Colombian Amazon Birdwatching Tour
This 17-day Amazon birding tour will take you to unexplored areas just opening up to bird tourism. Colombia has been undergoing a very positive transformation in the past decade, and with the recent signing of a historic peace treaty, and new areas are now accessible. This Colombia birding tour has been chosen to highlight some of these areas, known as peace destinations, to offer a chance at some of the most sought-after birds in Colombia. The locations include the Anchicaya Valley on the Pacific Slope, the paramo ecosystems of the Colombian Massif, and the Amazonian piedmont of the Putumayo region. No other tour offers access to the Choco lowlands in the Pacific region, the Colombian Massif in southern Colombia, and Amazonian Piedmont, where the cold mountains meet the Amazon rainforest.
- Bird the 'trampoline of diversity' road for 2 days, enjoying an elevation gradient of 1,800 m (6,000 ft).
- Explore the San Agustin Archeological Park, where the added bonus is two endemics: Dusky-headed Brush-finch and Colombian Chachalaca.
- See Andean Condors up close in the paramo of Purace National Park.
- Bird the Anchicaya Watershed, an area that inspired the first bird ID guide for South America.
- Enjoy the feeders at KM 18, where more than 22 species of hummingbirds have been recorded.
- Visit an active Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek that is only a 20-minute hike to reach.
- Take an exhilarating rail ride in the Pacific Lowlands where you will bird close to sea level in search of lowland species.
- Visit the surreal paramo ecosystem where you will bird above 3,500m in search of the rare Chestnut-bellied Cotinga and Masked Mountain-tanager.
If you are looking for an adventure, this tour combines some amazing Amazon Birding, combined with time in the Andes and on the pacific slope, will surely yield an amazing list.
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.
Guests will be picked up at the airport.
Lodging: Araucana Lodge
Today we spend the morning around the famous El 18, located on an 1800m (5,900 ft) pass 18km (11 miles) northwest of Cali along the road that connects Cali with the port city of Buenaventura.
Birding can be very productive here, and we will look for four endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Grayish Piculet and the spectacular Multicolored Tanager.
This area is a tanager paradise, where we have a good chance of seeing Purplish-mantled, Summer, Beryl-spangles, Flame-rumped, Golden, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped Tanagers as well as Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager.
We hope to be dazzled by an impressive show of hummingbirds at a private house along the same road, including the beautifully ornate Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Rackettail, Blue-headed Sapphire, Green Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin. Brown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit.
Birding the forest can also produce many near-endemics such as Scrub Tanager, Purple-throated Woodstar, Nariño Tapaculo, Purplishmantled Tanager and Yellow-headed Manakin.
Here we will also see striking birds such as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops, and the noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet.
We will listen out for species with interesting calls and songs, such as the hawk-like whistle of the Scaled Fruiteater, warbling song of Black-billed Peppershrike, and beautiful flute-like song of Andean Solitaire.
Other species we may find are Chestnut-breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, Montane Woodcreeper, Scalecrested Pygmy-tyrant, and the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher.
After birding we head for an afternoon visit to the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek, which requires a 20-minute hike.
Lodging: Hotel La Araucana
Perhaps Colombia’s most famous birding location, the Anchicaya watershed is located along the edge of the Farallones National Park, one of the most diverse parks on the planet.
The birding begins just 40 minutes from the hotel via a paved road that can offer many of the Choco endemics that this mega diverse locality has to offer.
Our day on the Anchicaya road will allow time to enjoy its upper portion and some very well-maintained feeders at our breakfast spot where Rufous-throated, Glistening-green and Silver-throated Tanagers are known to occur.
The road is sure to yield many highly prized species such as Golden-collared Honeycreeper, White-whiskered Puffbird, Uniform Treehunter, Sooty-headed Wren, Green Thorntail and White-tailed Hillstar.
One of the main targets today is Toucan Barbet, sporting 5 different colours elegantly while maintaining a tough demeanour.
We will search the skies for Barred Hawk, Ornate Hawk-eagle and Swallowtailed Kites, whilst keeping an eye out for the attractive Ornate Flycatcher feeding on low branches. Another mega target is the recently described Pisones Tapaculo.
The road can be extremely productive and rarely disappoints. The lowers stretches can yield species such as Choco Trogon, Lita Woodpecker and Baudo Guan.
The tanagers can be quite a treat, with chances for Scarlet-and-white, Golden-chested, Gray-and-gold, and Scarlet-browed Tanagers, among many others.
Lodging: Hotel EPSA Lodge
Birding on this day is again done along the lightly travelled Anchicaya road, but this time with the opportunity to explore the lower portion.
The “El Danubio” area is host to many interesting species, including the near-endemics Rose-faced Parrot and Blacktipped Cotinga, Choco Trogon, Lita Woodpecker and Baudo Guan.
The tanagers can be quite a treat, with chances for Scarlet-and-white, Golden-chested, Gray-and-gold, and Scarlet-browed Tanagers, among many others.
Having lunch along the road will allow us a long day of birding, as we seek out other goodies such as Long-tailed Tyrant, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Lanceolated Monklet, Bay Wren, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Collared Aracari and colonies of Russetbacked Oropendolas.
The area is teeming with many of our friends who have the word “ant” in their name. And if we are lucky enough to encounter an ant swarm the action can bring birds such as Stub-tailed, Immaculate, Ocellated, and Bicolored Antbirds as well as Streaked and Pacific Antwren amongst many others.
The road to the Pacific lowlands can be rough but it offers such amazing birding opportunities that it makes the slight discomfort inconsequential.
This night is spent in cabins right in the Anchicaya Reserve, managed by a local university.
Lodging: Hotel EPSA Cabins
Birding this morning takes us from the EPSA hotel to the port city of Buenaventura, with the two mega targets of Slaty-tailed Trogon and Five-colored Barbet.
However, it seems as everything in this area is a target, and you don't need too much effort to find species such as White-whiskered Puffbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow and Black-cheeked Woodpecker.
With the high humidity and heat, though, it is best to have bagged species such as Pacific and Checker-throated Antwrens, Pacific Flatbill, Cinnamon Becard, Whiteringed Flycatcher, Blue-black Grosbeak, and Bluecrowned and Golden-collared Manakin before lunch.
In the afternoon we make our way towards Buenaventura, Colombia’s main port on the Pacific. The hotel has a beautiful terrace with a pool and magnificent views of the bay and the port.
Lodging: Hotel Cosmos
After a one-hour drive to Zaragosa and a pleasant 20-minute ride on “brujitas” (motorcycle-powered wooden carts on rails), you arrive at the town of San Cipriano. The area is a protected reserve and is the source of drinking water for the nearby port city of
Located in the Choco Bioregion, it is known for being one of the wettest places on Earth. Some of the birds that are possible include Choco Toucan, Stripe-billed Aracari, Black-tipped Cotinga (NE), Rose-faced (NE) and Blue-headed Parrots, Spot-crowned and Five-colored Barbet (NE), Broad-billed Motmot, Black-chested Puffbird and Purple-throated Fruitcrow.
The area is teeming with antbirds, with chances to see Ocellated, Jet, Stubtailed and Bicolored Antbirds.
We will leave after lunch and drive five hours to Popayan in preparation for a close encounter with Andean Condor the following day.
Lodging: Hotel Dann Monasterio
Purace National Park is home to one of Colombia’s most active volcanoes, and it is here the group has the chance to have a very intimate moment with the world's largest flying bird, the Andean Condor.
The local indigenous community has set up a feeding station and if the birds cooperate it can be a once in a lifetime experience to photograph a Condor at such close range.
Later, a visit to San Juan Hot Springs to enjoy the scenery and for some landscape photography is a must. Unfortunately swimming in the springs is prohibited but they are surrounded by elfin forest and are home to a large variety of mosses and lichens with a fascinating colour palette.
This is an excellent chance to explore the surreal paramo habitat - the ecosystem referred to as Colombia’s water factory as it is the birthplace of the county’s two largest rivers, the Cauca and the Magdalena.
Birding in patches of elfin forest can produce many high elevation specialists, including Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Black-chested Mountain Tanager, and Black-backed Brush-finch.
We will also seek out marshy habitat for Noble Snipe and gradually wend our way back to the hotel in Popayan.
Lodging at Hotel Dann Monasterio
We will break up a long drive of seven hours by making several birding stops. Our first stop is the Upper Patia Valley, a deep, arid valley where we can seek out species such as the near-endemic Bar-crested Antshrike and the adorable Spectacled Parrotlet amongst the xerophytic vegetation.
After lunch we will begin ascending towards the Old Besuaco road for species such as Carunculated Caracara, Barred Anthtrush, White-crested Elaenia, Red-hooded Tanager, and Tufted Tit-tyrant.
We arrive in time to settle into our accommodation, a cozy, Swiss-built hotel with fireplaces and spectacular views of the lagoon.
Lodging at Chalet Guamez.
We will spend the morning at the Paramo de Bordoncillo, not far from the hotel. A hike along the first portion of the trail will likely yield species such as Masked Mountain-tanager, Black Flowerpiercer, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Barred Fruiteater, Agile Tit-Tyrant, and Grass-green and Golden-crowned Tanagers.
The trail may be muddy and require rubber boots, but a chance to see both Rufous and Tawny Antpittas definitely makes it worthwhile.
After a morning of birding the first portion of the trail, there is an opportunity for those who wish to have a picnic lunch and brave the rest of the trail to try for the rare and uncommon Chestnut-bellied Cotinga. However, be warned that this will require a strenuous hike.
Others may wish to have lunch at the hotel and visit some of the local communities instead.
Lodging: Chalet Guamez
Today we will take a boat tour of the La Cocha Lagoon, scoping the waters for Andean Gull, Slate-colored Coot, Yellowbilled Pintail, Silvery Grebe, and Yellow-billed Pintail and paying attention overhead to the possibility of seeing Cinereous Harrier.
It is possible the marshy edges of the lagoon will produce species such as Sora, Virginia Rail, Subtropical Doradito , Cinereous Conebill, Plain-colored Seedeater, and Subtropical Doradito.
We will disembark at the El Encanto Andina Reserve for lunch and there you will have chances of both Green-tailed and Black tailed Trainbearers and Buff-winged Starfrontlet.
We will use the boat ride back to the docks to search for any of the species we may have missed in the morning.
Lodging: Hotel Guamez.
We will leave the hotel very early in order to be birding at sunrise after a one-hour drive, thus beginning our ascent down the 'trampoline of diversity'. A day of birding along the road may bring many surprises, as few birders have explored this pristine area.
Birding a busy road that is only one lane along various stretches comes with its challenges, so please be prepared to deal with traffic. We will do our best to avoid certain areas that may be dangerous, but be assured that we will encounter many goodies, including the handsome and near-endemic Golden-fronted Whitestart and the very local Deep-blue Flowerpiercer.
One of our main targets is the photogenic and cooperative White-rimmed Brush-finch, a species that is only found in Colombia and Ecuador.
Other species to have on the radar include Redheaded Barbet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager and Short-billed Bush-tanager.
We will bird our way to El Mirador and then descend down to Mocoa to settle into our downtown hotel for the next three nights.
Lodging: Hotel Suma Wasi
We will ascend from the busy town of Mocoa to El Mirador for amazing views of the Amazonian Piedmont at sunrise. Today we will again bird a busy road, so extreme care must be taken to be alert and stay together. The day will take us along a 1,400m (4,600 ft) altitudinal gradient with chances to see Yellow-throated Bush-tanager and three species of Tapaculo: Long-tailed, Spillman’s and Ocellated Tapaculo.
A packed lunch will allow us to bird all day in search of specialties such as Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Streaked Tufted-cheek, Green-fronted Lancebill, White-tailed Hillstar, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, and Handsome Flycatcher, among many others!
Lodging: Hotel Suma Wasi
The Rumiyaco sector lies at about 600m (2,000 ft) above sea level and offers great birding opportunities very close to Mocoa.
We will spend the morning birding the area in search of species such as the very common Violaceous Jay and Silver-beaked Tanager. We will also devote time to one of our main targets: Plum-throated Cotinga.
Lunch will be in town with some time for a short siesta until we return to the Rumiyaco area to seek out the rest of our targets, including Glittering-throated Emerald, Lettered and Chestnut-eared Aracari, Golden- bellied Euphonia, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Chestnut Woodpecker, and Orange-fronted Plushcrown.
Lodging: Hotel Suma Wasi
An early departure from Mocoa with luggage loaded in the bus will allow for some stops on the way to San Agustin. This is definitely the spot for beauties such as Orange-eared, Magpie and Paradise Tanagers, which are relatively common in this part of the Amazonian Piedmont.
The forests in this region have the ecological characteristics of both the Andes and the Amazon, demonstrating high levels of diversity, and as such they are considered as sites of interest for biological conservation and research.
It will take luck to find it, but one of the main targets will be the spectacularly coloured Plumthroated Cotinga.
Other species of interest at San Joaquin include Plain-backed Antpitta, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Lined Antshrike, Yellow-throated Toucan, Chestnut-eared Aracari and Wire-crested Thorntail.
After lunch we will continue on the Mocoa-Pitalito road, making several stops along the way to stretch our legs and do some birding, hoping to run into some exciting species on this seldomly explored road.
Once in Pitalito we will begin our ascent towards the town of San Agustin, crossing the Magdalena River at its narrowest width.
Lodging: Terrazas de San Agustin
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, San Agustin presents the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America and also provides nice habitat for some great birding.
The archaeological landscape hosts sculptures that resemble human figures with threatening, smiling or somber faces. But it also presents rather divine creatures - warriors armed with the clubs, round eyes or jaguars’ teeth of mythical heroes. Some seem to depict serenity and wisdom, others fear and darkness.
The Agustin culture dominated the area but who those people were, where they came from, what was the purpose of their gigantic sculptures and to what extent their culture was connected to other known cultures in the area at the time, remains unknown.
The main targets in the park are the endemic Dusky-headed Brush-finch and Colombian Chachalaca, as well as the near-endemic Spectacled Parrotlet and Bar-crested Antshrike.
Other specialties we will seek out include Blue-browed Tanager, Olivaceous Piculet, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Olivacious Piha and a migratory species that would sure be a treat to see at these latitudes, Cerulean Warbler.
Lodging: Terrazas de San Agustin
This will be a travel day to Cali, although we will be able to do some morning birding in the vicinity of San Agustin.
Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hilton
The end of our Amazon birding tour and a chance to reflect on a great two weeks of birding.
|Upper Magdalena Tapaculo|
|Alto Pisones Tapaculo|
What is included?
- All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
- Internal Flight (Pitalito - Cali)
- Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
- All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 17
- Snacks Throughout the Trip
- Entrances to Parks and Reserves
- Local Guides
- Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to
- Airport Drop-off
What is not included?
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Airfare to Colombia
- Items of Personal Nature
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 from start to finish.
One of the highlights of this tour is the fact that it ends at the brand new, stylish, world-class Araucana Lodge (www.araucanalodge.com), which we own and operate. The lodge offers farm to table meals and was designed specifically to meet the needs of nature travelers, with all the comforts you can imagine. Lodging will consist of 4 -star hotels in Cali and Popayan, a lovely boutique hotel in San Agustin, a Swiss-built lodge at La Cocha Lagoon and a basic 3-star hotel with air conditioning in Mocoa. We expect relative comfort, hot showers and excellent local food and provide a nice variety of snacks and purified or bottled drinking water available throughout the trip. Most 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). Some sites require use of 4x4 vehicles, in which case we use a Renault Duster or Toyota Land Cruiser. In some cases Jeep Willys are used.
This tour involves ground transportation, be it in a van or smaller 4X4 vehicle. In san Cirpiano, riding on train rails on a motorcycle-powered carts called a “bruijta” makes for an exhilarating ride! In La Cocha Lagoon, a boat ride is involved to get to one of the nature reserves.
We have the lowest group size in the industry with a maximum of 8 birders per group!
Yes, all airport transfers are included.
We very rarely have to change the tour leader, bus sometimes unforeseeable things happen. If we do, we will give you as much notice as we can.
Yes, single supplement for this tour is $650. We can most definitely cover a third person/family member and can offer a discount for triple occupancy.
Yes, all meals from breakfast on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 17 are included. We also include snacks and bottled water throughout the trip.
Rain can occur at any time in the Colombian Andes (rains are somewhat heavier in April and May and Sept to early Nov), but participants should expect some rain, regardless of the time of the trip, as the Colombian Andes, generally, receive fairly high rainfall. It is good to stay our of the Putumayo region during the rainy season, so good months are June to September and November to February.
We hope our travelers are able to walk 1 – 3 miles daily. This tour birds lightly travelled roads with support vehicles nearby except at the San Cipriano locality and there is one hike to the Andean-cock-of-the-rock lek that takes about 20 minutes each way, with steep terrain.
There is wi-fi in all hotels and lodges. PLease keep in mind that wi-fi in more rural is not always 100% reliable.
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). In the Putumayo Region we work closely with Alas Putumayo, an organization that promotes birding tourism in the Putumayo area. 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. We also work closely with Fundacion Ecotonos to promote the conservation of the Bosque de San Antonio in the vicinity of the Araucana Lodge.
Yes, just let us know!
Yes, but we suggest you purchase trip cancellation insurance and your own travel insurance or make sure your insurance covers you while travelling
A deposit of $1,000 USD (non-refundable) per person is due to confirm the trip 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 United States or by Credit Card (3% fee).
The tour can be rescheduled within 1 year (no additional fees).
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.
Packing List: Please note that this is a general packing list and is not all-inclusive. REFILLABEL 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, at least one lightweight, plus cool long pants and shorts • Four long-sleeved • 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 - for rain gear and water on walks • Plastic bags to put wet gear 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
Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia by Miles Mcmullan. R + N Editors, 2018. Birds of Colombia by Fernando Ayerbe Quinones. WCS, 2019.