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Birding in the Eastern Slopes of Ecuador

Paramo, High Andean Forest, Cloud Forest, Foothills, and Amazon Rainforest.

Tour Information

Birding the Eastern Slopes, From the High Andes through the Cloud Forest and submerging into the Amazon Rainforest: Eleven days, ten nights.

This tour offers a wide array of birds and mammals, ranging from the high paramos of Papallacta at 4.300m/14.107ft down to the rainforest of Sacha lodge at 280m/656ft.

This itinerary covers the finest birding reserves and mammal habitats, where you can see unique wildlife like the Andean Bear and Mountain Tapir, we will go across the unique and picturesque valley of Quijos. This cloud forest also has a great diversity of plants, many of them endemic epiphytes which you will enjoy in addition to a variety of hummingbirds like nowhere else in the world.

Wildsumaco is located on a strategic zone where you can experience the foothills and rainforest at the same time. And the northern rainforest at Sacha Lodge, located close to the Napo River, is home to different habitats of the Amazon basin, starting with flooded forest near an oxbow lake, Terra firme forest and the river Islands with its unique microclimates.

Day 1:

Arrival in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, here you will meet your naturalist and bird guide. After an introduction to this charming country, you will be transferred to the hotel near the airport. "Hotel Casa del Viajero" for dinner and overnight.

Day 2:

Cayambe Coca N.P. and Guango Cloud Forest Lodge.

Our nature experience starts at 7:00am. With a pickup at "Hotel la Casa del Viajero."
We will drive to the eastern slopes of the Andes to start exploring the Paramo Grasslands and the Polylepis Woodland towards the heart of the Cloud Forest.

Stunning landscapes await you here. On a clear day, you will see the snowy peaks of Antisana and Cotopaxi volcanoes. Our birding adventure begins by driving and walking slowly along the old road to Pifo, searching for Black-backed Bush Tanager, Paramo Seed eater, Shining Sunbeam, Viridian Metaltail, Brown-backed Chat Tyrant, Tawny Antpitta, White-chinned Thistletail, Chestnut-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, and Pale-naped Brushfinch.

Other targeted species in this area are Giant Conebill, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Rainbow-bearded and Blue-mantled Thorn bill; this National park is one of the best places to search a couple of unique mammals from the Andes of South America, the Andean bear and Mountain tapir.

Lunch will be at the town of Papallacta. Later on we will explore the forest on the Eastern entrance of the park above the hot springs to search for Masked Mountain Tanager, Andean Pygmy Owl, Black-chested Mountain Tanager and Blue-backed Conebill. After a couple of hours of birding, we will drive to our next destination in the cloud forest.

Dinner and overnight at "Guango Lodge".

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Day 3:

Guango Lodge to San Isidro.

Our day starts at 6:00am. A delicious cup of coffee awaits us, then we go to check the moth trap hide, which brings many birds at close distance. Here you will enjoy the sight of Inca and Turquoise Jays, Pale-naped and Slaty Brushfinch, Andean Guan, Mountain Cacique and the Smoky bush tyrant. Walking back for breakfast, we will check the feeders, where you can see and photograph stunning hummingbirds. Some frequent visitors are Long-tailed Sylph, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel and Collared Inca.

After breakfast, we will take a moderate walk around the trails of the lodge searching for Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Plushcap, Grass-green and Blue-and-black Tanagers. Some other target birds here are Dusky Piha, Mountain Avocetbill and Red-hooded Tanager, before lunch we will check the trail close to the river to search for White-capped Dipper, and we may find the enigmatic Torrent Duck.

Lunch will be at Guango lodge. Depending on weather conditions, we may take another short walk along the pipeline trail, a beautiful secondary forest full of Lacrimose, Buff-breasted and Hooded Mountain Tanagers together with Pearled Tree runners and possibly many more species in this beautiful bird sanctuary. Afterward, we will drive to our next destination for the next two nights.

Overnight and diner at San Isidro lodge.

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Day 4:

San Isidro Lodge and the old road to Borja.

After a great cup of coffee, we begin birding at the balcony of the restaurant where you will be delighted to see Masked trogon, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Saffron-crowned Tanagers and Bluish Flowerpiercer. Later on we go with the local guide to check the hand feeding station looking for White bellied Antpitta, one of the highlights here.

After breakfast, we will explore trails of the reserve and the road to the lodge searching for Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Black-billed Peppershrike, Southern Emerald-Toucans, Streak-headed Antbird, Rufous-crowned Tody Flycatcher and Gorgeted Woodstar.

We will enjoy a delicious local lunch in San Isidro, followed by a short drive to one of the hummingbird gardens near the town of Borja. This is a new bird reserve run by a local family. They have started a reforestation project in their farm in order to protect some stunning wildlife in the eastern foothills. Prior to this, the local people had created grassfields for cows as the main income for their subsistence. We will take short walks along a secondary road searching for White-capped Tanagers, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Lemon-browed Flycatchers, and the Black-and-white Becard. The feeders here attract many gorgeous hummers including Green-backed Hillstars, Peruvian Racket-tail, Bronzi Inca, I am sure the magnificent Long-tailed Sylph will pose more than once for your photo collection.

After a couple of hours birding around Borja, we will return to San Isidro for dinner and overnight, this will be our second chance to find the mysterious San-Isidro Owl, a variation of Black-banded Owl.

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Day 5:

San Isidro Lodge to Guacamayos Ridge.

We will take an early breakfast and get ready to explore the Guacamayos Ridge, one of the best birding locations in the eastern Andes. This trail is cut into the side of a steep ridge of Antisana National Park, and the pristine cloud forest is home to many rare and highly desired species in the eastern Andes. Today we will be searching for Black-chested and Green-and-black Fruiteaters, Rufous-crested and Blue-browed Tanagers, Handsome Flycatcher, Slate-crowned Antpitta, in addition to many other species. This trail is also a great area to search for some rare and local birds, like Flammulated Treehunters, Oliváceos Piha, Brown-billed Scythebill, and the very rare Peruvian Antpitta.

After a few hours walking the Jumandy trail, we will return to the Lodge for lunch. Later on, we will visit some of the newer bird reserves or take short walks by the secondary road and trails around the lodge.

Last night to find the San Isidro owl and the mythical Night Monkey.

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Day 6:

San Isidro, Wayra to Wildsumaco Lodge.

Always starting the morning with good coffee, in order to get ready for a journey to the foothills, after breakfast we will go to visit one of the newest reserves in the area, this time searching for a couple of birds we haven’t seen yet.

Wayra reserve is known for its great feeding station, affording us the opportunity to see and photograph the rare and skulking Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail and, seasonally, the stunning Spangled Coquette. After a couple of hours birding around the reserve we, may start our drive to the foothills or go back to Guacamayos ridge to search again for species we haven’t seen yet.

After lunch at Sumaco we will enjoy a great number of hummingbirds in the balcony of the restaurant, here some stunning species from the foothills, Gould's jewelfront, Many-spotted hummingbird, Peruvian Racket-tail, and Violet-headed hummingbird just to mention a few, around the lodge there will be great birding opportunities, Western Fire-eye, Chestnut-eared Aracari and Yellow-throated Toucan, Gilded and Red-headed Barbets often feeding from Cecropia fruits around the lodge.

Overnight and dinner at Wildsumaco Lodge.

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Day 7:

Wildsumaco Lodge.

We will start with an early breakfast at 6:00am. Later on a walk down a trail for half an hour to see the hand feeding station that attracts White-crowned Tapaculo, Ocher-breasted and Plain-backed Antpittas. This beautiful rainforest has a great trail system that provides access to different types of forest, giving a very good opportunity to see a wide variety of unique birds.

Birding will be done by short walks along some moderate trails. Today we will be looking for Rufous-naped Green let, Scarlet-breasted Fruit eater, Western Striolated Puff bird, Spot-backed Ant bird, Lined Ant shrike, Spotted, Orange-eared and Paradise Tanager, Golden-collared Honey creeper, Blue-rumped Manakin, and Yellow-throated Spadebills. This great morning will end with a tasty lunch at Wildsumaco Lodge.

After lunch, we will take a break around the hummingbird station with great opportunities to photograph Wire-crested Thorn tail, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Ecuadorian Piedtai, and perhaps the rare Napo Sabrewing, which sometimes shows up around the feeders. Afterward, we will go birding along a secondary road combined by short walks and drive. We will be looking for Military Macaws, Black-streaked Puff bird, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Golden-collared Toucanet, and Bluish-gray Saltator.

After dinner we will take a short walk around the lodge searching for Band-bellied Owl and Rufescent and Foothill Screech-Owls.

Overnight and diner at Wildsumaco Lodge.

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Day 8:

Wildsumaco to Sacha Lodge.

After breakfast and a short birding around the restaurant, we will start our journey to Coca city, the gate to the Rainforest. Coca officially named Puerto Francisco de Orellana in honor of the Spanish explorer who sailed from the current location of the town into the Amazon River, eventually journeying to the Atlantic Ocean.

On arrival to Coca, we will take a motorized canoe down the Napo River for about two hours, where one of the top lodges of the Amazon awaits us. Once we arrive to the river deck, we will start exploring the main trail and the lagoon in front of the restaurant, here there are great opportunities to see the prehistoric Hoatzin, Black-capped Donacobius, Long-billed Wood creepers and Black-fronted Nun bird.

After a welcome cocktail, we will get ready for our first birding experience by canoe around the oxbow lake and creeks.

Overnight and dinner diner at Sacha Lodge.

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Day 9:

Sacha Lodge Canopy Walk and Kapok Tower.

Early breakfast around 5:30am. Afterward we will take a short walk to the canopy walkway, three towers connected at 43 meters high, this astonishing bridge above the forest canopy is a highlight place for birdwatching, here we will be searching for Purplish Jacamar, Plum-throated and Spangled Cotingas, Green-and-gold, Turquoise and Paradise tanagers some woodpeckers around are Crimson-crested and chestnut, there will be good chances to see Many-banded and Lettered Aracari, on the way back to the Lodge for lunch we will look for Screaming Piha, Lancelot Moklet and Wire-tailed Manakin.

At 15:30pm. We will explore the orchid creek that is part of the blackwater system, time to find some flooded forest specialists, we will search for Silvered Antbird, Cream-colored Woodpecker, White-chinned Jacamar and American Pygmy Kingfisher, at the end of this stunning creek we have a Kapok Tower to search for some target species from the forest canopy, good chances to see Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Black-tailed Trogon, Flame-crested Tanager, Pink-throated Becard, creeks are great places to see primates and maybe the unique Giant River Otter swims in front of the dugout canoe.

Overnight and dinner diner at Sacha Lodge.

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Day 10:

Sacha Lodge to Yasuni Clay Licks and River Islands.

Breakfast will be around 4:30am. Later on, we will take a dugout canoe towards the Napo River, then transfer to a motorized canoe down river to reach the clay licks on the river bank of the Yasuni National Park. We will enjoy a couple of dozen parrots and parakeets. On a lucky day, 5 different species can gather around the wall to eat the clay that helps to neutralize toxins and alkaloids from the seeds they have digested.

After a good show we will move to the trails in the National park. This time we will search for Rusty-belted Tapaculos, Great-billed Hermit, Black, throated Trogon, Brownish Twist wing, Lemon-throated Barbet, Striolated Manakin, and Mouse-colored Antshrike, at the end of the trail, the second clay lick awaits us, Scarlet Macaws and Orange-cheeked Parrots are the target birds here.

After a couple of hours in the National park, we will return to the Napo River.

Here we will have our packed lunch while admiring the magnificent view of the Amazon basin. After a short break, we start exploring the river islands and river creeks. Some target species for the rest of the day are Amazonian Umbrellabird, Little Woodpecker, Riparian Parrotlet, Orange-headed Tanager, Black-and-white Antbird, Ladder-tailed Nightjar, and Castelnau’s Antshrike, afterward we will return to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

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Day 11:

Sacha Lodge to Coca and back to Quito.

Our last morning exploring the rainforest starts at 5:30am. We will depart slowly, exploring the oxbow lake and the entrance trail to the lodge before we take the motorized canoe to Coca.

On arrival to Coca, we will have a mid-morning snack at Sacha’s office and afterward the staff will take us to the airport for our flight back to Quito.

Once in Quito, you will wait at the International departures for your flight home, or you will be transferred to the hotel nearby for dinner and overnight.

Do you have more days for birding in this magical country? Ask for extensions!

This tour links with: Classic Northwest of Ecuador.

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By Visiting Ecuador, you help us Protect and Preserve Nature for Future Generations!

More Information

  • What does the trip Include

    • Airport transfers to and from UIO (International airport, Quito).
    • Private transportation throughout the tour.
    • English-speaking birdwatching and photography guide.
    • Entrance fees to all reserves and photography hides.
    • All meals from the first to the last day.
    • Coffee, tea and purified water at all Lodges and reserves.

  • What is not Included

    • Travel insurance.
    • Tips to drivers and local guides.
    • Alcoholic drinks, laundry services.
    • Extra services and trips not specified in the posted itinerary.
    • International and local flights.

  • Relevant Information

    • Highest place will be at Papallacta pass at 4.300m/14.107ft and lowest elevation will be at Sacha Lodge at 280m/656ft.
    • Climate is highly variable in Ecuador, with temperatures varying from 10-30°C, 50-80 ºF.
    • Sudden rainstorms interspersed with bright sun are not uncommon.
    • The official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar.
    • Internet is available at some lodges, but not guaranteed.
    • Nature Quest can arrange the purchase of local SIM cards with advance notice in order to provide data based internet service.

  • Suggested Packing List

    • Clothing, quick dry material, no cotton.
    • Shirts with long sleeves.
    • Long convertible pants.
    • Waterproof hiking boots or trail runners.
    • Sandals or water shoes.
    • Quick dry / merino wool socks.
    • Sun hat or baseball cap.
    • Lightweight rain jacket.
    • Soft shell jacket or fleece.
    • Binoculars 10x42 or 8x42.

    Others: Camera!, Refillable water bottle, Eco friendly sunblock, Eco friendly mosquito repellent (we suggest sawyer brand picaradin), Any personal medications that you are using at taking, Hiking poles if needed.

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