Ecuador Bird Language & Tracking Expedition Itinerary

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Itinerary 

 

Day 1 - Arrival into Quito, Ecuador

Upon evening arrival into Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, you will be met by our staff and transferred to your hotel in Quito to relax after the long flight.

 

Accommodations:  Hilton Colon Quito

 

Day 2 - Quito

Take a day to recover from your flight(s) by exploring Quito.  After breakfast, meet up with your guide for a private tour of Quito’s colonial center, commonly referred to as “old town.”  Quito is a spectacular city positioned just a few miles shy of the equator in a narrow valley surrounded by volcanoes.  At 9,350 feet above sea level, it is the second highest capital city in Latin America, and maintains a pleasant spring-like climate all year round.  It is also the cultural epicenter of Ecuador, with a plethora of museums, expansive outdoor parks, and colorful festivals and fairs.

 

You will start with a visit to the striking La Compañia church, with an ornate baroque facade built entirely out of volcanic stone. Equally impressive is the Church of San Francisco, Quito’s largest colonial structure, which you will see next.  Its adjacent museum houses much of the church’s original artwork, some of which dates back to the early 1600s.  You will then view the Virgin of Quito (El Panecillo), an enormous statue of an elegant winged woman who watches over the city from an impressive vantage point atop a 650-foot peak.  The site offers sweeping 360-degree views of Quito and the surrounding valley below.

 

After lunch, visit Quito’s Botanical Garden featuring plants from all ecological regions of Ecuador and the Vivarium, dedicated to environmental education and the conservation of Ecuador’s amphibians and reptiles.  Becoming familiar with some of the local flora will help prepare you for your adventure in the cloud forest and jungle so that you can recognize common species.  Late afternoon, catch some rest and then join up with the group for the welcome dinner where we will have an introductory presentation about bird language and animal tracking.

 

Accommodations:  Hilton Colon Quito

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Days 3 - Quito to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

After an early breakfast, depart northwest with your guide and private vehicle for a pleasant, 90-minute drive to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve.  Cloud forests, correctly termed pre-montane, subtropical rain forests, cloak the steep slopes of the Andes from 3,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level.  They are forests of high biodiversity, with a profusion of little-studied wildlife and plants.  Bellavista is at the southern edge of the Choco/Andean Biodiversity Hotspot, and is home to over 300 different species of tropical birds and numerous other animals.  Descend the flanks of the Andes from Quito to 4,015 feet above sea level and watch the landscape change dramatically as lush green forest and waterfalls dominate. 

 

Enjoy a guided nature walk in the preserve to introduce you to the plethora of bird species in the cloud forest including tanagers, toucans, and numerous species of hummingbirds, many of which are endemic to this region.  Begin to familiarize yourself with the sounds of the forest that we will be studying closely over the next several days.  After lunch in the 360-degree tree house restaurant and a brief rest period, we will reconvene in the afternoon and begin introducing the concepts of bird language.  We will take some walks through the preserve to hear specific examples and attune our ears to what birds are communicating to everyone in the forest.

 

Accommodations:  Bellavista Lodge

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 4 & 5 - Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

In the early morning, we will venture with a tracking specialist out onto some trails in the preserve to look for any fresh tracks that were left by nocturnal animals, including those of the puma, ocelot, and margay.  Next, we will split up the group and spread out over a given area to conduct our first bird language exercise as led by our expert guide.  This will entail sitting quietly in a specified location for a period of time and noticing all of the sounds that occur during this interval.  Afterwards, we will reconvene as a group and our guide will conduct a debrief of everything that occurred, including creating a “time-map” that tells a story of all the events that happened during our exercise.

 

We will subsequently scout the area for any new animals tracks and other sign according to what our feathered friends may have told us about what animals were moving in the area during the time of our exercise.  In the afternoon, we will conduct some more bird language activities while moving through the forest, and simultaneously keep an eye out for other animal sign or encounters as dictated by any bird alarms that we hear.  We will also search for animal trails and follow any sets of tracks we find to determine what activity the animal was engaged in and where it might be now.

 

Accommodations:  Bellavista Lodge

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 6 - Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve to Quito

In the early morning, we will venture out onto some trails in the preserve to look for any fresh tracks that were left by nocturnal animals.  Next, we will split up the group and spread out over a given area to conduct another bird language exercise.  This will entail sitting quietly in a specified location for a period of time and noticing all of the sounds that occur during this interval.  Afterwards, we will reconvene again as a group and debrief everything that occurred, including creating another “time-map” that tells a story of all the events that happened during our exercise. 

 

We will subsequently scout the area for any new animals tracks and other sign according to what our feathered friends may have told us about what animals were moving in the area during the time of our exercise.  In the afternoon, we will return to Quito with an optional visit to the Middle of the World equator monument, where you can live dangerously by placing one foot simultaneously in each hemisphere!  You can then spend the late afternoon by exploring more of Quito or resting up from our journey to the cloud forest.

 

Accommodations:  Hilton Colon Quito

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 7 – Quito to Amazon Napo Wildlife Center

This morning you will transit to the airport in Quito and take a short flight to the Amazonian city of Coca.  We will then go overland to the port of Francisco de Orellana, and then from there embark on a canoe ride along the Napo River for approximately two hours.  Along the way, you can observe the tremendous diversity of marine birds like herons, kingfishers and many others and use your new found knowledge of bird language to decipher their behavior as we drift by.  During the journey, your guide will give you an introductory briefing about the rich history of the Napo River, which is one of then main tributaries of the Amazon River.

 

We will arrive at the entry dock and disembark at the Napo Wildlife Center, a rustic and luxurious eco-lodge and conservation project that protects and maintains over 82 square miles of Amazonian rainforest and is home to 562 species of birds, or more than 1/3 of all species found in Ecuador!  On a clear day, the immense tropical scenery affords views of the Andes where Gran Sumaco and the snow-capped Antisana and Cayambe volcanoes are a spectacular sight.  The compound is situated on Añangu Lake, within the territory of the Añangu Kichwa people; its community members now own 100% percent of the Center and the surrounding domain.

 

After you have familiarized yourself with the facility, we will board traditional, dugout canoes for a majestic and peaceful one to two hour ride surrounded by the jungle canopy overhead.  This will serve as great introduction to the flora and fauna of the jungle.  You will be paddled along a narrow creek that connects to the lagoon where the lodge is located; keep your eyes out for monkey sightings as well as large birds like toucans, parrots or even macaws and other jungle wildlife that may appear.  Upon returning to the lodge, enjoy a welcome drink and dinner and opt for cayman (alligator) observation around the lake as you take in the evening sounds of the jungle.

 

Accommodations:  Napo Wildlife Center

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Days 8, 9, 10, & 11 – Amazon Napo Wildlife Center

In the mornings, we will venture out onto some jungle trails led by our western bird language and tracking guide as well as by native Añangu guides who are also Yasuni National Park Rangers.  As indigenous natives of the rainforest, they will share traditional knowledge about medicinal plants and other useful items of the tropical forest.  They will take us to search closely for any fresh tracks and sign that were left by the elusive, nocturnal jungle residents including peccaries, tapirs, ocelots, margays, pumas, and the king of the jungle, the all powerful jaguar.  We will attempt to follow their paths and if we are very lucky we might even sight one of them!

 

As we did in the cloud forest, each morning we will subsequently split up the group and spread out over a given area to conduct a bird language exercise where we will sit quietly in a specified location for a period of time, noticing all the sounds that occur during this interval.  Afterwards, we will reconvene as a group and conduct a debrief of everything that occurred and create a “time-map” that tells a story of all the events that happened during our exercise.  We will scout the area for any new animals tracks and sign according to what the birds told us about any animals and predators that were moving in the area during the time of our exercise.

 

Also during the morning or just before sunset we will climb the viewing tower, a sturdy, steel staircase anchored next to a giant Kapok tree over 125 feet high in the rainforest canopy, with a view normally reserved only for the birds!  As we ascend the tower we will pause at twelve different platforms along the way to learn about the climate, flora, and fauna unique to each level.  The platform at the top provides ample space for the whole group and is a magnificent place to study bird language as well as sight a myriad of species that inhabit the rain forest.  Actively feeding bird flocks frequent the vicinity around the tree; as many as 80 species were listed in one single morning!  It is also a wonderful opportunity to spot other wildlife and take photos and videos as the views are unparalleled!

 

On the tower platform, you'll be at eye level with large toucans and get to observe blue-and yellow macaws that fly in the distance.  Frequently, flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, and birds that are virtually impossible to notice from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence.  Other wildlife is present as well, including spider monkeys that often search for fruit in nearby trees and the gently moving three toed sloth.  We will conduct some bird language activities on the platform, listening for two species of large toucans that call in the early mornings and afternoons, monitoring the canopy for alarm calls of nearby predators, and studying the sounds and behaviors of many other species.

 

Additionally, one morning we will visit one of the parrot clay licks and sit in a comfortable blind to observe the unique behavior of parrots, parakeets, and macaws, as they gather by the dozens to dine on the nutrient-rich clay ledges and overhangs along the river.  Species include mealy, blue headed, yellow-crowned, orange-winged, and orange-cheeked parrots, and cobalt-winged, dusky-headed and white-eyed parakeets, as well as rare visits by scarlet-shoulder parrotlets and scarlet macaws.  In dry weather conditions flocks of at least 800 individuals including most of the species can be spotted.

 

During other parts of the day, we will also hike along forest trails to the Kichwa community of the Añangu people to liaise with locals and learn more about their culture and traditions. They are active participants in the conservation and management of a large territory within the park and hence an important part of its history and future.  Depending on their scheduled for a particular day, they often will invite us to join families in their daily search for food including tracking and harvesting wildlife, bananas, coco, or manioc (a starchy jungle root and staple food for Amazonian people); you might even get to help prepare chicha, a traditional drink based on cooked and fermented manioc!  As masters of the rainforest, you will get to see the tools and experience the techniques these Amazon natives use to survive in the jungle.

 

Finally, there will be time for leisure and other activities during your stay at the Napo Wildlife Center including walks with your guides along the Terra Firme trail where you will have opportunities to see lizards, manakins, and the Golden Mantled Tamarin monkey, with its strikingly orange chest and neck.  You can also explore the lakes and creeks by dugout canoe during the evening and look for families of giant otters floating through the water as well as the chance to listen to the sounds of the jungle throughout the night at the lodge.

 

Accommodations:  Napo Wildlife Center

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Day 12 – Amazon Napo Wildlife Center to Quito

On this morning we will say goodbye to the Wildlife Center and embark on the canoe ride back towards Coca, seizing this final opportunity to soak in the nourishing jungle air, listen to the birds, and look for additional wildlife.  Then we will board a return flight to Quito and upon arrival you will be met by escorted by your guide and transferred to your hotel.  There will be a few hours left over in the afternoon to explore Quito on your own or to do some shopping.  We will finish the trip by having a farewell dinner where you can share your favorite stories from the incredible adventure you just had!

 

Accommodations:  Hilton Colon Quito

Meals Included:  Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day 13 – Departure from Quito

This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your international flight and your return home.

 

Meals Included:  Breakfast

 

End of Trip

Ecuador Bird Language and Tracking Expedition

Naturalist Ventures

Austin, Texas, USA

info@naturalistventures.com

+1.512.763.0764

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