Iconic Birds - Privately Guided Birding Group Tour in Ecuador (Optional Galapagos Extension)

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Dates: May 6 – 17, 2023 (Land trip) – May 6 – 23, 2023 (with Galapagos extension)

Days: 11 nights & 12 days (Land trip) or 17 nights & 18 days (with Galapagos extension)

Focus: Birding, Bird photography, wildlife

Located on South America’s west coast, straddling the equator, and well known for the impressive belt of volcanoes running through its center, Ecuador is certainly one of the top birding and photography destinations in the world. With well over 1600 species of birds, Ecuador has more species per acre than any other country. The rich habitats of cloud forest, highlands, tropical rainforests, volcanic foothills, and wetlands creates the perfect environment for birds and birders. When guests combine a visit to the wonder that is Galapagos, Ecuador and Galapagos become an iconic trip of a lifetime. Our small group adventure is perfect for guests interested in seeing and/or photographing the top bird species of Ecuador and the Galapagos. You’ll travel with a private birding guide in Ecuador and with a Naturalist Galapagos specialist while on board the ship. The birding locations will be a nice combination of gardens, feeders, and forest trails.

Costa Rica Group Birding Trip 1

Itinerary Overview

Day 1: Arrive Quito | Hacienda Jimenita
Day 2: Antisana | Hacienda Jimenita
Day 3: Papallacta | San Isidro Lodge
Day 4: San Isidro Reserve | Wildsumaco Lodge
Day 5: Wildsumaco Reserve | Wildsumaco Lodge
Day 6: Wildsumaco Reserve | Wildsumaco Lodge
Day 7: Guango |Hacienda Jimenita
Day 8: Yanacocha | Sachatamia Lodge
Day 9: Cock of the Rock Lek | Sachatamia Lodge
Day 10: Choco Region | Sachatamia Lodge
Day 11: Mashpi – Alambi |Hacienda Jimenita
Day 12: Transfer to Quito Airport | Fly Home or continue to Galapagos

Galapagos Extension:

Day 12: Fly to Baltra | Check in on The Millennium Yacht
Day 13: Isabela |Punta Morena – Punta Mangle
Day 14: Fernandina | Punta Espinoza – Tagus Cove
Day 15: Santiago | Puerto Egas – Sombrero Chino
Day 16: Santa Cruz | Disembark Baltra – Fly to Quito
Day 17: Quito | Hotel Wyndham
Day 18: Transfer to Quito Airport | Fly Home

Map of the “Iconic Birds” Group Tour

‘Iconic Birds’ Group Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito – Welcome to Ecuador

Your driver will meet you at the Quito Airport and transfer you to your hotel.  Today is at leisure to relax after a day of travel and acclimate to Ecuador. Guests are free to enjoy the gardens and reserves.

Hacienda Jimenita / Meals:  None

Day 1: Ecuador Birding Group Tour

Day 2: Antisana Reserve – Andean Condor Sanctuary | Giant Hummingbirds

Enjoy early morning breakfast and meet your private guide.  Together you will explore the main trails of the Jimenita Reserve, looking for the Giant Hummingbird. With luck, you’ll also find the Rusty Flower-piercer, White-Winged Brush-Finch, and the Black-tailed Train-bearer. After your search at Jimenita, it’s time to depart for the Upper Andean Valleys near Antisana Volcano. The Antisana Reserve is the most impressive Andean Mount near Quito and the sanctuary of the critically endangered Wild Andean Condor; there are only about 110 individuals populating the sanctuary.

Hacienda Jimenita / Meals:  breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 2: Ecuador Birding Group Tour


Day 3: Papallacta | Andean Motmot Lek & Spectacled Bear

The drive to the East Slope Cloud Forest will initially lead you through the drier central valley where you will pass through a mix of agricultural zones and native forests before rising up steeply to the high and windswept paramo. You’ll stop for chances to spot the Spectacled Bear at several strategic points. Papallacta Pass is a transition ecosystem between the Andes and the Cloud Forest, perfect for mixed flocks and hummingbirds like Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Blue-mantled Thornbill. You’ll continue to Rio Quijos Reserve where the aim will be to observe new species of hummingbirds at the feeders, the Andean Motmot, and the Andean Cock of the Rock (Peruvian subspecies).

San Isidro Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Ecuador Group Birding Group Tour

Day 4: San Isidro Reserve| Guacamayos Ridge

This morning begins with Antpitta feeders and then on to Guacamayos Ridge to find the top species of the area. This is a fantastic viewing point of the Upper Amazon Basin. Continue on Sumaco Bajo Road, birding along the way looking for the Dusky-headed Parrot, Black-Billed Mountain-Toucan, and much more.

Wildsumaco Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Wild Sumaco Reserve | Upper Amazon Basin

You’ll spend the day exploring the vast Sumaco Reserve, one of the very top birding spots in the Upper Amazon Basin. The reserve is part of a ridge in the Andes’ Eastern Foothills and has panoramic views reaching across the Rio Pucuno Valley and to the Andes beyond. With a comfortable elevation of about 1200 – 1480m (3900-4900 feet), the forest reserve is a prime location for an extremely wide array of bird species. The habitats will include hummingbird feeders, gardens, and forest trails.

Wildsumaco Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Wild Sumaco Reserve | Trails and feeders

The Sumaco Reserve is so huge, that you need a second day to explore and find the top species. Today you’ll spend the morning around the lodge, and visit the gardens and feeders. In the late morning, it’s onto the vast trails and looking for the various species to be found at Sumaco. Some of the top targets are the Many-Banded Aracari, Orange-Cheeked Parrot, Coppery Chested Jacamar, and the Wire Crested Thorntail. Just to name a few.

Wildsumaco Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Guango – Torrent Duck | Return to Quito

After breakfast, you’ll begin your return journey to Quito ( around 5 hours). You’ll take time to stop at Guango Reserve to look for the Torrent Duck and other species. You’ll also visit the Guango Hummingbird feeders. There are some impressive targets today, including Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Turquoise Jay, Gray-Breasted Mountain-Toucan, and that elusive Torrent Duck.

Hacienda Jimenita / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Yanacocha l Old Non Mindo Road

Early start this morning as you drive through the Pichincha Foothills and on to Yanacocha Reserve. You’ll visit the photography hides for Antpittas, and be on the lookout for Fruit-Eaters, and the Ocellated Tapaculo. At Yanacocha, you’ll visit the main trails and feeders. This is a top spot for finding the Puff-Legs and the Sword-Billed Hummingbirds. In the afternoon continue to Old Nono Mindo Road for the Burrowing Owls and the Saffron crowned Tanager.

Sachatamia Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Andean Cock of the Rock | Milpe Sanctuary

Early morning start of the day to visit the Andean Cock of the Rock Lek and Photography Hides of Antpittas, Tanagers, Barbets, Toucans, Quails, Hawks, and other Choco endemic bird species.

Afternoon visit San Tadeo Tanagers Feeders and Milpe Birding Sanctuary for Toucans, Manakins, Kites, and others. This will be a very busy day, with a huge variety of birds. Have your binoculars and cameras ready.

Sachatamia Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Mountain Toucan Hide | Choco Region

In the morning we will visit the best photography Toucan Hides in Ecuador for the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan. In addition, it is possible to observe Wood-creepers, Antpittas, Tanagers, Hummingbirds, and the Hoary Puffleg.

We will continue to the Choco Feeders to observe the famous Beryl-spangled Tanager and then late afternoon visit the Sunbittern Reserve looking for the Sunbittern and White-throated Crake

Sachatamia Lodge / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Mashpi Reserve l Alambi Hummingbird Paradise

Early morning birding in Sachatamia Hide for possible Long-wattled Umbrella Bird.

After breakfast continues to visit Amagusa Mashpi Reserve, one of the best spots in the world for biodiversity and birding. It’s one of the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador.

We will first stop at the Andean Cock of the Rock Photography Hide and continue to Mashpi Feeders for specialties like Glistening-green Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Scaled Fruit-eater, and others. Continue to Alambi Feeders for Hummingbird like Green-crowned Woodnymph, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, and Brown Violetear. Lunch in front of the feeders. Return to our lodge in Quito.

Hacienda Jimenita / Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Transfer to Quito l Flight Home OR Continue to Galapagos

For guests ending their trip today, it’s back to Quito airport and continues on your flights home. For guests going on to Galapagos, you’ll check in for your flights to Baltra and the adventure continues.

GALAPAGOS EXTENSION: Baltra l Santa Cruz Highlands

Arrive in Baltra and you are met by your representative from Millennium Cruises. From Baltra Airport you will take a short bus ride to the port. You’ll board your dinghy and transfer to the ship.
Your first stop is the Santa Cruz Highlands. The slopes of the 864m high volcano Cerro Crocker. On clear days you have an amazing view of the surrounding islands. You get to know the typical Galapagos vegetation, like tree ferns, and visit the famous Galapagos giant turtles in El Chato.

Millennium Yacht / Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Isabela Island l Puerto Villamil

In the early morning, you will see sea lions and, if you are lucky, white tip reef sharks on the offshore island Las Tintoreras. You continue your excursion to the “Wall of tears” (Muro de las Lágrimas) – a touching, man-made monument that is an 8m high and 200m long stone wall built of Basalt boulders by convicts of the local penal colony in the 1940s. The hike leads you through wetlands with lagoons of brackish water, where often flamingos can be observed. At the breeding center for Galapagos giant tortoises, you can see these gentle giants at close range. If the weather is good, you have the opportunity to hike to the Sierra Negra crater in the afternoon.

Millennium Yacht / Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Isabela Island l Punta Morena, Punta Mangle

Punta Moreno on Isabela Island is a jointed, young lava bay with small lagoons, where flamingos can often be found. Many other seabirds can be found here too, for example, Bahama Pintails, which are a favorite of birders and photographers. In the early afternoon, you arrive at Fernandina Island, the youngest and third-largest island of the archipelago. Punta Mangle, situated on the south coast, is one of the best spots for snorkeling in the whole Galapagos archipelago. Here you will have your first chance to see the rare Galapagos Penguins.

Millennium Yacht / Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: Fernandina Island l Punta Espinoza & Tagus Cove

In the morning you visit Punta Espinoza in the north of Fernandina Island. There are fascinating lava landscapes with cacti and mangroves. You’ll have another opportunity to see the Galapagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, and sea lion colonies. The largest Galapagos Marine Iguanas also can be found on this island.

In the afternoon you visit Tagus Cove on the west coast of Isabela Island. Here at the foot of the Darwin volcano, you’ll see the popular anchorage ground of pirates and whalers. These Buccaneers of years past often etched their ship’s names and dates on the rock walls. On the 2km trail, you will encounter a small cave whose inscriptions date from the year 1800 and onwards. Charles Darwin visited Tagus Cove on his journey with the Beagle too. Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, Noddies, Puffins, and Blue Footed Boobies nest in the deep-blue bay.

A steep trail then leads through dry forests and cacti to saline, green crater lake, and the Darwin lagoon. During the last hike, you will discover the beautiful landscape of this island. You also have the opportunity to go snorkeling to enjoy and discover the fascinating marine world of the Galapagos.

Millennium Yacht / Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: Santiago Islands l Puerto Egas and Sombrero Chino

On Santiago Island, you will enjoy one of the most unique and beautiful formations of all the islands of the Galapagos. The vast basaltic landscape provides an unbroken, smooth formation created by dried lava. It is a stunning sculpture, created by Mother Nature. In Puerto Egas, you’ll find a natural wonderland. In rock basins, marine iguanas bathe in the sun together with bright red crabs. Three species of Galapagos Egrets live here, as well as the lovely Galapagos Pigeon, and Oystercatchers. This site is one of the best places to see passing shorebirds.

In the afternoon you are near Sombrero Chino off the coast of Santiago Island. Crowned by a perfectly formed crater, this island resembles the silhouette of a Chinese hat. Between the fragile lava, only specialized plants are able to grow. Sea Lions populate this area, as well as a huge array of marine species.

Millennium Yacht / Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 17: Santa Cruz Islands l Caleta Tortuga Negra l Disembark

At the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, you float by dinghy over the brackish water lagoon Caleta Tortuga Negra. Three different mangrove species grow around its winding shore: red, white, and black mangrove trees. Many Sea Turtles and large schools of Golden Cownose Rays inhabit these waters. Reef Sharks are common visitors too. Birders will enjoy the chance to see more Galapagos Penguins and several different species of Egrets.

You’ll return late in the morning to Baltra where you will disembark, transfer to the Baltra Airport, and check in for your flights back to Quito. You’ll stay overnight tonight at the Wyndham Airport Hotel.

Millennium Yacht / Meals: Breakfast
Wyndham Quito Airport / No meals

Day 18: Return to Quito Airport l Flight Home

Today you’ll use the hotel airport shuttle to transfer just two minutes to the Quito Airport and check-in for your flight home.

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Costa Rica Focus is a birding tour company that offers customized Costa Rica birdwatching tours for individuals or groups of people and guided by a knowledgeable birding expert who will help you spot and learn about the beauty of the birds of Costa Rica. Let’s talk about your Costa Rica birding vacation!

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