This 14-day itinerary is perfect for serious bird watchers who dream of visiting some of the best bird watching sites in the Colombia. The journey includes excursions in the Choco-Western Andes transition, where nearly all the birds are endemic or near-endemic and the mystical and biologically unique Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – an evolutionary island of biodiversity where you have the chance to view over 20 endemic birds. In addition to excellent birding sites, you'll experience life in rural Colombia and travel across stunning landscapes from the sea to the soaring Andes mountains.

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Sep 1, 2018 14 days Available $3,233 USD Inquire

Looking for additional group departures? Check out Birdwatching in Colombia's Andean Ranges & Magdalena Valley - 16 Days.

Highlights

  • Travel to remote regions to spot many of Colombia's 77 endemic birds
  • Experience the amazing biodiversity along the old road to Buenaventura, now reclaimed by the jungle 
  • Visit Parque Nacional Natural Tatama, home to some 600 different birds
  • Spot Santa Marta Warblers, White-tipped Quetzals and other birds in the endemic laden San Lorenzo Ridge

Overview

Colombia is a top country for birding and a very exciting destination for birders around the world. It is home to over 1930 bird species – close to 20% of world's total avian diversity – with at least 77 endemics. The complex topography of Colombia offers a wide range of different ecosystems, due to which bird speciation has occurred all around its territory. 

Colombia's exuberant birdlife includes glistening tanagers, cryptic antbirds, iridescent hummingbirds, tricky flycatchers and curious antpittas, all of which you will have the opportunity to see during this trip. Our guide is the Alejandro Pinto, a biologist from the National University.  

On this trip, you will explore the mega-diverse western Andes / Choco divide and finish in the most important Neotropical hotspot – the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. These areas offer an incredible amount of Colombian endemics and near-endemics. 

The trip will start at Parque Nacional Natural Tatama, in the sector of Cerro Montezuma, one of the best birding areas in Colombia. For two days you will search high and low for birds in an area that boasts a checklist of some six hundred birds, including at least 15 endemics and near-endemics birds, including the beautiful (and of course endemic) Black-and-gold Tanager and Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia genus).

You then move on to the town of Queremal and the Anchicayá River basin, located on the western slope of Western Andes, which used to be the old road to the port of Buenaventura, down on the Pacific coast of Colombia. The road, left to overgrow,  is being reclaimed by nature, the tropical humid forest that surrounds the old road offers amazing biodiversity, at least four hundred species have been recorded here!

On your last day on the western Andes, we will visit the famous KM 18 and San Antonio Cloud Forest, where Multicoloured Tanagers steal the show, along with a lot of colorful tanagers and hummingbirds that can be found here.

This trip ends with the jewel in the crown – the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif – a unique paradise for bird speciation between the warm, humid breeze of the Caribbean to the cold wind of highest peaks of Colombia. Here there are over 20 endemics species – of which 15 are relatively easy to see – and other near-endemics.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight 
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Fly to Pereira and transfer to Montezuma Lodge, PNN Tatama PNN Tatamá
Day 3 Birding upper Montezuma Road Montezuma Lodge
Day 4 Birding lower Montezuma Road Montezuma Lodge
Day 5 Monezuma to SFF Otun-Quimbaya SFF Otun-Quimbaya
Day 6 Otun River Basin & SFF Otun-Quimbaya SFF Otun-Quimbaya
Day 7 Birding Otun-Quimbaya, transfer to Cali Cali
Day 8 El Queremal & Upper Anchicaya Basin El Queremal
Day 9 Lower Anchicaya Basin El Queremal
Day 10 KM 18 San Antonio Cloud Forest & Fly to Santa Marta Santa Marta
Day 11 Minca to El Dorado Reserve, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta El Dorado
Day 12 San Lorenzo Ridge & El Dorado Reserve El Dorado
Day 13 El Dorado Lodge & descend to Santa Marta Santa Marta
Day 14 KM 4 and Salamanca National Park & Depature  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá, welcome dinner

Plaza de Bolívar in the Colombian capital Bogotá.

With a population of more than 8 million people, Bogotá is a huge metropolitan city at 8600 ft (2600 m) above sea level. The city is located in the high savanna or 'altiplano' (plateau) of the Eastern Andes. After your arrival in Bogotá, you'll be transferred to your hotel in the north of the city. 

We'll select a restaurant from the many excellent options found near the hotel (as this is a well-known night-life area) where we will have a lively welcome dinner with the rest of the group and our Colombian Project Birding Tour Leader. The leader will discuss the incredible birding experience coming up over the next couple of weeks and your eager bird-related questions will be answered!

If you arrive a day or two early for a local pre-trip or city tour we will be happy to support you with the arrangements.

Day 2: Fly to Pereira and transfer to Montezuma Lodge, PNN Tatama

From our birding area, we will have excellent views of PNN Tatamá. 

This morning we'll head to El Dorado Airport for our flight to Pereira (1hr). On arrival, the group will be picked up by the fleet of 4x4's and head for the town of Pueblo Rico, deep in the western edge of the Colombian coffee landscape.

You will pass plantations of coffee and plantain, plus forests, deep valleys, and mountains on the way to this small coffee town. After a quick stop to sample some local coffee we will head off-road to Montezuma Lodge, located on the fringes of PNN Tatamá, deep in the Western Andes. 

Depending on the time, we'll either stop for lunch or have lunch on arrival. After around three hours the group will arrive at the lodge, ready to be greeted by Doña Leopoldina and family, whose hospitality is well-known. You will have time to watch some hummingbirds and tanagers on the feeders next to the lodge in the afternoon before enjoying dinner, some birding tales, and recommendations for the next day.  

Day 3: Birding upper Montezuma Road

Purple-bibbed Whitetip.

This morning you'll head up to the highest part of the Montezuma Road, which overlooks the 13,123 ft (4000 m) peaks of Tatama's super-humid cloud-forest. The area of concentration is the mid- to high-altitudes of 5570 to 8530 ft (1700 to 2600 m) above sea level.

What makes this location so special is its geographical proximity to the Choco Rainforest and Pacific slope of the Western Andes, which this is technically part of.  This confluence of humid Pacific air and Andes forest is the perfect mix of rainfall and food supply for isolated speciation to have occurred here over many millennia resulting in a treasure-trove of birds with isolated ranges. 

You will spend two and half days on a 7.5 mile (12 km) trail where we'll be looking for a number of birds, including: Black-and-gold tanager (endemic), Gold-ringed Tanager (endemic), Munchique Wood-Wren (endemic), Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (endemic), Alto-Pisones Tapaculo (endemic), Velvet-purple Coronet (near-endemic), Empress Brilliant (near-endemic), Western Emerald, White-tailed Hillstar, Barred Hawk, Toucan Barbet (near-endemic), White-faced Nunbird (hard to see), Lanceolated Monklet (hard to see), Golden-headed Quetzal, Beautiful Jay (near-endemic), Black Solitaire (near-endemic), Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (near-endemic) and Buffy Tuftedcheek.

You may even possibly get to feed a rather confident group of Olive Finch. The rare and enigmatic Greater Scythebill has been recorded here on a few occasions though is unlikely. You will overnight again at Montezuma Lodge.

Day 4: Birding lower Montezuma Road

Star-chested Treerunner.

Today's birding will be concentrated between 5577 ft to 4265 ft (1700 m and 1300 m) above sea level. The morning will be spent around the Clarita sector and above (or further up depending on how the previous day went), where we'll be looking for the following birds: Fulvous-dotted Treerunner,  Yellow-breasted Antpitta (near-endemic and hard to see), Ochre-breasted Antpitta (hard to see), Choco Tapaculo (near-endemic), Nariño Tapaculo (near-endemic), Tanager Finch (near-endemic), Barred fruiteater (uncommon), Scaled Fruiteater (uncommon), Orange-breasted Fruiteater (near-endemic), Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Tricoloured Brush-Finch, Olivaceous Flatbill and Olivaceous Piha, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Uniform Antshrike, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Club-winged Manakin (nearer the lodge).

You will see countless more specialties in this dense, lush forest. You will enjoy lunch in the field and dinner at the lodge, which will be accompanied by some beer to celebrate the group's various lifers of the day! You will spend another night at Montezuma Lodge.

Day 5: Montezuma to SFF Otun-Quimbaya

Empress Brilliant

This morning will be spent around the lodge, looking for abundant local hummingbirds, including the enchanting Velvet-purple Coronet (near-endemic), the beautiful Empress Brilliant and Purple-throated Woodstar (near-endemic), White-tailed Hillstar (near-endemic), the Violet-tailed Sylph and many more. 

After a mid-morning start, we'll drive back to Pereira and then onwards through and up the Otun River basin, site of the next reserve nestled in the Central Andes and one of the best preserved Andean forests in Latin America.  

A late lunch will be had at the lodge of Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Otun-Quimbaya, so named after the local pre-hispanic groups that inhabited the area and the Otun River itself, which it borders. This small 486-hectare reserve preserves a number of micro-basins, the best-preserved patch of sub-tropical forest in the region.

Species that can be found here include the otherwise rare and endemic Cauca Guan. This bird, which was once critically endangered, is part of a story of careful conservation over the past 20 years and one of the core reasons behind the creation of the sanctuary, which has national park status. Other important birds here include the Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, which is otherwise difficult to see although here it abounds. A good population of Red Howler-Monkeys exists along with a fantastic list of Andean birds that are difficult elsewhere. 

An afternoon will be spent birding around the lodge and road, where you'll be looking for typical birds including Green Jay, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Scrub Tanager (near-endemic), Beryl-spangled, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned Golden-naped and Golden Tanagers, Masked Trogon and Black-winged Saltator.

You will have dinner and spend the night at the SFFOQ

Day 6: Otun River Basin & SFF Otun-Quimbaya

Crested Ant-Tanager

This morning we will have an early breakfast and transfer 4 miles up the road to the trailhead of El Cedral, which is an excellent site to view some of the rarities that are found here. Birds that we'll be looking out for include Cauca Guan (endemic) and Chestnut Wood-Quail (endemic).

You will then go to the river Otun where we will search for the elusive Torrent Duck, the Colombian Screech-Owl (near-endemic), Emerald Toucanet, and the rare and difficult Hooded Antpitta (near-endemic).

You may also spot Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (near-endemic), Multicolored Tanager (endemic), the difficult, seasonal but very beautiful White-capped Tanager, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, the fairly common White-capped Dipper, enigmatic Wattled Guan, Bar-crested Antshrike (near-endemic ), Bronze-winged Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet.

You'll return to the lodge for lunch before heading out on the trails around the sanctuary looking for the inconspicuous Moustached Puffbird,  endemic and sometimes very noisy Crested Ant-Tanager, skulking Stiles' Tapaculo, seasonal Andean Cock-of-the-rock and many more. 

You'll also be on the lookout for Mountain Tapir, which is viewed often and an excellent sign of how well conserved it is in this part of the country. Lunch will be had at the lodge before we head out for some afternoon action along the road and around the lodge. Dinner and lodging is again at SFFOQ. 

Day 7: AM Otun-Quimbaya, transfer to Cali

Torrent Duck

After our breakfast, we will watch birds around Otún ecolodge where it will be possible to see some really colorful birds and targets including Cauca Guan (endemic), Flame-rumped Tanager, Scrub Tanager (near-endemic), Masked Trogon, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Golden Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager and much more.

After the lunch, we set out on a 4-5hr drive to Cali, following the line of the Cauca Valley all the way to the salsa capital of the world. On arrival, we'll check in to the hotel, and head out to one of Cali's excellent restaurants. Over dinner, we'll discuss the next few day's birding in and around Cali. 

Day 8: El Queremal & Upper Anchicaya Basin

Glistening-green Tanager

After an early breakfast we get our packs ready to go to our next stop.

Queremal is located in the western (Pacific) slope of Western Andes, following the old road that leads to the Pacific coast. This Andean rainforest is influenced by the super-humid Choco bio-region. We'll be around an altitude of around 5249 ft (1,600 m) above sea level along the old road to Buenaventura, one of the best birding roads in the world.  Along the upper part of the road, we'll be keeping a keen eye for the distinctive call and flash of color that comes with the absolutely stunning Glistening-Green Tanager (near-endemic).

The stunning near-endemic Purplish-mantled Tanager and Choco slope specialties such as Black solitaire (near-endemic) will also be on our radar.

You can also spot: Toucan Barbet (near-endemic), Black-chinned Mountain Tanager (near-endemic), Rufous-throated Tanager (near-endemic), Silver-throated Tanager, Chesnut-breasted Wren (uncommon), Green Thorntail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Crowned Woodnymph, Uniform Antshrike, Red-faced Spinetail, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyran, Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager, Bay-headed tanager, Lemon-spectacled Tanager (near-endemic), Long-tailed Sylph, Barred Hawk, Red-headed Barbet, Black-headed Brush-Finch (near-endemic), Orange-billed Sparrow, Slate-coloured Grosbeak, Golden-collared Honeycreeper (uncommon), Booted Racket-tail, Golden-headed Quetzal, and many more. 

You'll have a delicious home-cooked lunch at Doña Dora's house, a shining example of a successful rural ecotourism which, after lots of hard work has become a premier spot for birding and picking up various, otherwise-difficult species. 

We'll return to the town of El Queremal and to the hotel where you'll have the chance to review photos, reminisce about chance sightings and have a spot of dinner before retiring to bed. 

Day 9: Lower Anchicaya basin

Lemon-spectacled Tanager

Today will be an earlier than usual start to be able to travel down to the lower altitudes of the Anchicaya valley. We'll have our breakfast in the field and spend a couple of hours traveling down the old road to Buenaventura where the further down we go the more that mother nature has reclaimed the road. Various waterfalls will be seen including one that actually cascades onto the road as we head through tropical humid forest which offers amazing biodiversity and an altitudinal range from 1300 to 3200 ft (400 – 1000 m) above sea level. 

In this sector you can expect to see: Baudo Guan (near-endemic), Choco Poorwill (near-endemic), White-whiskered Hermit, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Purple-chested Hummingbird (near-endemic), Lemon-spectacled Tanager (near-endemic), Choco Toucan, Lita Woodpecker, Choco Woodpecker (near-endemic), Spot-crowned Barbet, Golden-chested Tanager (near-endemic), Scarlet and White Tanager (near-endemic), Thicket Antpitta, White-tailed Trogon, Brown-billed Scythebill, Blue-whiskered Tanager (near-endemic), Emerald Tanager, White-whiskered Puffbird, Russet Antshrike, Barred Puffbird, Blue-tailed Trogon (near-endemic), Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Choco Toucan, Bright-rumped Attila, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Black-chested Jay, Grey and Gold Tanager (near-endemic), Scarlet-browed Tanager, Purple Quail-Dove, Greenish Puffleg, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Fasciated Antshrike, Golden-winged Manakin, Northern-barred Woodcreeper, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Orange-breasted Fruiteater and many more.  

After enjoying lunch in the field we'll start to make our way back to pick up more species such as White-headed Wren, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmot, Collared Aracari and the very tiny Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant. 

Day 10: KM 18 San Antonio cloud forest & fly to Santa Marta

Blue-headed Sapphire

After our breakfast and with our packs ready we will move to the famed San Antonio Cloud Forest and the KM 18 area within. This Andean cloud forest perched on the Western Andes,  next to Cali lies at 6561 ft (2000 m) above sea level. This forest has been classified as an important bird and biodiversity area (IBA)  in Colombia.

First, we'll take a walk along the gravel road that leads off the road to Buenaventura (the modern version of where you were yesterday). Here we will experience the overhanging cloud forest on either side of the road. After a couple of hours, we'll reach the farm abode of Don Raul aptly named the 'Hummingbird Paradise'.

At this site it's possible to observe: Multicolored Tanager (endemic), Golden-headed and Crested Quetzal, Red-headed Barbet, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Colombian Chachalaca (endemic), Blue-headed Sapphire, Andean Motmot, Andean Solitaire, Golden, Golden-naped, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned and Flame-rumped Tanagers, Masked Flowerpiercer, the difficult and seasonal Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Bronzy Inca, Andean Emerald, Buff-tailed Coronet, Barred Becard, Scaled Fruiteater (uncommon), White-naped and Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Golden-Winged Manakin, Spotted Barbtail, Andean Solitaire, Nariño Tapaculo and many more. 

After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll head to Cali airport for our afternoon flight to the city of Santa Marta. Upon arrival in Santa Marta, we'll head to the hotel to check-in and rest before heading out to a local restaurant for dinner. 

Day 11: Minca to El Dorado Reserve, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Bicolored Wren

Today we will start early in the morning for our drive to the Sierra foothill town of Minca. Located at around 1968 ft (600 m) above sea level, these foothills are surrounded by native dry forest, premontane forest, and montane forest, making this a good spot for birdwatching.

In this area, you can see many interesting birds, including Golden-winged Sparrow (near-endemic), Shining-green Hummingbird, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Swallow Tanager, Bicoloured Wren, Rosy-thrush Tanager, Keel-billed Toucan, Rufous-capped Warbler, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Black-chested Jay, Pale-breasted and Yellow-legged Thrush, Gartered Streaked Saltator, Bay-headed Tanager, Masked Tityra, the 'chu-chu-chu' Rufous and White Wren, Royal Flycatcher (hard to see). 

We will finish the day at El Dorado reserve with a beautiful view of the highlands of the Sierra Nevada where we can watch some specialties at the feeders! We overnight at El Dorado Lodge. 

Day 12: San Lorenzo Ridge & El Dorado Reserve

'Santa Marta' Screech-Owl.

Today we will focus on the endemics of Santa Marta before first light we'll drive up to San Lorenzo Ridge and our breakfast in the field when we arrive.

The San Lorenzo Ridge is located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains and is the best spot to find endemics and near-endemics in this isolated mountain range. The ridge was recently declared an IBA (previously defined) due to its important birds and its unique biodiversity.

Birds that are possible to see here include: Santa Marta Parakeet (endemic), Santa Marta Blossomcrown (endemic), White-tailed Starfronlet (endemic), Santa Marta Woodstar (endemic), Santa Marta Sabrewing (endemic), Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner (endemic), Santa Marta Antbird (endemic), Santa Marta Antpitta (endemic), Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant (endemic), Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager (endemic), Santa Marta Brush-Finch (endemic), Santa Marta Warbler (endemic), White-tipped Quetzal (near-endemic), Santa Marta Wood-Wren, White-lored Warbler, Sierra Nevada Brush-Finch, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, and a lot of others birds from the Andes.   

After descending from the ridge we'll be looking for raptors circling above and the various hummingbirds around the lodge feeders. Hopefully, the Black-fronted Wood-Quail will be active at the feeders as they are always a treat. 

At night we will search for the 'Santa Marta' Screech Owl around the lodge before or after dinner. We will overnight again at El Dorado Lodge.

Day 13: El Dorado Lodge & descend to Santa Marta

Santa Marta Parakeet

Today we'll spend the morning looking for those targets that have eluded us on the previous day and a half or those that we simply want to see again! Delights such as Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Streak-capped Spinetail, Brown-rumped and Santa Marta Tapaculos, seasonal and stunning Black-backed Thornbill and many others. 

By late morning the group will descend from El Dorado back to Santa Marta, ready for lunch on arrival in the city. After lunch, there'll be some free time before we head out for our farewell dinner.

Day 14: KM 4 and Salamanca National Park & Departure

Sunset over Santa Marta.

Depending on flight times, we'll head up the road to via Parque Salamanca, a national park declared around a road full of dry coastal forest, mangroves, and swamps. This is a perfect habitat for egrets, herons, cormorants, caracaras and many other riparian habitat birds. We'll be on the search for Russet-throated Puffbird, Pied Puffbird, Bicolored Conebill, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Northern Screamer and look for the enigmatic Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird. 

After an epic, endemic-packed tour with a list of birds in the hundreds, you'll be heading home on your flight from Barranquilla, connecting via Bogota.

 

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Sep 1, 2018 14 days Available $3,233 USD Inquire