The Santa Marta Mountains on the Caribbean Coast are the highest coastal mountain range on earth. Detached from the Andes by a wide valley, isolation has created the perfect conditions for this region to be recognized as a hotbed for endemism. Moreover, this area and the Guajira peninsula along the Caribbean coast, boast an array of range-restricted bird species that are only found here and Northwestern Venezuela. A truly megadiverse region and a top birding destination for you all. In just 7-days you will have the chance to see over 20 endemic species and around 300 bird species in comfort and style.
Birds of particular interest include (E) Sierra Nevada Brush-finch, (E) Santa Marta Tapaculo, (E) Santa Marta Woodstar, (E) Santa Marta Blossomcrown (E) Santa Marta Antbird, (E) Santa Marta Screech-owl, (E) Santa Marta Foliage Gleaner, (E) Santa Marta Antpitta, (E) Santa Marta Warbler, (E) Santa Marta Parakeet, (E) White-tailed Starfrontlet, (E) Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, (NE) White-tipped Quetzal among many more.
Highlights for the tour
Birding for a day at the Flamencos Nature Sanctuary in the Guajira peninsula, a coastal wetland and dry forest home to a large concentration of the American Flamingo
Stay at the very nice and comfortable El Dorado ecolodge in the Santa Marta mountains. El Dorado was co-funded by the American Bird Conservancy to preserve the habitats of the highest concentration of range-restricted bird species on earth!
Stay in a nice ecohotel on the beach for 2 nights, debrief with a view to the Caribbean ocean, and go for a yoga class or a massage in between birding
Add the Santa Marta endemics tour as an extension to any other Icaro Birding tour and save $1,000!
Optional chance to spend a few days in Cartagena at the end of the tour – one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America
Tour Duration: 7 days
Next Tour Dates: January 2021
Tour Price: $3,000 per birder in a shared room
Single Occupancy Supplement: $500
Tour Goal: 250-300 bird species including +20 endemics
Tour Size: Limited to 8 participants
Tour Guide: Johnnier Arango, Juan Manuel Cardona or Cristian Manrique
Santa Marta Endemics birding tour
Day 1 – Arrival to Barranquilla International Airport
We will pick you up at the airport and will drive for about 40 mins to a hotel in the city. A welcome dinner is included to meet your guide, go over general tour rules and expectations and an introduction to your first day of birding
Night at hotel in Barranquilla
Day 2 – Universidad del Norte, Km 4 via Palomino and Salamanca
Early in the morning, we will visit the campus of Universidad del Norte right in the city for a chance to see 3 important targets for the tour: endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, endemic and hard to see Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird
After this quick stop, we will start traveling northeast making several promising stops along the Coast. One required stop is at Km 4 via Palomino, an extensive marsh where migrants from North America are abundant and mix with the exotic Northern Screamer, Brown-throated Parakeet, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, and Yellow-chinned Spinetail. The noisy Stripe-backed Wren is usually common, while the Red-crowned Woodpecker peeks from its holes in the palm trees.
Next, we will stop at Salamanca Island Nature Reserve, a 140,000 acres of mangrove forests and freshwater ecosystem vegetation. The reserve provides welcome shade from the late morning Caribbean heat and the possibility to find birds like (E) Turquoise-winged Parrotlet, Golden-green Woodpecker, Bicolored Conebill, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, (NE) Chestnut Piculet, Black-crested Antshrike, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Bare-throated and Fasciated Tiger Herons, Black-collared Hawk, Pied Puffbird, and more.
After lunch, we will keep traveling north for another 3 hours to reach our destination for the day, the La Sirena Eco hotel right on the beach. Eco-cabañas, spa, yoga studio, and vegetarian kitchen welcome you to this paradise on the Caribbean Coast.
Day 3 – Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary
Los Flamencos Sanctuary is an important coastal wetland and dry forest reserve created to protect a large population of the American Flamingo. This 17,000+ acre reserve of marshes, lagoons, and dry forest is also habitat to 185 other bird species (80% are migrants).
Retreating to the forest, the xerophytic scrub vegetation of the area is very productive for all of the Guajira specialties restricted to NE Colombia and NW Venezuela, including Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Buffy Hummingbird, Russet-throated Puffbird, (NE) White-whiskered Spinetail, (NE) Slender-billed Inezia, (NE) Orinocan Saltator, (NE) Red-billed Emerald, (NE) Tocuyo Sparrow (rare) and the splendid Vermilion Cardinal
Night at La Sirena Ecohotel
Day 4 – Las Gaviotas trail and Minca
Very close to our hotel, we find this coastal lowland vegetation trail connecting to the Caribbean sea. This hotspot is arguably the best site on our tour to find the very gracious Lance-tailed Manakin, and the good looking White-bellied Antbird. Other birds of interest include Buff-breasted Wren, Barred Antshrike, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Cocoa Woodcreeper, and Crimson-crested Woodpecker.
We will go back to the hotel in the late morning to escape the heat, pack our luggage, and head towards the Minca – a hipster town surrounded by coffee shaded plantations located in the foothills of the almighty Santa Marta mountains in Colombia. After lunch, we can explore some of the trails around town in search of Swallow Tanager, Keel-billed Toucan, Crested Oropendola,
Black-and-White Owl, Gartered Trogon, Scaled Piculet, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and Golden-winged Sparrow.
Night at hotel Sweet Harmony in Minca
Day 5 – Birding Minca to El Dorado
Starting early in the morning we will hit the dirt road connecting Minca at 2,000 fasl up to El Dorado ecolodge at 4,500 feet birding along the way. This morning we will start seeing a nice array of Santa Marta specialties including the endemics Sierra Nevada Brushfinch, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Foliage Gleaner, White-lored Warbler, Santa Marta Woodstar, and Santa Marta Blossomcrown, and near endemics Black-fronted Wood-quail, Coppery Emerald, White-tipped Quetzal, and Streak-capped Spinetail.
The El Dorado Reserve is a really nice and comfortable lodge perched in cloud forest with a view of the Caribbean Sea far below. Named after the legendary city of gold, El Dorado is Colombia’s flagship reserve and a Holy Grail for birding in the Americas. This reserve, created with the support from American Bird Conservancy is intended to preserve the habitats of the highest concentration of continental range-restricted bird species found anywhere in the world.
Birds of particular interest in and around the lodge include the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, Crowned Woodnymph, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Near endemic White-tipped Quetzal and the cryptic and just recently described endemic Santa Marta Screech-Owl
Night at El Dorado reserve ecolodge
Day 6 – El Dorado to San Lorenzo ridge
We will start early in the morning going all the way up the San Lorenzo ridge at 7,700 feet asl. It is at this altitude that more of the Santa Marta endemics occur. Just before sunrise, we should make it to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views of Colombia’s 3 highest snow-covered mountains. Also, this is the right time to see the rare (E) Santa Marta Parakeets who congregate for a few minutes in the trees nearby. Among the endemics, we can expect to see here are Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush-tyrant, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Bangs Wood-wren, Santa Marta Wood-Wren, Yellow-crowned Redstart, Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, and Black-backed Thornbill
We will continue birding all the way down making promising stops until we get to the lodge right at lunchtime. In the late afternoon we will explore some of the excellent trails around the lodge trying to complete our list of specialties
Night at El Dorado reserve ecolodge
Day 7 – El Dorado in the morning and to Barranquilla airport
We will have a leisure morning birding the feeders and trails around the lodge making sure we leave with plenty of time to catch your flight back home from Barranquilla airport
We will be delighted to help you extend your time in Colombia, a number of our guests like to take some extra vacation in Cartagena, one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America and a great place to rest after a weeklong birding.
End of tour
Photo day 2
Black-collared Hawk by Bernard Dupont
Northern Screamer by Rose Swift
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird by Tim Lenz
Photo day 3
American Flamingo by Fernando Flores
Rufous-vented Chachalaca by David Surtees
Scarlet Ibis by Doug Greenberg
Vermilion Cardinal by Rose Swift
Photo day 4
Black-and-white Owl by Cristian Manrique
Gartered Trogon by Felix Uribe
Southern Emerald Toucanet by Rose Swift
Swallow Tanager by Jeff Skevington
Photo day 5
Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner by Nick Athanas
Santa Marta Woodstar by Luis Fernando Serna
White-lored Warbler by ProAves
Santa Marta Antbird by Cristian Manrique
Santa Marta Screech-owl by Cristian Manrique
Santa Marta Blossomcrown
Photo day 6
Blue-naped Chlorophonia by jpc.raleigh
Santa Marta Parakeet
White-tipped Quetzal by Luis Fernando Serna
Santa Marta Antpitta by Rose Swift
Santa Marta Brushfinch
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta