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Santa Marta Mountains and Caribbean - 12 Days

Santa Marta Mountains and Caribbean
3700

12-day bird watching tourshowcasing Santa Marta Mountains, Caribbean Coast and Perija Range Endemics. Colombia is known as the holy grail of birding, and the Santa Marta mountains are the mecca of birding in Colombia. With 22 endemics, the highest coastal mountain range on the planet is truly a birder’s paradise. In addition, birding the coastal forests in the lowlands and the Perija mountains will surely boost your list!

Day 1
Day 1 - Arrive in Barranquilla

Depending on your arrival time to Barranquilla, an afternoon of birding in search for the endemic Chestnut- winged Chachalaca is possible near town. This is one of the most attractive Chachalacas in Colombia and possibly all of South America. The dry forests in

the outskirts of town will also provide opportunities for species such as the very photogenic Russet-throated Puffbird and the common Brown-throated Parakeet.

Lodging: Hotel Barranquilla Plaza.

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 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.

Lodging: Hotel Sierras Sound

Day 3
Day 3 - Minca to El Dorado Lodge

This day will have us 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

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: 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

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

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

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

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: Finca Barlovento

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

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 Thick-kneee are often seen. Our hotel is right on the beach.

Lodging: Hotel Taroa

Day 8
Day 8 - Los Flamencos National Park and drive to Perija Lodge

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 striking 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. After lunch we will spend the afternoon driving to the Perija Lodge

Lodging: Perija Reserve Lodge

Day 9
Days 9 & 10 - Perija Reserve

The Sierra de Perijá is like 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. Much of Colombia suffered from the internal strife that lingered here for decades, and Perijá was a final stronghold. Yet since 2009, the area has been clear of any political problems, and only now are birders beginning to venture to this amazing set of endemic rich mountains. A new birding lodge, ProAves’s Chamizero del Perijá Reserve started receiving tourists in May of 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 has been out of reach for birders and

scientists for decades until now, and even a cursory visit to the area finds that many common species, such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local Rufous Spinetail version of breasted Brushfinch are in fact certainly endemic species! And these are the common ones, many new discoveries await as birders and biologists increase their visits to Perijá. There is a spinetail here that could be a new species, it is little known, and so far a resolution of what it is has not been reached. Talk about exciting. It may not eventually rival Santa Marta in the number of endemics, but it will come close once taxonomy is updated for these birds. This is a unique area, still being discovered, and not only that but it is gorgeous and wonderful to be in. The morning views across the valley to the Sierra Nevada are breathtaking. Other birds here include Crested and Golden-headed Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, Buffbreasted Mountain-Tanager. A unique looking form of Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager is common in thehigher 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 here, and with luck White-rumped Hawk or even Black-and-chestnut Eagle may fly through. The road that reaches the reserve continues into Páramo habitats, where Rufous-breasted Chattyrants

abound, and Páramo Seedeater may be found as well as many Tyrian Metaltail and fewer of the stunningly purple-tailed,endemic Perijá Metaltail. The ability to move from Montane Forest to Páramo, and then down to foothill subtropical areas will give us more

than enough to look at. This area is right on the cusp of discovery, and now is the time to go. Who knows you may be in on a new species! You never know.

Lodging: Perija Reserve Lodge

Day 10
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

Day 11
Day 12 - Depart Bogota

What is included?

  • Internal Airfare
  • 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
  • Local Guides
  • Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to
  • Airport Drop-off

What is not included?

  • Insurance
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Laundry
  • Airfare to Colombia
  • Tips
Wildlife Reviews
4.93 stars
- based on 5  reviews
  1. Western Andes, Santa Marta
    John and Daryl Thaw10 Jan 2018
    4.67
    Overall

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    Value

    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!
  2. Repeat customer
    Alison Van Keuren30 Nov 2017
    5
    Overall

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    Value

    Chris, the guides and drivers are top notch and most welcoming.
  3. Family birding Central and Western Andes and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
    Olivier Langrand, Fanja Andriamialisoa, Tahiry and Sariaka Langrand25 Jun 2018
    5
    Overall

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    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.
  4. Excellent experience with Chris and company
    James D Lubitz30 Nov 2017
    5
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    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.
  5. Colombia Birdwatch
    Richard Fenner04 Dec 2017
    5
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    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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12 Days

Price & Availability

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USD3,700 / per person
This tour is operated by: Colombia Birdwatch

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Operator Review Summary

4.9 Based on 23 reviews
Tours
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