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Searching for Choco Endemics

The Yanacocha Reserve lies on the northwest flank of Volcán Pichincha at ca. 10499 - 11155 ft (3200-3400 m )above sea level and is known for being the home of a critically endangered hummingbird, the Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis). Along the trails visitors can obtain point-blank views of many bird species including Sword-billed Hummingbird and the spectacular Great Saphirewing, two other species of puffleg (Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted) and a couple species of flowerpiercers (e.g., Glossy and Masked). Many other birds besides hummingbirds are also to be seen, with mixed species flocks dominated by various tanagers including spectacular mountain tanagers (Hooded, Scarlet-bellied, Black-chested, and Buff-breasted), Barred Fruiteater, Pearled Treerunner and many others. Pairs and family group of notably tame Andean Guans are also regular. The Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is an excellent place for every bird-watcher who wants to observe birds in a Cloud Forest. The 700 hectare private reserve is inhabited by rare and endemic birds. Hummingbirds and tanagers, toucans and antpittas, all vie for your attention, and could keep any dedicated naturalist enthused for a lifetime of observation. The area has won the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the highest number of bird species seen in one day! And now, with the recent declaration of the road from Nono – Tandayapa – San Tadeo as the first Ecoroute in Ecuador, more habitat will be protected for birds. There are always great birds to see, be it a good tanager flock, specialty birds like Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and Tanager-Finch.

The Paz de las Antpittas Reserve is a unique place where you can experience a man calling out 3 species of antpitta, which he does using their individual names. Maria is a Giant Antpitta, Willy and Esmeraldas are Yellow-breasted Antpittas, and there are also Moustached Antpittas. But there are other special birds to see here besides the antpittas. It is probable that the first birds seen will be at the amazing Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek,. Beautiful Jays, while uncommon, are sometimes seen too. At the hummingbird feeders, White-bellied Woodstar and Purple-bibbed Whitetip can sometimes be seen. Other exotic birds that can often be seen are Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Sickle-winged Guan, a Black-chinned Mountain Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager. The Mindo Loma Reserve was created to preserve the distinct habitats of this cloud forest. In this forest we have different eco-systems that contain various species in danger of extinction. Mindo Loma is influenced by two important areas, "El Choco" and "Los Andes". Here you can observe a great variety of species like Crimson-Mantled woodpecker, Wedge-Billed Hummingbird, Mountain-wood creeper, Masked-Trogon, Lineated-Foleage Gleaner, Purple-Throated Woodstar, Golden-Naped tanager, Sycle-Winged Guan, Black-Chined Mountain Tanager, Pale-Mandible Aracari, Flamed-Faced Tanager, Berill-Spangle Tanager, Roufus-Tailed Hummingbird, Plate-Billed Mountain, Toucan, Hoarry-Puffleg, Velvet-Purple Coronet, Scaled-Fruitteater, White-Faced Number, Glistening-Green Tanager and Rusty-winged barbtailed.

At 984 - 1148 ft above sea level (300 to 350 MASL) (984 - 1148 ft) the Silanche Reserve is a low altitude private cloud forest and bird sanctuary. This placed is owned and protected by the Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation in an effort to preserve the threaten forest in this internationally defined Important Bird Area (IBA). The reserve is a must visit place for the great variety of Chocó endemics that can be seen here such as the Purple-chested Hummingbird, the Chocó Trogon, the Double-banded Graytail, the Griscom's Antwren, the Stub-tailed Antbird, the Black-tipped Cotinga, the Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, the Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, the Scarlet-and-white Tanager, and the Blue-whiskered Tanager. The Pahuma Orchid Reserve has an extension of 650 hectareas and lies between 6430 ft (1.960 m) a.s.l and 9514 ft (2.900 m) a.s.l. The vegetation of the mountainous forest is abundant and home of the great quantity of plants epiphytes, included bromeliads, mosses ferns and it protects more than 270 species of orchids, of which 9 are endemic. This amazing habitat is home to a large number of rare and endemic bird species, and in 2004 the reserve was designated an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. A bird list of 150 species has been compiled since 2000 including Torrent Duck, White-tailed Hillstar, Gorgeted Sunangel, Booted Racket-tail, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Giant Antpitta and Andean Cock-of-the-rock. The Antisana Ecological Reserve is a great place to observe the Andean condor as well as the Ecuadorian Hummingbird. Other birds that are easy to spot are the Carunculated Cara-Cara, the Black headed Ibis and the Andean Gull but with a little bit of luck one can also spot Aplomado Falcon, Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Snipe, Rufous-Bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Blue-Mantled Thornbill, Glowing Puffleg, Many-Striped Canastero, Stout-Billed Cinclodes, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Ground-Tyrant, Brown-Backed Chat-Tyrant, Red-Crested Cotinga, Grass Wren and Black-Backed Bush-Tanager.


Day 01 Arrival in Quito

Arrival in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, which lies at 9186.3 ft (2.800m) altitude above sea level. We meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Accommodation in Quito.

Day 02 Yanacocha Ecological Reserve

After an early breakfast in your hotel, then depart for Yanacocha Reserve we head toward the Yanacocha Ecological Reserve located on the North side of Volcano Guagua Pichincha at 3600m/11,483 feet. The Yanacocha Ecological Reserve is famous for its high-elevation specialties; you will spend the morning birding the Trocha Inca Trail. Here you will see at least ten species of hummingbirds, and the mixed feeding flocks you will encounter will add many more tantalizing birds to the list! You have good chances to spot Barred Fruiteater, Great Sapphirewing, Golden breasted and Sapphire vented Pufflegs, Sword billed Hummingbirds, and many more. You will have a picnic lunch in these amazing surroundings before you begin the drive to Mindo via the Old Nono-Mindo Road. This road offers spectacular views of the forest and excellent birding, with the possibility of spotting sought-after birds such as Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper. You will then spend a night in Mindo, where you will spend the next four nights.

Day 03 Tandayapa Valley

After an early breakfast you will drive to the Tandayapa Valley, where the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is located. Our target species will include Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Toucan Barbet, and one of the most rare and sought-after birds: the Tanager Finch. After lunch, you will relax near the feeders and enjoy up to 20 species of hummingbirds, including Brown and Collared Incas, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Booted Rackettail. Accommodation in Mindo.

Day 04 Paz de las Antpittas Reserve, Mindo Loma Reserve & Milpe Bird Sanctuary

Early this morning we will head to the Paz de las Antpittas Reserve to observe the Andean Cock of the Rocks at their lek, where males assemble during the mating season and engage in competitive displays to attract females. Afterwards we will join Angel (the owner of the reserve) as she draws her "charges" in for breakfast: Maria the Giant Antpitta, Willi the Yellow-breasted Antpitta, and Susan the Moustached Antpitta! We will then enjoy our own breakfast, and on the way back to the lodge we will make a stop at Mindo Loma Reserve to look for Black-chinned Mountain Tanager and Hoary Puffleg. After lunch we will have about an hour to "chill out" before visiting the Milpe Bird Sanctuary in the afternoon to search for Choco endemics such as Moss-backed, Rufous-throated, and Glistening-green Tanagers, as well as Club-winged Manakin. Accommodation in Mindo.

Day 05 Silanche Reserve

After an early breakfast, we will drive downslope to the Silanche Reserve. At 1000 feet (305m), this is the lowest preserve we will visit, and we will spend a few hours at the Canopy Tower looking for Choco endemics such as Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Rufous-winged and Blue-whiskered Tanagers. Accommodation in Mindo.

Day 06 Birds of the Cloud Forest – Pahuma Orchid Reserve

After breakfast, you have the choice! You can explore the trails around the lodge (which has a bird list of 350 species), or you can travel in an hour's drive to the Oilbird Cave in hopes of seeing this enigmatic bird! In the afternoon you will drive to Quito, stopping at the Pahuma Orchid Reserve on our way to look for White-tailed Hillstar. Accommodation in Quito.


Day 07 Birds of the Andes – Antizana National Park

Today, you will visit the Antizana National Park, which is a spectacular place to observe Andean Condor, Black-faced Ibis, Giant Hummingbird, and Ecuadorian Hillstar, in addition to many other specialties of the Paramo (the Andean Highlands). Accommodation in Quito.

Day 08 Transfer out or Extension

According to your international flight times we will accompany you in a transfer to Mariscal Sucre airport to take your flight home.

Please note that this tour may be combined with an extension tour to the Amazon Basin or the Galapagos Islands before or after the tour.

Prices 2019 per person (minimum 02 people)
In a double room: US$ 2060,- per person
Single room supplement: US$ 392,-

Please contact us for prices for the tour for 1 traveler or groups.

Tour prices include: all transfers in private transportation, excursions and overland tours as mentioned above accompanied by a specialist bilingual guide (English/Spanish – other languages upon request only), accommodation based on double rooms, meals outside Quito, and entrance fees to all reserves visited.

Tour prices do not include: international airport taxes (Quito ca. US$ 43 per person; ca. Guayaquil US$ 28), personal equipment and items, travel insurance, extra charge for single rooms, tips, personal expenses, beverages, meals in Quito, anything not mentioned in the program.

NB: Please read all itineraries as a guide only. All routes and programs can change without notice due to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and the wildlife encountered during the travel. Flexibility is the key to the success of any tour. Nevertheless the safety and the interest of our passengers is always our first priority.

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