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Where Birds Dance - 15 Days

Where Birds Dance

One of our most popular tours, this 15-day birding tour is designed to highlight Colombia’s astounding avian diversity at a comfortable pace, taking time to enjoy the rich history, culture, and gastronomic traditions the central and Western Andes has to offer. Birdwatch Colombia believes they have struck the perfect balance with this exhilarating itinerary: From exploring the paramo ecosystems in the Los Nevados Park to the infamous Anchicaya Valley on the Pacific slope, to the pristine forests of the Montezuma Lodge. This tour packs in some of the best birding localities in Colombia without having to travel extremely long distances.

Day 1
Day 1 - Flights to Cali. Transfer to Buga

A representative will meet you at the airport for your transfer to the hotel (40 minutes)

Lodging: Hotel Guadlajara de Buga

Day 2
Day 2 - Sonso Lagoon and Drive to Montezuma Lodge

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

Day 3
Day 3 - Higher elevations of Tatama National Park

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

Day 4
Day 4 - Lower Elevations of Tatama National Park

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 Fruiteater, 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

Day 5
Day 5 - Montezuma Lodge and travel to Manizales

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.

Lodging: Hotel Varuna

Day 6
Day 6 - 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 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: Hotel Varuna

Day 7
Day 7 - Rio Blanco and Drive to Los Nevados NP

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

Day 8
Day 8 - Los Nevados National Park

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

Day 9
Day 9 - Los Nevados NP and drive to Otun Quimbaya Lodge

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 Palenaped Brush-Finch. After lunch we will head towards the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, a 2-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. The afternoon drive along the Otun River will be devoted to finding the infamous Torrent Duck.

Lodging: Yarumo Blanco Cabins

Day 10
Day 10 - Otun-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary and drive to Araucana Lodge

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.

After lunch at the lodge, the afternoon is spent driving back to Cali to the exquisite Araucana Lodge.

Lodging: Araucana Lodge

Day 11
Day 11 - The Infamous Km 18

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

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 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.

Lodging: Hotel La Araucana

Day 12
Day 12 - El Descanso Feeders and 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 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 it rarely disappoints. Depending on how low along the road we can make it, the lowers stretches can yield species such as 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.

Lodging: Araucana Lodge

Day 13
Day 13 - San Antonio Forest and Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek

We will spend the morning birding in the pristine cloud forest of the San Antonio Forest. Here we will may 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 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, Scale-crested Pygmytyrant, and the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher.

At 2 pm we will visit an active Andean Cock-of-therock lek for some close-up views of this magnificent bird’s display. This 25-minute hike will take us down a steep trail to their lek near the river. After the lek w will make our way back to the lodge.

Lodging: Araucana Lodge

Day 14
Day 14 - San Cipriano

After a two 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-tippe 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 2 hours back to the hotel.

Lodging: Araucana Lodge

Day 15
Day 15 - Depart Cali

What is included?

  • Professional Bilingual Bird Guide
  • All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
  • Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
  • All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 15
  • 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?

  • Insurance
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Airfare to Colombia
  • Laundry
  • Items of Personal Nature
  • Tips
Wildlife Reviews
5 stars
- based on 2  reviews
  1. Professional & comprehensive
    Bob Hasenick04 Mar 2017







    We've have done several trips with Chris and his guides, and are very pleased with the guides, lodging, meals and transport. The small groups are very helpful when seeking shy species & taking photos. The trips are fun and net many new species each trip.
  2. Birding the West Andes/Choco
    Tim Fitzpatrick01 Feb 2017







    Excellent guiding, well-organized, attentive. Will use them again!

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15 Days

Price & Availability

USD4,600 / per person
This tour is operated by: Colombia Birdwatch

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Operator Review Summary

4.9 Based on 23 reviews