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Birding Santa Marta, Perija and Caribbean Tour in Colombia - 12 Days

Birding Santa Marta, Perija and Caribbean Tour in Colombia

Endemic Santa Marta mountains, Caribbean coast and Perija mountain tour

A 12-day Birding Santa Marta, Perija and Caribbean Tour which is moderately paced available as set-departure or on request, showcasing the endemics of the Santa Marta mountains, Caribbean coast and Perija mountain range.

Colombia is a mecca for birding and the Santa Marta mountains are the epitome of good birding country. If that were not enough, this tour also includes trips to the coastal forests in the lowlands and the Perija mountains, which will surely boost your life list even higher.

"Many, many species of birds encountered over two weeks, with several rare and unexpected finds. The locations were varied, comfortable and in the heart of good birding and other wildlife habitats. Good job!" - John and Daryl Thaw

The tour begins and ends in the city of Barranquilla on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range in the world and one of its most important endemism centres, with 22 species of birds restricted to it. On the bird watching Santa Marta tour, we will be on a search for many of those endemics, including the Santa Marta Screech-owl, Antpitta, Mountain Tanager, Tapaculo, Foliage-gleaner, Brush-finch, Parakeet, Sabrewing, Bush-tyrant, Seedeater, Warbler and a plethora of other species.

This trip also takes us to Isla Salamanca, Tayrona and Los Flamencos National Parks, where birding through mangroves and coastal wetlands, along the coastline and in the dry scrub forests should yield species such as the near-endemic Buffy Hummingbird and Chestnut Piculet, the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Russet-throated Puffbird, Bicoloured Conebill, Tocuyo Sparrow and Panama Flycatcher among many others.

The last stop on the tour is the Sierra de Perijá, the Holy Grail for birders interested in Colombia’s birds. This isolated offshoot of the Eastern Andes forms the border with Venezuela and is one of the least explored areas in Colombia. The ability to move from montane forest to páramo, then down to foothill subtropical areas, gives visitors an unrivalled birding opportunity. After years of being off-limits due to a volatile political situation, this area is now opening up and on the cusp of discovery, with more and more new endemics being identified. Who knows? It could be you at the forefront of finding a new species while bird watching in Santa Marta!

Birding Santa Marta, Perija and Caribbean Tour highlights include:

  • Explore the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world and home to 22 endemic species of birds
  • Tour Isla Salamanca, Tayrona and Los Flamencos National Parks and their habitats of mangroves, coastal wetlands and dry scrub forests
  • Visit one of the least explored areas in Colombia, the Sierra de Perijá, where various endemic species are still being discovered

If you are interested in a longer tour that includes the endemics of the Santa Marta region and many more in the Andes mountains and Choco bioregion, we suggest looking at the Endemic Colombia Birding Tour.

Please enquiry directly for solo traveller pricing, also available.

Alternative Tour Name: Santa Marta Mountains and Caribbean Birdwatching Tour in Colombia
Day 1
Day 1 - Arrive in Barranquilla

Depending on your arrival time at Barranquilla, an afternoon of birding is possible near the town, in search of the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. This is one of the most attractive chachalacas in not only Colombia but possibly the whole of South America. The dry forests on the outskirts of the town will also provide opportunities for species such as the very photogenic Russet-throated Puffbird and the common Brown-throated Parakeet.

Lodging: Hotel Movich Buro 51

Day 2
Day 2 - Isla Salamanca and Drive to Minca

We will rise early and spend the morning birding at Isla Salamanca National Park, 35 minutes from Barranquilla, where we will use the newly rebuilt walkways through the mangroves in search of Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Bicolored Conebill, the common Brown-throated Parakeet, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher and Yellow-chinned Spinetail among many others.

We will also have time to bird some wetlands in the area in search of Northern Screamer and other specialities. After a morning of birding, we will embark on a two-hour drive to Minca, a quaint little town with nice lodging along the river.

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Minca is a great location to bird for lower elevation species. We will arrive in town and visit some hummingbird feeders at lunchtime, where Rufous-breasted Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, the near-endemic Red-billed Emerald and Violet-crowned Woodnymph can be found.

We will also have time to explore the surroundings in search of birds such as Black-backed Antshrike, Scaled Piculet, Swallow Tanager, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Keel-billed Toucan, Masked Tityra, and Whooping Motmot.

Lodging: Hotel Minca

Day 3
Day 3 - Minca to El Dorado Lodge

This day will have us birding through a vast altitudinal gradient, covering different elevations along the road to El Dorado Lodge. Birding up the mountain will surely yield a large number of species, including Golden-winged Sparrow, Rosy Thrush-tanager, Rustyheaded Spinetail, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, the recently described Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Tapaculo, Black-backed Antshrike, the magnificently colored Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the attractive Rufous-capped Warbler.

Lodging: El Dorado Lodge

Day 4
Day 4 - El Dorado Lodge to Cerro Kennedy

We will rise early and head up to higher elevations towards Cerro Kennedy, in search of these endemics: Parakeet,Warbler, Mountain-tanager, Bush-tyrant and Brown-rumped Tapaculo, among many others.

We will have a picnic at high elevation with great views of the Sierra Nevada, and bird along the road on our way down, hoping to run into awe-inspiring species such as Swallow Tanager, Grove-billed and Toucanet, Black-chested Jay, the endemic White-lored Warbler, Golden-breasted Fruiteater and the near-endemic White-tipped quetzal.

After dinner, we will scout for the endemic and recently described Screech-owl.

Lodging: El Dorado Lodge

Day 5
Day 5 - Birding in the vicinity of El Dorado

After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the well maintained feeders at the lodge. Hummingbirds that visit the feeders include the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, White-vented Plumeteer, and Long-tailed Hermit. The bananas attract the endemic Brush-finch and also the endemic Colombian brushfinch, and the many flowers in the garden attract White-sided and Black Flowerpiercers.

We will spend some time seeking out the Antpitta, a skullker that will definitely take some work. A day of birding near the lodge will have its rewards, though, a special treat being the near-endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail that visit the lodge's compost pile in the afternoon.

Lodging: El Dorado Lodge

Day 6
Day 6 - El Dorado Lodge to Tayrona National Park

We will spend the day birding the road en route to our next stop - a hotel beside a beautiful beach. We will pause along the way to catch any birds we missed on the way up.

Finca Barlovento, our accommodation for one night is an exquisite lodge right on the beach that is touted as one of the best places to stay in Colombia.

Lodging: Finca Barlovento

Day 7
Day 7 - Tayrona National Park and travel to Riohacha

We will have a morning visit to the Tayrona National Park and, if all things align for us, the Blue-billed Curassow could show up. Otherwise, this is a great place to see some species that we are not as likely to see elsewhere on the trip.

One abundant bird that is easiest to see here than anywhere else is the stunning Lance-tailed Manakin. Sometimes it can be found with its relative, the White-bearded Manakin.

The birds at this location are varied, from Crane Hawk and Boat-billed Heron to Greater Ani, White-necked Puffbird and Rufous-tailed Jacamars. Blue-headed Parrot is common, and Lineated Woodpeckers are impressive to see as they forage on the large trees in the area.

White-bellied Antbirds belt out their song from the understorey and if you are lucky they will even show themselves.

The complex songs of Buff-breasted and Bicolored Wrens are heard in the forest, along with the repetitive songs of Scrub Greenlets, nasal sounds of Barred Antshrikes and loud calls of Boat-billed and Streaked Fycatchers. It is an active area, full of birds!

Crimson-backed Tanagers and the gorgeous Redlegged Honeycreepers give a lot of colour to the local flocks. While you are birding here it is common to see the Cottontop Tamarin, a gorgeous little monkey that is dwarfed by the less common White-fronted Capuchin.

While our visit to Tayrona will be brief we will see a lot, and we will enjoy the company of our trained guides who have their fingers on the pulse regarding where to find the birds.

The afternoon will be spent driving to Riohacha, with a stop at a spot where it is known that Double-striped Thick-knees are often seen. Our hotel is again right on the beach.

Lodging: Hotel Taroa

Day 8
Day 8 - Los Flamencos National Park and drive to Villavicencio

Very close to the city of Riohacha is Los Flamencos and the village of Camarones. This is the west edge of the Guajira desert, where dry forest becomes shorter and sparser and bare dry earth separates the trees from each other.

However, before you have the mistaken idea that this is a parched world, Los Flamencos is on the coast and it has shallow waterbodies that fill as the rains come but evaporate during the dry season.

These evaporating ponds concentrate salt and then the brine shrimp bloom, which brings in the birds that give their name to the park – American Flamingos!

Their numbers vary depending on water levels, but they can be here in their hundreds on a good day. Then, if you have not had enough pink, how about the even brighter Scarlet Ibis? These birds concentrate here as well, with their very close relatives, the White Ibis. Relations are so close, in fact, that every once in a while a hybrid Pink Ibis is seen here. Gulls, terns and many migratory shorebirds are also to be found at Los Flamencos.

Retreating to the forest, you can find a series of very attractive regional specialities. In this drab desert habitat there are wonderful dry forest birds to be found.

The sole South American offshoot of what is really a North American group, the Vermilion Cardinal in one of these. Nothing prepares you for the striking red of this species, even if you are familiar with Northern Cardinals. The Vermilion also has an overdone crest and a very different look to its close relatives from the north.

On the ground, the White-whiskered Spinetail is one heck of a good looking Spinetail - a member of a group that is usually very drab and brown - and tends to bring a "wow" from the crowd.

Pecking in the branches in the forest, and trilling away, will be a tiny and colourful woodpecker, the Chestnut Piculet. And there are specialities that are more somber in tone, such as the Slender-billed Inezia (Tyrannulet), and White-tipped Inezia.

This birding tour favourite is the Russet-throated Puffbird (the Bobo, or fool bird as the locals call it) that will sit and stare back at you as hard as you stare at it.

The less common Orinoco Saltator is another good looking bird to find here, standing out, as it does, from the general saltator group that tend to be relatively greenish, greyish and nondescript birds,

Our forest birding over, after lunch, we will spend the afternoon driving to Villavicencio.

Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hilton

Day 9
Day 9 - Drive to Perija Reserve

There will be lots of good birding to be had on our way to the Perija Reserve. The Sierra de Perijá is an isolated offshoot of the Eastern Andes and forms the border with Venezuela. It is one of the least explored areas of Colombia. Much of the country suffered from internal strife that lingered for decades and Perijá was a final stronghold.

Since 2009 the area has thankfully been clear of any political problems, and birders are now venturing to this amazing range of endemic-rich mountains. A new birding lodge, ProAves’s Chamizero del Perijá Reserve, started to receive tourists from May 2015. It is a small, comfortable lodge surrounded by amazing montane forest.

Currently, the Sierra de Perijá is considered to have four endemic species, the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Sierrafinch and the newly described Perijá Tapaculo. Yet, this is where things get interesting!

This area was out of reach to birders and scientists for decades. Now, even a cursory visit to the area has revealed that many of what were thought of as common species, such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local Rufous Spinetail version of breasted Brushfinch, are in fact endemic species!

And those are just the common ones, many new discoveries await as birders and biologists increase their visits to Perijá. There is a spinetail there that could be a new species, but so little is known of it a decision on its exact status has not yet been reached.

This area may never rival birding in the number of endemics it offers, but it will come close once taxonomy has been updated for these birds.

This is a unique area, still being discovered, gorgeous to look at and wonderful to be in. The morning views across the valley to the Sierra Nevada are breathtaking.

Other birds to be found here include Crested and Golden-headed Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager.

A unique looking form of Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager is common in the higher areas, as well as another unique endemic that may one day be a full species - the local form of the Golden-bellied Starfrontlet.

Hook-billed Kites are relatively easy to see and, with luck, White-rumped Hawk or even Black-and-chestnut Eagle may fly through.

The road that reaches the Perija reserve continues into páramo habitats, where Rufous-breasted Chattyrants abound and Páramo Seedeater may be found, as well as many Tyrian Metaltail and a few of the stunningly purple-tailed, endemic Perijá Metaltail.

Day 10
Day 10 - Perija Reserve

A full day to continue enjoying the amazing habitats and birds of the Perija Reserve.

Lodging: Perija Reserve Lodge

Day 11
Day 11 - Perija Reserve to Valledupar and flights to Bogota

We will spend the morning birding down the road towards Valledupar to catch an afternoon flight to Bogota.

Lodging: Hotel Habitel

Wildlife species expect to see:

Northern Screamer, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Black-fronted Wood-Quail, American Flamingo, Scarlet Ibis, Scaled Dove, Santa Marta Screech-Owl, Santa Marte Blossomcrown, Santa Marta Woodstar, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, White-tipped Quetzal, Whooping Motmot, Groove-billed Toucanet, Keel-billed Toucan, Channel-billed Toucan, Scaled Piculet, Chestnut Piculet, Santa Marta Parakeet, Black-crested Antshrike, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Antpitta, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Perija Tapaculo, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Barred Fruiteater, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, White-bearded Manakin, nice-tailed Manakin, lden-headed Manakin, Santa Marta Wren, “Bangs’ Wood-Wren”, Santa Marta Warbler, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Rufous-browed Conebill, ushcap, Orinocan Saltator, erra Nevada Brush-Finch, Perija Brush-Finch, Santa Marta Brush-Finch, Vermilion Cardinal

What is included?

  • Internal Airfare (Valledupar- Bogota)
  • Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
  • Snacks Throughout the Trip
  • Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 12
  • All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
  • Entrances to Parks and Reserves
  • Bilingual Regional Guide and Local Guides at Many Sites
  • Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to Airport Drop-off

What is not included?

  • Insurance
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Laundry
  • Airfare to Colombia
  • Tips
  • Anything that is not included in the itinerary and "What is included
Wildlife Reviews
4.94 stars
- based on 6  reviews
  1. Northern Colombia Birding Trail
    Nancy Russo01 Feb 2020







    Colombia Birdwatch delivers an exceptional birding experience in beautiful Colombia. This is my second tour with them and I cannot speak highly enough of the knowledgeable bi-lingual birding guides that are amazing at finding the birds and getting you on the bird. Every part of the tour is well organized taking care of everyone and everything making it a joy to discover the incredible diversity of birds and countryside. Colombia is a beautiful country with charming people that just shouldn't be missed and I would highly recommend using Colombia Birdwatch.
  2. Western Andes, Santa Marta
    John and Daryl Thaw10 Jan 2018







    Many, many species of birds encountered over two weeks, with several rare and unexpected finds. The locations were varied, comfortable, and in the heart of good birding and other wildlife habitat. Good job!
  3. Repeat customer
    Alison Van Keuren30 Nov 2017







    Chris, the guides and drivers are top notch and most welcoming.
  4. Family birding Central and Western Andes and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
    Olivier Langrand, Fanja Andriamialisoa, Tahiry and Sariaka Langrand25 Jun 2018







    From June 25 to July 04, 2018 we went on a customized birding tour in the Central and the Western Andes and in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia and we ended up the trip with 406 species. First the exchange of emails with Chris to prepare this trip has been very fluid and efficient and the price quoted for the desired trip was fair. Chris was of great advice on where to go and how long to spend in each location. In Pereira airport our guide Giancarlo Ventolini picked us up. Giancarlo was an excellent bird guide, a very good driver, a gentleman with a great sense of humor and great knowledge of his country. His English was just perfect. We birded in Termales del Ruiz, Los Nevados National Park, Rio Blanco Reserve and Motezuma/Tatama National Park. The birding was exceptional and we did not miss many target species. Fernando, the local guide in Montezuma was excellent and got us a few sulkers. Then we went to Santa Marta where a second guide, Angel Ortiz, met us. With Angel we went to Tayrona National Park, Minca, and El Dorado in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Angel birding skills were excellent too and got us one target species after the other. His English was perfect. He was assisted by a driver who was skilled and cautious. All accommodations booked matched our standards and we have rarely seen people so welcoming in the lodges, the villages, but also in large cities such as Bogota or Cartagena. Not only Colombia is a prime birding destination, but also a country where visitors interested in history, food and landscapes will enjoy travelling. We will certainly go back to Colombia for another birding trip and no doubt that we will ask Colombia Birdwatch to organize it.
  5. Excellent experience with Chris and company
    James D Lubitz30 Nov 2017







    Our 12 day trip was a wonderful mixture of birding with some visits to cultural attractions. Pace was ideal. Chris is active in encouraging and using local birders and in promoting conservation efforts in Colombia.
  6. Colombia Birdwatch
    Richard Fenner04 Dec 2017







    Colombia Birdwatch are an excellent company with fantastic local guides who are brilliant at finding the birds as well as looking after guests. And Colombia is of course an amazing destination. I have done two private tours with them and both were superb, can't recommend too highly.

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Why book with Colombia Birdwatch?

We stand out from the rest because, as locals, we can provide a better value and our familiarity with Colombia, its avian diversity, customs, culture and gastronomy is unsurpassed. It is our privileged local access that will make your experience exclusive and unforgettable, and we thrive to support the local communities we visit. We are an efficient and reliable company, offering the highest level detail and service

What sort of accommodation and vehicles do you supply?

This tour features two Conservation Alliance (Proaves) lodges in remote areas, the world-class El Lodge and the more basic Perija Lodge. Hotels in cities range between three and four stars and you will spend two nights at Ecohabs Los Naranjos lodge on a beach-front property with access to one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia. One night will be spent at Hotel Minca, which is basic but caters to birders and has some very nice feeders. The lowland portion of the tour will be done in either a 7 pax Hyundai van or a 17 pax Volkswagen or Mercedes van (depending on number of people on tour). Mountainous areas require use of 4x4 vehicles, in which case we use Toyota Land Cruisers or something similar.

What forms of travel are involved in this tour?

This tour includes one internal flight from Valledupar to Bogota, which is your departure city.

What are your group sizes?

We have the lowest group size in the industry with a maximum of 8 birders per group!

Do you arrange airport pick up/drop off?

Yes, all airport transfers are included.

Do you include internal flight/ferry costs?

Yes, your Valledupar to Bogota internal flight is included.

Do you ever change the tour leader or itinerary? If so, what sort of notice do you give?

We rarely have to change the tour leader, but sometimes unforeseeable things happen. If we do, we will give you as much notice as we can.

Do you charge a single supplement? Can you accommodate a third person/family?

Yes, the single supplement for this tour is $895. We can most definitely cover a third person/family member and can offer a discount for triple occupancy.

Do you include meals?

Yes, all meals from breakfast on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 12 are included. We also include snacks and bottled water throughout the trip.

When is the best time to travel and why?

November through late March is the best time in terms of weather, with an added bonus of getting North American migrants. However, this tour can be done year-round without a problem.

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

We expect our travellers to be able to walk 1 – 3 miles daily. This tour takes you birding on lightly travelled roads with support vehicles nearby.

What will be the level of connectivity or WiFi access during this trip/tour/safari?

All lodges/hotels have wifi internet availability but it is not as reliable in the more remote lodges. At El Dorado Lodge and Perija, wi-fi is available only in the communal areas.

How do you support local communities during this tour?

Colombia Birdwatch supports the local communities we visit in many ways. First, it is our policy to always hire local guides when available and make use of the services provided by the locals (meals, transportation, feeder sites, etc). Secondly, we support various programs and work closely with partners (Audubon Society, Procolombia, Chamber of Commerce, Cali Valle Bureau) in the areas we visit to promote bird tourism and to provide outreach and training in the local communities we visit.

Do you provide travel and/or medical insurance (incl. repatriation)?

Yes, but we suggest you purchase trip cancellation insurance and your own travel insurance or make sure your insurance covers you while travelling.

What are the terms for this tour and how do I pay?

A deposit of $1,000 USD (non-refundable) per person is due to confirm the trip on booking and full payment is due 60 days prior to the start date of the tour. You can pay by wire transfer to our bank in the United States or by Credit Card (3% fee).

What happens if I need to change my tour?

What happens if I need to change my tour?

What happens if I have to cancel my tour?

If you cancel before final payment is due a cancellation fee of your deposit will be charged. If you cancel after final payment is due there is no refund but you can reschedule the tour within a year.

What should I pack for this tour?

Packing List: Please note that this is a general packing list and is not all-inclusive. REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE Documents and Money: • Passport • Cash and credit cards • Airline tickets or E-ticket confirmation Clothing: • Waterproof rain jacket • Sweater or medium weight jacket • Three pairs of pants/trousers, at least one lightweight, plus cool long pants and shorts • Four long-sleeved shirts • Four T-shirts • Ten pairs of underwear • Ten pair of socks • Pajamas • 1 pair of waterproof boots and 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes. • Shade hat and 1 bandanna • Bathing suit Toiletries: • Toiletries and washcloth • Personal first aid kit • Prescription drugs • Lip balm with sunscreen • Sunscreen • Soap for hand washing and universal sink stopper • Insect repellent (Chiggers, no-seeums and mosquitoes) and anti-itch ointment Gear: • Pack/rucksack - for rain gear and water on walks • Plastic bags to put wet gear in, in case of rain • Sunglasses and extra prescription glasses • Water bottle - to refill throughout the trip • Camera • Binoculars • Alarm clock • Flashlight and extra batteries Optional: • Sandals • Field guides • Map • Spanish dictionary • Writing materials, paper, and pens • Laundry bag and a few clothespins

Can you recommend any articles and/or books to read before this tour?

Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia by Miles Mcmullan. R + N Editors, 2018. Birds of Colombia by Fernando Ayerbe Quinones. WCS, 2019.

Join Our Fixed Tour Starting Date

Tour Dates Tour Availability From Price Spaces Left
21/01/2023 - 01/02/2023 available USD 3,700
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12 Days

Price & Availability

USD3,700 / per person
Single Suppliment USD 895
This tour is operated by: Colombia Birdwatch
4.92 based on 28 reviews

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Operator Review Summary

4.92 Based on 28 reviews

Tour Facts

  • Santa Marta Mountains and Perija Mountains
  • Set Departure
  • Multi-Day Tour
  • Birds
  • Maximum 8 Pax
  • 12 nights / 11 Days
  • November through March
  • Moderate
  • English, Spanish
  • Ernesto Cortissoz in Barraqnuilla (BAQ)
  • El Dorado in Bogota (BOG)