The Very Best of Colombia: Santa Marta, Andes and Chocó


Dates and Costs:

 

18 February – 08 March 2022

Spaces Available: 7

Price: US$8,747 / £6,614 / €7,622 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$990 / £749 / €863.
Please note that there are no single rooms available at Montezuma Eco-Lodge

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

 

18 February – 08 March 2023

Spaces Available: 6

Price: US$9,463 / £7,155 / €8,246 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$1,040 / £786 / €906.
Please note that there are no single rooms available at Montezuma Eco-Lodge


Tour Details

Duration: 19 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Baranquilla
Tour End: Cali


Price includes:

Accommodation
All meals (except where indicated)
All ground transportation, including 4×4 transportation where needed
Admission fees to parks and reserves
Private tour leader
Local guides
Bottled water

 

Price excludes:

International flights
Domestic flight Riohacha-Pereira
Dinner on day 1 and on day 19
Private expenses (drinks, alcoholic drinks, laundry, any other personal items)
Any activity not described in the itinerary
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

The Very Best of Colombia: Santa Marta, Andes and Chocó
February 2022/2023

 

We invite you to our revised Birding Tour Colombia: The Very Best of Colombia. This itinerary provides the best in terms of birds that this country has to offer. For 19 days we will explore the best birding sites of the country, including the Caribbean region in the north with the famous Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, looking for the unique species that occur exclusively in these mountainous peaks, and the dry scrub of the La Guajira peninsula at the northern tip of the country. Then we will cover the mighty central Andes from the spectacular Los Nevados National Natural Park and the Rio Blanco Reserve in search of the most wanted White-capped Tanager, Ocellated Tapaculo, Masked Saltator, and Buffy Helmetcrest to the Otún-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary in search of the endemic Cauca Guan and the secretive Hooded Antpitta. At the bird-rich Tatamá National Park, where the Western Andes meet the Chocó, we will search for the finest selection of Colombian birds, such as the endemic Golden-ringed Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Club-winged Manakin, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Dusky Starfrontlet, Black Solitaire, and Munchique Wood Wren. We will then explore the wetlands at the shores of the Cauca River in search of the endemic Apical Flycatcher, Spectacled Parrotlet, and many classic aquatic species.

Colombia birding toursMulticolored Tanager is one of our targets on this tour.

 

Another highlight of the tour without doubt will be the Anchicaya road, where we will have the chance to look for several Chocó specialties such as Toucan Barbet, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Golden-chested Tanager, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, and Tooth-billed Hummingbird. The Pacific lowlands are home to the sought-after Ocellated Antbird, Rose-faced Parrot, Choco Toucan, and Lita Woodpecker. Finally we will explore the mountains above Calí in search of the striking Multicolored Tanager, one of the most beautiful tanagers in the world.

Colombian birding toursThe outrageously colored Toucan Barbet.

 

Colombia with its diverse habitats is home to more bird species than any other country in the world. With the country’s almost two thousand species be prepared to be in awe of its spectacular avifauna as we explore Colombia on this 19-day adventure. Join Birding Ecotours on this exciting Birding Tour Colombia to this dynamic birding destination!

This tour can be combined with our Birding Tour Colombia: Medellín and Bogotá Endemics. which take place right before this tour or our Very Best of Colombia, Part 2: Southern Andes, Amazonian Foothills and Llanos which also takes place before this tour. 

Colombian birding toursWe will hope for views of Chestnut Wood Quail in La Florida Reserve (photo Gilberto Collazos).

 

 

Itinerary (19 days/18 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Barranquilla

Our tour will start in the northern city of Barranquilla, which is our rendezvous point at the Caribbean coast. You will be met at Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport and transferred to your Hotel.

Overnight: Barranquilla Plaza Hotel, Barranquilla

 

Day 2. Birding the Barranquilla Marshes and Isla Salamanca, transfer to Minca

Today we will have an early start, looking for the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca in the scrub around Barranquilla. Then we will briefly visit the Salamanca National Park, where we will be looking for the endemic Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird. After getting these two targets we will explore some marshes near Barranquilla, where we will look for Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Glossy Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Ringed Kingfisher, Snail Kite, Pied Water Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Stripe-backed Wren, Brown-throated Parakeet, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, and Red-crowned Woodpecker.

After the morning’s birding we will transfer to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a place famous for its isolated, snow-capped mountains along the Caribbean coast, reaching altitudes from sea level to 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). Santa Marta is the home of almost 20 endemic birds and boasts several range-restricted species – a true paradise for birders! After lunch at our accommodations our first approach to Santa Marta birds will be to those occurring at lower elevations near Minca. Our hotel holds hummingbird feeders with species like Black-throated Mango, Steely-vented Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and White-vented Plumeleteer.

In the afternoon we will explore the road below Minca, looking for Whooping Motmot, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Keel-billed Toucan, Streaked Flycatcher, Blue-headed Parrot, Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant, Crested Oropendola, Pale-breasted Thrush, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-backed Oriole, White-bearded Manakin, and Laughing Falcon, and with luck we might have distant views of Military Macaw.

Overnight: Hotel Minca – La Casona, Minca

Colombia birding toursThe hummingbird feeders at El Dorado Lodge attract the likes of Brown Violetear.

 

Day 3. Birding around Minca, transfer to El Dorado Lodge

Today we will spend the morning birding above Minca, looking for Golden-winged Sparrow, Rufous-capped Warbler, Scaled Pigeon, Keel-billed Toucan, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous-breasted Wren, Bicolored Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Yellow-legged Thrush, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and the endemics Santa Marta Tapaculo and Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner.

After a nice birding morning we will continue our drive toward El Dorado Lodge in the heart of the El Dorado Bird Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. El Dorado will be our base for two nights, allowing us to enjoy the environment and to get as many birds as possible, including most of the Santa Marta endemics.  The hummingbird feeders at the lodge are excellent for several species, including the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, Brown Violetear, Crowned Woodnymph, and if we are lucky Lazuline Sabrewing.  From the lodge grounds we can enjoy views of Band-tailed Guan, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Black-capped Tanager, Sierra Nevada Brushfinch, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-hooded Thrush, White-tipped Dove, Lined Quail-Dove, White-throated (Santa Marta) Toucanet, and Black-fronted Wood Quail.

Overnight: El Dorado Lodge, El Dorado Bird Reserve

Colombia birding toursAnother hummingbird species we may encounter at El Dorado Lodge — Crowned Woodnymph.

  

Day 4. Birding the San Lorenzo Ridge and El Dorado Lodge

We will have an early start, leaving the lodge before dawn to look for the endemic Santa Marta Screech Owl. We will reach the famous San Lorenzo Ridge at 2,700 meters (8,850 feet) above sea level. Here we will look for Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant, Santa Marta Warbler, Rufous-headed Spinetail, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, Streak-capped Spinetail, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Flammulated Treehunter, and with luck Brown-rumped Tapaculo.  We will visit the San Lorenzo Field Station to look for the endemic Santa Marta Antpitta being fed with worms. Then we will return to the lodge and after lunch look for Golden-breasted Fruiteater, White-tipped Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Montane Foliage-gleaner, and White-lored Warbler.

Overnight: El Dorado Lodge, El Dorado Bird Reserve

 

Day 5. El Dorado Lodge and transfer to Santa Marta

We will leave early in the morning, looking for the endemic Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Santa Marta Woodstar, Groove-billed Toucan, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Santa Marta Antbird, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, and if we are lucky Rosy Thrush-Tanager. We will also look for Black-and-white Owl at its usual day-roosting perch.

Overnight: Santa Marta

Colombian birding toursBlack-tipped Cotinga is always a tricky target on this tour (photo Gilberto Collazos).

 

Day 6. Las Gaviotas, transfer to Riohacha, and birding at La Guajira

Today we will look for Lance-tailed Manakin, Southern Bentbill, Striped Cuckoo, Trinidad Euphonia, and Double-striped Thick-knee. Then we will drive to Riohacha and after arrival will look for Green-rumped Parrotlet, American White Ibis, Reddish Egret, Caspian, Common, Royal, and Cabot Terns, American Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and if we are lucky Scarlet Ibis and American Flamingo as well. We will also search for Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Glaucous Tanager, and Burrowing Owl.

Overnight: Hotel Taroa, Riohacha

 

Day 7. Birding La Guajira and flight to Pereira

We’ll have another early start to explore the dry habitat of La Guajira. We will look for Vermilion Cardinal, Orinoco Saltator, Northern White-fringed Antwren, Black-backed Antshrike, Black-crested Antshrike, Slender-billed Inezia, Pale-tipped Inezia, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Buffy Hummingbird, Chestnut Piculet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Caribbean Hornero, Carib Grackle, and Northern Scrub Flycatcher and hope to find the shy Tocuyo Sparrow. Later we will transfer to the airport and connect with a flight to Pereira.

Overnight: Movich Hotel de Pereira, Pereira

 

Day 8. Otún-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, transfer to Hotel Termales Del Ruiz

A relatively short drive from Pereira will take us to the Otún-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, where we will look for the endemic Cauca Guan and the secretive Hooded Antpitta. Other birds include Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Wren, the endemic Crested Ant Tanager, Andean Motmot, White-throated Toucanet, the endemic Stiles’s Tapaculo, Streak-capped Treehunter, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Whiskered Wren, Torrent Tyrannulet, White-capped Dipper, and Torrent Duck. After lunch we will drive to Manizales and bird at the base of Los Nevado National Natural Park.

Overnight: Hotel Termales Del Ruiz, Manizales

 

Day 9. Los Nevados National Natural Park

Today we will have an early start to explore the high-elevation páramos below the snow-capped mountains. Outside the park we will be looking for the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Many-striped Canastero, Grass Wren, Tawny Antpitta, Plain-colored Seedeater, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Stout-billed Cinclodes. If we are lucky we might see the mighty Andean Condor soaring above the mountains and the more common Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. We will try to locate the uncommon Black-backed Bush Tanager before returning to the hotel and enjoying its hummingbird feeders. These feeders attract species like Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Black-thighed Puffleg, Goldenbreasted Puffleg, Shining Sunbeam, Viridian Metaltail, and Rainbow-bearded Thornbill. Other species around the hotel include Paramo Tapaculo, Glossy Flowerpiercer, and Pale-naped Brushfinch.

Overnight: Hotel Termales Del Ruiz, Manizales

 

Day 10. Termales Del Ruiz and transfer to the Rio Blanco Reserve

Today we will spend some time looking for the endemic and rare Rufous-fronted Parakeet in the upper parts of the páramo. We will also explore the forest below the Hotel Termales Del Ruiz, looking for Rufous Wren, White-browed Spinetail, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Blue-backed Conebill, and Hooded Mountain Tanager. If we are lucky we might get our first view here of Ocellated Tapaculo.

We will continue our trip to the Rio Blanco Reserve, where we will have time to enjoy the hummingbird feeders with species such as White-bellied Woodstar, Long-tailed Sylph, Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Lesser Violetear, and Collared Inca. We will also explore the main road, looking for Ocellated Tapaculo, and before dusk we will try for Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Band-winged Nightjar, and White-throated Screech Owl.

Overnight: Rio Blanco Reserve

Colombian birding toursThe cute Crescent-faced Antpitta will be targeted in the Caldas state (photo Danial Orozco).

 

Day 11. Full day at Rio Blanco Reserve

Today we will spend the morning visiting the three different antpitta stations of this reserve to look for Bicolored Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, and Slate-crowned Antpitta. The mixed flocks at Rio Blanco normally include Blue-and-black Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Capped Conebill, Black-eared Hemispingus, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Grass-green Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, and Green-and-black Fruiteater. Some understory species we will look for are Rusty-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Flammulated Treehunter, Streak-headed Antbird, Blackish Tapaculo, Russet-crowned Warbler, and Grey-browed Brushfinch. Other highlights at Rio Blanco are Masked Saltator, Dusky Piha, and White-capped Tanager.

Overnight: Rio Blanco Reserve

 

Day 12. Rio Blanco Reserve and transfer to Montezuma Ecolodge

After a whole morning birding around Rio Blanco we will make a long drive to the Tatamá National Park, where we will stay at the basic Montezuma Ecolodge located at the edge of the park. During our visit to the Caldas state, we will visit a new reserve to look for the most-wanted Crescent-faced Antpitta which has regularly been visiting feeders here over the last couple of years. Your guide will inform you of the best time of the day for the antpitta and we will schedule our visit accordingly.

Overnight: Montezuma Ecolodge

 

Day 13. Montezuma Ridge (top)

Today we will have an early start and a full day to explore the top of the Montezuma ridge at 2,600 meters (8,530 feet) above sea level, where we will look for the endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, the endemic Munchique Wood Wren, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Collared Inca, the endemic and Critically Endangered (IUCN) Dusky Starfrontlet, which has been recorded recently in the area, and with luck it might remain for a long time. We will also look for the incredible mixed flock of species that makes Montezuma famous, such as the endemic Golden-ringed Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Narino Tapaculo, Tatama Tapaculo (recently described in 2017), Montane Woodcreeper, Glistening–green Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant, Handsome Flycatcher, and with luck White-faced Nunbird and Tanager Finch. The hummingbird feeders below the ridge attract Tourmaline Sunangel, Velvet-purple Coronet, Greenish Puffleg, Violet-tailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, and Brown Inca. At night we will look for Tropical Screech Owl around the cabins.

Overnight: Montezuma Ecolodge

 

Day 14. Montezuma Ridge (mid-elevations, Cajones)

We’ll have another early start to focus this time on mid-elevation species in the Cajones sector of the park. Here we will look for Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Uniform Treehunter, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Uniform Antshrike, Bluish Flowerpiercer, the endemic Black-and-gold Tanager, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Choco Brushfinch, Choco Vireo, Golden-winged Manakin, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-throated Tanager, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, and with luck Black Solitaire and Beautiful Jay. We will drive back to the lodge and spend the afternoon birding around the property, looking for the endemic Greyish Piculet and enjoy the hummingbird feeders, where we’ll be looking for Western Emerald, White-tailed Hillstar, Tawny-bellied Hermit, and the uncommon Purple-bibbed Whitetip.

Overnight: Montezuma Ecolodge

Colombian birding toursWhite-faced Nunbird can be seen in the Montezuma area (photo Danial Orozco).

 

Day 15. Montezuma Ecolodge and transfer to Buga

On our last morning here we will be focusing on species that occur at lower elevations on the Montezuma ridge, such as Choco Tapaculo, Club-winged Manakin, the endemic Parker’s Antbird, Zeledon’s Antbird, Ochre-breasted Tanager, Olive Finch, Crested Ant Tanager, and with luck Moustached Puffbird and Lanceolated Monklet. Then we will leave the park to drive to the town of Buga to stay in a comfortable hotel.

Overnight: Hotel Guadalajara, Buga

Colombia birding toursThe brightly colored Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (photo Gilberto Collazos).

 

Day 16. Sonso Lake and transfer to Anchicaya

We will have an easy morning visiting the Sonso Lake and looking for Spectacled Parrotlet, Jet Antbird, the endemic Apical Flycatcher, the secretive Dwarf Cuckoo, Orange-crowned Euphonia, Common Potoo, Common Nighthawk, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Red-breasted Blackbird, Oriole Blackbird, and several aquatic species that we may have missed before in the Barranquilla marshes. After lunch we will transfer to Anchicaya in the Chocó lowlands and, if time permits, spend the afternoon enjoying the hummingbird feeders of Doña Dora, where normally we find White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, and White-tailed Hillstar. The fruit feeders attract Toucan Barbet.

Overnight: Hotel El Campanario, El Queremal

 

Day 17. Anchicaya lowlands

Today we will focus on lowland Chocó species such as Golden-chested Tanager, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Grey-and-gold Tanager, Pacific Antwren, Lita Woodpecker, Choco Toucan, Yellow-throated Toucan, Collared Aracari, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, Pacific Flatbill, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, Buff-rumped Warbler, White-whiskered Puffbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Bay Wren, Choco Warbler, and with luck Lemon-spectacled Tanager and Tooth-billed Hummingbird. After some intense birding along the Anchicaya road we will arrive at Buenaventura on the Pacific coast for an overnight.

Overnight: Cosmos Pacifico Hotel, Buenaventura

Colombian birding toursThe gorgeous Scarlet-and-white Tanager (photo Gilberto Collazos).

 

Day 18.  Birding San Cipriano and transfer to Calí

We will spend the morning birding in the San Cipriano Reserve, looking for Chocó specialties such as Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-breasted Puffbird, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Dusky Pigeon, Barred Puffbird, Moustached Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, and if we are lucky we could find the the most-wanted Ocellated Antbird, Rose-faced Parrot, Black-tipped Cotinga and Five-colored Barbet. Then we will drive to Calí on a new, paved road.

Overnight: Hampton by Hilton Calí, Calí

 

Day 19. La Florida Reserve, Finca Alejandria and departure

On our final morning, we will focus on the area known as Km 18, visiting two important birding hotspots. First, we will visit La Florida Reserve to look for the endemic Chestnut Wood Quail, which comes to a feeder here. Afterwards, we will head to the famous Finca Alejandria, where we will look for hummingbirds including Long-tailed Sylph, White-booted Racket-tail (a recent split from Booted Racket-tail), Bronzy Inca, and Blue-headed Sapphire. The tanager feeders attract the handsome Red-headed Barbet, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Summer Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, and the striking Multicolored Tanager. Other species here include the endemic Colombian Chachalaca, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, and Black-winged Saltator.

After lunch we will transfer to the Calí airport to connect with your international flights.

Colombian birding toursRose-faced Parrot will be searched for in the San Cipriano Reserve (photo Gilberto Collazos).

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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THE VERY BEST OF COLOMBIA TRIP REPORT FEBRUARY 2020

This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

COLOMBIA: THE VERY BEST OF COLOMBIA: SANTA MARTA, ANDES AND CHOCÓ TOUR-SPECIFIC INFORMATION

 

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PERTAINING TO OUR COLOMBIA TOURS IN GENERAL

 

The birding on this Colombia tour is outstanding in numbers and diversity of species. This itinerary is designed to provide you with the best of the country, including the Caribbean coast, the endemic-rich Santa Marta Mountains, the central Andes including the high Andean mountains of Los Nevados National Park and the Rio Blanco Reserve, the Chocó rainforest, and the western Andes. We believe you are going to love your trip with us!

 

ARRIVAL INFORMATION

Please e-mail us at [email protected] (or contact us a different way if preferred) before you book any flights, as the information shown here is just an initial guide. Our tour will start in the northern city of Barranquilla. You can reach Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport (BAQ) with flights from all over Colombia and from some international airports like Miami (USA) and Panama City (Panama). You might wish to consult your travel agent to book your most convenient flight (and contact us if you want guidance). Your tour leader will be waiting for you at Barranquilla airport with a small board with the Birding Ecotours logo and then transfer you to your hotel. Please be aware that most international flights arrive in Barranquilla in the afternoon, so we don’t have any birding activity planned for that day. In case you arrive on an early flight, you will be transferred to the hotel but will have to wait until check-in is available. For an early check-in you might be charged extra directly from the hotel; this cost is excluded from the Birding Ecotours tour price.

Please remember to keep your luggage tags, as they are required to exit the terminal at the Barranquilla airport.

 

When filling out the customs declaration form, use this address for the hotel:

Hotel Barranquilla Plaza, Carrera 51B No. 79-246, Barranquilla, Colombia

 

DEPARTURE INFORMATION

Our tour will end in the southern city of Calí after a wonderful 19 days/18 nights in Colombia. After the last morning’s birding, your tour leader will transfer you to the Calí Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO), from where you can take connections to any city in Colombia to connect with your international departure.

 

DOMESTIC FLIGHT INFORMATION

There is only one domestic flight on this trip, covering the leg Riohacha – Pereira. This flight is not included in the Birding Ecotours tour price, but we will book it for you. We will fly with AVIANCA, which we found to be the most reliable airline in Colombia. This flight will have a connection in Bogotá. We have to be at the Riohacha airport two hours before the flight.

Your flight details will be provided within two months before the tour starts and after we have received full payment.

 

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS AND PACE

We qualify this trip as moderate. Most of the birding consists of walking along roads, although some of them lead up and down hills. We will spend time sitting and enjoying hummingbird feeders and watching for birds around the lodges’ clearings. We will walk very few trails (only if necessary), except for an afternoon exploring the El Dorado Lodge trail (which is rather gentle) and a wide, short trail around Sonso Lake. Nevertheless, Colombia does not require long, hard mountain walks as do some other Birding Ecotours destinations like Peru, Guatemala, or Ecuador.

Keep in mind that (as is usual on birding trips) we need to be awake very early in the mornings, and pre-dawn starts are in order each day. We normally spend the whole morning birding in the field, return to the lodge for lunch, and then provide a little rest before continuing birding in the afternoon. Your guide will sometimes invite you to look for owls at night, but this is an optional activity that you can skip if you feel tired. Some people prefer to rest, skipping birding in the afternoon; this can be done at those lodges when we are staying more than one night. When we do birding stops while traveling from location to location, people who feel tired do not have to follow the group and can remain in the vehicle.

Even though we spend two or three nights at a few places during this tour, which allows you to walk around and not stress to pack and re-pack every day, Colombia is a big country, and the tour includes some lengthy drives. But this lets you enjoy the interesting countryside and maximizes chances for unexpected birds along the roads.

We will stay at the best places available, but still not all lodges provide facilities such as air conditioning or a heating system (this latter is almost non-existent in Colombia). Other accommodations provide fans.

We think this trip might be difficult for people with back, walking, and balance problems or for those who are not used to a birding trip with early starts involved.

 

ATM MACHINES

ATM machines are available in Barranquilla, Riohacha, Pereira, Manizales, and Calí.

 

ALTITUDE

We will reach high elevation at Los Nevados National Park, 4000 meters (13.120 feet) above sea level. Please ask your doctor if you have any medical conditions that might be affected by going to high elevation. Spending a few hours at high elevation is never a problem, but some minor symptoms might appear, like a slight headache and mild dizziness. A regular Paracetamol 400mg, taken two hours before we reach this elevation, should prevent any headache trouble. We suggest avoiding eating a large dinner on the previous night to result in easier digestion.

 

WEATHER

We ask you to be ready for all kinds of weather during this trip.

Barranquilla, the Santa Marta foothills and especially the Guajira, are hot with temperatures reaching between 30 °C and 37 °C (86°F – 98 °F). Use clothes in which you feel most comfortable in this kind of weather. We highly recommend using sunscreen and a light-colored hat or cap.

Even when it is sunny in the mornings, the temperatures can be cool at night in the Santa Marta Mountains, especially at El Dorado. But we don’t expect rain on the Caribbean coast and in the Santa Marta Mountains during this time of year.

The central Andes can be sunny in the morning, but the temperature can drop to 16 °C (60 °F) with 70 percent humidity, which results in feeling cold at night. We can also expect some rain in this part of the Andes. But several flocks of birds are more active on rainy and overcast days.

Up in Los Nevados National Park in the Cordillera Central of the Andes, windy days may produce even colder temperature. Please check here on what we recommend to bring.

The Chocó rainforest is probably one of the most humid natural areas in the world, so during our stay there we should encounter some rain, which should, however, not be an impediment to getting some good birds. It is hot in the mornings (if not overcast), with temperatures reaching 30 °C (86 °F). Similar is the weather around Calí – high humidity and some rainy mornings – should be expected.

 

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at El Dorado Lodge, Hotel Taroa in Riohacha, Hotel in Manizales, and Hotel Dann Cali. The Finca Montezuma cabins offer laundry service as well, but they don’t have a drier, so clothes must be hang-dried, and if we have rainy or very damp days your clothes may not dry well. We think the most convenient options during the trip are Riohacha, Manizales, and Calí. Laundry fees are not included in the tour price.

 

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation at Finca Montezuma is fairly basic and rustic with not much comfort except a clean, private room. The small house provides shared and en-suite bathroom cabins (depending on availability), but hot water is not available 24/7. This is a remote location on the border of the Tatamá National Park. We consider the birding here excellent with some of the most-sought-after species in Colombia, such as Golden-ringed Tanager.

 

TRANSPORT

We will have a private van for the whole tour with plenty of room for everybody. However, we will have to divide the group for the transfer from Santa Marta to El Dorado Lodge and back to Santa Marta. The road conditions along this stretch are too rough for the regular large tourist vans, so we will replace the van with 4×4 vehicles. Normally for a group of four people we use two 4×4 vehicles. The same applies for the transfer to Finca Montezuma, where we also will use 4×4 vehicles.

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Colombia General Information

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We were very impressed by the sheer number of birds we saw and the range of interesting and beautiful habitats on our 2020 Best of Colombia birding tour. We really did think we were seeing the best of Colombia from a birding perspective. Giancarlo was an excellent guide and a very nice person to be with for 3 weeks. It was also very nice that there were just the three of us and we weren’t in a large group.


Our Colombia tour was so wonderful. I can’t say enough about how great it was. Eduardo is a fantastic as a guide and leader. The itinerary was also great, and he has a warm relationship with local guides and lodging hosts. I have zero complaints! An added bonus was having Giancarlo Ventolini as a driver and extra guide for much of the trip. That young man was a sweetheart,  a super driver as well as a really good and knowledgeable birder.

And the birds, over 450 species! You do have a treasure in Eduardo as your employee. He made the tour perfect for me. I hope to do another trip with him in the future.

Betty Siegel – Alaska, USA

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