Ecuador is famed for its extraordinary biodiversity and its superb variety of habitats, making it a premier destination for photographing birds in their native environments.
This trip will include the best of the Ecuadorian Andes: the popular West Slope from Tandayapa Valley to Milpe and the spectacular East Slope from Papallacta to the Amazon Basin. The trip also includes a visit to the high paramo to photograph Ecuador's national bird, the Andean Condor.
Your guide, Alejandro Valenzuela, has almost two decades of experience in the field with personal access to the best bird photography lodges and nature reserves.
He has handpicked locations that allow for easy photography in both native habitats and well-designed gardens that attract colorful and normally difficult-to-photograph species. Fantastic feeder set-ups allow for a heavy focus on the jewels of the Andes, the hummingbirds!
Additionally, there will be ample opportunity to photograph other colorful tropical birds, including multiple species of tanagers, toucans, trogons, woodpeckers, and even the incredible, vivid scarlet Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
Alejandro provides personalized travel experiences at the lowest rates by working closely with his partners, especially those working in wildlife conservation.
ALL bird photography locations visited during this tour are private conservation efforts focused on preserving native forests. All practice sustainability to the point possible for their locations. Furthermore, all aim to provide fair employment opportunities to the surrounding communities.
Therefore, your trip directly supports these conservation efforts, empowering local communities to thrive and further develop tourism opportunities that will protect Ecuador’s endangered species.
This is a Bird Photography Tour.
It is not a hardcore birding trip. Nor is it a photography workshop.
Nevertheless, we will see a remarkable number of amazing birds and catch their essence and beauty through your camera lens.
All levels of photographers are welcome!
We will see birds in the lowlands, foothills, and higher slopes on both sides of the Andes. Most Ecuadorian birding trips focus on the West Slope. However, Alejandro's 10-day itinerary allows for exploration of the lesser-visited East Slope, maximizing the chances to photograph different variations of the same species like the Booted-Rackettail Hummingbird.
Also, there are birds that can only be seen on the East Slope, like the fabulous Wire-crested Thorntail and the Long-tailed Sylph, a near twin of the West Slope’s Violet-tailed Sylph.
On the journey between slopes, we will encounter many different microhabitats from cloud forests to high paramo. Weather can change in an instant but we always hope for some clear views of the spectacular snow-covered peaks of volcanoes like Cotopaxi and Antisana. This ever-changing environment makes for challenging but satisfying photography.
Most of our days are spent in the cloud forest where the weather is usually very pleasant, mostly 55°-75°F, 13°-24°C. Some rain can be expected, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Good rain protection for yourself and your gear is essential.
We may experience colder temperatures at both Guango Lodge and the Yanacocha Reserve. It is usually very cold near Antisana, possibly near freezing.
Temperatures will be warmer at Suamox and hot & humid at Laguna Cube and Laguna Paikawe. We will truly experience a variety of microhabitats!
Our overall pace will be relaxed with a few times when we may need to push on to take advantage of good weather or available light.
All days will include ample time to enjoy the local cuisine of each region.
Most days will include time to relax or download photos. This will often be in the late afternoon when the light may be poor and when it is more likely to rain.
The tour will involve several hours of driving. We only drive during daylight hours to maximize safe travel.
Our tours run year-round.
While the climate has been unpredictable in recent years, the driest months on average are June-August, the wettest months are March-April, and the other months are in between.
Bird activity is slower when it is very dry. However, even in the dry season, some rain can be expected and some birds can be observed.
Rainy season tours are usually the most productive. Fortunately, most mornings during the rainy season are dry. Furthermore, the increased cloud cover means diffused light rather than harsh sunlight.
Please contact Alejandro to confirm availability at the time you would like to book your trip.
On the tour, at least half the time will be spent photographing birds that visit feeders or eat insects that were attracted by the lights during the night.
The remainder of the time, we will target birds along roads or short tracks and trails.
Alejandro may modify the plan on any particular day based on weather, feeder activity, recent sighting information, newly opened sites, or other factors. For that reason, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary.
The number of photography stops will depend on the location and time limitation. Nonetheless, there will be sufficient time for many photographic opportunities.
Departure at 5:30am from your hotel in Quito to Yanacocha Reserve – some target species on the feeders include: Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Sword-billed Hummingbird, and Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch; several Tawny Antpittas may walk about during this stop. After this fantastic first part of the day, we will drive to Alambi Reserve where more than 20 species of hummingbirds visit their feeders. The most common is usually, the outrageous Booted Racket-tail, of which the male has a strange long tail, with two paddles at the end. Other regular drop-ins are a number of glistening species like the audacious Violet-tailed Sylph, the standout Purple-bibbed Whitetip, and the gem-like Western Emerald, tiny Purple-throated Woodstar that regularly buzz around the Reserve. After Alambi`s visit, we will drive to our hotel, where we will have dinner and spend the night. Lunch, dinner and overnight are included.
Important: Let us know if your hotel does not serve breakfast; we can stop en route for coffee and a snack.