Our Epic Andes Birding Tour starts in the city of Cali located in the southwest part of Colombia. Cali has an international airport and daily connecting flights to the US and Europe. Birding sections of the Cauca Valley (home to +900 bird species), the Choco Bioregion (one of the most biodiverse regions on earth), and the world-class Coffee Area of Colombia will give you the opportunity to be exposed to the very best of Colombia’s land and bird diversity.
Highlights for the tour
• We will visit locations with bird feeders that attract up to 20 species of hummingbirds – over 50 species of hummingbirds are possible on this tour
• The Montezuma Peak is home to more Choco endemics than any other place on earth – we will spend 3 nights there
• The Río Blanco Reserve is well-known for its feeding stations that can attract up to 5 species of antpitta
• For the most part, we will have birding in the morning, lunch at the lodge or natural reserve, time for an optional ‘siesta’, and then more birding in the afternoon
• On this route, we will stay at some of the most bird-friendly, beautiful, quiet, and comfortable ecolodges and nature reserves in Colombia
– 4-5 ecolodges will have a display of feeders ideal for birds photography and leisurely contemplation
• All tour hotspots are within a reasonable driving distance, you will have plenty of birding time each day
Epic Andes Birding Tour Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival to Cali International Airport
Upon arrival in Cali, we will pick you up at the airport and will drive for 40 mins to spend the night at La Minga Ecolodge. We will have a welcome dinner and will go through intros and logistics for our first day out birding
Day 2 – La Minga Ecolodge and Km 18
The Cauca Valley is home to OVER 900 SPECIES of BIRDS, representing 40% of Colombia’s bird diversity and roughly equal to the total number of species in the United States.
La Minga is located within the Rio Bitaco forest reserve, a nice house surrounded by a well- preserved cloud forest. There is a private road 3 km from the house to the main road on which more than 300 bird species have been recorded including 17 species of hummingbirds and up to 30 species of colorful Tanagers, Flowerpiercers, and Honeycreepers.
In La Minga, we will have chances to see (E) Purplish-mantled Tanager, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, and Yellow-headed Manakin. Other specialties include Crested and the Golden-headed Quetzal, Red-headed Barbet, and Emerald Toucanet.
Eighteen kilometers from Cali is the road marker for km 18, the unrivaled stretch of road we will use to catch a good sight of coveted birds including (E) Multicolored, Golden-naped, and Black-capped Tanagers, Scaled Fruiteater, (E) Colombian Chachalaca and the amazing (E) Chestnut Wood-Quail.. 15 species of hummingbirds visit regularly the feeders here including Booted Racket-Tail, (NE) Blue-headed Sapphire, and Crowned Woodnymph.
We will end up this birding day at the newest ecolodge in Colombia, the Araucana Ecolodge. A beautiful and well-located lodge equipped with bird feeders, nice and quiet rooms, an organic garden that grows most of the food we eat, and incredible natural vistas to spend a leisurely afternoon birding.
Night at La Araucana lodge
Day 3 – Anchicaya Valley – Humid Tropical Forest
A very famous birding destination in the Western Andes cordillera, the Anchicaya Valley, also known as Old Road to Buenaventura, is classified as a tropical forest in the foothills of the Chocó bioregion (one of the wettest areas on earth). This old road can produce up to 100 bird species in a single day. On this full-day out we will descent from cloud forest to humid tropical forest birding along the way. The lower portion of the valley can produce amazing Choco specialties such as Rose-faced Parrot, Scarlet-and-white, and Golden-chested Tanager, Choco Toucan, Lita, and Cinnamon Woodpecker, Lanceolated Monklet, Spot-crowned Barbet, Choco Trogon, Long-tailed Tyrant, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Ocellated Antbird, and Tooth-billed Hummingbird.
Day 4 – Anchicaya Valley – Cloud Tropical Forest
Since yesterday was kind of intense, today we will take it easier birding the higher elevations of the Anchicaya Valley. Birding is done along a lightly traveled road in cloud forests of the western Andes at 1,600 m (5,250 ft). Highlights for the day include (NE) Toucan Barbet, (E) Tatamá Tapaculo, Crested-ant Tanager, and (NE) Rufous-throated Tanager and Lyre-tailed Nightjar.
After driving for less than 2 hours we will arrive at the beautiful Hotel La Huerta in the Yotoco forest reserve to spend the night
Day 5 – Sonso Lagoon and transfer to Tatama National Park
Roughly 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) southwest of the municipality of Buga, Reserva Natural Laguna de Sonso (Sonso Lagoon) is one of the few pristine wetland reserves left in the country. Birding in the morning we will have the opportunity to see some special birds like (E) Grayish Piculet, (E) Apical Flycatcher, Bar-crested Antshrike, Comb duck, Dwarf, Dark-billed and Striped Cuckoo, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Spectacled Parrotlet, Fulvous, White-faced & Black-bellied whistling ducks, blue-winged teal, Buff-necked Ibis, and Ruby-topaz Hummingbird. The reserve also supports the only remaining population of the Horned Screamer in the region.
Just after lunch, we will drive for about 5 hours to reach one of the best places for birding in Colombia, the Tatama National Park in the Choco Bioregion, our birding home base for the next 3 days.
Night at Montezuma ecolodge
Day 6 – Montezuma Higher Elevations
The Montezuma Peak lies within Tatama National Park in the Colombian Western Cordillera. Recognized as one of the best birding sites in the world with over 600 bird species identified, and with the most Choco Bioregion endemics, Montezuma promises to be a feast for all birders.
Birding at a range of 5,400 to 8,030 feet atop Cerro Montezuma, we will have the opportunity to see some extraordinary species including (E) Gold-ringed Tanager, (NE) Tanager Finch, (E) Munchique Wood-Wren, (NE) Black Solitaire, (NE) Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, (NE) Yellow-breasted Antpitta, and (NE) Beautiful Jay. (E) Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, White-faced Nunbird, and Greater Scythebill (rare) to name but a few.
Day 7 – Montezuma Mid-lower Elevations
Early morning on day 7, we will take into the mid-lower segments of the Montezuma Road hoping to see some serious targets such as (E) Black-and-gold Tanager, (E) Crested Ant-Tanager, (NE) Bicolored Antvireo, (E) Tatamá Tapaculo (recently described), (NE) Chocó Vireo, (E) Parker’s Antbird, (NE) Indigo Flowerpiercer, (NE) Violet-tailed Sylph, (NE) Empress Brilliant, (NE) Yellow-breasted Antpitta and Streak-capped Treehunter. With some luck, we may encounter the well regarded Golden-winged and (NE) Club-winged Manakin.
Day 8 – ½ day Montezuma Lower Parts and transfer to Tinamu Birding Reserve
We will dedicate the morning to complete the list of specialties at the lower parts of Montezuma Road and will leave after lunch for the beautiful Tinamu Birding Reserve in coffee land. We should have some time in the afternoon to enjoy the excellent set of feeders that normally attract Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Black-throated Mango, White-vented Plumeleteer, Steely-vented Hummingbird, and Green Hermit.
Night at Tinamu Birding Reserve
Day 9 – Tinamu Birding Reserve
Tinamu Reserve is a birding sanctuary located on 15 ha. of dry Andean forest at 4,019 feet asl. With over 240 species of birds registered and a really good set of trails and hummingbird feeders, this place promises to be a delight for birders. Birds of particular interest include Little Tinamu, Blue-headed Parrot, Acorn Woodpecker, Flame-rumped Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Common Potoo, Brown-throated Parakeet, Cocoa Thrush, Tropical Screech-Owl, Mustached Puffbird, and the amazing Golden-collared Manakin. In the late afternoon, we will transfer to hotel Paraiso Verde near the city of Manizales; a nice colonial-style house with feeders and ideally located in proximity to our next 2 birding destinations
Night at Hotel Paraiso Verde
Day 10 – Páramo del Ruiz – Road to Termales
Early in the morning, we’ll climb to Páramo del Ruiz, looming at 13,000 fasl at the highest altitude of our tour. This is the place in Colombia to go in search of the dazzling and very localized (E) Buffy Helmetcrest, a plump little hummingbird, and the marvelous (E) Rufous-fronted Parakeet. Other birds of interest include Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, Tawny Antpitta, White-chinned Thistletail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Andean Condor, Many-striped Canastero, Paramo Seedeater, and more.
We will have lunch at Hotel Termales del Ruiz and will enjoy views of the spectacular set of gardens and feeders that will attract 10 species of hummingbirds including the highly regarded (NE) Black-thighed Puffleg, (NE) Golden-breasted Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Great Sapphirewing, and more. In the afternoon we will visit Hacienda del Bosque at 9,840 fasl. The site has wonderful trails and feeders with sporadic visits of the good looking Crescent-faced Antpitta, as the main attraction. Other birds of interest include Purple-backed Thornbill, Grey-bellied Mountain-Toucan, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Ocellated Tapaculo, and Hooded Mountain-Tanager.
Night at Hotel Paraiso Verde
Day 11 – Río Blanco Reserve
The reserve is home to more than 450 species and is considered to be one of the top five birding sites on the planet. This is the go-to spot for three very attractive species: Masked Saltator, (NE) Bicolored Antpitta, and (E) Brown-banded Antpitta. The two Antpittas are commonly heard and both are seen readily at feeding stations. The Saltator is regular, but certainly not guaranteed.
We will spend much of the day exploring the excellent network of trails searching for such marvelous species like Rusty-faced Parrot, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta, White-capped Tanager, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Tyrannine, and Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Crimson-mantled, Bar-bellied, and Powerful Woodpeckers, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Grass-green, and Red-hooded Tanager, Lachrymose Mountain-tanager, Stygian Owl, and Andean Pygmy-Owl
In the late afternoon, we will drive for just under 2 hours to spend the night at the local community owned Otun Quimbaya Ecolodge
Day 12 – Otún Quimbaya Birding Reserve
Otun Quimbaya Reserve is home to 2 coveted bird species, endemic and endangered Cauca Guan and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. Most birding at Otun Quimbaya happens in the road in front of the lodge, which is flat and easy to walk. Specialties to see here include (E) Colombian Screech-owl, Golden-plumed Parakeet, (NE) Moustached Antpitta, and Hooded Antpitta, (E) Multicolored Tanager, Torrent Duck, and (E) Stiles’s Tapaculo.
In the afternoon we will drive back to Cali, the final destination of your Epic Andes Birding Tour. Please consider joining our 7-day Santa Marta Endemics extension on the Caribbean Coast, you save $1,000 on the total tour price!
Photo day 2
Booted Racket-tail by Luis Fdo Serna
Chestnut Wood-Quail by Mauricio Ossa
Photo day 4
Broad-billed Motmot by Luis Fdo Serna
Rose-faced Parrot by Mauricio Ossa
Tooth-billed Hummingbird by Luis Fdo Serna
Toucan Barbet by Mauricio Ossa
Photo day 5
Bar-crested Antshrike by Mauricio Ossa
Grayish Piculet by Mauricio Ossa
Spectacled Parrotlet by Alejandro Bayer
Striped Cuckoo by Alejandro Bayer
Photo day 7
Black-and-gold Tanager by Nick Athanas
Crested-ant Tanager by Juan Manuel Cardona
Purplish-mantled Tanager by David Larson
Violet Tailed Sylph by Luis Fdo Serna
Photo day 10
Buffy Helmetcrest by Mauricio Ossa
Crescent-faced Antpitta by Luis Fdo Serna
Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan by Mauricio Ossa
Photo day 12
Cauca Guan by Mauricio Ossa
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet by Icaro Birding
Slate-crowned Antpitta by David Larson
Torrent Duck by Mauricio Ossa