Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, and yet it offers a kaleidoscope of amazing experiences. On this Ecuador Birding tour you will have the chance to stand in awe of its soaring snow-capped volcanic peaks, wander through its fertile valleys, hike its mesmerising rainforests and, of course, marvel at a mind-boggling number of birds. Nowhere else is it as easy to see such a range of habitats and native species in one place as it is in Ecuador.
This specialist 13-day tour takes you to the most famous birding region in Ecuador, the Choco. This region in the northwest of the country is where the wet cloud forest meets the humid lowland forest. Each day, you will visit a different area of the Choco and get to see the diversity of Ecuador’s flora and fauna. Hiking along the nature trails, you will discover a myriad of wonderfully colourful tropical birds. From the hummingbirds darting between trees at the Yanacocha Reserve to spotting the cobalt blue plate-billed mountain toucans in the Tandaya Valley, this tour is ideal if you are a nature lover, bird enthusiast or wildlife photographer. Be sure to pack your binoculars!
This is a private tour available on request throughout 2020.
- Discover Quito, the world’s second highest capital city, with a fascinating sightseeing tour of its Spanish Old Town
- Hike in the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve and discover its beautiful forests and pristine rivers
- Relax in the hot springs of Papallacta, and enjoy breathtaking snow-capped mountain views
- Stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously when visiting Ecuador's Equatorial Line Monument
Start your Journey
Arrival in Quito
After arriving at Quito International Airport, a transfer will take you to the Hotel Vieja Cuba. After check in, the rest of the day is free for you to enjoy at your own leisure.
Your day begins with a sightseeing tour of Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Nestled high in the Andes, Quito is considered the second highest capital city in the world. At an altitude of 2,850m, Quito’s position at the foot of Rucu Pichincha, an active volcano, means that it is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and rolling hills.
Your tour explores the Old Town, which is brimming with ancient treasures. Here, you will learn about Ecuador’s colonial history and admire its beautiful 16th and 17th century Spanish architecture. This fascinating guided walking tour takes you to some of the city’s most important sites. From standing in Independence Square to marvelling at La Compania church’s gloriously ornate gold-leaf interior, this is a wonderful introduction to Ecuador’s capital city.
One of the highlight s of your sightseeing tour is visiting the Equatorial Line Monument, which is more affectionately known as, ‘Middle of the World’. Here, you can enjoy standing in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously. This monument also marks an important event in history when a team of 18th century French scientists established the exact position of the Equator.
If time allows, we will take you to a viewpoint where you can enjoy spectacular panoramic vistas over the city.
Yanacocha Nature Reserve
After breakfast, you will leave Quito and be driven to the Yanacocha Nature Reserve in the Pichincha Province. This high evergreen forest has over 100 species of birds, making it a key destination for your birdwatching as flocks of birds are regularly seen. Raptors are regularly seen here, along with many different types of hummingbirds. The trail extends for more than two kilometers through the high-elevation forest, where hummingbird feeders are positioned at various spots along the way. Yanacocha Nature Reserve is the only place in the world where you may see the black-breasted puffleg bird.
After watching different bird species dart between trees as they feast at the feeders, you will head down into the valley of Bellavista. Just a two-hour drive from Quito, the journey takes you along winding roads. Upon arrival, you will check in at Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge.
Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve
The Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is on the north-western slopes of the Andean Mountains. Established by Richard and Gloria Parsons, a British/Colombian couple, Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is recognised internationally as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). There are almost 6.5 miles of extensive walking trails winding through the reserve, where you will enjoy a guided hike. As you wander along these little-travelled dirt roads, stop and listen to the forest’s strange calls and soothing birdsong and witness many native bird species in close proximity. Hummingbirds are almost a guaranteed sighting here. Look out for toucan barbets, purple-bibbed whitetips, swallow-tailed nightjars and beautiful jays.
After a day exploring this lush cloud forest, return to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge for your evening at leisure.
Today, after breakfast, enjoy a day exploring the Tandayapa Valley.
This region’s biodiversity is as broad as its more famous neighbour, Mindo, but benefits from fewer visitors. This is a truly magical experience. Hike in the pristine high-altitude cloud forest, and admire orchids and lush flora while you listen and watch for the birds.
The plate-billed mountain toucan is Tandayapa Valley’s showcase. These cobalt-blue coloured birds are relatively easy to track and spot, as they spend their days rattling their bills and yelping.
After another day of hiking and birdwatching, return to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge for the night.
Today’s excursion is to the Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary, which is one of the last remaining lowland forests in Western Ecuador. Between 1938 and 1988, many of the forests of Western Ecuador were destroyed in favour of mining, logging, and banana plantations. Today, this lowland hilly forested area, with its extensive trails and 50ft tall observation tower, is fiercely protected. At an altitude of 300-350m, the Rio Silanche is known for its incredible number of native bird species.
After breakfast, you will head to Mashpi, which is considered one of Ecuador’s prime locations for birdwatching. Walking through nature trails of the Mashpi area, you have the chance to spot 22 different native bird species. Mashpi is thought to be the place with the highest number of native bird species in Ecuador. This is an excellent place to see the Indigo Flowerpiercer, the Moss-backed Tanager and the Glistening-Green Tanager.
Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve
Today you will visit the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve. It is the closest rainforest to Quito, and it is considered one of the world’s top three biodiversity hotspots. Spanning over 14,000 acres, this protected forest covers a vast diversity of ecozones at altitudes between 900m and 2,875m. The high-altitude provides a haven for a huge variety of wildlife. With over 2,000 plant species, Maquipucuna is often referred to as the crown jewel of the Andes. This area of stunning forests and pristine rivers is the only place in Ecuador where you can see the endangered Andean Spectacled Bear, South America’s only surviving bear species. The Andean Spectacled Bear migrates to the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve during fruiting season (November to December) to feast on the ripe fruits of the massive Pacche tree. Almost a quarter of Ecuador’s bird species and 4% of the world’s bird diversity are found in the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve. During your visit, look out for spectacular birds such as the toucan barbet, cock-of-the-rock, Esmeraldas antbird, and the red headed barbet. The Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve is also an important location historically, as archaeological sites indicate the pre-Inca Yumbos people once inhabited the land. Inca pathways, burial mounds and ceramics can still be found here.
Milpe Bird Sanctuary
No visit to Ecuador is complete without a visit to Milpe Bird Sanctuary.
Today, you will venture on its beautiful trails to spot the area’s brightly coloured species, like the chestnut mandibled toucan, the pale mandibled aracari, and the crimson-rumped toucanet. This beautiful foothill birding site is another favourite birdwatching paradise in Ecuador. Get your camera ready, as the club winged and golden-winged manakins are relatively easy to spot and photograph!
Refugio Paz de Las Aves
Today, after checking out of Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge, head out on an early morning visit to Refugio Paz de Las Aves. This 62-acre private nature reserve regularly attracts nature-loving visitors and birdwatchers due to the ease in which you can spot deep forest species. Your guides for the day are brothers, Angel and Rodrigo Paz, who will point out the very many different birds species that make Refugio Paz de Las Aves their home.
Afterwards, you will be driven to Quito for check in at Hotel Vieja Cuba.
Antisana Natural Reserve
Today, you will enjoy a spectacular excursion to the highlands of Ecuador. Antisana Natural Reserve is named after the fourth highest mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes, the Antisana. Enjoy a guided hike exploring the area. The day begins with breath-taking views of Antisana Volcano and surrounding rocky peaks, as well as the 11,000 year-old collossial glacial moraine. At an altitude of 3,000m, Antisana Natural Reserve is home to a wealth of unusual fauna, native flora and impressive lava fields.
In the afternoon, check in at Guango Lodge. The rest of your day is free for you to enjoy at leisure.
Guango Lodge is the perfect place for trekking, wildlife viewing and relaxation, with its extensive network of nature trails within a 300-hectare nature reserve.
After breakfast, you will enjoy a guided hike to discover the very many different bird species at Guango. From the Andean guan and gray-breasted mountain toucan to the turquoise jay and the slaty brush-finch, birds play an important part in Guango’s fauna. Guango is a true paradise for hummingbirds. It’s not uncommon witnessing 14 different types of hummingbirds in a single hour, including the sword-billed hummingbird.
The native flora is also what will draw you to Guango. Visit the lodge’s orchid garden in the afternoon, which showcases a fascinating selection of local orchid species. Guango is believed to be one of the most orchid-rich areas in the world.
For the final day of the tour, it’s time for you to truly relax. Venture to the soothing thermal baths of Papallacta, where you will check in to Hotel ‘Termas de Papallacta,’. As you bathe in the hot springs that find yourself surrounded by snow-capped mountains and rugged peaks of the Paramo landscape, you won’t want your Ecuador holiday to end. If it must, this is a truly wonderful high note to end on.
Today, after check-out, a transfer will drive you to the airport in Quito, to board your onward flight.
- International flights
- Board basis is Breakfast
- Cost of accommodation (standard double room based on two people sharing) for a total of 13 nights (alternative but similar accommodation may be used at certain times of the year)
- Private/small group (air-conditioned) transport / transfers
- Assistance and porterage: meeting and assistance on arrival/departure at airports and hotels
- English-speaking local guides for all guided excursions as illustrated in the itinerary
- Entrance fees (excluding video camera fee) for monuments and palaces and entertainment, and park fees for all guided excursions as illustrated in the itinerary
- Visa arrangements and fees
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses, such as alcoholic beverages, telephone calls, laundry, camera fees, spa and business facilities in the hotel
- Video and professional still camera fees during excursions
- Gratuities for drivers, tour directors, local guides, naturalists and hotel staff
- Meals (unless specified)
- Optional attractions and excursions (unless specified)
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