Day 1: Arrival in Quito
The tour begins with an evening orientation at our hotel. Night in Quito.
Days 2 - 3: Bellavista
We head downslope from Quito to our lodge at Bellavista, 2000m above sea level. The emphasis here at our first stop will be to familiarize ourselves with some of the basic techniques of tropical photography. We’ll quickly learn why birds are one of the favoured subjects in Ecuador. Bella Vista is ideal for photographing approachable trogons and jays that frequent the lodge area, while hummingbirds provide easy subjects as they perch near busy feeders. We'll visit other feeders lower down in the world-renowned Tandayapa valley to practice one of the more technical aspects of tropical bird photography: hummers in flight. Feeders here regularly attract over a dozen common species and provide opportunities to photograph gems such as Booted Racket-tail, Empress Brilliant, Long-tailed Sylph and the wonderful Velvet-purple Coronet. It will take a long while before we get our fill of photographing these amazing birds. We’ll be on the lookout for other colourful jewels around the lodges such as Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, and Red-headed Barbet as well as Strong-billed Woodcreeper and other nondescript but no less dazzling subjects. Indeed, we never know which of the hundreds of species in this area will land on a branch in front of our lenses. Nights at Bellavista.
Days 4 - 6: Transfer to Mindo
Today we relocate to a lower elevation that will provide an entirely new array of tropical birds to photograph. World-famous Mindo and Milpe will be our homes for a three-night stay. En route we visit hotspots around Nanegalito, targeting toucans, tanagers and others. Our brand-new lodge sits at 1100m altitude and we’ll stay here for three nights.
We will have a plethora of birds to photograph, from Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon to several more hummingbirds. We will visit the amazing Refugio Paz de Aves for Andean Cock of the Rock and some superb antpittas (Giant, Moustached, Ochre-breasted) that are in other places nearly impossible to photograph. We drop into Rio Silanche to experience action atop their canopy tower, and we take in several feeders in Mindo. Incredible butterflies and other insects are here in abundance, and we might even have an opportunity to photograph some mammals such as tayra and spectacled bear. Nights at San Jorge de Milpe Lodge.
Day 7: Transfer to Tinalandia
Today we drop down to the western lowlands to experience some different avifauna and landscapes. En route we’ll have lunch at a known hotspot with a feeder set-up. After filling up on tanager photos, we’ll continue to Tinalandia Lodge set on a forested hillside at the base of the Andes. The habitat here is diverse and includes a lot of edge habitat that is ideal for run-and-gunphotography for a fabulous array of birds. Some of these include Pacific Hornero, Laughing Falcon, Chocó Toucan and various tanagers inhabiting Ecuador's lower elevation forests. Night in Tinalandia.
Day 8: Cotopaxi National Park
We leave Tinalandia ascending a spectacular highway into the Andean highlands, this time to the south of Quito. The countryside hints at the potential for more dramatic landscape photography. With this in mind, we continue upward to Cotopaxi National Park, the jewel in the crown that is Ecuador’s extensive reserve system. Upon arriving, we’ll expect the park’s namesake Cotopaxi volcano and its glaciers to be obscured by afternoon clouds so instead we’ll focus on the volcanic landscape, páramo flowers and birds including the dazzling Ecuadorian Hillstar and Carunculated Caracara. Wild horses roam the landscape and with luck we’ll spot a condor soaring overhead. Our cozy lodge at the base of the volcano will be ideal for reviewing our trip photos while anticipating a clearing sky overnight.
Day 9: Quito and Departure
In the morning we set out for stunning photographs of Cotopaxi’s perfect cone draped in alpenglow-lit glaciers. Surely one of South America’s most dramatic vistas, this will be a fitting end to our photo safari. After lunch we’ll descend 1.5 hours to Quito to rendezvous with our evening flights.