Bird watchers around the world know about the diversity of species that can be found in some parts of the tropics. Ecuador is the proud home or migratory spot of around 18% of the world’s bird population. The coast of Ecuador is located within a Biodiversity Hotspot Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena (In 1988 Norman Myers first identified ten tropical forest “hotspots” characterized both by exceptional levels of plant endemism and by serious levels of habitat loss, Conservation International), which is divided in two main phitogeographical regions, , the Chocó/Darién wet and moist forests in the north and the Ecuadorian/Peruvian Tumbesian dry forests in the south. (CI). This program starts in the Tumbesian bioregion on southern Ecuador and ends at the Chocó/Darién, on the northern coast. It includes a great selection of destinations either for an amateur birdwatcher or for an experienced one; always escorted by the best local guides in their field.
The ecosystems found around Guayaquil are so different from each other that any birder will have great chances of watching an amazing range of species without having to take very long rides far from the comfort of this city . We pass from the mangrove forests on the salt water canals of the Gulf of Guayaquil, dry forests in Chongón Colonche cordillera, as well as hikes by the river and visits to some parks in the city.
Today we will travel south, to Manglares Churute Reserve, with some of the last remnants of mangrove forest, a pluvial pond, cloud and dry forest on its hills, Churute is an excellent opportunity for admiring all of the common inner coast species, as well as some rare ones, special points in this destination for the Horned Screamer (anhima cornuta) living in the pluvial pond area. Also great chances of spotting other samples of local fauna in the hikes to the hills (howler monkeys, “cuchuchos”, etc..
We will go farther to the western slopes of the Andes, to Molleturo hills. Here we will enjoy of a different altitude, climate and ecosystems; thus, the area contains a great range of species, including toucans and several tanagers. Continue south to El Guabo for overnight.
Pass Machala and Arenillas to a very special birdwatching site at Puyango Petrified Forest. On the afternoon we continue to Zaruma, a gold mining town on the Andes western slopes and one of the highest points in this itinerary (1.170 mts.), surrounded by very interesting Birdwatching spots. Overnight in Zaruma
Early morning departure back to Guayaquil, where we will arrive on time to visit Cerro Blanco Protected Forest for a hike around this dry forest reserve, declared an IBA (Important Bird Area) by the BirdLife International Association. Here, very well defined hikes of different length will give us great chances for spotting birds. Plus, this area is home of the rarely seen Great Green Macaw. Afternoon spent watching some of the over 100 species of birds that can be found here. Continue to Puerto Hondo, where we may take a ride around the mangrove canals in the canoes of the community. Overnight in Guayaquil.
Depart to Parque Lago, a man-built lake which is surrounded by interesting coastal forest. Continue towards the coastline, to Mar Bravo salt ponds, man-made salt production area eventually transformed and taken over by numerous colonies of different marine and migratory species. Of course, salt is still the main purpose of the facilities, but this activity has not interfered with the behavior of this unbelievably dense range of species (over 100), some of them usually seen in large numbers. Overnight in Salinas.
Continue to Loma Alta village, on the slopes of Chongon-Colonche cordillera, travel on mules to the community forest, for an intense experience with birds and amphibious, overnight camp in the area.
Continue to Cantalapiedra Reserve, in the valley of Ayampe river, full of magical natural tropical forest landscapes, where we will have a chance to enjoy the river, watch for birds and hike on the hills. Overnight in the lodge located inside the private reserve, where a laid back atmosphere and a natural earth love feeling will surround us
Today we will visit Isla de la Plata, part of Machalilla National Park, a sacred island for the ancient inhabitants of the region. Full day hike looking for the local Galapagos-like birdlife. Afternoon return to the coast for overnight in the area. If it is the appropiate season (July – September), we will also have the chance of an unforgettable experience close to humpback whales;
Today we will travel north, passing Jipijapa and Manta, until we reach Bahía de Caráquez, where we will take a canoe ride for birdwatching at the frigate bird colony around Heart Island, visit Interpretation Center and mangrove walkway. Afternoon Birdwatching at an Organic Shrimp Farm. Overnight in Bahía.
We travel east to La Segua marshet, near Chone, for a great variety and number of coastal species. Afternoon arrival to Santo Domingo de Los Colorados (1.200 mts.), with time to explore the nearby forest.
Continue to Quinindé (85 km.), and to Reserva Biológica Bilsa (45 km. west, a 3000 ha reserve set in tropical wet forests), where we will look for birds in the different trails of the reserve.
Continue north to Borbón, in Esmeraldas province, from where we go to the communities located on the banks of Santiago and Cayapas rivers, within the Ecological Reserve Cotacachi-Cayapas, where we will use the local communitary touristic facilities and visit nearby forests and canals looking for birds, guided by chachis and afroecuadorians from the area.
In the area
Return to Esmeraldas and continue to Quito/Guayaquil by bus or plane, This program can be combined with extensions to
a) El Cajas National Park and Cuenca
b) Quito, Cotopaxi, Otavalo
d) Río Palenque scientific station
e) Pedro Franco Dávila Scientific Station at Jauneche f) Mindo