon will be at one extreme of temperature, hot and humid (usually 72°-90°F, 22°-32°C), while the high Andes will be at the other end of the extremes of temperature, where it can be near freezing and windy.


ACCOMMODATION: Generally good to excellent, with all having private, en-suite bathrooms, full-time hot water, and WI-FI Internet. Electricity is also available 24 hours a day. This sometimes needs to be powered by generator at Sani Lodge. Over 20 of the nights will be spent in dedicated birding lodges, where the birds are. Due to limited space in some of the lodges on the Southern Ecuador section, single rooms are occasionally unavailable, but this is unusual unless the tour group is comprised mainly of singles.

Other Information

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?: Tips to drivers, local guides, and lodge staff; accommodation from the night of day 1 to the night of day 30; meals from dinner on day 1 (unless you arrive too late for dinner service) to lunch on day 31; safe drinking water and/or juice during meals; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the morning of day 2 to the afternoon of day 31; local guides at Napo Wildlife Center and Sani Lodge; one arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (transfers may be shared with other hotel guests); ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary from day 2 to day 31 in a suitable vehicle (van or bus) with a local driver; boat transport between Coca and Napo Wildlife Center on day 6 (may be shared with other lodge guests); private boat transport in both hand-paddled and motorized canoes for the group while at Napo Wildlife Center & Sani Lodge; boat transport between Sani Lodge and Coca on day 12 (may be shared with other lodge guests); one-way domestic air ticket between Coca and Quito on day 12; 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 to the tour leaders; tips for luggage porters in the Quito hotels (if you require their services-we suggest to avoid these if you wish for less contact with others); international flights; excess luggage charges; 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.

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