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Birding in Ecuador Tour - 11 Days

Birding in Ecuador Tour

From the Andes to Amazon Ecuador Birdwatching Tour

This 11-day Birding Ecuador from the Andes to the Amazon tour is a moderately-paced tour that will enable you to explore a multitude of ecosystems and altitude levels from the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the high eastern Andes to the deep Ecuadorian Amazon. An altitude difference of 4000 meters allows us to list more than 500 species in 11 days, including several endemic birds. With the help of the bilingual specialist bird guide, who will accompany you throughout the entire trip, you will be able to tick off many of them.

After our arrival in the Ecuadorian capital and a quick exploration of the typical species of the inter-Andean valley, we will explore the spectacular area of the Chakana and Antisana volcanoes, in search of birds typical of the high Andean paramo ecosystems like the Andean Condor, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, etc.

Afterward, the Papallacta pass will project us into a very particular sandy paramo ecosystem swept by the Amazonian winds and rains. From the snowy peaks of the eastern Andes, the spectacular descent into the tropical lowlands will be divided into different ecosystems, offering us a great ornithological contrast. After a stop at Guango Lodge, a beautiful hummingbird garden, we will continue down along the water route (Yakuñan), on the green eastern slopes of Antisana Volcano. We’ll explore some splendid patches of cloud forest to end the day at Cabañas San Isidro. This ornithological hotspot will keep us quite busy for two days to try to observe some of the 400 species of birds present.

Before continuing down into the deep Amazon, we will stay for two days at the comfortable Wild Sumaco Lodge, a private reserve with a fantastic mix of Amazonian foothill and high Amazonian species. The avifauna here is full of specialties like the Military Macaw, Golden-collared Toucan, Lafresnaye's Piculet, Copper-breasted Jacamar, etc.

In this Ecuador Birding tour from the docks on the Napo River, Ecuador's largest tributary of the Amazon, we will embark on our motorized canoe for a three-hour descent. After arriving at the edge of the Yasuni National Park in the territory of the Sani community, we will transfer to smaller dugout canoes, and then continue rowing along the black water canals to the lagoon where the lodge is located.

For birding in Ecuador, Sani Lodge is one of the best lodges in the Ecuadorian Amazon for excellent birding and completely owned and managed by the local indigenous community. Located in the buffer zone of the famous Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, it is a fairly untouched tropical rainforest. We will explore, on foot and by canoe, the different types of tropical rainforest, its Oxbow lagoon, and the black water and white water rivers. We will spend our time observing canopy birds by climbing the observation tower, spotting Macaws and other Psittacidae on the different clay licks, and looking for the unique species present on the different islands of the Napo River.

Birding Ecuador from the Andes to the Amazon Tour Highlights:

  • Andean Condor: During our exploration of the area of the Chakana and Antisana volcanoes we will look for the Andean condor, the land bird with the largest wingspan (up to 3.15 meters) in the world.
  • Hummingbird Garden Guango Lodge: This small and rich high Andean Forest reserve offers an impressive hummingbird garden and the excellent opportunity to observe more than 12 typical species. Some of them: Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Mountain Velvetbreast, Gorgeted Woodstar, and the rare Mountain Avocetbill.
  • San Isidro Owl: In the evening at Cabañas San Isidro, we will look for this bird that hunts near the cabins. Some have suggested that it could be a new species.
  • Observation tower Sani Lodge: Climb up the tower and be amazed by the magical splendor of the Amazon Forest. The view is truly overwhelming and the treetops that fill the landscape seem to be never-ending. Look for colorful macaws, toucans, honeycreepers, tanagers, and colibries, and keep your eyes open for the Red Howler Monkey sleeping at the top of the trees.
  • Clay Lick Yasuni National Park: Enjoy a beautiful spectacle of hundreds of parrots looking for a place to perch and eat from the clay cliffs covered with minerals. We observe a whirlwind of squawking birds like yellow-crested parrots, orange-winged parrots, and blue-headed parrots.

After a long day of exploring on the many trails, we provide you with comfortable accommodation in lodges developed especially for birdwatching tourism and owned by nature lovers committed to conservation. Enjoy a tasty and nutritious meal, a hot coffee, a good night's sleep, and of course a beautiful view. We avoid using internal flights to reduce our carbon footprint. For the journey from one hotspot to another, we use our comfortable and modern vehicles that are environmentally friendly. At all times we provide drinking water reservoirs to fill your reusable bottles.

To explore the world is to awaken the senses... to be touched by the beauty and power of nature and by those who work to preserve it. It is also to become fully aware of our place and role in the planet's ecosystem. Our commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism is expressed in the positive actions we take every day and in the rewarding encounters, we have in the places we visit.

Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size.

Alternative Tour Name: Birding from the Andes to the Amazon
Day 1
Day 1 - Arrival In Ecuador – Quito

After your arrival at Quito International Airport (2800 meters), your guide will welcome you and give you a briefing on the upcoming trip. Immediate transfer to your hotel near the airport and installation in your rooms. Depending on the arrival time, it will be possible to go for a stroll in the surroundings of the hotel and make our first observations of typical species of the inter-Andean valley. Dinner is at your own expense. Night in a charming Hacienda, Zaysant EcoLodge, in Tababela.

Included: Transfer, assistance and overnight stay.

Day 2
Day 2 - Antisana - Papallacta - Guango

After an early breakfast, we will take the short road leading to the Antisana Ecological Reserve. From a platform, we will scan with a telescope the nesting walls of the Condor, one of the most important populations of the country. We will then explore the high-altitude vegetation and bushes in search of high-andean hummingbirds and passerines and climb up to the Andean steppes called páramo. The diversity at this altitude (almost 4000 meters) is low, but the species visible here all present adaptations to this particular ecosystem.

Afterwards, a short walk along the lagoon of La Mica will allow us to observe some aquatic birds. We return in the early afternoon to the lower areas to have lunch around hummingbird drinking troughs and to try to observe one of the rarest mammals of this ecosystem: The Spectacled Bear. Arrival in Guango Lodge before nightfall, where you will have the opportunity to have some observations of hummingbirds around the feeders. Dinner and night in the charming Guango Lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual guide, overnight stay, entrance to visiting sites.

Day 3
Day 3 - Guango – San Isidro

This morning we will have the choice between enjoying the hummingbird garden of the lodge or going to explore the super wet Páramo areas of the Cayambe Coca Reserve. Starting from the Papallacta Pass at more than 4000 meters of altitude, we will search for the main high-altitude species of Ecuador in the heart of a mosaic of ecosystems: temperate forest, super humid páramo, lagoons, elfin bushes and Polylepis woods. If the weather is good, we will go up to the antennas, at more than 4300 meters of altitude, in search of the most specialized species.

At the end of the afternoon, we will continue our descent along the eastern foothills. We will cross a wide altitudinal gradient, between elfin, high-Andean and cloud forests to reach our next lodge where we will spend two nights. Dinner and overnight at the charming San Isidro Lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual guide, overnight stay, entrance to visiting sites.

Day 4
Day 4 - San Isidro

These high-altitude tropical forests are also called Cloud Forest because of a fairy fog that covers it for part of the day. This almost constant humidity allows the development of a vegetation rich in epiphytes, mosses, orchids, bromeliads, etc.... At first light we will join the hide, behind the Lodge to try to observe and photograph Antpittas and other rare birds. We will stay there for most of the morning.

During the afternoon we will taking a moment around the hummingbird feeders. After dinner we will try to observe an owl (Ciccaba sp.) which could be a new species for science. Dinner and overnight stay at the charming San Isidro Lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual guide, overnight stay, entrance to visiting sites.

Day 5
Day 5 - San Isidro – Wild Sumaco

Then it will be time to resume our long road towards the eastern foothills of the Cordillera. We will cross the Inter-Andean valley, climb up to the Papallacta pass and descend towards the upper Amazon to our next Lodge located in the buffer zone of the Sumaco National Park, in the middle of the Amazonian subtropical forests (1500 meters).

Located just 30 minutes from our lodge is the famous Cordillera de Guacamayos, this outlying ridge of the Andes makes up the lower part of the Antisana Reserve. A stone path, along the ridge, runs through an extensive and pristine cloud forest of the eastern Andes. This trail was apparently created by the Incas who used it to access the Amazonian lowlands. This natural and historical site has a large list of bird species, some of them very rare. Later, we will continue down to WildSumaco, making stops along the Loreto road to look for other complementary lowland species. In the late afternoon we will arrive at the WildSumaco reserve, where we will spend the next two hours at the base of Sumaco Volcano. Dinner and night in the charming WildSumaco Lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual guide, overnight stay, entrance to visiting sites.

Day 6
Day 6 - Wild Sumaco Wildlife Sanctuary

The Wild Sumaco is one of these isolated reserves, which even if little known by the general public, presents an extremely interesting richness of bird sanctuaries. The conservation and research projects carried out on site have documented the presence of a large number of species that are normally rare and difficult to observe. Its lodging infrastructure and numerous trails allow access to an ecosystem that has been isolated for a long time because it is stuck between the Amazonian foothills and the high Andes. It is therefore at the confluence of these two very different habitats that we will evolve over the next two days. We will explore roadsides, subtropical humid forest trails and forest creeks. We will also spend some time around the watering areas and on the observation platforms in front of the Lodge. Dinner and night in the charming WildSumaco Lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual guide, overnight stay, entrance to visiting sites.

Day 7
Day 7 - Wild Sumaco – Coca – Sani Lodge

Today we will continue our descent towards the lower Amazon to the Amazonian city of Coca (350 meters) (Francisco de Orellana) in the province of Napo. From the docks on the Napo River, the most important Ecuadorian affluent of the Amazon, we will embark on our motorised canoe, for a descent of about three hours, our first immersion in this green universe. After arriving at the edge of the Yasuni National Park on the territory of the Sani community, we will transfer to smaller canoes and then row along black water canals to the lagoon on the edge of which the lodge is located (250 metres).

After settling into the spacious cabins, our guide will give us a presentation of the site and a briefing on the upcoming stay. This day is essentially a travel day, but along the Napo river (riverine and "white water" ecosystem) followed by the narrow "black water" canals and around the lagoon we will have the opportunity to observe our first Amazonian species. Dinner and overnight stay in the charming Sani lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual local guide of the Amazon, overnight stay

Day 8
Day 8 - Clay Cliffs And Black Water Canals

After an early morning hearty breakfast, we will go by rowing canoe and then by motorised canoe to the banks of the Napo River. From there we will visit two "saladeros": clay cliffs covered with minerals that several species of Psittacidae come to ingest to facilitate their digestion (a diet composed almost entirely of acidic fruits and vegetables). The first saladero is located directly on an open bank of the Napo, the second is inside the forest and is more in the shape of a cave. It attracts very different species from the first one. After this incredible spectacle, we will take a path in Terra Firme very close to the second saladero in search of the species characteristic of this ecosystem that is never flooded.

After lunch, we will go for a motorized canoe ride along the Napo River to look for some interesting "white water" riverside species (name given because of the light brown colour of the great Amazonian rivers that carry silt and materials from the high Andes where they originate). At the end of the day, we will return to our lodge via "black water" canals, so called because of its dark tea colour (due to the tannins of the decomposing leaves washed out by the Amazon rains and accumulating in the rivers and lagoons). Dinner and overnight stay in the charming Sani lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual local guide of the Amazon, overnight stay

Day 9
Day 9 - Observation Tower – Terra Firme And Varzea

After crossing the lagoon, a 20-minute walk will take us to the observation tower. Built on the sides of a Kapokier, its 35 meters in height will allow us to have a breathtaking view of the canopy of the Amazonian forest. The canopy birds, which often are found at much more than 30 meters of height, are among the most difficult to observe in the Amazon. The construction of this type of tower makes our task much easier. In mid-morning, we will descend to ground level for a long observation walk in the forest in a seasonally flooded ecosystem: the Varzea.

This ecosystem is home to a significantly different bird life from the Terra Firme and promises us new species. After a well-deserved rest at the lodge, we will set off again at the end of the afternoon on another trail. This trail winds between Varzea and Terra Firme and offers us the opportunity to observe a wide variety of species. After dinner, we will go on a torch-lit trip in a rowing canoe in search of many nocturnal species as well as Black Caimans. Dinner and overnight stay in the charming Sani lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual local guide of the Amazon, overnight stay

Day 10
Day 10 - Sani Lodge - Napo Islands

This morning we will visit one of the most specialised and interesting ecosystems in the Amazon. The islands located on the great Amazonian rivers represent small independent ecosystems that evolve in a totally autonomous way. These islands, depending on their age, height or advanced stage of vegetative development, are home to a contingent of very different and specialised species. This morning, we will travel along the Napo, several islands of different ages, structures and plant cover in search of all these specialist species. We will return to the lodge during the warm hours of the day.

In the afternoon we will be able to coordinate with our guide our final outing according to what we want to rediscover: observation at the end of the day from the canopy tower, Terra Firme trail, Varzea trail, canoe trip on the edges of the lagoon and the "black water" canals. After dinner, we will have a last walk on one of the trails in search of nocturnal birds. Dinner and overnight stay in the charming Sani lodge.

Included: All meals, transportation, specialized bilingual local guide of the Amazon, overnight stay

Day 11
Day 11 - Sani Lodge – Coca – Quito

Early in the morning, we will take our rowing canoes back to the canals leading us to the Napo River. When we reach the border of the National Park, our motorised canoe will be waiting for us to take us up the Napo River, where we will be able to enjoy our last observations. Arrival in the city of Coca around noon for our terrestrial transfert to Quito.

Included: Breakfast and box lunch, transportation, specialized bilingual local guide of the Amazon

Wildlife species expected to see:

Sparkling Violetear (common), Black-tailed Trainbearer (fairly common), Giant Hummingbird (uncommon), Wester emerald (uncommon), Great Thrush (very common), Saffron Finch (common), Scrub Tanager (uncommon), Blue and yellow Tanager (uncommon), Andean Condor (uncommun), Black-chested Buzzard Eagle (uncommon), Variable Hawk (common), Aplomado Falcon (rare), Ecuadorian Hillstar (uncommon), Andean Tit Spinetail (common), Tawny Antpitta (common), Andean Teal (common), Andean Ruddy Duck (uncommon), Andean Lapwing (common), Black-faced Ibis (rare), Andean Guan (uncommon), Blue-mantled Thornbill (rare), Viridian Metaltail (uncommon), Stout-billed Cinclodes (common), Many-striped Canastero (fairly common), Giant Conebill (rare), White-throated Tyrannulet (common), Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe (rare), Red-crested Cotinga (uncommon), Black-backed Bust Tanager (uncommon), Green Jay (common), Andean Motmot (uncommon), Long-tailed Antbirds (uncommon), Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (common), White-bellied Antpittas (uncommon), Pale-edged Flycatcher (common), Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatchers (uncommon), Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (uncommon), Montane Woodcreeper (common), White-capped Tanager (uncommon), Saffron-crowned Tanager (common), Black-capped Tanager (common), Black-eared Hemispingus (uncommon), Black-billed Peppershrike (common), Subtropical Cacique (common), Black Tinamou (rare), Black-billed Mountain-Toucan (uncommon), Slate-crowned Antpitta (uncommon), Peruvian Antpitta (rare), Dusky Piha (rare), Barred Antthrush, (uncommon) Greater Scythebill (rare), Ocellated Tapaculo (uncommun), Chestnut-breasted Wren (uncommun), White-faced Nunbird (rare), Cliff Flycatcher (common), Andean Potoo, (uncommon), Military Macaw (rare), Wire-crested Thorntail (common), Gray-tailed Piha (rare), Andean Laniisoma (rare), Chestnut-bellied Thrush  (uncommon), Coppery-chested Jacamar,  (fairly common), Red-billed Tyrannulet (rare), Paradise Tanager (fairly common), Yellow-throated Spadebill (rare), Fiery-throated Fruiteater (uncommon), Short-tailed Antthrush (un common), Ecuadorian Piedtail (rare), Golden-tailed Sapphire (common), Gould’s Jewelfront (common), Chestnut-fronted Macaw (common), Lined Antshrike (uncommon), Plain-backed Antpitta (uncommon), Yellow-breasted Antwren (fairly common), Black-billed Treehunter (common), Striolated Puffbird (rare), Black-mandibled Toucan (common), Golden-collared Toucanet (rare), Lafresnaye’s Piculet (uncommon), Blue-rumped Manakin (uncommon), Chestnut-crowned Gnateater (uncommon), Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant (common), Rufous-naped and Olivaceous Greenlets (uncommon), Spotted Tanagers (rare), Anhinga (common), Zigzag Heron (rare), Black Hawk Eagle (uncommon), Sungrebe (rare), Blue-and-yellow Macaw (common), Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet (rare), Black-headed Parrot (rare), Blue-headed Parrot (common), Hoatzin (common), Crested Owl (uncommon), Great Potoo (uncommon), Amazonian White-tailed Trogon (common), Violaceous Jay (common), American Pygmy Kingfisher (uncommon), Great Jacamar (rare), Gilded Barbet (common), White-necked Puffbird (rare), White-throated Toucan (common), Cream-colored Woodpecker (fairly common), Long-billed Woodcreeper (fairly common), Point-tailed Palmcreeper (rare), Great Antshrike (common), Grey Antwren (common), Yellow-browed Antbird (fairly common), Black-faced Antbird (fairly common), White-plumed Antbird (common), Rufous-capped Antthrush (common), Rusty-belted Tapaculo (rare), Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet (common), Citron-bellied Attila (rare), Plum-throated Cotinga (fairly common), Bare-necked Fruitcrow (fairly common).

What is included?

  • Private transportation (gasoline, road taxes, parking, insurance of vehicle and passengers).
  • Entrance fees to the sites mentioned in the itinerary.
  • All transfers as mentioned.
  • Bilingual naturalist/ornithology guide.
  • Additional local naturalist guide in the Amazon.
  • Lodging in double room with private bathroom in charming hotels and lodges.
  • Meals as mentioned, picnic for some hikes.
  • Water during transportation.
  • Snacks.
  • The identification guide of the birds of Ecuador.
  • Annotated checklist of the birds of Ecuador.
  • Spotting scope with possibility of digiscoping.
  • 24h assistance from our local team.

What is not included?

  • International flight.
  • The excursions and activities indicated as optional in the program.
  • Single room supplement.
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks for all meals.
  • Personal expenses.
  • Tips.
  • Personal insurances.
  • Bank commissions for payments.
  • Anything that is not included in "What is included".

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Why book with Nature Experience?

Since 2003, Nature Experience has been organizing naturalist and scientific trips to almost the entire South American continent. Our trips, in small groups or tailor-made, are accompanied by experts passionate about each of the rare themes we offer. During these exclusive and off-the-beaten track tours, designed and organized by an experienced team, you will be able to discover and enjoy rare wildlife moments and unique natural spectacles. Our services, both comfortable and respectful of the sites visited, are adapted to each passenger to offer a unique and enriching experience.

What sort of accommodation and vehicles do you supply? What forms of travel are involved in this tour?

The accommodation selected for this trip is of a good standard and adapted to birdwatching, most of them are eco-lodges. Road transport is by comfortable minibuses or passenger vans, depending on the size of the group. Roads are of variable quality. We work with experienced drivers who love to show you their country and will be happy to take you safely from one point to another. To get to the lodge in the Amazon, we will leave Coca in a motorized canoe. We have opted to go by private vehicle from Quito to Coca and the other way around, rather than flying to minimize our ecological footprint.

What are your group sizes?

We offer tours to groups of maximum 10-12 people. By doing so, we guarantee more comfort, close contact with the guide and the rest of the group, minimum impact on the natural habitat of the animals and maximum chance of unique observations.

When is the best time to travel and why?

Throughout the whole year you will be able to observe many unique and colorful species. We avoid the months of April and May due to high rainfall.

Do you need a minimum fitness level to join this trip?

The walks during our birding tours do not require any particular effort or physical condition. Only in the Ecuadorian Amazon certain walks can be rather moderate. There are some optional hikes on more difficult trails.

Join Our Fixed Tour Starting Date

Tour Dates Tour Availability From Price Spaces Left
08/10/2022 - 18/10/2022 available USD 2,610
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11 Days

Price & Availability

USD2,610 / per person
Single Supplement USD 355
This tour is operated by: Nature Experience

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Tour Facts

  • Ecuador
  • Set Departure
  • Set Departure Tour
  • Birds
  • 2 to 10 pax
  • 11 days
  • July to February
  • English
  • Moderate
  • International airport Mariscal Sucre in Quito
  • International airport Mariscal Sucre in Quito