This 22-day birding tour is one of our faster-paced tours and is designed to target many of Colombia’s most sought-after endemics. This program begins with a quest to find the endemics of the Pacific slope and the western and central Andes, moving on to the Holy Grail of endemics in Colombia: The Santa Marta Mountains. The highest coastal mountain on the planet has been identified as one of the most irreplaceable nature reserves on the planet and contains the highest concentration of threatened wildlife on Earth.
Guests will be picked up at the airport.
Lodging: Hotel Araucana
Today we spend the morning around the famous El 18, located on an 1800-meter (5,900-foot) pass 18 kilometers (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 to see Purplish-mantled, Summer, Beryl-spangles, Flame-rumped, Golden, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped tanagers as well as Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and
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 may see striking birds such as Greenand- black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted and Bluenaped Chlorophonia, the inconspicuous Goldenheaded Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops, and the noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet. We will also listen and search for species with
interesting calls and songs, like 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 to an afternoon visit to the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, which requires a 35 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 5 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 first day on the Anchicaya road will allow time to enjoy the upper portion of the road 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 will surely yield many highly prized species
Golden-collared Honeycreeper, White-whiskered Puffbird, Uniform Treehunter, Sooty-headed Wren, Green Thorntail and White-tailed Hillstar..
One of the main targets main targets is Toucan Barbet, sporting 5 different colors elegantly while still having a tough demeanor. 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 as this road rarely disappoints.
Lodging: Hotel EPSA Lodge
Birding again on this day is done along a lightly traveled road, but this time having the opportunity to explore the lower portion of the road. The “El Danubio” area is host to many interesting species, including the near endemics Rose-faced Parrot and Blacktipped Cotinga, Choco Trogon, Lita Woddpecker 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. Lunch on the road will provide for 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
The area is teeming with many of our friends with the word “ant” in their name, and if we are lucky enough to encounter an ant swarm the action can bring bird 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 road inconsequential. This night is spent at the Anchicaya Reserve, which is managed by a local
Lodging: Hotel EPSA Cabins
Birding this morning is done right from the EPSA hotel to the port city of Buenaventura, with two mega targets such as Slaty tailed Trogon and Five-colored Barbet. It seems like in this area everything is a target, and one doesn’t have to spend too much time to
find species such as White-whiskered Puffbird, Purplethroated Fruitcrow and Black-cheeked Woodpecker. With the high humidity and heat, it is best to have bagged species such as Pacific and Checker-throated Antwrens, Pacific Flatbill, Cinnamon Becard, Whiteringed Flycatcher, Blue-black Grosebeak, 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), one arrives in 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 the planet. 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 1,000 meters in elevation in the Cuaca Valley in preparation for some wetland birding the following day.
Lodging: Hotel Guadalajara de Buga
We will start early to take a 10-minute drive to this wetland gem. 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 less 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 riparian areas we may find Greater Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Crested and Yellowheaded 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
The Montezuma Lodge offers unsurpassed hospitality and magnificent feeders and birding right from the lodge, and boast a 13 km road of pristine forest that covers a 1,400-meter (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 he 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, Rufousthroated, and Golden-chested Tanagers. We will have a picnic lunch along the way to maximize our birding, allowing time to get after forest skullkers such as Alto Pisones and Spillman’s Tapaculos and Yellow-bellied
and Hooded Antpittas. A long day if birding will come with the reward of an exquisite home-cooked meal
and a good night’s sleep.
Lodging: Montezuma Lodge
The park never fails to provide, and seeking out Colombian endemics such as Gold-ringed Tanager and Chestnut Wood-quail can be exhilirating. 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 Fruit-eater, White-faced Nunbird, Glistening-green Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Linnetaed Foliagegleaner, Olivaceous Piha, and Indigo Flowerpiercer. River crossing will give us a chance for White-capped Dipper, and we won’t have to venture to 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 with 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
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 bananas in a semi-polite manner. Also, the kitchen staff sets 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 4-hour drive. We will drive through the city of Pereira, and wind along the Otun River, finally arriving at the
locally run and rustic lodge.
Lodging: Yarumo Blanco Cabins
We will rise predawn to look for Choco endemic Colombian Screech-Owl, and then continue birding at the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve right at the doorsteps 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 and cool climates found here. We will also be received by the sounds of Howler Monkeys and the endangered, endemic Cauca Guan, once believed to be extinct until 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, recently described Stiles’s Tapaculo – and near endemics, like Moustached Antpitta, the handsome Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and bright-colored Golden-fronted Whitestart. Other impressive birds we hope to find include Three-striped, Russet-crowned, and Canada Warblers, Masked Trogon, Green Jay, Andean Motmot, Bluenaped 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, touted as one of the three best birding sites in the world. Accommodations for the next two nights are rustic, but comfortable and clean, and with unsurpassed hospitality.
Lodging: Rio Blanco Lodge
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 seldom seen include Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush and Stripeheaded Brush-Finch. Additional species observed in Rio Blanco include the uncommon and endangered Rufous-fronted and Golden-plumed Parakeet sand the very rare and sought-after Masked Saltator.
The reserve get boasts many that we may encounter here include Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Goldenfronted 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
Today a chance to visit the reserve’s several wellmaintained 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 feet, where we can relax in its mineral-rich, medicinal hot springs and enjoy
scenic views of the central Andes.
Lodging: Hotel Termales del Ruiz
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 5,300-meter (17,400-foot) volcano Nevado del Ruiz. The scenery in Paramo is magical and surreal, with velvety Frailejon plants adding to this effect. Frailejon plants belong to the Espeletia genus and are endemic to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.
The tour reaches elevations up to 3,950 meters (13,000 feet), so it will be cold. Here the goal is to find species adapted to high elevations like 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
The morning is spent searching for any targets that may have been missed 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 two-kilometer 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 one may 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
We will rise early and spend the morning birding at Isla Salamanca National Park, 35 minutes from Barranquilla, where we will bird the newly rebuilt walkways through the mangroves in search of Saphire-throated Hummingbird, Bicolored Cpnebill, 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 2-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 for 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, Rufoustailed
Jacamar, Keel-billed Toucan, Masked Tityra, and Whooping Motmot.
The afternoon will have you birding through a vast altitudinal gradient, birding 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 Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-breasted
Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Black-backed Antshrike, the magnificently colored Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the attractive Rufous-capped Warbler.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
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 certainly scout for the endemic and recently described Santa Marta Screech-owl.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the wellmaintained 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 Fowerpiercer. We will spend some time trying to see Santa Marta Antpitta, a skullker that will definitely take some work. A day of birding near the lodge will have its rewards, a special treat being the near endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail that visit the lodges compost pile in the afternoon.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
We will spend the day birding the road en route to our beach-side hotel to enjoy the beautiful beaches. We will make stops to catch any birds we missed on the way up. We will spend one night at Finca Barlovento, an exquisite lodge right on the beach that is touted
as one of the best places to stay in Colombia.
Lodging: Maloka Barlovento
We will have a morning visit to the park, and if all things align for us, the Blue-billed Curassow could show up for us. Otherwise, this is a great place to see some species which we are not as likely to see elsewhere on the trip. One abundant bird that is easiest to see here than anywhere is the stunning Lance-tailed Manakin. Sometimes it can be found with its relative, the White-bearded Manakin. The birds here 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.
White-bellied Antbirds belt out their song from the understory if one is 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 or loud calls of Boat-billed and Streaked flycatchers. It is an active area, full of birds! Crimson-backed Tanagers and the gorgeous Redlegged Honeycreepers give a lot of color to the local flocks. While birding here it is common to see the Cottontop Tamarin, a gorgeous little monkey dwarfed by the less common White-fronted Capuchin. While our visit to Tayrona will be cursory, we will see a lot, and enjoy the company of our trained guides here who will have the pulse on where the birds are. The afternoon will be spent driving to Riohacha, with a stop at a known spot where Double-striped Thickknee are often seen. Our hotel is right on the beach.
Lodging: Hotel Taroa
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. But before you have a mistaken idea of a parched world, Los Flamencos is on the coast and it has shallow waterbodies that fill as the rains come,
and evaporate during the dry season. These evaporating ponds concentrate salt, and then brine shrimp bloom which brings in the namesake bird of the park – American Flamingos! Their numbers vary depending on water levels, but they can be here in the hundreds on a good day. If you have not had enough pink, how about the even brighter Scarlet Ibis? They concentrate here as well, with their very close relatives White Ibis. They 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 to be found at Los Flamencos.
Retreating to the forest though, one is quite surprised that a series of very attractive regional specialties are found here. The sole South American offshoot of what is really a North American group, the Vermilion Cardinal can be seen here. Nothing prepares you, even if you have backyard Northern Cardinals, for the strikin red of this species, the overdone crest and the very different look to its close relatives from the north. On the ground, a member of a group that is usually very drab and brown, may elicit “wows!” from the crowd – the White-whiskered Spinetail is one heck of a good looking Spinetail.
Pecking in the branches and trilling away is a tiny and colorful woodpecker, the Chestnut Piculet. Sure there are specialties that are more somber in tone, such as the Slender-billed Inezia (Tyrannulet), and White-tipped Inezia. A crowd favorite is the Russet-throated Puffbird (the Bobo or fool bird as the locals call it) who will just sit there, staring back at you as hard as you stare at it. In
a crowd of what tend to be relatively greenish or grayish and nondescript birds, the saltators, the uncommon Orinoco Saltator is quite a good looking bird. Don’t ask why there are so many good looking birds in this drab desert habitat, just enjoy these wonderful dry forest birds. AAfter lunch, flights from Riohacha to Cali or
Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hiltonin Cali or Grand
Plaza Hotel in Bogota
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?
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Airfare to Colombia