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Your Dream Bird Photography Tour
Love photographing birds? This trip is for you!
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! 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.
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 may modify the itinerary 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 trip.
This tour runs year-round. Please scroll below to see the full itinerary.
Yanacocha & Alambi Reserves
Tandayapa Valley to Pacto
Pacto to Mindo
Mindo to Western Lowlands
Laguna Cube to Milpe
Milpe Reserve to Mindo
Mindo to Northwest & Dry Valley
Antisana to Quijos
Quijos Valley to Eastern Foothills
San Isidro to Quito
Solo PhotographerGreat Price
Car with Guide/Driver
4-5 PhotographersBest Value
Van with Driver
2-3 PhotographersGood Value
Car with Guide/Driver
Mission and Purpose
Alejandro provides personalized travel experiences at the lowest rates by working closely with his partners 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.
We will see birds in the lowlands, foothills, and higher slopes on both sides of the Andes, crossing terrain as low as 1,150 feet (350 meters) to as high as 12,300 feet (3750 meters).
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.
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.
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. Except for early morning departures before sunrise, we only drive during daylight hours.
When to go
This trip is available year-round. It is possible to see and photograph birds at any time of the year.
If you would like to maximize the number of birds you see and photograph, the rainy season tends to be the best time to visit.
All accommodations will include private, en-suite bathrooms, full-time hot water, and 24hr electricity except for Laguna de Cube where accommodation and food will be comfortable but very basic; electricity is provided by a generator that is turned on for limited hours, but it provides sufficient time to charge camera batteries and devices.
For your arrival night in Quito: please book the place of your preference; hotel reservation sites such as Hotels.com or Booking.com offer excellent options. After booking your hotel for the night of your arrival in Quito, please inform us of your flight details and the name of the hotel. This is important so we can meet you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel.
Health and Safety
We do our best to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. That means taking your health and safety into account. If you have a particular concern, please let us know!
If arriving in Quito or traveling in the Andes, please prepare yourself for high-altitude travel. That means arriving well-hydrated. If you would like to learn more about high-altitude travel, please check out our article: https://notyouraverageamerican.com/tips-high-altitude-travel/
While it is possible for new variants of Covid-19 to occur, our partners and their staff will mask while in close proximity to others, particularly indoors. We ask that you and your party also mask, especially with others.
For the latest updates on Covid-19 in Ecuador, please visit the US State Department website: https://ec.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information-ecu-2/
We require our partners to contract with drivers who are well-trained, drive well-maintained vehicles, and have been instructed to allow time to stop and enjoy the scenery. We want your trip to be enjoyable throughout, including the time spent in a car.
English-speaking, specialized, licensed Tour Guide
Private ground transportation from pick-up to drop-off.
Lodging from Day 1 through the afternoon of Day 10. Upon return to Quito, Alejandro will drop you at your hotel or the Quito International Airport.
Meals from Day 1 through the afternoon of Day 10.
All entrance fees to the locations listed in the itinerary.
What’s Not Included?
Optional tip for exemplary service to your host and tour guide.
Optional tips for exemplary service to staff at hotels, lodges, and restaurants
Beverages apart from those included with meals are not included. Many lodges and hotels will offer alcoholic beverages for an additional fee.
Extra services such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items are not included.
Your hotel in Quito is not included in this itinerary.
This trip does not include travel insurance. We highly recommend purchasing a travel insurance plan that includes health care coverage and evacuation in case of an emergency.