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 / £6,645 / €7,700 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$990 / £752 / €872.
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 / £7,189 / €8,330 per person sharing
Single Supplement: US$1,040 / £791 / €916.
Please note that there are no single rooms available at Montezuma Eco-Lodge
Duration: 19 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Baranquilla
Tour End: Cali
All meals (except where indicated)
All ground transportation, including 4×4 transportation where needed
Admission fees to parks and reserves
Private tour leader
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)
Featured Guide:Giancarlo Ventolini
Blue-winged Mountain Tanager
Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager
The Very Best of Colombia: Santa Marta, Andes and Chocó
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. 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.
The 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.
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
Black-throated Mango is one of the many hummingbird species we can see in Colombia.
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 5000 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
The 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
Another 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 2700 meters (8858 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
Burrowing Owl is often encountered in small family groups.
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, Golden–breasted 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
The impressive Long-tailed Sylph
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
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
We hope to find a number of antpitta species in the Rio Blanco Reserve such as this Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
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.
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 2600 meters (8530 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
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
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
White-booted Racket-tail can be seen at Finca Alejandria.
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 the most wanted Ocellated Antbird, Rose-faced Parrot, and Five-colored Barbet. Then we will drive to Calí on a new, paved road.
Overnight: Hampton by Hilton Calí, Calí
Day 19. Finca Alejandria and departure
On our last morning we will visit 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.
The brightly colored Green Honeycreeper can be seen at Finca Alejandria.
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.
This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
With 1986 species of birds, Colombia is the Land of Birds. No other country in the world has more avian species than Colombia. Despite its relatively small size, occupying only one percent of the world’s landmass, this country boasts 19 percent of the world’s species of birds (more than North America and Europe combined). Colombia is the second-most biologically diverse country on earth and a land of startling contrasts and unlimited possibilities. Colombia’s immense natural richness is positioning the country as one of the top birding destinations in the world. With 84 endemic species, astounding geography, vibrant culture, and a growing capacity to provide world-class services in urban as well as rural settings, Colombia is soon becoming the go-to destination for birders from around the planet.
This diversity is due to Colombia’s immensely diverse landscapes, which include three Andean ranges, two vast inter-Andean valleys, the imposing Santa Marta Mountains and the Caribbean Coast, the Chocó Bioregion along the Pacific Ocean, a large portion of the Orinoquía or Llanos region, and the Amazon Rainforest.
Birding Ecotours has been running tours in Colombia since 2012, and we found the country very safe to travel around in. The days of violence are in the past, and we very much agree with the government slogan that claims “Colombia: the only risk is wanting to stay”.
The birding is outstanding in numbers and diversity of species. Our itinerary is designed to provide you with the best of the country, including the Caribbean coast and the 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!
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). Please consult your travel agent to book your most convenient flight. 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 would not be included in 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
Our tour will end in the southern city of Calí after some wonderful 18 days in Colombia. After a last morning 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 departures.
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 do 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 that we need to be awake very early in the morning, and predawn 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 invite you to look for owls at night, but this is an optional activity that you can skip if you feel tired. Some people would rather like 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 customized our tour so that we’ll be spending two or three nights at a few places, 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 instead.
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 the early starts involved
MEDICAL AND TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE
All tour participants are strongly advised to obtain adequate medical cover prior to any tour and to take steps to ensure that all valuables are covered against damage, loss, or theft. So please obtain travel insurance for loss of luggage, unforeseen delays, or cancellation of the trip due to events such as delayed flights, adverse weather conditions, or civil unrest.
We strongly recommend to purchase trip cancellation insurance, as Birding Ecotours will not provide a refund on deposit or balance payment if the trip is canceled for any reason whatsoever, including, but not limited to, illness and death. Participants should consider insurance that covers any medical accident expenses, evacuation expenses, and trip cancellation insurance if participants have to leave the tour for any reason unrelated to Birding Ecotours. Note that some hospitals and doctors in South America will ask for payment in advance before they provide any medical attention. We advise you to get a plan that ensures that it will cover all your medical care and evacuation back to your country of residence
We normally have breakfast at the lodges when breakfast is available very early in the morning. We normally have a small lunch (box-lunch) or even a hot meal in a lodge or restaurant. This depends much on the day’s schedule. We always have hot meals in the evening either in the lodges or in hotel restaurants.
In restaurants we have two options of menu, of which one is always a vegetarian option. In the lodges we have a fixed meal. Please let us know in advance about any diet restriction or preferences.
For our last day in Colombia we will have the chance to choose plates a la carte. Since the Colombian food is not the most diverse and not necessarily the best of the region, after a while some local dishes may become boring. However, we do our best to provide you with the most varied options during the trip.
Water is included during the trip. Drinks, including soft drinks, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, and beer are not included in the tour price
We recommend carrying US dollars. Sometimes traveler checks are difficult to change, and it is not possible to do this everywhere, especially in remote areas. We cannot spend birding time or schedule time looking for financial institutions where you can cash traveler checks. Your holiday is almost an all-inclusive tour, so you only might need money to cover personal expenses such as drinks, laundry service, phone calls from the hotels, bar expenses, souvenirs and gifts you want to take home, or any non-mandatory gratuities you would like to give to any person who you think has provided exceptional service. ATM machines are available in Barranquilla, Riohacha, Pereira, Manizales, and Calí. Be aware that credit cards are not accepted everywhere, especially in remote locations.
Please do not bring US dollar bills that are damaged in any way (broken tips and edges, ink marks, pieces of tape, etc.). Most institutions and people do not accept US dollars that show this kind of damage.
Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control for health advice (including about malaria and vaccinations). Please also consult with your physician or your local travel clinic for recommendations.
While not a requirement for entry into Colombia, unless you are arriving from an infected area in another country, a yellow fever vaccination is a good idea for most people traveling to third world or tropical countries, and the vaccination is good for ten years. People with compromised immune systems should consult with their personal physician before getting any vaccination.
Your Hepatitis A, B, and C, as well as polio, tetanus, and typhoid protection are recommended. Dengue fever is very infrequent and is transmitted by day-flying Aedes mosquitoes infected with a dengue virus, but there is no prophylaxis against dengue fever. Proper clothing and use of insect repellent, especially in lowland areas, is the best protection.
Diarrhea is always a tricky hazard traveling in South America. Even though many travelers escape untouched, we ask you to consult your doctor and bring some medicine to treat diarrhea, such as Imodium or Ciprofloxacin 500mg. We recommend drinking only bottled water and not eating in street shops when you are suspicious about hygienic conditions. Follow your tour leader’s suggestions.
We take care of the places where we go for meals and of the food we prepare in the field. We ask you to clean your hands using hand sanitizer. Please note that sometimes the change in the normal diet might result in some mild stomach or digestive abnormalities that may disappear in a short time. Only when this problem is followed by nausea and/or even fever there may be a real diarrhea problem. Again ask your doctor what he recommends is best for you.
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 condition 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.
Please let us know about any medical condition you have, such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, heart conditions, or knee problems, also including phobias or anything you think we should know in order to take care of you and suggest to you what is best for you in order to have an enjoyable trip.
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 below 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. Similar is the weather around Calí – high humidity and some rainy mornings should be expected.
Insects should not be a big problem over most of our route, but we recommend that you wear loose-fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts and keep insect repellent handy. Spraying your feet, socks, shoes, and the lower portion of pants with insect repellent will help reduce a problem with chiggers. Chiggers are burrowing mites that are well-spread throughout the Americas in hot areas. They occur on grass, and even though they do not spread any kind of disease, their bites produce long-term itching as an allergic reaction.
WHAT TO BRING
– Binoculars (of course)
– Spotting scope (optional). The tour leader will have a spotting scope for general use of all participants. However, we ask you to have brief views of the birds in order to allow everybody to have good views, especially of elusive species. If you like to enjoy longer scope views of species, you might consider bringing your own scope. Digiscoping is not allowed with the tour leader’s scope.
– Alarm clock
– A small notebook and pen to takes notes in the field
– Grooming Kit
– Glasses if you use them
– Personal medication. We recommend bringing your prescription medication because it might be difficult to buy personal medication in local pharmacies.
– Waterproof plastic bags to keep your passport, wallet, and other valuables safe
– Umbrella (we recommend an umbrella rather than a waterproof jacket)
– Long-sleeved shirts for being in the field (especially when walking forest trails)
– Regular t-shirts to feel comfortable while resting in the lodges and in the cars
– A regular shirt to be dressed for some dinners and checklist sessions
– Hiking boots to walk in the field, especially along forest trails. We will cover all kind of terrain, including paved roads, unpaved dirt roads, steep forest trails, grass, and rocky roads – we might even have to walk on slightly muddy trails.
– Another pair of shoes to be comfortable during the drives, flights, and for meals. You may even bring some sandals to be comfortable in your room and for some spare time.
– A warm hat
– A warm jacket
– Waterproof trousers
Please do not bring any military camouflage, as that conveys an inappropriate image to police and military personnel, whom we are likely to encounter at highway checkpoints.
Please avoid nylon or plastic jackets and/or rainwear of similar materials. Noisy clothing is annoying to others and may frighten birds, especially when owling.
The Colombian countryside in all areas that we visit is now safe, and you will find that Colombians everywhere are friendly and helpful. Big cities, however, suffer the same problems as large cities anywhere, and you should take precautions to safeguard personal belongings such as money, passport, and optical equipment. We recommend using money belts or security pouches worn inside your clothing. Avoid walking at night in large cities without informing your tour leader, and don’t walk around big cities displaying binoculars and big cameras.
Electrical plug-in sockets in Colombia are usually the two flat-pin type (ITA Type A, the same as in the United States), and the current is usually 110 volts. A surge protector is strongly recommended. We also recommend bringing a universal adaptor to fit your electric devices into all kinds of sockets.
PASSPORT AND VISA
A passport valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure from Colombia is required. We recommend it having a few blank pages; some countries require a full page for the stamp in your passport. Bring a few Xerox copies of your passport and details of your consular representation in Colombia as well.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the EU, and Latin America do not require a visa to enter Colombia. Citizens of any other country should check with their local Colombian consulate about any requirements that need to be met to get into Colombia.
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.
We try to include the best accommodations available on our tours to provide our clients with a great holiday. We use accommodations we consider comfortable but not luxurious. In a few remote areas we visit during the tour the lodges provide basic accommodation, but no other options are available, and it is necessary to stay there in order to get some of our key target species. If the birding sites are not far, we rather stay in better accommodations, in cities where possible.
Note: 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.
Note on bedrooms: The price of our tour is per person and sharing a twin bedroom. Most of our clients, even some couples, rather prefer to have their own bed in order to have a better sleep after long days. The standard matrimonial or double bed in South America is just the normal double bed, which might be too small for some people. Bedrooms with queen/king-size beds are normally more expensive, and we do not include those rooms in the tour price. If you rather want to upgrade your rooms, the hotel will charge the difference directly to you (if there is availability). This surcharge is not included in the tour price
Accommodations at Tairona Eco-Lodge do not provide a hot shower; however, the weather is humid and hot, and we stay only one night there.
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.
TOUR LEADER FOR BIRDING ECOTOURS
Giancarlo Ventolini, a new addition to the Birding Ecotours team, comes from an Italian family that immigrated to Colombia, where he grew up and lives. Giancarlo has been in love with birds and nature all his life.
His birding skills, such as excellent eyes and hearing and knowledge of bird calls seem to indicate that he was predestined to become the excellent birding tour leader that he is proving to be. In addition to his birding proficiency Giancarlo has great people- and communication skills and is a wonderful travel companion and good friend. There is nothing that he enjoys more than showing new birds to his clients and driving wherever birds are calling as far as the car can go.
He has extensive knowledge about his native Colombia, especially in his local areas such as the western and central Andes, including the classic hotspots like the Rio Blanco Reserve, Anchicaya Road and San Cipriano, Los Nevados National Park, Otún-Quimbaya, and the entire Calí area. During 2018 he co-guided tours with Eduardo Ormaeche in Colombia, Peru, and the Pampas de Moxos in Beni Bolivia. He will guide our two-week Northern Peru tour and customized and day tours in Colombia for now, but his popularity among clients guarantees that he will expand his frontiers to more Neotropic destinations in the near future.
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