THE VERY BEST OF COLOMBIA

Andean Ranges and Inter-Andean Valleys, the Chocó Bioregion, the Santa Marta Mountains, and the Guajira

 

23 JANUARY – 15 FEBRUARY 2018

Colombia, with its diverse scenery, is home to more bird species than any other country in the world. With almost two thousand species to be found in the country, be prepared to be in awe of its spectacular avifauna as we explore Colombia’s lush cloud forests and the páramo ecosystem of the Andean Cordillera, the humid rainforests of the Chocó Bioregion, the wetlands and dry tropical forests of the lowland valleys, the dry scrub forests of the Caribbean coast in the La Guajira Department, and the high-altitude mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on this 24-day adventure. Join us for this dynamic birding destination as we enjoy the culture, gastronomy, and fine people Colombia has to offer.

We will spend our first day of birding in Finca Alejandria near Cali, where you will have a nice and easy introduction to Colombian birds, such as several species of hummingbirds on feeders and tanagers, including close-up views of the sought-after endemic Multicolored Tanager. We will spend two full days exploring the Pacific Chocó rainforest along the Anchicayá Road, looking for an incredible set of birds such as Rose-faced Parrot, Choco Trogon, Choco Toucan, Lita Woodpecker, and Tooth-billed Hummingbird, among many others.

In the Tatamá National Park, one of the wettest and most biodiverse hotspots in the world, we will look for the endemics Gold-ringed Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, and Munchique Wood Wren and the near-endemic Tanager Finch, White-faced Nunbird, Rufous-throated, Glistening-green, and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, Tatama, Spillmann’s, and Choco Tapaculos, Black Solitaire, and Orange-breasted Fruiteater near the Montezuma Eco-Lodge.

Near the Cauca Valley we will explore the Laguna de Sonso Nature Reserve, one of Colombia’s largest wetland reserves and home to Bare-faced Ibis, Cocoi Heron, White-throated Crake, Blackish Rail, and Wattled Jacana. With luck we may encounter rare species such as Pinnated Bittern, but also Great Antshrike, Bar-crested Antshrike, Jet Antbird, and Little Cuckoo, which are relatively easy, and the endemic Apical Flycatcher. We will also try for the elusive Dwarf Cuckoo.

The famous Otún Quimbaya Reserve in the past was visited only to look for the endemic Cauca Guan and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, but the ultra-rare Hooded Antpitta has become an obligatory target for this reserve in the last couple of years.

During the trip we will visit the famous Rio Blanco Nature Reserve above Manizales, where we will look for the antpittas that are fed here with worms, including the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta as well as the more widespread Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, the shy Slaty-crowned Antpitta, and Bicolored Antpitta. Masked Saltator, Dusky Piha, Ocellated Tapaculo, and Golden-plumed Parakeet are among the targets in this reserve.

The Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve should provide good views of Yellow-eared Parrot, this most-wanted and Endangered (IUCN) endemic, which is still nesting on the few Quindio wax palms of this part of the Andes.

The Rio Claro Nature Reserve and the El Paujil Bird Reserve will provide great tropical lowlands in the Middle Magdalena Valley and species such as the most-wanted Northern Screamer, the Critically Endangered (IUCN) and endemic Blue-billed Curassow, Blue-and-yellow and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Crested Owl, Choco Screech Owl, Sooty Ant Tanager, Citron-throated Toucan, and Magdalena Antbird.

Finally we will fly to Barranquilla in the Caribbean region. This part of our tour will take us to Salamanca Island Road Park and Los Flamencos Sanctuary, where birding through mangroves, humid forests, dry scrub forests, and coastal wetlands should yield desirable species such as Buffy Hummingbird, Lance-tailed Manakin, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Russet-throated Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet, Bicolored Conebill, and Tocuyo Sparrow.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range on the planet and one of the most important endemism centers in the world, with 36 species of birds restricted to it. We will search for many of these endemics, including “Santa Marta Screech Owl” (an as yet undescribed species), Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant, Paramo (Santa Marta) Seedeater, and a plethora more! 132 migratory species have also been recorded in the area, and it is one of the best places in Colombia for migratory songbirds, including rare North American warblers.

After some amazing time in Colombia we will fly to Bogotá for an overnight and connect to our international flights the next day.

Please note that the detailed itinerary below cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.

 

Itinerary (24 days/23 nights)

Day 1, Arrival in Cali

Our guests will arrive at Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali and be transferred to the hotel. Your tour leaders will meet you at the airport and begin talking about the birding adventure you are about to embark on.

Overnight: Hampton by Hilton, Cali

Day 2, Finca Alejandria and transfer to El Queremal

We will rise early and make our way to the nice Finca Alejandria, located near the famous Km 18 of the Cali-Buenaventura Road. Birding this nice property will include outstanding views of one of the most sought-after species of Colombia, the endemic Multicolored Tanager, which comes daily to the bird feeders. Other birds at the feeders include Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Golden Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, and Green Honeycreeper. Around the property the endemic Colombian Chachalaca, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, and Golden-headed Quetzal are possible. We will be busy with the  first selection of hummingbirds of the trip, with species such as Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Booted Racket-tail, Brown Violetear, Lesser Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, White-necked Jacobin, and the uncommon Blue-headed Sapphire.

Later we will be transferred to El Queremal on the upper Anchicayá Road. We will visit the feeders of El Descanso, where we will have the best chance for Toucan Barbet and also more hummingbirds such as Green Thorntail, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, White-whiskered Hermit, and Empress Brilliant.

Overnight: Hotel Campestre El Campanario

Day 3, Anchicayá lowlands

We will have a full day to explore the Anchicayá Road, looking for a great set of Chocó specialist such as Choco Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Spot-crowned Barbet, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Grey-and-gold Tanager, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Lita Woodpecker, Choco Woodpecker, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Golden-chested Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Lanceolated Monklet, White-whiskered Puffbird, Barred Puffbird, White-headed Wren, Spot-crowned Antvireo, the impressive Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, Rufous Motmot, Broad-billed Motmot, Black-throated Trogon, White-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Dot-winged Antwren, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, and with some luck Rose-faced Parrot, Lemon-spectacled Tanager, and the mythical Sapayoa. By the end of the day we will come back to El Queremal for another night.

Overnight: Hotel Campestre El Campanario

Day 4, Anchicayá and transfer to Buga

Today we will have another birding morning along the Anchicayá Road for species we might still need, and after lunch we will leave the Chocó area and transfer to Buga.

Overnight: Hotel Guadalajara, Buga

Day 5, Sonso Lake and Tatamá National Park

The Sonso Lake is not far from Buga and is full of life, providing excellent birding with species such as Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Comb Duck, Cocoi Heron, Snail Kite, Blackish Rail, Purple Gallinule, and Cinnamon Teal. However, the endemics Apical Flycatcher and Greyish Piculet will be the main targets for the morning. Other birds here include Little Cuckoo, Jet Antbird, Bar-crested Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Blue-headed Parrot, Common Nighthawk, Common Potoo (roosting at daytime), Wilson’s Snipe, and with luck the elusive Dwarf Cuckoo.

Then we will head to the borders of the Tatamá National Park and visit the basic Montezuma Eco-Lodge for a total of three nights. We will arrive in time to watch the hummingbird feeders and enjoy species such as Empress Brilliant, White-tailed Hillstar, Velvet-purple Coronet, Andean Emerald, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Western Emerald, Purple-throated Woodstar, and others

Overnight: Montezuma Eco-Lodge

Days 6-7, Montezuma Eco-Lodge

We will have two full days to explore the Montezuma Road, looking for the five sought-after Montezuma-endemic birds: Munchique Wood Wren, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Gold-ringed Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, and the very recently described (2017) Tatama Tapaculo. Other great birds in this area include the most-wanted Tanager Finch, Spillmann’s Tapaculo, White-faced Nunbird (rare), Black Solitaire, Ocellated Tapaculo, Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Indigo, Masked, and Bluish Flowerpiercers, Choco Tyrannulet, Choco Brushfinch, Olive Finch,, Ochre-breasted Tanager, the endemic Crested Ant Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Club-winged Manakin, Golden-winged Manakin, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Moustached Puffbird, Andean Motmot, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Star-chested Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Slaty Spinetail, Red-faced Spinetail, Chestnut-breasted and Yellow-collared Chlorophonias, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Pale-eyed Thrush, Great Thrush, and Beautiful Jay. Night birding includes searches for Colombian Screech Owl and Lyre-tailed Nightjar. The Montezuma forest is good for quality raptors, and species such as Barred Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle. and Black-and-chestnut Eagle are not rare in the area.

Overnight: Montezuma Eco-Lodge

Day 8, Montezuma Eco-Lodge to Otún Quimbaya Reserve

We will have an early start to drive toward the Chocó department and visit Santa Cecilia, where we will have the chance to see the endemic and localized Baudo Oropendola, a bird you usually have to fly to the Pacific coast of Colombia in order to see. Other birds here include Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Spotted Woodcreeper, Choco Toucan, Sooty-headed Wren, Bay Wren, and Golden-collared Manakin. We will then head to the Otún Quimbaya Reserve. In the evening we will try for Mottled Owl.

Overnight: La Suiza

Day 9, Otún Quimbaya Reserve to Termales Del Ruiz Hotel

A predawn start will take us to look for the rare and localized Hooded Antpitta. Other target birds for this day are the endemic Cauca Guan, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Andean Motmot, Torrent Duck, Sickle-winged Guan, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, the endemic Stiles’s Tapaculo, the elusive Chestnut-breasted Wren, Streak-capped Treehunter, Parker’s Antbird, Plain Antvireo, Blackburnian Warbler, and perhaps Cerulean Warbler as well. After lunch we will head to the mountains above Manizales and stay at the base of Los Nevados National Natural Park. The hummingbird feeders at the hotel have become an attraction for the guests, and they do provide excellent species such as Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Black-thighed Puffleg, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Viridian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Mountain Velvetbreast, and Shining Sunbeam.

Overnight: Hotel Termales Del Ruiz, Villamaria

Day 10, Los Nevados National Natural Park and transfer to Rio Blanco Nature Reserve

A predawn drive will take us to explore some of the slopes of the mountain, looking for the rare and endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet. This species does occur in small numbers in the area but is rarely seen; however, we’ll take the chance. Later, near the entrance of Los Nevados National Park, we will look for the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest. Then far from the entrance we hope to see Tawny Antpitta, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Paramo Seedeater, Blue-backed Conebill, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Ocellated Tapaculo, and with some luck Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan and Black-backed Bush Tanager. After lunch we will transfer to the basic, but excellently and strategically located Rio Blanco Nature Reserve lodge house. The feeders will allow us to enjoy views of Buff-tailed Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, and Fawn-breasted Brilliant. Around the house Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer, and Slaty Brushfinch are not uncommon. We will also look for White-capped Dipper near the house and Green-fronted Lancebill. At night we will try for Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, White-throated Screech Owl, Band-winged Nightjar, and Lyre-tailed Nightjar.

Overnight: The lodge at Rio Blanco

Day 11, Birding Rio Blanco Nature Reserve

We’ll have a full day birding the Rio Blanco Nature Reserve, looking for species such as Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Streak-headed Antbird, Flammulated Treehunter, Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Ocellated Tapaculo, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Masked Trogon, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, the enigmatic Masked Saltator, Black-eared Hemispingus, Yellow-billed Cacique, Grey-browed Brushfinch, Plushcap, Sepia-brown Wren, Russet-crowned Warbler, Capped Conebill, and Great Thrush. Rio Blanco is well known for the anpitta species that occur in the reserve being fed, and hopefully we will see all these species during the two full mornings we will spend there. We have chances for Chestnut-crowned, the endemic Brown-banded, the shy Slate-crowned, and Bicolored Antpittas. We will also look for Golden-fronted Whitestart, Golden-plumed Parakeet, and with luck Dusky Piha. Later we will transfer to Manizales.

Overnight: Hotel Varuna, Manizales

Day 12, Birding Rio Blanco Nature Reserve, transfer to Jardín

We will have a second day in Rio Blanco to look for any target species we might be missing, and later we will have a long drive to Jardín in the Department of Antioquia. Time permitting we will visit the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek.

Overnight: Hotel Hacienda Balandú, Jardín

Day 13, Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve

Another predawn start to drive towards the Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve, located in the mountains above Jardin. We will focus to find the highly-prized Yellow-eared Parrot, but we will also have the opportunity to look for Blackish Tapaculo, Rufous Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, and Chestnut-crested Cotinga. Later we will look for the endemic and recently described Antioquia Wren and the more widespread Black-striped Sparrow. We will then transfer to the Medellín area and will spend the night in the comfortable Hotel Extremadura, which is not far from our next day’s destination.

Overnight: Hacienda La Extremadura, Sabaneta

Day 14, Birding La Romera Ecological Reserve, transfer to Rio Claro Nature Reserve

Today we will visit La Romera Ecological Reserve to look for the endemic Red-bellied Grackle, the shy Yellow-headed Manakin, and Spotted Barbtail. We also have a chance for Russet-crowned Warbler and Stiles’s Tapaculo. As soon as we (hopefully) get all these targets we leave the reserve and will have a long drive to the Rio Claro Nature Reserve. En route we will stop at a local restaurant by the road, which allows access to a forest road that provides our first chance for the endemic White-mantled Barbet, Plain-colored Tanager, and Red-crowned Woodpecker. We continue to Rio Claro, looking for the endemic Sooty Ant Tanager, Band-backed Wren, Bay Wren, Dusky Bush Tanager, and Citron-throated Toucan.

Overnight: Hotel Campestre Los Colores

Day 15, Birding Rio Claro Nature Reserve and Puerto Berrío, transfer to El Paujil

In the morning we will visit the Rio Claro Nature Reserve, looking for the endemic Magdalena Antbird, Barred Puffbird, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Citron-throated Toucan, the endemic Antioquia Bristle Tyrant, Bay Wren, and Black-bellied Wren. Then we will continue towards Puerto Berrío, where we will look for the most-wanted Northern Screamer and also the handsome Chestnut-fronted Macaw. Finally we will continue toward the El Paujil Lodge for a three-night stay.

Overnight: El Paujil Lodge, El Paujil Nature Reserve

Days 16 – 17, Birding El Paujil Nature Reserve

We will have two full days at the El Paujil Nature Reserve, looking for the endemic and Critically Endangered (IUCN) Blue-billed Curassow, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, the endemic Beautiful Woodpecker, and the sought-after Bare-crowned Antbird. Other species include Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Olivaceous Piculet, Channel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Little Tinamou, Marbled Wood Quail, Southern Bentbill, Black Antshrike, Grey-chinned Nunlet, Spectacled Parrotlet, Red-lored Amazon, Orange-winged Amazon, Saffron-headed Parrot, Black-faced Antthrush, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Checker-throated Antwren, White-bibbed Manakin, Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-breasted Puffbird, Golden-green Woodpecker, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Blue Ground Dove, and many others. At night we will try for Great Potoo, Crested Owl, and Choco Screech Owl.

Overnight: El Paujil Lodge, El Paujil Nature Reserve

Day 18, Transfer to Medellín and flight to Barranquilla

We will have a long day driving back to Medellín and transfer to the international airport to connect with our evening flight to Barranquilla.

Overnight: Barranquilla Plaza Hotel

Day 19, Birding the Barranquilla area, transfer to Santa Marta

We will have an early start to explore the Barranquilla surroundings to look for the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. Some marshes near Barranquilla should provide Stripe-backed Wren, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Pied Water Tyrant, Wattled Jacana, Great Black Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Brown-throated Parakeet, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Bicolored Wren, Greyish Saltator, Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Anhinga, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, and others. We will continue towards Salamanca National Park and will focus on the endemic and Critically Endangered (IUCN) Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, which is regularly found near the entrance. If time permits we’ll make a brief visit into the reserve; otherwise we’ll continue the drive toward Santa Marta. We will stop in Minca to have lunch and a rest, starting again in the afternoon. We hope to find White-bearded and Lance-tailed Manakins, Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant, Golden-winged Sparrow, Streaked Flycatcher, and Black-backed Antshrike, and before sunset we might have distant views of Military Macaw.

Overnight: Hotel Minca – La Casona, Santa Marta

Day 20, Transfer to El Dorado Nature Reserve, birding on the way

This day will have us birding through a big altitudinal gradient, starting from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range around the town of Minca and moving into the intermediate levels around El Dorado Lodge. Birding across a vast altitudinal gradient will surely yield a large number of species, including Golden-winged Sparrow, Scaled Piculet, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Santa Marta Antbird, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, the recently-described Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, and Santa Marta Tapaculo, as well as Black-backed Antshrike, the magnificently colored Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the attractive Rufous-capped Warbler.

We will arrive at El Dorado Nature Reserve for lunch and spend the afternoon birding in the El Dorado Lodge vicinity. At night we will try for the enigmatic, so far undescribed Santa Marta Screech Owl.

Overnight: El Dorado Lodge

Day 21, Birding the San Lorenzo Ridge

Today we will have an predawn start to drive up to the San Lorenzo Ridge to look for the endemic selection of birds that occurs in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, with birds such as Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Sierra Nevada Brushfinch, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant, Streak-capped Spinetail, Rusty-headed Spinetail, White-tipped Quetzal, the scarce Santa Marta Parakeet, the elusive Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Santa Marta Antpitta, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Lined Quail-Dove, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, and the uncommon Santa Marta Woodstar.

Overnight: El Dorado Lodge

Day 22, Birding La Guajira Peninsula

We will leave El Dorado Lodge, birding en route to the coast toward Riohacha. During the day we will be birding intensively around the La Guajira Peninsula, a distinctive place harboring a special set of species that are shared only with adjacent Venezuela, such as Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Chestnut Piculet, and Bare-eyed Pigeon. Near the fishing village of Camarones it is possible to see American White Ibis, Reddish Egret, Green Heron, and American Flamingo. In the afternoon we will visit the dry scrub habitat around La Guajira.

Overnight: Hotel Taroa, Riohacha

Day 23, Riohacha to Camarones and Bogota

On our last morning we will be busy with a nice selection of range-restricted targets, such as White-whiskered Spinetail, Pale-tipped Inezia, Slender-billed Inezia, Buffy Hummingbird, Orinoco Saltator, Vermilion Cardinal, Crested Bobwhite, Black-crowned Antshrike, Northern White-fringed Antwren, Trinidad Euphonia, and the secretive Tocuyo Sparrow. We will come back to Riohacha for lunch and then transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to Bogotá. We will stay at a hotel close to the airport and will say farewell at dinner.

Overnight: Habitel Hotel, Bogotá

Day 24, Flight home

You will be transferred to the Bogotá airport at a time convenient for you to connect to your flight.

 

Duration: 24 days

Limit: 4 – 8

Date: 23 January – 15 February 2018

Start: Cali

End: Bogotá

 

Price: US$8585 per person sharing

Single supplement: US$900

 

Price includes:

Domestic flights

Accommodation

Meals (except where indicated)

Admission fees

Private guide

All transportation (including 4×4 jeeps)

Water

Transfers to/from the airports

Price excludes:

International flights

Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts

Dinner on Day 1

Meals on Day 24

Any activity not described in the itinerary

Any activities on Day 24

Personal expenses such as alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, phone calls, internet access, laundry, and room services including minibar expenses