Ecuador: Northern

An abundance of hummingbird, tanager and antpitta feeders coupled with excellent lodges and easy birding! From the Choco lowlands and across the Andes from west to east, it is no surprise that this comprehensive route is so well-loved by birders around the world! Includes three nights at the famous Wild Sumaco Lodge (one of the best birding destinations in the whole of the Andes) and three nights at the remote Playa de Oro Lodge (the best place from which to explore the Choco, particularly reliable for the monotypic Sapayoa).

Amazon: Sani Lodge Extension

Sani Lodge is located on the north side of the majestic Napo River, and has earned a reputation as one of the finest places for birding in the whole of Amazonia. On foot and by canoe we will explore the superb rainforests and oxbow lakes of this extraordinarily rich area, enjoying such impressive species as Hoatzin, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Zigzag Heron, the near-endemic and little-known Cocha Antshrike, the restricted-range Orange-crested Manakin, and much much more.

Next dates

13 August - 1 September 2024

Tour length: 19 days

Group size limit: 7


Daniel Aldana and a local leader

Spaces available

Amazon: Sani Lodge Extension

1-6 September 2024

Tour length: 6 days

Group size limit: 7


Daniel Aldana and local guides

Spaces available

Day 1: International arrivals and transfer to hotel for dinner.

Day 2: Early drive for one hour and a half to Yanacocha Reserve with high montane forest and fantastic scenery. Our first hummingbird feeders might be visited by Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, while other highlights include Scarlet bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, Andean Guan, Gray browed and Yellow-breasted Brush-Finches. We will then continue on to Bellavista Lodge and reserve for afternoon birding and overnight.

Day 3: Morning around Bellavista, home to several Choco specialties like Beautiful Jay, Tanager Finch, Gorgeted Sunangel, Dusky Chlorospingus, Western Hemispingus, White-faced Nunbird and others. After lunch we continue into the Mindo Valley to Septimo Paraiso Lodge, our base for the next three nights. With luck one of the rarer desirables like Banded Ground Cuckoo or Rufous-crowned Pittasoma will be staked out in the Mindo region during our visit and we will of course rearrange the itinerary to accomodate these species if available!

Day 4: Today we will visit the famous Angel Paz Reserve, a magical site where difficult birds come to the calls of birding celebrity Angel Paz, who feeds them worms every day! Dark-backed Woodquail, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Giant, Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted, Moustached and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas are regular through the year, but are not all guaranteed at any given time. After also checking out the phenomenal Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek and banana feeders with resident Toucan Barbets, we will visit a very easily accessible Oilbird cave and spend the afternoon back around the lodge Paraiso looking for Velvet-purple Coronet, Ecuadorian Seedeater, Narino Tapaculo and the local Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl.

Day 5: We will leave early to spend the whole day birding around Mashpi, with the majority of our time focused on Amagusa Reserve, a supreme birding site with highlights like Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black Solitaire, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Choco Vireo, Choco Warbler, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated and Moss-backed Tanagers, and many others. We will also see some lower elevation specialties like Barred Puffbird, Brown-billed Scythebill, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Orange-fronted Barbet, and Choco Trogon.

Day 6-7-8: Leaving the Mindo area early on Day 6 we will first drive to Suamox Reserve (an excellent site for the shy Brown Wood-Rail, Blue-chested Hummingbird and Orange-crowned Euphonia) before continuing the drive towards Selva Alegre. Here we will take a one hour boat ride upriver to spend two full days at Playa de Oro Lodge, the best accessible Choco lowland rainforest site. Here we will have the opportunity to find specialties like Sapayoa, Choco Poorwill, Berlepche’s Tinamou, Rufous-winged, Scarlet browed, Blue-wiskered, Lemon-spectacled, Gray-and-gold and Rufous-winged Tanagers, Five colored Barbet, Great Green Macaw, Rose-faced Parrots, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Double-banded Graytail, Baudo Guan, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Black-tipped Cotinga and many others. Three nights at Playa de Oro Lodge.

Day 9: Boating back to Selva Alegre, we will drive to Yalare and try for Slaty-tailed Trogon, Pied and Black-breasted Puffbirds, then continue the drive towards Alto Tambo where we will search for specialties like Yellow-green, Golden-chested and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, Choco Woodpecker, and Choco Tapaculo. We will end up at Hacienda Primavera for an overnight stay.

Day 10: Birding the Chical Road all day morning between 1000m and 2300m, we will look for specialties like Hoary Puffleg, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Star-chested Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Beautiful Jay, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, and the chance to clean up any Choco specialties still missing. Overnight again at Hacienda Primavera.

Day 11: A fairly long drive today towards Pululahua Volcano will include several stops along the way. These may produce Blue-headed Sapphire, Ecuadorian Rail and Subtropical Doradito. In the afternoon we will try for the local Rusty-breasted Antpitta and Rufous-chested Tanager before spotlighting may produce Andean Pygmy Owl, Stygian Owl, and hopefully the elusive Buff-fronted Owl. Overnight at Pululahua.

Day 12: Morning birding before continuing to Papallacta Pass, the highest point we will reach on the tour. Several Paramo specialties can be seen here like Giant Conebill, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Blue-mantled Thornbill, and Viridian Metaltail. We will arrive at Guango Lodge for overnight in the evening.

Day 13: Guango is famous for some amazing hummingbird feeders, but also some excellent garden birding. Highlights could include Mountain Avocetbill, Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Slaty Brush-Finch, Tourmaline Sunangel, Masked Mountain Tanager, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, White-chinned Thistletail, Agile Tit-Tyrant, and more! After lunch we will drive to San Isidro Lodge, stopping along the way for Black-chested Fruiteater, Yellow-whiskered Chlorospingus, Rufous-crested Tanager, Andean Motmot, Crested Quetzal and several others. Overnight at San Isidro Lodge.

Day 14: Full day around San Isidro looking for specialties like Bicolored Antvireo, Gorgeted Woodstar, Bronzy Inca, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, White-capped Tanager, Semicolared Hawk, White-bellied Antpitta, Barred Antthrush, Peruvian Antpitta, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Andean Potoo, Rufous-banded and of course the strange “San Isidro” Owls. We might also see the strange Columbian Night Monkeys which are resident here! Overnight at San Isidro Lodge.

Day 15: Driving downhill we will stop at Guacamayos Ridge where Peruvian Antpitta and Dusky Piha are possible, then continue to the Wayra Reserve where there will be the chance to see the shy Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail at feeders, plus several species of tanager with great photography opportunities! More stops en route to Wild Sumaco could produce Western Striolated Puffbird, Blackish Nightjar, Yellow-throated Tanager, Green-backed Hillstar, Orange-breasted Falcon, Cliff Flycatcher, Blue-naped Chlorophomia and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. Overnight at Wild Sumaco Lodge.

Day 16-17: Two full days birding the amazing Wild Sumaco Lodge will have us seeking out great variety of eastern foothill specialties like Coppery-chested Jacamar, Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters, Buckley’s Forest-Falcon, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Yellow-throated Spadebill, Gray-tailed Piha, Gray-throated Leaftoser, Foothill Screech-Owl, Band-bellied Owl, Gould’s Jewelfront, Napo Sabrewing, Plain-backed Antpitta, Large-headed Flatbill, Military Macaw and many others. With luck we will find some of the harder species like Black Tinamous. Overnights at Wild Sumaco Lodge.

Day 18: After some final birding we will drive several houts back towards Quito for an overnight at Hacienda La Carriona.

Day 19: One final session of birding will see us ascending Antisana Volcano to look for Andean Condor, Andean Ibis, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Streak backed and Many-striped Canasteros, Black-winged Ground-Dove, Paramo Pipit, Silvery Grebe and several other specialties. After lunch we will drive to Quito Airport for international flights this evening, and those continuing on the Amazon extension will stay overnight near the airport.


AMAZON: SANI LODGE EXTENSION (can be taken as a stand-alone tour)

Day 1: Short flight to Coca from Quito Airport, then two hour boat transfer down the Napo River to the wonderful Sani Lodge for a five night stay.

Day 2-3-4-5: Sani Lodge is located on the north side of the majestic Napo River, and has earned a reputation as one of the finest places for birding in the whole of Amazonia. Run by an indigenous Quichua community focused on ecotourism, the lodge features an excellent canopy tower, very comfortable cabins, and access to a private lagoon containing Zigzag Heron, Agami Heron, and Sungrebe. On foot and by canoe, we will explore the superb rainforests and oxbow lakes of this extraordinarily rich area. Impressive species as Hoatzin, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, the near-endemic and little-known Cocha Antshrike, the restricted-range Orange-crested Manakin, Red-capped Cardinal, Purplish Jacamar, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Short-billed Leaftosser, Spot-backed Antbird, Wire-tailed Manakin, Rufous-tailed Flatbill and Ash-throated Gnateater all feature. One afternoon we will visit a clay-lick with Dusky-headed Parakeets, Mealy, Yellow-crowned and Blue-headed Parrots, and on one morning we will explore for some river island specialists like Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Lesser Hornero, White-bellied Spinetail, Parker’s Spinetail, Castelnau’s Antshrike, Black-and-white Antbird, River Tyrannulet, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant and Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, amongst many many other species!

Day 6: Transfer back to Coca for a flight to Quito, where the tour ends this afternoon.

Tour details

$ 6,600
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 540

Cost: $ 3,000
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 600

Accommodation: All comfortable to luxurious hotels and lodges, with the exception of Playa de Oro which is a very basic forest guesthouse with cold water and shared facilities.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy, but we might take a few longer walks for a couple of hours at birding pace.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.