Tour Dates: Tuesday 1st – Friday 11th November 2022 (Quito to Quito)
Tour Price: £3,999pp plus international flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Quita approx. £700 return
Deposit: £450 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £200 – £275
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people
Mammals: Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, Andean Fox, Andean White-tailed Deer
Birds: Andean Condor, Torrent Duck, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Giant Antpitta, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Masked Mountain Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Giant Conebill, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Saphirewing, Shining Sunbeam, Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Long-tailed Sylph, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Black-capped Hemispingus, Spectacled Whitestart, Inca Jay and Northern Pearled Treerunner are just some of the many species we should see!
This new tour gives a great introduction to the birds and mammals of Ecuador with a particular focus on looking for two very special mammals, the Spectacled Bear and the Mountain Tapir.
After our first night in Quito, we then spend five nights in the subtropical forests in north-western Ecuador to search for an impressive variety of hummingbirds, tanagers and antpittas as well as a good chance of seeing the recently discovered Olinguito. We then head to the the east of Quito and the well known thermal hot springs of Papallacta where we will explore the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve. Here we will focus our time on trying to see Spectacled Bear and Mountain Tapir. We will also have a night at another nearby lodge where we will finish the tour looking for some of the iconic birds to be found in this part of the Andes like Andean Condor, Torrent Duck and Sword-billed Hummingbird.
ACCOMMODATION: 10 nights in Ecuador
Good quality hotels and lodges throughout the tour
1 night Quito, 2 nights Bellavista Cloudforest Lodge, 1 night Mindo and 5 nights Papallacta and 1 night Guango Lodge
Inclusive Meals: Full board
DAY 1: Arrival Quito
On arrival into Quito during the evening we will then transfer to a nearby hotel to rest before travelling to the Cloud forest the following day. Overnight Quito
DAY 2: Quito – Bellavista Cloudforest Lodge
After breakfast we will drive out of Quito and cross the western ridge of the Andes, dropping down onto the Pacific slope and along the Tandayapa road. We will be heading for Bellavista Cloudforest Lodge and we should arrive in time for lunch, though we are sure to be distracted by the hummingbird feeders on the way to the restaurant. Here, we should see Violet-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, Brown Violetear as well as the truly delightful Booted Racket-tail and impressive Gorgeted Sunangel.
After lunch we will explore the trails and the bird feeders for more species, though we are unlikely to travel very far as there will simply be too many distractions along the way! Just some of the species we may see include Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Masked Trogon, Beautiful Jay, Golden-headed Quetzal and of course numerous tanagers such as Flame-faced, Golden, Silver-throated, and Beryl-spangled.
After dinner we will spend time looking for the recently discovered Olinguito which often visits the bird feeders at night. This small carnivorous South American mammal in the raccoon family. Amazingly, the species was discovered only decades after being regularly seen and even publicly exhibited by people, before it was recognised as a new species. The animal had previously been confused with its taxonomic cousins, the Olingos. Now, the discovery of the Olinguito has solved the mystery.
Overnight Bellavista Lodge
DAY 3: Bellavista Lodge – Refugio Paz de Las Aves
This morning we will be up very early as we head out to the famous Refugio Paz de Las Aves, a forest reserve run by a local family passionate about wildlife. This amazing nature reserve is a 50 minute drive away on the western foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes and one of the best places in the world to see the amazing Andean Cock-of-the Rock lek. The luminous orange males gather to impress the females and the noises they make are quite incredible! The other reason to visit this amazing place is due to the amazing number of habituated Antpittas that can be seen, including the impressive Giant Antpitta! Usually known for the extreme skulking habits, these birds have been habituated to visit worm feeding areas and it is not unusual to see 3 or 4 species of Antpitta which may include Giant, Moustached, Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted or Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Of course we will see plenty of other great birds here too.
We will return to Bellavista for lunch and then either spend the afternoon simply enjoying the bird feeders or explore another trail to increase our bird list. Once again, the number of possible species are endless but may include Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Slate-throated Whitestart, Golden-naped Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet and many more!
Again, after dinner we will focus our efforts on trying to see Olinguito as well as chances for Common Potoo or Cinnamon Screech Owl. Overnight Bellavista Lodge
DAYS 4: Bellavista – Mindo
After some pre-breakfast birding around the lodge grounds we will slowly drive down towards the village of Mindo and our hotel where we will spend the night. We will visit various bird feeders both within the hotel gardens and nearby and at the end of the day we will have seen a great variety of birds. These will include a good selection of hummingbirds, tanagers, euphonias and barbets. We also hope to find species such as fruiteaters, chlorophonias, motmots, toucans and the impressive Golden-headed Quetzal! Overnight Mindo
DAY 5: Mindo – Papallacta
Today we will leave early and take a leisurely drive back to Quito and cross onto the eastern ridge of the Andes. En route we will look out for species such as Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Viridian Metaltail before arriving at our wonderful accommodation for the next five nights at Papallacta. We will then meet our extremely knowledgeable local guide who has been working very hard to conserve Spectacled Bears and Mountain Tapirs in this region. Our first afternoon will be spent looking for these wonderful mammals. Overnight Papallacta Hot Springs
DAYS 6 – 9: Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve
Over the next four days we will have time to explore the wild grassland bogs of Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve. The habitat above Papallacta can seem quite stark consisting of tall boggy grasslands and due to its higher elevation, it is often quite wet. However, this is a very special area and one that both Spectacled Bears and Mountain Tapirs frequently use to feed, travel through and rest. The forest patches at the edge of the grassland will be the areas that we will focus on and where we will spend the first and last few hours of each day patiently scanning with the essential help and wealth of knowledge from our local guide.
As with all mammal watching, it is an endurance test and one that usually pays off with perseverance, despite the usually damp environment!
Whilst scanning the high Paramo for these two special mammals we are also likely to see a number of new birds for the trip which may include, Andean Condor, Carunculated Caracara, Andean Gull, Black-tailed Trainbearer, and Southern Yellow-Grosbeak. If the weather is clear, we will have spectacular views of the snow-capped Antisana Volcano.
We will be very much guided by our local guide on a daily basis as to which particular areas we visit each day and we will try and vary the sites as much as possible. Dependent on weather and our success with the mammals, we also hope to give some time looking for many of the other speciality birds found in this habitat. In particular we will try for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, and White-chinned Thistletail. Overnight Papallacta Hot Springs
DAY 10: Papallacta – Guango Lodge
This morning we will have one last early morning to try for Spectacled Bear and Mountain Tapir if we need to before we take the very short transfer to our final night at Guango Lodge. We will arrive in time for lunch where we can enjoy the hummingbird feeders. We should see a number of new species here including Tourmaline Sunangel, White-bellied Woodstar, Long-tailed Sylph, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and the most impressive of all, the jaw dropping Sword-billed Hummingbird! The lodge is situated beside a river which often has Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper which will certainly keep us occupied for the rest of the afternoon. Overnight Guango Lodge
DAY 11: Guango Lodge – Quito
Today we will spend the morning birding near the lodge where we will add to our growing bird list looking for mixed flocks and impressive species like Lacrimose and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Blue-and-black Tanager and Black-capped Hemispingus. Of course, we will still have plenty of time to try again for Torrent Duck if needed and to enjoy the hummingbird feeders.
After lunch, we will take the transfer to the airport where the tour concludes.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Wise Birding leader and local guides at Bella Vista and Armanda Castellanos whilst at Papallacta
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, bottled water, all entrance fees, ground transport and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare and internal airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £250
Transport: Minibus throughout the tour
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
The walking on this tour will mostly involve easy walking on forest trails, though many of them will be undulating, particularly at Refugio Paz de Las Aves. At Papallacta, there may be a need to walk in very uneven boggy grassland to get closer views of the key mammals. Altitude will also affect the difficulty of walking as we stay at 2,200M at Bella Vista and then 3,200M at Papallacta.
Climate: Pleasantly warm in the day, but changeable in the mountains with rain very likely. Temperatures can be quite cool early and late in the day.
Tour Start Point: Quito airport, Ecuador
Tour End Point: Quito airport, Ecuador
Suggested Airlines: KLM Airlines