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A Report from

Southern Ecuador 9th – 22nd March 2007,

Martin Wootton


The attached gives a brief details of a superb two week trip that I have just completed with Tropical Birding in Southern Ecuador. If the thought of antpittas (inc the mighty Jocotoco being hand-fed worms), both Umbrellabirds, over 50 hummers (inc Violet-throated Metaltail, Giant Hummingbird), parakeets (Golden-plumed, White-breasted, etc),Lanceolated Monklet and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater whet your appetite then please read on…

Tropical Birding

I had previously visited Northern Ecuador with Tropical Birding in 2003 and had no hesitation in signing up with them for a tour of the South. TB know Ecuador as well as anyone, they limit groups size to 8 (ours actually had 7 with 2 guides) and are inexpensive without compromising at all on quality. The organisation by TB is superb and the high-level of communications in advance of the tour could not be faulted


Jose Illanes led the tour superbly and was very ably assisted by young American, Scott Olmstead. Jose led my tour in 2003 and I knew exactly what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. Scott is a superb birder having spent many months in South America. Several of the group commented upon his talent for getting all the group onto difficult birds

The group

One Ecuadorian guide, one American guide, 6 American birders and me, the token Brit. Many discussions about jelly / jello, chips / crisps, petrol costs, beer drinking, rules of the baseball “world” series, etc, etc but all-in-all a very pleasant group (Hope you all got home ok)


The lodges and hotels used on the tour were, without exception, superb. The quality of the food was excellent throughout and I had none of the usual stomach complaints that often develop when travelling overseas. I asked for a single room on the tour and TB were able to accommodate this at all the places we stayed.

A special note should be made here about Copalinga. It is simply superb in terms of location (about 2km from the Rio Bombuscaro entrance to Podacarpus), serves fantastic food, rooms are great and the owners are so accommodating to the needs of birders. The time spent here wasn’t nearly long enough.

Sites / locations

The circuit followed was a fairly standard one as follows.

09 March               Arrival/Night Guayaquil.                     
10 March               Cerro Blanco, Manglares-Churute, Santa Rosa - Night Umbrella Bird Lodge
11 March               Buenaventura (Lower Reserve) - Night Umbrella Bird lodge.
12 March               Buenaventura (Upper Reserve) and El Empalme - Night Macara
13 March               Jorupe Reserve - Night Macará.                      
14 March               Utuana & Jorupe Reserve - Night Macará     
15 March               Sozoranga, Utuana, Catamayo - Night Villcabamba.
16 March               Podacarpus (Cajanuma), Zumba Road & Tapichalaca - Night Tapichalaca Lodge.
17 March               Tapichalaca (Quebrada Honda) & Valladolid Road - Night Tapichalaca Lodge.
18 March               Tapichalaca (Palanda Road), Sabanilla Ridge & Copalinga Farm -Night Copalinga Lodge
19 March               Podacarpus (Río Bombuscaro) - Night Copalinga Lodge.
20 March               Old Loja - Zamora Road, Podacarpus (San Francisco) & Acanama - Night Cuenca
21 March               Cajas NP - Night Hotel Continental
22 March               Departure and Extension  

Our paths crossed with several other tour groups during the period and they did not seem to be seeing anything that we missed. (El Oro Parakeet seemed to be everyone’s bogey-bird)

Note that TB do a 5 day extension to this tour which takes in Ecuasal, Rio Ayampe & Mantarayo which all greatly boost the trip list (inc seabirds, Esmereldas Woodstar, etc). Unfortunately I could not get leave from work to do the extension.

Travel to Ecuador

On my previous visit I had gone via Newark and had encountered problems with regards to collecting luggage, rechecking-in, etc. Additionally the hassle of going through the States seems to increase with every visit

So, despite reading several horror stories on birder’s trip reports, I decided to give Iberia a go via Madrid. I have to say that Iberia were excellent throughout – the flights were comfortable, staff were polite (ish), food was good and the flights were punctual. Still a bit concerned that the Spanish / Ecuadorians burst into applause whenever a plane lands safely !

Health, etc

No malaria tablets on this tour so no crazy dreams – if you react badly to Malarone you’ll understand exactly what I mean. I was bitten a few times but certainly not enough to cause any inconvenience.

As noted above the food throughout the tour was excellent and this no doubt contributed to the absence of any stomach upsets, etc

A couple of tarantulas were seen along the trails but too nothing sinister was found in any of the accommodations. Snakes, as is too often the case, were noticeable by their absence

The weather was pleasant everywhere including Cajas NP which has notoriously fickle weather – I actually got sunburned at Cajas

Other stuff

I did not take my ‘scope on this trip (Jose had his always to hand) This is a personal preference based on the vagaries of international check-in desks. If I had been doing this trip alone I would have lost a few species due to not having a ‘scope.

I spent most of the trip in tee-shirts with a light fleece only required at Cajas. Do not attempt this trip (or similar) without the three essentials – umbrella, torch and Wellingtons (rubber boots). You will be knackered without these.

Birds ! (pdf file)


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