Grand Ecuador

  1. 2019
    Saturday, March 30, 2019 to Sunday, April 14, 2019
    Tour Duration: 
    16 days
    Tour Price:
     $8,725 CAD, $6,550 USD
    Single Supplement:
     $835 CAD, $625 USD
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    Quito, Ecuador
    Number of Persons Limit: 

• Birding in the Andes
• Huge diversity of hummingbirds at feeders
• Great views of antpittas and other rare birds in Mindo
• Boat trip to remote Amazonian lodge 


Imagine dazzling flocks of multicolored Tanagers flitting through the mists of an east slope cloud forest. Envision a family of Torrent Ducks battling the rush of a sparkling mountain stream and the unforgettable sound of a lek of screaming Pihas in the steaming lowlands of Amazonia. Imagine seeing three species of the notoriously secretive antpittas at a special feeding station! Just a few of the unique experiences that await you in Ecuador.

Although Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America, it boasts an incredible diversity of habitats which support a wonderful array of wildlife. With a list of more than 1500 species of birds, many of which are shared only with adjacent Columbia or Peru, it is difficult to imagine a more exciting birding destination. This amazing variety, together with an excellent network of national parks and naturalist lodges, ensure a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

We explore some of the most famous birding sites in the country on our Grand Ecuador Birding Tour: Mindo and Yanacocha; the windswept Paramo grassland of the high Andes at Papallacta Pass; mid-elevation communities at Guango Lodge, San Isidro, the marvelous Wildsumaco Lodge and the Loreto Road, and the incredible bird-rich Western Amazonia—quite a trip! The variety of birds we have the potential to see is remarkable!

Throughout the tour we become acutely aware of the complexities of tropical bird distribution and we appreciate how much of a barrier are the high peaks of the Andes. We see plenty of birds that are wide-ranging in South America and many others that are restricted to a single habitat. For many, the highlight of the trip is our stay at our jungle retreat in Amazonia. We travel by motorized canoe downstream to our lodge. We have ample time to explore the well-maintained trails as we search for some of the most exciting birds in Western Amazonia. The bird list for this area now stands at well over 500 species and includes some of the rarest and least-known Amazonian species. We hope to encounter such rarities as Long-tailed and Rufous Potoos, Cocha Antshrike, Varzea Schiffornis and even Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo.

Ecuador has something to please everyone—as you will find out on this exceptional birdwatching tour.


Itinerary View Short Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival In Quito

Our Grand Ecuador birding tour begins with an evening orientation at our hotel. Night in Quito.

Day 2: Yanacocha and Tandayapa

We begin our tour by visiting Yanacocha in the morning. On the backside of the Pichincha volcano, Yanacocha is a superb birding area that offers species such as Andean Guan, Stout-billed Cinclodes and Golden-crowned Tanager. Yanacocha is also a hummingbirder's delight, with more than 10 species likely, including Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Tyrian Metaltail and Purple-backed Thornbill. The Black-breasted Puffleg, a rare endemic known only in this area, has been found here recently. We travel on to Tandayapa Lodge for lunch, taking in the Booted Racketails which should be visiting the hummingbird feeders there, and then head to Sachatamia Lodge for a three night stay, traveling the spectacular Nono-Mindo road. Night at Sachatamia Lodge.

Day 3: Nono - Mindo area: Rio Silanche and Milpe Road

In the morning we bird the Rio Silanche area and later in the day, we travel to the Milpe Road and Milpe Gardens. There are a number of very special birds to be found and we devote most of the day to sampling the tremendous diversity of this region. Some special birds that we hope to see include Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Gorgeted Sunangel, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and Grass-green Tanager. If we are lucky, we could encounter the rare Beautiful Jay, Tanager-Finch and Giant Pitta. Night at Sachatamia Lodge.

Days 4: Nono – Mindo area: Paz de las Aves and Sachatamia Lodge grounds

Today we take in Paz de las Aves and the grounds at Sachatamia Lodge. The forested areas around the small town of Mindo are home to an incredible diversity of Pacific slope birds including Red-billed Parrot, Brown Inca, Slaty Spinetail, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Three-striped Warbler, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated and White-winged Tanagers, and Black-winged Saltator. We also look for some of the rarer inhabitants of the forests such as Club-winged Manakin and Scaled Fruiteater. Foothill species include specialties such as Moss-backed Tanager. In recent years three species of antpitta - Giant, Yellow-breasted and Moustached - have been coming to feeding spots where earthworms are provided and we have an excellent chance of seeing these very elusive species. Night at Sachatamia Lodge.

Day 5: Bellavista Lodge to Guango Lodge

In the morning we visit Bellavista Lodge, looking for species not yet located, and then head back through Quito, perhaps stopping at La Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world) monument, and maybe finding Giant Hummingbird. We wind our way up the slopes east of Quito to Papallacta Pass, where the 4000 meter high páramo holds a fascinating group of high-altitude species. We hope to see, among others, Many-striped Canastero, Tawny Antpitta and, perhaps, an Andean Condor or two. We search nearby “Polylepis” groves for specialties such as Giant Conebill and Black-backed Bush-Tanager.

As we descend the slopes beyond the pass, we watch for the spectacular Sword-billed Hummingbird as well as a host of other great birds like Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing and the colorful Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager. We also scan the Río Papallacta for the “torrent trio” of Torrent Duck, Torrent Tyrannulet and the superb White-capped Dipper. Night in Guango Lodge.

Day 6: Guango Lodge

At Guango Lodge, we should be entranced by a host of new species - Slaty Brush-Finch, Masked Trogon, Tourmaline Sunangel, Andean Guan, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Turquoise and Inca Jays, Mountain Cacique, Dusky Piha, Glowing Puffleg and, with luck, a real prize, Mountain Avocetbill. Night in Guango Lodge.

Day 7: San Isidro

We leave Guango and travel further down the eastern slopes to the superb Cabañas San Isidro, arriving at lunchtime, and spending the rest of the day at Guacamayas Ridge. Hummingbirds are well represented, including Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Long-tailed Sylph. Mixed-species flocks pass through the forest, quetzals call from the canopy, an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek is close by, army ants attract a host of followers, and oropendolas call noisily from their nesting colonies. The mystery owl is still present - it looks much like a Black-banded Owl, but not quite right! The list of goodies seems endless - Green-and-black Fruiteater, Striped Treehunter, Spillman’s Tapaculo and the superb Ocellated Tapaculo, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, White-capped Parrot, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Black-billed Peppershrike, and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. Night at San Isidro

Day 8: San Isidro to Wildsumaco Lodge

We spend the morning at San Isidro, and then head to Parque Nacional Sumaco for a picnic lunch, before traveling on to Wildsumaco Lodge for a three night stay. Night at Wildsumaco Lodge.

Days 9 & 10: Wildsumaco Lodge

Wildsumaco Lodge has gained a reputation for its tremendous birding potential. Some of the great birds we look for include Amazonian Umbrellabird, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Bronze-green Euphonia, Wire-crested Thorntail, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Orange-eared Tanager and much more. The birdlist at the lodge is well over 400 species, an incredibly rich avifauna. Whilst here we visit the Antpitta and Face Trails, and forest hummingbird feeders. Nights at Wildsumaco Lodge.

Day 11: Travel to La Selva Jungle Lodge

We head down to the Río Napo to Coca. Arriving at Coca, we take a motorized canoe ride down the Napo River. The rainforests here are among the most complex of biological communities, and the many different habitats collectively boast over 500 bird species. This region, on the eastern slope of the Andes, is in the tropical lowlands of Western Amazonia. Our destination, La Selva Jungle Lodge, lies in the heart of this wilderness, deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon and alongside Challuacocha Lake, where floating water hyacinths and grasses obscure the shores. To the north of Challuacocha lies the Cuyabeno Reserve and along the southern border stretches vast Yasuni National Park. In the corridor between, located on 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of untouched rainforest lies La Selva Jungle Lodge, home to 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines, and exotic flowers, as well as over 500 species of birds, 13 species of monkeys and 1,000 species of butterflies. As we travel the river, zigzagging our way around the many sandbars, we look for some of the river birds such as Black Skimmer, Yellow-billed Tern and Black Caracara. Night at La Selva Jungle Lodge.

Days 12 to 14: La Selva Jungle Lodge

During our stay at La Selva Jungle Lodge, which for many will be the highlight of our trip, we take daily hikes and canoe trips to trails along the lake and river. These excursions will give us a chance to observe a wide variety of birds and mammal species. There are a number of very rare and localized birds to be found here such as White-lored Antpitta, Long-tailed and Rufous Potoos, Cocha Antshrike, Varzea Schiffornis, Parker’s Spinetail, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and much more. Mammals are well represented, and include such choice species as Brazilian Tapir, Giant River Otter and even Jaguar. Nights at La Selva Lodge.

Day 15: Return to Quito

In the morning, we take motorized canoes back to Coca and our return flight to Quito, arriving around noontime. The afternoon is free for sightseeing in Quito or exploring areas near the capital. Night in Quito.

Day 16: Departure

Our Grand Ecuador birding tour ends today as we make our flight connections home.


Featured Wildlife