Western and Central Andes and the Cauca Valley
In conjunction with Colombia Birding
Nov 13-25 2023
Tour at a glance:
Tour leaders – Diego Calderon and Jonathan Meyrav
12 full days of birding
8-11 people with 2 guides
Difficulty – easy to moderate
Photography options – Fantastic
Colombia is a true birder’s paradise. Thanks to its wide variety of landscapes and climates, Colombia is a megadiverse country with some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. Regardless of size, Colombia holds almost 20% of all birds in the planet (1,940 species, with new species still being discovered).
Colombian Central, Western Andes & Cauca Valley is a delightful journey through high and mid elevation Colombian Western and Central Andes, also known as Coffee Region, visiting the most spectacular birding reserves across the region, that protect the vulnerable biological diversity of Colombia and which offer well preserved forests, comfortable accommodation and fantastic feeders, suitable for photographers. Colombian coffee is often regarded as some of the highest quality in the planet so we make a point of offering a truly traditional coffee experience alongside traditional coffee growers.
Our tour will be led by well-known Colombian native Diego Calderon which together with Jonathan will make sure you enjoy a bird and nature packed tour you will never forget!
Important! Our tour begins in the city of Pereira in Western Colombia. Pereira is easily reached by flight from Bogota. Some airlines fly directly into Pereira. We are happy to assist with connecting flights from Bogota if necessary, the flights are frequent, and cheap.
Click for our Full Program
Day 1: Arrival in Pereira
Upon Arrival you will be transferred to Hacienda San José, a charming hotel that provides the ideal combination of quality, comfort and location.
Accommodation at Hacienda San José Hotel / https://onx.la/9ba09
Day 2: Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary & Transfer to Manizales
Our first full day of birding and we will dive straight into the action.
Our day begins early to the sound of the Howler Monkeys. We will begin with a relaxed walk along an open quiet road to n hope to connect with several sought after birds including the elusive Hooded Antpitta and our first endemics, Cauca Guan, Multicolored Tanager and crested Ant-tanager. Birding in the area is incredible and the birds will be coming in thick and fast! We will take the time to admire incredible species such as the iconic Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Andean Motmot, Moustached Antpitta, Golden-headed Quetzal, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Plumbeous-crowned and Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, Black-billed peppershrike and many more. Also, this place is one of the best for the mysterious Mountain Tapir and with some luck we may connect with this magical animal.
After lunch, we will make our way to Manizales with a few birding stops along the way, including a nearby tumbling river where we will search for the fantastic Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper among others.
In the afternoon we plan short visit to Tinamu Reserve and check out their bird feeders and trails. located in San Peregrino village, the reserve is home to several awesome endemics such as Grayish Piculet, Colombian Chachalaca and Parker’s Antbird. Other specialties may include Gray-headed Dove, Moustached Puffbird, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Blue-lored and Jet Antbird, Guira Tanager and the charming Golden-collared Manakin.
At the feeders we can see the near-endemics Western Emerald and Scrub Tanager and a host of more common species such as Blue-necked Tanager and a host of Hummingbirds such as Long-billed Starthroat, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, Green Hermit, White-vented Plumeleteer, Black-throated Mango, Lesser, Brown and Sparkling Violetears.
Accommodation at Recinto del Pensamiento Hotel/ https://en.estelarrecintodelpensamiento.com/
Day 3: Rio Blanco Reserve
Rio Blanco is one of the best birding sites in Colombia and was one of the pioneers of establishing feeders for Antpittas.
Located three kilometers northeast of Manizales, it is an area of Cloud Forest with high biodiversity and protects numerous endangered species. Over 360 species of birds are found here, including 13 of Colombia’s endemics.
Our visit will begin with the local warden that will take us to multiple feeding areas where we can get close views of the endemic and once almost impossible Brown-banded Antpitta, the near-endemic Bicolored Antpitta, and the charismatic Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
The hummingbird feeders here can provide good and new species such as Long-tailed Sylph, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet and Fawn-breasted Brilliant.
Other species that we´ll look for include the near-endemic White-throated Wedgebill, Pearled Treerunner, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Streak-headed Antbird, Lachrymose Mountain-tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Slaty brush-finch, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Bar-bellied and Crimson-Mantled Woodpeckers and Grey-browed Brush-finch. Further searching should reveal Masked saltator, Plushcap, Yellow-billed Cacique, Ash-colored Tapaculo, and Ocellated Tapaculo.
Accommodation at Recinto del Pensamiento Hotel. https://en.estelarrecintodelpensamiento.com/
Day 4: Hacienda el Bosque & Termales del Ruiz hotel
Hacienda el Bosque, located 30 minutes from Manizales sits in a high elevation area with gradients from 2,800 to 3,900 Meters. The area includes diverse habitats such as pastures for livestock and dairy production and large extensions of high Andean and Paramo forests that have been protected for more than 40 years. The area has quality feeders for hummingbirds and tanagers where Collared Inca, White-bellied Woodstar, Mountain Velvetbreast, Sparkling Violetear, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Buff-Winged Starfrontlet and the incredible and sought-after Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan can be found. The main attraction here is one of the most enigmatic species of Antpitta, the Crescent-faced Antpitta alongside the Central-Andes member of the Rufous Antpitta complex, the Equatorial Antpitta.
Afterwards, we will have lunch and enjoy the wonderful feeders at “Termales del Ruiz” where Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Golden-breasted Puffleg and Shining Sunbeam can be found besides many others.
Accommodation at Termales del Ruiz Hotel https://hoteltermalesdelruiz.com/
Day 5: Nevado del Ruiz & Termales del Ruiz.
Nevado Del Ruiz is a National Park situated below the Ruiz Volcano between 2800 m and 4000 meters. It hosts ecosystems such as elfin forest, patches of bamboo, Paramo and of course, an active volcano.
The elfin forest and nearby areas are home to many endemic species including the rare and local Rufous-fronted Parakeet, and near-endemic Black-thighed Puffleg. Starting in the elfin forests we will look for these two species along with the near-endemic Black-backed Bush Tanager, and Paramo Tapaculo, while feeding flocks may include Hooded Mountain Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Sedge wren, Plain-coloured Seedeater, Paramo Seedeater, Tawny Antpitta, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-spinetail, Crowned Chat-tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-tyrant, Andean Tit-spinetail and White-chinned Thistletail.
One of the main targets of this stunning mountain is the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest, an amazing bird that favors flowering bushes of Speletia (commonly known as ‘frailejones’ , a unique subshrub from the sunflower family, that only exists in the Paramo).
Accommodation at Termales del Ruiz Hotel / https://hoteltermalesdelruiz.com/
Day 6: Venecia Coffee Farm & Transfer to Montezuma Ecolodge
Day 6 will start with a pleasant and very birdy walk in Termales del Ruiz forest and after breakfast we will head to the Venecia Coffee farm. Since a good portion of the trip we will be surrounded by coffee plantations and Colombian coffee is of the highest quality in the world, we are happy to include a legit coffee experience at Venecia farm.
During our time here we will learn about the origin and history of coffee, the worldwide distribution, the different coffee varieties and qualities, as well as about the aromas and properties of coffee and the Coffee Cultural Landscape (World Heritage Site by UNESCO).
After the perfect cup and full of energy, the interactive tour continues with a walk through the plantation to learn more about the growing and harvesting. After you picked your own beans, you will visit the wet mill to learn about the coffee processing and marketing. As roasting is both a science and art – the difference between perfectly roasted coffee and a rejected batch can be a matter of seconds. You will have the chance to taste and see the beans with different grades of roasting to experience the different aromas, as the roasting brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans. Eedless to say, the visit will include some birding during the coffee tour.
Afterwards, we will head to the incredible Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge.
Accommodation at Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge https://montezumarainforest.com/
Day 7 & 8: Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge (Tatamá National Park)
Tatamá National Park is located in the Western Cordillera, between the departments of Chocó, Valle del Cauca and Risaralda. It is known for its rugged geography and steep slopes.
During our two days here we will enjoy some spectacular birding. We will mostly bird along the road, with opportunities for many endemics, such as Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-wren, Black-and-gold Tanager, Chestnut Wood-quail, Multicoloured Tanager, Crested Ant-tanager, Alto-pisones Tapaculo, Gold-ringed Tanager and Red-bellied Grackle.
The birding here is just amazing and we should expect to see many great species here, Black Solitaire, Choco vireo, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Toucan barbet, Bicoloured antvireo, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Golden-chested Tanager, Choco Toucan, Plumbeous Pigeon, Western-immaculate Antbird, swallow-tailed Kite, Choco Tyrannulet, Variable Seedeater, Scarlet-rumped and Lemond-rumped Tanagers, Marble-face Bristle Tyrant, Ornate Flycatcher, Metallic-green Tanager, Scaly-breasted Wren, Guira Tanager, Bay Wren, Russet-backed Oropendola, Masked Tityra, Andean cock-of-the-rock, Bar-crested Antshrike, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Red-faced Spinetail, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Nariño Tapaculo, Tricoloured Brush-finch, Dusky Bush-tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Wing-barred Piprites, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Sylver-throated and Rufous-throated Tanagers, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Club-winged Manakin, Chestnut-capped Brush-finch, Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, Lemond-browed Flycatcher, Beautiful Jay, Olivaceous Piha, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Barred Fruiteater, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Scaled Fruiteater, Golden Tanager and the Tanager Finch.
The reserve has a number of hummingbird feeders either in high, middle and low elevations that are visited by near-endemics Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Purple-throated Woodstar and Western Emerald. Other interesting hummingbirds found at the feeders are: Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Andean Emerald and Greenish Puffleg.
Accommodation at Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge https://montezumarainforest.com/
Day 9: Morning at Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge & Transfer to Cali
We will spend a last morning at Montezuma Rainforest lodge and after an early lunch we will head to the city of Cali and the fantastic Araucana lodge. The lodge is an incredible place nestled in a bamboo and palm grove on a ‘finca’ at 1600 meters above sea level. If there is time we could do some birding around the lodge grounds and feeders looking for Red-headed Barbet, Saffron-crowned and Golden Tanagers, Andean Emerald, Black-billed Thrush and more.
Night at La Araucana lodge https://www.araucanalodge.com/
Day 10: La Florida Reserve
Following an early breakfast, we will take the short drive to Finca La Florida, a true Paradise for hummingbirds and tanagers located in beautiful cloud forest at 2000m. We will spend the whole day here, birding the now famous km18 of the new Buenaventura Road, the adjacent forest and the fantastic feeders.
Targets here include the endemic and stunning Multicolored Tanager and the near-endemic Blue-headed Sapphire, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Golden Tanager, Black-winged Saltator, Long-tailed Sylph and many more. The main Targets here, and the reason we will need to arrive early, is the skulky and endemic Chestnut Wood-Quail, which actually come to feeders here, providing incredible views and photo opportunities, along with Scaled Antpitta and Little Tinamou.
In the afternoon, we’ll bird around Araucana Lodge, where besides the nearly 200 species present we will search for 4 endemics: Parkers Antbird, Colombian Chachalaca, Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher. The lodge also offers a great setup of feeders offering exeptional views and phot opps of many incredible species.
Day 11: El Descanso, Doña Dora’s feeders and San Felipe.
Early in the morning we will head to the Old Buenaventura road which descends from the western Andes to the Pacific lowlands through the Anchicaya valley, holding a mind-blowing biodiversity and a spectacular mix of Chocó and andean species. Our first stop will be at Dona Dora’s place, where we will have breakfast while enjoying the feeders. This fantastic place attracts species such as the emblematic and Chocó endemic Toucan Barbet, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Empress Brilliant, Green Thorntail, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-throated Woodstar, Rufous-throated and Silver-beaked Tanager, Black-headed Brushfinch and many more.
After leaving Dona Dora’s we will explore the upper section of the valley looking for Slaty-capped Shrike Vireo, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Tatamá Tapaculo and Crested Ant-Tanager among others, before heading to San Felipe Reserve.
in the afternoon we will take a leisurely walk through the feeders of San Felipe Reserve looking for more winged wonders at feeders.
Night at La Araucana lodge / https://www.araucanalodge.com/
Day 12: Bosque de Niebla & transfer to Buga
Bosque de Niebla is a charming little piece of forest owned by a couple of nature lovers that have worked hard to attract some key birds to their feeders allowing close views and photo opportunities. Our main target here is without a doubt the endemic Chesnut Woodquail which can be seen coming often to the feeders. Other targets include: Crimson-rumpled Toucanet, Blue-napped Chlorophonia, White-naped Brushfinch and more.
After lunch in Arauncana lodge we will head northh towards the city Guadalajara de Buga.
Night at Guadalajara de Buga Hotel / https://hotelguadalajara.com.co/
Day 13: Laguna de Sonso & flights
The Sonso lagoon, just 20min from the city of Buga is one of the few remaining wetlands of the dry Cauca valley. The Laguna and immediate area host great species like the endemics Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher, Blackbird Oriole, Spectacled Parrotlet, Common Potoo, Jet Antbird, Bar-crested Antshrike, Comb Duck, Dwarf Cuckoo and the only population of Horned Screamers in Colombia.
After a lunch on the road, we will transfer to the airport of Palmira just about 30min from Sonso Lagoon, where our tour ends.
Tour price: $4910 (8 participants)
$4500 (10 Participants)
Single supplement: $480
All accommodation and transportation within the country
All meals from dinner on day 1 till breakfast on the last morning.
All guiding and entry fees.
Domestic flights from Bogota and back
Alcoholic drinks and items of personal nature