Ecuador: Amazing Amazon - Birding Tour
The incredible diversity of the Amazon is well known and causes many birding and non-birding travelers to visit there. What is perhaps less known, is that Ecuador offers some of the easiest access to the Amazon, with excellent quality lodges in which to stay in while there. Sani Lodge is one of the premier Amazon lodges. There is no need to rough it. The lodge is secluded and has masses of natural areas to visit locally for birds, including their own private lagoon, forest trails and canopy tower. All of this will be done while staying in somewhere with all the mod cons expected, like full time electricity, hot water, and WIFI internet. You will away from the rest of the world, but not cut off from it, when needed.
4 - 11 December ($3520; single supplement: $400)
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Other Tour Details:
Length: 8 Days
Starting City: Quito
Ending City: Quito
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Max group size: 8 + 1 leader
Day 1: Arrival in Quito
After you arrival in Ecuador’s capital, Quito you will transferred to our nearby hotel, a short drive from the airport. There is no birding on this day, so please take time to relax, and the group will meet for dinner at 6:30pm, for the first meal of the tour. This will be a welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Day 2: Quito to the Amazon
After breakfast in our Quito hotel, your guide will meet with you, and then you will transfer to the airport for a short flight to the city of Coca, the gateway city for the Amazon. From Coca, we shall take a motorized canoe to our Amazon lodge, Sani. The final part of the journey will involve a short walk to a creek, where we will take hand paddled canoes to the lodge (paddles by the staff, not us!), which sits on a picturesque, private lagoon. Even though this is a travel day, with our arrival to be around midafternoon, we will start seeing birds around the lake from the canoe, like Hoatzin, Greater Ani, and Black-capped Donacobious, while Tropical Screech-Owl can sometimes be found roosting by the bar on arrival, or Masked Crimson Tanagers hanging around the lodge restaurant. Five nights will be spent in this wonderful location, which being the Amazon, will never feel like enough, with so much diversity of birds and other animals on offer!
Days 3-6: Sani Lodge, The Amazon
With four full days in the Amazon, we will have plenty to do. There are many classic Amazon experiences to be part of, and we will drink them in, for while the Amazon may appear to the untrained eye to be uniform, it is far from it. There are a number of distinct areas with specialty birds in them all, from parrot licks to Amazon blackwater lagoons, to the impressive canopy tower, to seasonally flooded forest to drier forests that never flood, to river islands, all of them will be experienced, and all of them will provide distinctive birding highlights…
One at least one morning, we will visit the lodge’s own private canopy tower. Standing on a platform built within the huge branches of a giant kapok tree, is worth it for the views of vast canopy surrounding it, but there are of course many birds to be seen up there too. Among the long, long list of possibilities include Great Potoo (a regular birds sleeps in the kapok tree!), Bare-necked Fruit-crow, Pied and White-necked Puffbirds, White-fronted and Yellow-billed Nunbirds, Gilded Barbet, Many-banded Aracari, White-throated Toucan, Orange-winged and Mealy Parrots, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Spangled and Plum-throated Cotingas, White-browed Purpletuft, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Attila, Rufous-bellied Euphonia, Opal-rumped and Opal-crowned Tanagers, and Blue Dacnis! In the forest around the base of the tower, other species occur such as Golden-headed and Dwarf-Tyrant Manakins.
Trail walking can be done, in varzea-type forest near the lodge, where Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrikes occur, alongside Great Jacamar, Amazonian Motmot, and Chestnut-belted Gnateater, while doing walks within the terra firma forest in Yasuni National Park can yield different species within this different forest type, such as a heady selection of antbirds, like Sooty, Yellow-browed, and White-shouldered Antbirds, or even scarcer ones like Lunulated or White-plumed if we are lucky enough to encounter an army antswarm. Wire-tailed Manakin and Rusty-belted Tapaculo also occur within these forests too.
An extended canoe ride around the lake, and nearby creeks can add birds like, Sungrebe, Capped and Cocoi Herons, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Yellow-rumped Caciques and Crested and Russet-backed Oropendolas. Carefully working our way along forested creeks can lead to Silvered, Dot-backed and Plumbeous Antbirds, White-chinned Jacamar, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, and Long-billed Woodcreeper that all favor this habitat. Doing this at dusk close to the lodge may also produce a Blackish Nightjar.
Returning to the main river, we can also observe a parrot clay lick, alongside the Napo, where Dusky-headed Parakeets, and Mealy, Yellow-crowned and Blue-headed Parrots gather on a muddy bank for their daily mineral intake, while we shall watch from the boat.
Lastly, there are the small river islands within the Napo River, where a special selection of birds inhabits various islands, but are rarely seen way from them, This includes Amazonia Umbrellabird, Orange-headed Tanager, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Castelneau’s Antshrike, Oriole Blackbird, and Parker’s Spinetail among them.
The Amazon is a heady place for fans of nightbirds, like owls, nightjars, and potoos, which all occur in the area, and are sometimes located during the daytime. Regularly encountered species in the daytime include Great and Common Potoos, Tropical Screech-Owl, and the spectacular Crested Owl. Of course, the Amazon is not only about birds, as we will also have a chance to encounter primates, such as Red Howler, Common Squirrel, White-fronted Capuchin, and woolly monkeys, as well as agoutis. Guided nightwalks can also be taken to look for frogs or other creatures of the night too.
As you can see, the Amazon will keep us busy during our stay at Sani Lodge, and you are likely to leave wishing for more time!
Day 7: The Amazon to Quito
After breakfast we will make our way back to the dock on the main river and take the motored canoe back to the city of Coca, where we will take the short flight over the Andes back to Ecuador’s capital, Quito. The final night of the tour, will be spent in a hotel near Quito airport.
Day 8: Departure from Quito
There is no birding on this day, so flight departures at any time are possible (or even late in the night before if preferable). Breakfast is the last meal of the tour on this day, if you do not leave before the hotel serves that.
PACE: Moderate. Early starts are necessary since birding is almost always best early in the morning in the Amazon, with breakfast typically between 5:00 and 5:30am. There is likely to be one boxed lunch, during our stay at Sani Lodge too.
The flight between Quito and Coca is around 30 minutes only. The boat ride from Coca to the main dock for Sani Lodge is 2 - 3 hours.
PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Moderate. Birding in the Amazon involves mainly trail walking, but also some birding from canoes too. The trail walking is mostly on flat trails, but these can be slippery, and rubber boots are the suggested footwear. They have these boots to use at Sani Lodge, although we recommend bringing with you your preferred brand from back home, to ensure you have a comfortable pair. These should be lightweight, not winter boots, as the Amazon is hot and humid! Except for the two nights in Quito, the entire tour is based in the lowlands of the Amazon with no elevational concerns. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is located at 9190ft (2800m).
CLIMATE: 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. Raingear is an essential item, and this can include a small portable umbrella, which can be very useful.
ACCOMMODATION: Good to excellent, all have 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.
WHEN TO GO: This tour can be run year round. The temperature and day length does not vary greatly from month to month compared to most other regions, and the “driest” months on average are December-February. Rain is to be expected, even in dry parts of the year in the Amazon, and this is usually beneficial to the birding. The very driest times can be less active for birds in general in the Amazon in particular.
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 7; meals from dinner on day 1 (unless you arrive too late for dinner service) to breakfast on day 8 (if you have a very early departing flight, you may miss the included breakfast on the last day); safe drinking water and/or juice during meals; safe drinking water as well as tea and coffee are available at Sani Lodge at any time (bringing your own personal refillable water is highly recommended); Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the morning of day 2 to the afternoon of day 7; local guide at Sani Lodge; one arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (transfers may be shared with other hotel guests); boat transport between Coca and Sani Lodge on day 2 (may be shared with other lodge guests); private boat transport in both hand-paddled and motorized canoes for the group while at Napo Sani Lodge; boat transport between Sani Lodge and Coca on day 7 (may be shared with other lodge guests); 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 leader; 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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