Ecuador | Birding the Amazon Rainforest

Ecuador | Birding the Amazon Rainforest

About this trip

Embark on an unforgettable journey into the Ecuadorian Amazon with Merlin Birding & Nature Tours. Begin in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains at WildSumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, then descend into the primary forests of Sacha Lodge’s 5,000-acre private ecological reserve, in the heart of the Amazon Basin. Seek out a variety of neotropical resident and migrant avian species, plus mammals, amphibians, insects, and more. In addition to a superb wildlife experience, you’ll have a chance to connect with indigenous communities and learn about their relationship with the surrounding forest.
OPTIONAL EXTENSION: Pair this trip with “Birding the Chocó-Andes Region,” January 16 – 25, to see even more of Ecuador’s avian diversity!

Highlights

  • Search for a mix of high- and low-elevation species in Sumaco, including targets like the Gray-tailed Piha, Blue-rumped Manakin, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, and the endangered Military Macaw.
  • Take a canopy walk high in the treetops and observe birds such as Scarlet and Red-bellied Macaws, Many-banded Aracari, Magpie Tanager, Gilded Barbet, and Yellow-rumped Cacique.
  • Canoe through the flooded Amazon forest while watching for birds, monkeys, sloths, caimans, river otters, and other wildlife.
  • Trek through trails of pristine terra firme forest, orchids, bromeliads, palm trees, and 150-foot kapok trees.

Meet your leader

Steve Hoffman

In January 2017, after serving as Executive Director of Montana Audubon for 10 years, Steve Hoffman retired to start his own birding tour company, Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC (merlinbirding.com). Over the past 20+ years, Steve has led or co-led many National Audubon Society, HawkWatch International, and Montana Audubon birding tours in Montana and abroad including Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Ecuador. Steve grew up in suburban Philadelphia, attended college in Reading, PA (near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary), and received his Master’s in Wildlife Ecology from Utah State University in 1979. Steve founded HawkWatch International in 1986, and has spent four decades exploring the mountains of the Rocky Mountain West, forever searching for new migratory raptor flyways. Steve currently resides in Bozeman, MT.

Wildsumaco

Jan 24, 2022

Upon arrival in Quito, you will be met by your guide. (Note: Most flights arrive into Quito late in the evening; please be prepared to fly in the night before so that you are rested and ready to go by midday to start the journey to WildSumaco. Holbrook can assist with pre-night hotel arrangements if desired.) For those staying on from the Chocó-Andes birding program, bid farewell to your departing travel companions and join the new arrivals. Together, begin the journey to the Andes' Eastern Foothills, one of the finest and most threatened areas for bird watching in Ecuador. About 500 bird species have been seen within the WildSumaco Wildlife Sanctuary and neighboring areas. This relatively pristine area stretches from Loreto Road (where the main highway crosses Rio Pucuno, elevation 3,800 feet) up to the border of Gran Sumaco National Park (5,200 feet). The road passing through the reserve offers excellent road birding, and this is one of many areas for viewing mixed-species foraging flocks. Exciting possibilities here include Blue-browed Tanager, Yellow-breasted Antwren, and Coppery-chested Jacamar. Many species of colorful tanagers may be accompanied by the Ecuadorian Tyrannulet as well as the recently described Foothill Elaenia; sometimes the Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater joins in. We'll also see a variety of North American migrants and over 30 species of hummingbirds! At night the Band-bellied Owl, Rufescent Screech-Owl and Foothill Screech-Owl may call nearby.

Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Wildsumaco Lodge

Wildsumaco

Jan 25, 2022

Early breakfast, followed by birding on the trails. From WildSumaco's trails, you may see Gray-tailed Piha, Blue-rumped Manakin, and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater. The very rare Yellow-throated Spadebill maintains its breeding territories along several of the trails. In addition, the endangered Military Macaw or rare Spot-winged Parrotlet might fly by, or the Black Hawk-Eagle may soar overhead. Lunch will be at the lodge. This afternoon you will enjoy viewing antpittas at a feeding station, and then continue birding around the grounds before dinner. This evening we will search for nocturnal creatures with our local guide.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Wildsumaco Lodge

Coca

Jan 26, 2022

After breakfast, we shall depart early for Coca. We'll head to Francisco de Orellana port where you will board a canoe for the two-hour ride down the Napo River, a short rainforest hike, and a crossing of Lake Pilchicocha to Sacha Lodge (2.5-hour journey). Of the incredible 1,600 bird species recorded in Ecuador, 600 (37 percent) have been seen at Sacha Lodge. That's almost 7 percent of the species found in the entire world! Enjoy observing birds at the mini-tower and the butterfly house before dinner at the lodge. After dinner, accompany your naturalist guide on a night walk through the rainforest to view a few of the hundreds of species of mammals that can only be seen at night.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Coca

Jan 27, 2022

Begin the day on the Liana Chica Trail, arriving at the canopy walk for spectacular views of the towering rainforest and its great variety of birds. Designed to be a self-standing rigid suspension, the forest canopy walk is one of only a few in the entire world! Located within Sacha's private reserve two miles from the shores of the Rio Napo and one mile from the lodge, this canopy walk gives you the opportunity to get an up-close view of the birds inhabiting the rainforest canopy. After the canopy walk, we'll take the Liana Grande Trail through terra firma and igapo forest habitats, where your guides will explain many different species of medicinal plants that have been used by the local culture for hundreds of years. Liana Grande will turn into the Higueron Trail, which will take you through pristine primary forest, with huge Kapok and Fig trees towering hundreds of feet above. After lunch, choose to take a leisurely hike along the Rio Napo, or the more challenging hike on the Leoncillo Trail to search for the elusive dusky titi monkey. Either way, the trails will lead you to the main boardwalk for your final hike and canoe ride back to the lodge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Coca

Jan 28, 2022

Set out from the lodge after breakfast, and begin your hike on Lagartococha Trail. This trail offers the chance to learn more about the indigenous people and their relationship with the forest. Learn about the trees where residents believe the spirits of their ancestors live, and the mysterious "dwende" or devil-man of the forest. After arriving at Lake Lagartococha, take a tranquil canoe ride through a natural swamp, home to anacondas, caimans and capybaras. After the canoe ride, a walk on the other side of Largatococha may give you the opportunity to spot capuchin or squirrel monkeys playfully jumping above in the forest canopy. Return from the walk and head back to the lodge for a refreshing dip in the lake, or a nice relaxing nap in your personal hammock on your private balcony. After lunch, your local guide will teach you how to fish for the infamous razor-toothed piranha. In the afternoon we'll take a silent canoe ride through the flooded Amazonian forest, hoping to spot the shy and elusive river otter as well as the well-camouflaged three-toed sloth. After our ride through the flooded forest, we'll arrive at Sacha's 135-foot wooden tower built around an ancient Kapok tree. View vibrantly colored birds through powerful spotting scopes, and watch the sunset with an amazing view of the Mount Sumaco volcano. You may even get a view of the snow-covered caps of the Andes! A canoe ride back through the flooded forest at night provides a different sensory experience: listen to the symphony of frogs and insects, nocturnal birds making their eerie nighttime calls, see the glowing eyes of caimans, and search for a variety of bat species flying overhead. Arrive back at Lake Pilchicocha to the welcoming lights of Sacha Lodge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Quito

Jan 29, 2022

Depart from the lodge early in the morning after breakfast. Take the canoe (2 hours approx.) to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, where you will board a plane back to Quito (30-minute flight). Once in Quito, transfer to your hotel.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Rincon de Puembo

Departure

Jan 30, 2022

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Hotel check-out by noon.

Breakfast- included