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Endemic Colombia Birding Tour - 22 Days

Endemic Colombia Birding Tour
6450

Colombia Birding: Sought-after Endemics

This 22-day Colombia birding tour is one of our faster paced tours, designed to target many of Colombia’s most sought-after endemics. The itinerary begins with a quest to find the endemics of the Pacific slope and the western and central Andes. The Old Buenaventura Road which descends from the western Andes to the Pacific Ocean along the Anchicaya River watershed is one of Colombia’s newest destinations to open up to birding. The birding along this gradient of insurmountable diversity is such that it inspired Steve Hilty to start work on Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia, the first ornithological field guide for South America. At the Montezuma Lodge in the Choco Bioregion, a biodivesity hotspot, chances for the endemic Gold-ringed Tanager and Munchique Wood-wren, as well
as the recently discovered Tatama Tapaculo. Montezuma is revered as one of the best birding sites in Colombia, specially if you are in the hunt for Choco endemics such as Black Solitaire, Violet-tailed Sylph and Orange-breasted Fruiteater. More sites are visited in the central andes, like Rio Blanco and Los Nevados National Park, before moving on to the most sought after location for endemics in Colombia: the Santa Marta Mountains. The highest coastal mountain on Earth has been identified as an irreplaceable nature reserve containing the world's highest concentration of threatened wildlife.

Tour Highlights

  • 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.
  • Enjoy the festival of tanagers in the Anchicaya Watershed, including Scarlet-and-white, Golden-chested, and Gray-and-gold.
  • Ride the rails through pristine forests at the San Cipriano Reserve.
  • See 5 species of antpittas at the feeders in Rio Blanco Reserve.
  • Seek out some of the rarest species in Colombia at the Montezuma Lodge, including Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-wren and Gold-ringed Tanager.
  • Stay at the stylish Araucana Lodge, owned and operated by Colombia Birdwatch and specially designed for birders.
  • Visit the surreal paramo ecosystem where you will bird above 3,500m in search of the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest.
  • Bird the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home to more than a quarter of the country’s endemics and a must for any Colombia Birding Tour.
  • Visit the dry forests of mythical Guajira peninsula in Northern Colombia in search of Vermilion Cardinal, Scarlet Ibis and Tocuyo Sparrow.

If you are looking for a shorter, more leisurely tour we recommend our tour that is based from the Araucana Lodge (www.araucanalodge.com), they suggest checking out the https://www.blueskywildlife.com/tour/araucana-colombia-birding-lodge/

Day 1
Day 1 - Arrive in Cali

Guests will be picked up at the airport.

Lodging: Hotel Araucana

Day 2
Day 2 - The famous Km 18 and Cock-of-the-Rock lek

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

Day 3
Day 3 - El Descanso feeders and Upper Anchicaya Watershed

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.

Lodging: Hotel EPSA Lodge

Day 4
Day 4 - Lower Anchicaya Watershed

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

Day 5
Day 5 - Pacific Lowlands to Buenaventura

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

Day 6
Day 6 - San Cipriano and drive to Buga

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

Buenaventura.

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 to the city of Buga at 1,000m in elevation in the Cuaca Valley, in preparation for some wetland birding the following day.

Lodging: Hotel Guadalajara de Buga

Day 7
Day 7 - Sonso Lagoon and Drive to Montezuma Lodge

We will start early to take a 10-minute drive to the wetland gem of Sonso Lagoon. It is one of the only remaining wetlands in the Cauca Valley and is teeming with birds, making it one of Colombia’s best wetland birding locations. Here we will search the marshes and lagoons that line the Cauca River for Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Roseate Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Anhinga, Little Blue, Cocoi, and Striated herons, Snowy Egret, Black-necked Stilt and Snail Kite.

We are likely to find Wattled Jacana, which have a polyandry mating system, where females mate with many males within a breeding season. Polyandry is a fascinating adaptation that occurs in fewer than 1% of birds and is most common in shorebirds.

Other interesting species we might spot include the endemics Apical Flycatcher and Grayish Piculet, Jet Antbird, Blackish Rail, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, and Horned Screamer.

Along the riparian areas we may find Greater Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara, Red-crowned and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, and Cocoa Woodcreeper. Greater Anis are fascinating because two to four unrelated pairs form a nesting group that build a single nest in which all the females lay their eggs and raise the young communally.

Lunch is at the hotel with time to prepare for a 5-hour drive to the Montezuma Lodge, which will require a transfer to 4x4 vehicles.

Lodging: Montezuma Lodge

Day 8
Day 8 - Higher elevations of Tatama National Park

The Montezuma Lodge offers unsurpassed hospitality and magnificent feeders and birding right from the lodge, and boasts a 13 km road of pristine forest that covers a 1,400m (4,500 ft) altitudinal gradient. A very early start will have us at the top of the hill by sunrise, in hopes of making the best out of a long day of birding.

Our targets at the higher elevation are the endemics Munchique Wood-wren and Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, which should be easy to see in the open areas of the top of the hill.

The long descent will provide opportunities for some nice species, including Flame-faced Tanager, Glossy-black Thrush, Barred Fruiteater, Tanager Finch, and Black-and-gold, Rufous-throated, and Golden-chested Tanagers.

We will have a picnic lunch along the way to maximise our birding, allowing time to get after forest skulkers such as Alto Pisones and Spillman’s Tapaculos and Yellow-bellied and Hooded Antpittas.

A long day of birding will end with the reward of an exquisite home-cooked meal and a good night’s sleep.

Lodging: Montezuma Lodge

Day 9
Day 9 - Lower Elevations of Tatama National Park

The Tatama National Park never fails to provide, and seeking out Colombian endemics such as Gold-ringed Tanager and Chestnut Wood-quail can be exhilarating.

If the weather is on our side we will have fantastic views of Cerro Tatama, with hopes of running into species such

as the endemic Beautiful Jay, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-faced Nunbird, Glistening-green Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Linnetaed Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Piha, and Indigo Flowerpiercer.

A river crossing will give us a chance of White-capped Dipper, and we won’t have to venture too far from the lodge to have chances for Toucan Barbet, Black Solitaire, Choco Vireo and the beautiful Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.

We will arrive at the lodge in time to scope out the hummingbird feeders for visitors such as Violettailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, White-tailed Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, and the near-endemic Purple-throated Woodstar.

Lodging: Montezuma Lodge

Day 10
Day 10 - Montezuma Lodge and travel to Otun-Quimbaya

After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the banana feeders where Silver-throated Tanager, Buffthroated Saltator, and Golden-naped Tanagers take turns at the fruit in a semi-polite manner. Also, the kitchen staff put out maize for a population of Blackish Rail that live in a nearby wetland, affording great views of this usually hard-to-see bird.

After lunch we will head towards the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, a four-hour drive through the city of Pereira and winding along the Otun River to finally arrive at our accommodation, a locally run and rustic lodge.

Lodging: Yarumo Blanco Cabins

Day 11
Day 11 - Otun-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

We will rise predawn to look for Choco endemic Colombian Screech-Owl, and then continue birding at the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, which is right on the doorstep of our hotel.

The Otun-Quimbaya Reserve is a flora and fauna sanctuary located on the west slope of the Central Cordillera and is home to the Wax Palm, the tallest palm in the world and the national tree of Colombia. These palms, unlike most other species of palm, thrive at high altitudes in the cool climates found there.

We will be greeted by the sounds of Howler Monkeys and the endangered, endemic Cauca Guan, once believed to be extinct until the rediscovery of a population in 1990.

Otun-Quimbaya is also one of the best places in the world to observe Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. We will search for endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail and recently described Stiles’s Tapaculo – and near endemics such as Moustached Antpitta, the handsome Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and brightly coloured Golden-fronted Whitestart.

Other impressive birds we hope to find include Three-striped, Russet-crowned, and Canada Warblers, Masked Trogon, Green Jay, Andean Motmot, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and Orange-bellied Euphonia.

We will also look for Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet,

Marble-faced and Variegated Bristle-tyrants, and Glossy and Masked Flowerpiercers.

The afternoon drive along the Otun River will be devoted to finding the infamous Torrent Duck. En route to Manizales, a 3.5-hour drive, a stop at a roadside lake may yield more aquatic species for the list including Pied-billed Grebe and Ruddy Duck.

The next two nights are spent at the Rio Blanco Reserve, 30 minutes from Manizales, which has been touted as one of the three best birding sites in the world.

Accommodation for the next two nights is rustic but comfortable and clean, and with unsurpassed hospitality.

Lodging: Rio Blanco Lodge

Day 12
Day 12 - Rio Blanco

The Rio Blanco Reserve is owned by Aguas de Manizales, the local water company, and is situated along an altitudinal gradient, therefore including a wide variety of ecosystems. We could possibly observe five antpitta species at feeders located within a short hike from the lodge, including the endemic and endangered Brown-banded, and the elusive Bicolored, Chestnut-crowned, Chestnut-naped, and Slate Crowned Antpittas.

Other feeder visitors that can be sometimes hard to see include Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch.

Additional species observed in Rio Blanco include the uncommon and endangered Rufous-fronted and Golden-plumed Parakeets and the very rare and sought-after Masked Saltator.

The reserve boasts many interesting species that we may encounter, including Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Dusky Piha, Lachrymose and Buffbreasted Mountain-tanagers, showy Grass-green and White-capped Tanagers, Powerful Woodpecker, and the hard to see Ocellated, Blackish, and Spillman’s Tapaculos.

Other less common species that are possible are Long-tailed Black-billed Peppershrike, the handsome Plushcap, Red-hooded Tanager, Mountain Cacique, and the endangered Golden-plumed Parakeet.

Lodging: Rio Blanco Lodge

Day 13
Day 13 - Rio Blanco and Drive to Los Nevados NP

Today there's a chance to visit the reserve’s several well-maintained hummingbird feeders that attract a great variety of hummingbirds. We hope to see Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Mountain Velvetbreast, the tiny, slow-flying White-bellied Woodstar, and the showy Long-tailed Sylph.

In the afternoon we will drive up the mountain to spend two nights at Hotel Termales del Ruiz, at 11,000 ft, where we can relax in mineral-rich, medicinal hot springs and enjoy scenic views of the central Andes.

Lodging: Hotel Termales del Ruiz

Day 14
Day 14 - Los Nevados National Park

Today we will explore Los Nevados National Park, located on the highest part of the Colombian central Andes. We will wind through patches of forest that open up to paramo, an ecosystem of tropical grasslands above the treeline, toward the picturesque 5,300m (17,400 ft) volcano, Nevado del Ruiz.

The scenery in paramo is magical, with the velvety Frailejon plants adding to the surreal effect. Frailejon plants belong to the Espeletia genus and are endemic to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

The tour reaches elevations up to 3,950m (13,000 ft), so it will be cold. Here the goal is to find species adapted to high elevations, such as the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest and the near-endemic Rainbowbearded Thornbill, both of which sometimes forage on the ground.

Also possible are Viridian Metaltail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, the beautiful Golden-crowned Tanager, near-endemic Black-backed Bush-Tanager, and Glossy Flowerpiercer.

We may also find a variety of seedeaters in the paramo, including Plumbeous Sierra-Finch plus Paramo and Plain-colored Seedeaters.

Lodging: Hotel Termales del Ruiz

Day 15
Day 15 - Los Nevados National Park and flight to Barranquilla

The morning is spent searching for any targets that may have been missed the previous day and enjoying the hummingbird feeders at the hotel. There is also a chance to look for the very rare and endangered endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet along a 2km stretch of road that passes through elfin forest, an ecosystem of dwarfed plants. We also hope to spot the very tame Tawny Antpitta, a common companion in this area.

On the drive down to the Pereira airport the road passes by some interesting spots, including a glacial lake, Laguna Negra, where you can find goodies such as Many-striped Canastero, White-tailed Hawk, the rare Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Andean or Ruddy Duck, Andean Teal, Grass or Sedge Wren, and Pale-naped Brush-Finch.

The afternoon is spent flying to Barranquilla.

Lodging: Hotel Barranquilla Plaza

Day 16
Day 16 - Isla Salamanca and Drive to El Dorado

We will rise early and spend the morning birding at Isla Salamanca National Park, 35 minutes from Barranquilla, where we will follow 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 specialties.

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 to have our lunch where Rufous-breasted Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, the near-endemic Redbilled 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, RufoustailedJacamar, Keel-billed Toucan, Masked Tityra, and Whooping Motmot.

The afternoon will have you birding through a vast altitudinal gradient, at 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, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, the recently described Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Black-backed Antshrike, the magnificently coloured Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the attractive Rufous-capped Warbler.

Lodging: El Dorado Lodge

Day 17
Day 17 - El Dorado Lodge to Cerro Kennedy

We will rise early and head up to higher elevations, towards Cerro Kennedy, in search of these endemics: Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, Santa Marta 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 Santa Marta 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 Santa Marta Screech-owl.

Lodging: El Dorado Lodge

Day 18
Day 18 - 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 Santa Marta Brush-finch and also the endemic Colombian brushfinch, and the many flowers in the garden attract White-sided and Black Flowerpiercer.

We will spend some time trying to see Santa Marta Antpitta, a skullker that will definitely take some work to find.

A day of birding near the lodge will have its rewards, a special treat being the near-endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail that visits the lodge's compost pile in the afternoon.

Lodging: El Dorado Lodge

Day 19
Day 19 - 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: Maloka Barlovento

Day 20
Day 20 - 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 21
Day 21 - Los Flamencos National Park and drive to Santa Marta to catch flights to Bogota.

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.

A Santa Marta 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,

After lunch, we will take flights from Riohacha to Cali or Bogota.

Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hilton in Cali, or the Grand

Plaza Hotel in Bogota

Day 22
Day 22 - Depart Cali or Bogota

The end of this amazing 22-day endemic Colombia birding tour and a chance to reflect on your long list of Colombian specialities.

Chestnut-winged Chachalaca
Colombian Chachalaca
Cauca Guan
Blue-billed Curassow
Chestnut Wood-Quail
Santa Marta Screech-Owl
 Santa Marte Blossomcrown
Violet-tailed Sylph
Black-backed Thornbill
White-tailed Starfrontlet
Dusky Starfrontlet
Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird
Grayish Piculet
Santa Marta Parakeet
Rufous-fronted Parakeet
Parker’s Antbird
Santa Marta Antbird
Santa Marta Antpitta
Brown-banded Antpitta
Santa Marta Tapaculo
Nariño Tapaculo
Brown-rumped Tapaculo
Spillmann’s Tapaculo
Paramo Tapaculo
Alto Pisones Tapaculo (Tatama Tapaculo)
Stile’s Tapaculo
Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner
Rusty-headed Spinetail
Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant
Apical Flycatcher
Munchique Wood-Wren
Santa Marta Wood-Wren
“Bangs’ Wood-Wren”
Santa Marta Warbler
White-lored Warbler
Yellow-crowned Redstart
Black-and-gold Tanager
Gold-ringed Tanager
Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager
Multicolored Tanager
Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer
Sierra Nevada Brush-Finch
Santa Marta Brush-Finch
Crested Ant-Tanager

What is included?

  • Internal Airfare: Pereira-Barranquilla, Riohacha- Bogota OR Riohacha-Cali
  • Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
  • Snacks Throughout the Trip
  • Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 22
  • All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
  • Entrances to Parks and Reserves
  • Full time regional guide form Day 1 to Day 22.
  • Local guides at many of the sites visited.
  • Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to Airport Drop-off. No Transport on Day 22

What is not included?

  • Insurance
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Airfare to Colombia
  • Laundry
  • Tips
Wildlife Reviews
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- based on 6  reviews
  1. An Excellent Birding Tour with Colombia Birdwatch
    Alvin Hamm24 Jan 2020
    5
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    Ours was a partially customized tour. First, an eight day Araucana Lodge-based tour to a variety of birding sites. A group of 4 of us did this segment. This was followed by just 2 of us traveling over six additional days to three additional birding destinations: Sonso Lagoon, Rio Blanco Reserve, and Tatama National Park (Montezuma Lodge). Everything went well. Saw loads of birds. The two birding guides we had were very good. Thank you, Colombia Birdwatch!
  2. Another Great Birding Trip to Colombia
    Margaret Leonard01 Dec 2019
    5
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    This was a brilliant trip to amazing and remote destinations. The weather, birds and guides were so accommodating! The only bumpy spots were the roads and logistics. These remote areas were difficult to access and long drives were required. We thought it was well worth the effort!
  3. Total 5 Star Experience
    Jaye Rykunyk01 Jul 2018
    5
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    This was a total 5 star experience from the first day. My birding partner and I arrive two days before the "official" start of the tour. Christopher arranged for us to take a tour of Cali and then took us on another full day of birding. The accommodations were excellent wherever we stayed, although a number of the locations were far off the beaten path. Our guide, Giancarlo was excellent. He was great at finding the birds and the local guides who joined us added a great dimension to the experience. Finding the birds in some locations is hard work, but totally rewarding. Fortunately, it is interspersed with easy birding at feeder spots to give you a welcome break. If you are a serious birder, want to see hundreds of birds (our count was 376) and have a totally great experience, this is the tour for you!
  4. Endemics Tour Is a Winner!
    Vicki and Jim King15 Nov 2018
    5
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    My husband and I have birded in Peru in the past. Now that it is safe to bird in Colombia, we knew we wanted to go birding there, too. We like to use a local company on international trips so I went shopping online. Eventually, I found Colombia BirdWatch and we were intrigued by the 22-day Endemics Tour. Before deciding, I contacted multiple references provided by Chris Calonje, owner of Colombia Birdwatch. The glowing responses we received made the decision for us. Once we had signed on for the trip, Chris was always quick to respond to any questions we had. Giancarlo Ventolini and Juan Lopez were our guides and drivers for the first two weeks of the tour which took us to a number of Colombia's premier birding areas: The Anchicaya Valley, Western and Central Andes and the Cauca Valley. Both of them have amazingly sharp ears and eyes, really know the birds and the areas, and were dedicated to having all of us see the birds. But, more than that, they were friendly and delightful companions. We also appreciated how well they speak English, since we do not speak Spanish, and thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and learning about Colombia as we traveled between destinations. We saw virtually all of the target species and so many more. When we flew north to the Santa Marta area, the excellent Angel Ortiz guided the last six days of the tour that took us to El Dorado in the Santa Marta Mountains, Los Flamencos National Park, Isla Salamanca, and Tayrona National Park. It takes a lot of hours each day to see as many birds as we did -- on the trip as a whole, more than 535 species! Our guides organized the time well and always put our needs and comfort first. Our accommodations were clean and comfortable, interesting, and occasionally even luxurious given the remote areas we were traveling in. The 4x4 vehicles did a good job of tackling the rough roads. In sum, we are so glad we signed on for Colombia BirdWatch's Endemics Tour and loved the whole experience: the knowledgeable and caring guides; the beautiful birds; the exquisite forests and varied ecosystems; and the friendly people. We can confidently recommend the Colombia BirdWatch team to anyone who wants a first-rate birding experience and appreciates value for money spent.
  5. Adventure
    Daniel J. Torlone06 Jun 2017
    5
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    My trip to Colombia, organized and guided by Colombia Bird Watch, was a magical, perfect experience. We experienced the beauty of Colombia, in the countryside as well as in its vibrant cities. Accommodations were consistently aesthetically appealing, comfortable, clean, and safe. The transport was flawless and our guides were personable and professional. The guides went above and beyond anything I had expected. I could not have asked for a more fulfilling trip. Thanks, Dan Torlone
  6. A Wonderful Introduction to Guided Birding
    Chip Scialfa29 Nov 2017
    4.5
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    This was the first long, guided trip I had done with a commercial company and I couldn't have picked better folks. The trip was comfortable, well-managed, productive, educational and, I think, well worth the cost. I'd do it again...if there weren't so many other places to visit. P.S. I was in Colombia in early January, 2017.

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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 from start to finish.

What sort of accommodation and vehicles do you supply?

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. Your first night is spent at the lovely, colonial Hotel Guadalajara de Buga and the Hotel Termales del Ruiz in the paramo ecosystems has some amazing hot-springs. Seven nights are spent at the basic but charming and comfortable Otun Quimbaya, Montezuma, and Rio Blanco Nature Reserves. In the Caribbean, This tour features two Conservation Alliance (Proaves) lodges in remote areas, the world-class El Lodge and the more basic Perija Lodge. In 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. There is a river near the lodge at Montezuma, a pool at the hotel in Buga, so pack your swim wear! Our hotel in Los Nevados has natural hot springs, but be advised it is situated at 11,000 feet in elevation. 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.

What forms of travel are involved in this tour?

This tour involves ground transportation, be it in a van or smaller 4X4 vehicle. In The San Cipriano, riding on train rails on a motorcycle-powered carts called a “bruijta” makes for an exhilarating ride! This tour also includes several internal flights which are included in the price of the tour. This tour also involves three internal flights, each one less than one hour (included in price).

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

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.

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

Yes, single supplement for this tour is $900. 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 22 are included. We also include snacks and bottled water throughout the trip.

When is the best time to travel and why?

This tour is great year-round. 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. However, this does not impact the quality of the birding.

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

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.

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

There is wi-fi in all hotels and lodges except for Otun Quimbaya. PLease keep in mind that wi-fi is only available in common areas in some places and that in more rural areas the connection is not always 100% reliable.

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. We also work closely with Fundacion Ecotonos to promote the conservation of the Bosque de San Antonio in the vicinity of the Araucana Lodge.

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.

How do I pay, and what are the terms, for this tour?

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).

What happens if I need to change my tour?

The tour can be rescheduled within 1 year (no additional fees)

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. 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

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
15/11/2020 - 06/12/2020 available USD 6,450
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15/11/2021 - 06/12/2021 available USD 6,450
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15/11/2022 - 06/12/2022 available USD 6,450
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22 Days

Price & Availability

From
USD6,450 / per person
Based on twin/double room
This tour is operated by: Colombia Birdwatch

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Operator Review Summary

4.92 Based on 28 reviews
Tours
Wildlife
Guides
Conservation
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Value

Tour Facts

  • THE ANCHICAYA ROAD, WESTERN AND CENTRAL ANDES MOUNTAINS, CAUCA VALLEY, SANTA MARTA MOUNTAINS AND CARIBBEAN
  • Set Departure
  • Multi-Day Tour
  • Birds
  • Maximum 8 Pax
  • 22 Days / 21 Nights
  • Throughout The Year
  • Challenging
  • Alfonso Bonilla Aragon in Cali (CLO)
  • El Dorado in Bogota (BOG)