The lofty Andes have a range of habitats which vary with the altitude, and so Ecuador has the world’s fourth longest bird list, despite its small size! To minimise travelling time, with just two lodges, this extension concentrates on the area around Quito, which has more than 10% of the world’s second largest bird family, the dazzling Hummingbirds, and so we may see up to thirty different species of these stunning little birds, including the amazing Sword-billed and Giant Hummingbirds, as well as a multicoloured spectrum of other exotic species, such as Golden-headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, numerous Tanagers and even the mighty Andean Condor! No wonder this area is ranked number 64 in the world’s top 100 birding sites!
Throughout this fantastic trip we shall be accompanied by Juan Carlos Calvachi, one of Ecuador’s top bird guides, who knows all the songs and calls.
Day 1 You depart Heathrow airport on an early morning flight with Iberia, via Madrid, to Quito, where you arrive late afternoon (to be confirmed once flight schedules are known) to be met by our local guide and transferred to the lovely El Jardín guesthouse in the forested mountains not far from Quito. The lodge is set in three acres of bird-friendly grounds with a list of over fifty species, such as Rusty Flowerpiercer, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Golden-bellied Grosbeak and the remarkable Black-tailed Trainbearer. Dinner and overnight at El Jardín.
Day 2 We have a day trip to Antisana Volcano National Park, with stunning scenery which rises to 19000 feet above sea level, although we will be birding from the roadsides between 11000 and 13000 feet, where we hope to see several Paramo specialities like Caranculated Caracara, Black-faced Ibis, Andean Gull, Silvery Grebe, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Giant Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam, Many-striped and Streak-backed Canasteros, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Bar-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, as well as the majestic Andean Condor. Dinner and overnight at El Jardín.
Day 3 Today we visit the Yanacocha reserve at 11400 feet, with a picnic lunch. The temperate montane forest here offers fabulous birds like Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Start-frontlet, Great Sapphirewing, Scarlet-bellied, Black-chested and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Barred Fruiteater, Rufous and Tawny Antpittas, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Glossy and Masked Flowerpiercers and several others. Dinner and overnight at Septimo Paraiso.
Day 4 We have a day trip to the Mashpi area, birding from 6000 feet down to 2700 feet, where a small reserve called Amagusa has feeders which attract fantastic Choco endemics like Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Violet-tailed Sylph and Moss-backed, Rufous-throated, Flame-faced, Glistening-green and Black-chinned Tanagers. Other possibilities in this productive area include Cloud Forest Pygmy-Owl, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Black Solitaire, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Orange-breasted and Scaled Fruiteaters and many more cloud forest and subtropical species. Dinner and overnight at Septimo Paraiso.
Day 5 A short drive takes us to a fantastic Cock-of-the-Rock lek, where up to a dozen of these flamboyant males form a raucous social gathering, posturing and squabbling noisily every morning before quietly disappearing into the forest! This should be one of many highlights from this part of the tour. Next we pay a visit to Angel Paz, the famous ‘Antpitta man’ who has trained Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted, Moustached and even Giant Antpittas to feed on worms out of his hand! We may also see Dark-backed Wood-Quail and Rufous-breasted Anttrush here, before enjoying a typical breakfast (not worms!) served in the grounds, while watching the fruit feeders with birds like Toucan Barbet, Golden-naped and Golden Tanagers, Crimson-rumped Toucanet and others. In the late morning we drive to a cave for a picnic lunch and then walk twenty yards into the cave to see the weird and wonderful Oilbirds roosting inside the cave barely ten feet away from us! After a very exciting day with many highlights we return to the lodge. Dinner and overnight at Septimo Paraiso.
Day 6 This morning we drive to Silanche, a small reserve at 1600 feet with tropical rainforest, where we have the chance to find lowland species like Choco and Yellow-throated Toucans, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Choco Trogon, Guayaquil, Black-cheeked and Cinnamon Woodpeckers, Black-striped, Plain-brown and Spotted Woodcreepers, plus Scarlet-browed, Silver-throated, Rufous-winged, Blue-necked, Golden-hooded and Grey-and-Gold Tanagers. We drive to Mirador Rio Blanco for lunch and an opportunity to watch their great feeders which attract hummers like Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant and Andean Emerald as well as Orange-bellied and Thick-billed Euphonias and several other mid elevation birds. This afternoon we head for the Septimo Paraiso Lodge, 5600 feet above sea level in the upper Mindo valley, where we will be in ‘seventh heaven’ for the next four nights, as this elegant vintage style lodge with luxurious en-suite rooms and two swimming pools, serves excellent cuisine, amidst a lush cloud forest with an amazing biodiversity. Dinner and overnight at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.
Day 7 We drive to the nearby Bellavista area at 7300 feet, where the pristine cloud forest, festooned with wispy moss and red bromeliads, is roamed by the rare Spectacled Bear! Here we have the chance to see yet another enviable selection of birds like Sickle-winged Guan, Red-billed Parrot, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, striking Crimson-mantled and Powerful Woodpeckers, Gorgeted Sunangel, Collared Inca, Red-crested Cotinga, Green-and-Black Fruiteater, Cinnamon, Golden-crowned and Ornate Flycatchers, Slaty-backed and Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrants, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Turquoise and Beautiful Jays, Tanager Finch, Beryl-spangled, Blue-and-Black, Blue-capped and Grass-green Tanagers and many others. We drive back to Septimo Paraiso for lunch and then return to El Jardín. Dinner and overnight at El Jardín.
Day 8 We have a leisurely morning to enjoy the bird life at the lodge before leaving for the airport to check in for an evening flight home, via Madrid, with Iberia. Dinner and overnight in flight (to be confirmed once flight schedules are known).
Day 9 We arrive at Heathrow airport around 4.30pm (to be confirmed once flight schedules are known).
Single supplement; £195
What the price includes:
Return flights from London Heathrow to Quito, via Madrid, with Iberia (to be confirmed once flight schedules are known), seven nights’ full board en-suite accommodation including snacks, all transport and entry fees in Ecuador, bird checklist and the services of your guides.
The flight time to Madrid is 2 hours 30 minutes and the onward flight to Quito is 10 hours 55 minutes. The return flight to Madrid is 10 hours 40 minutes and the onward flight to Heathrow takes 2 hours 25 minutes.
A visa is not required for British citizens to visit Ecuador.
It is advisable to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. There is no risk of Malaria.
In Quito in July, temperatures range from 7 – 22°C, and so the average is 14.5°C. There is a 19% chance of rain each day, with a monthly total in July of 1 inch which is almost half the amount we get at home in the same month.
We shall be staying in two comfortable and charming lodges, in superb wildlife rich locations, with very little travelling on each day.
This tour involves easy walks with excellent photo-opportunities and we can expect to see over 250 bird species in addition to several special mammals and reptiles.