Description Birdwatching – 7 days
The Caribbean region of Colombia has the tallest coastal mountain range in the world. Yes, the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta reaches an altitude of 5775 meters (almost 19,000 feet) at Pico Cristobal Colon, Colombia’s highest point. And, it’s only 26 miles from the ocean.
Explore the El Dorado reserve with a 1600-acre nature reserve of subtropical and montane forest bordering the Sierra Nevada. It contains over 360 species of birds, including numerous endemics, and high concentrations of endemic and threatened amphibians. 35% of Colombia’s bird species are found here – in an area that’s less than 2% of the size of the country’s area.
At the reserves there will be trained local guides who will show you the birds and best bird areas, but they are not top level bird guides and speak little English. An experienced professional driver who speaks some English will meet you at the start of the tour and accompany you (except at Minca and El Dorado there are English speaking staff).
Day 1: Arrive in Santa Marta & travel to Minca
- You will be picked up at Santa Marta (or Barranquilla) Airport and taken to your hotel in Minca, in the coffee growing foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Depending on your arrival time, we will settle into the birder-friendly Hotel Minca to do some relaxed bird watching around the lodge and at the hummingbird feeders.
- Night: Hotel Minca
Day 2: Minca
- Today you can explore some of the habitats around Minca looking for species like Black-backed Antshrike, Golden-winged Sparrow, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Coppery Emerald, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Rufous-breasted, Rufous, and White Wrens,Scaled Piculet, Whooping Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Cocoa Woodcreeper and others.
- You will have your meals at the Hotel Minca while enjoying the nine species of hummingbirds that come to the feeders like Long-billedStarthroat, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Steely-vented Hummingbird, and White-necked Jacobin.
- The next two days are going to be action-packed, so we can take things fairly easy today if desired.
- Night: Hotel Minca
Day 3: Guajira Desert Daytrip
- This will be a very early morning departure to the Guajira Desert (around 3.30). The costal and desert habitats of the Guajira Peninsula harbor a variety of species restricted to northeastern Colombia and parts of adjacent northern Venezuela including Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Buffy Hummingbird, Russet-throated Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Slender-billed Inezia, Orinocan Saltator, Pileated Finch, Tocuyo Sparrow and the splendid Vermillion Cardinal. Crested Bobwhite, Blue-crowned and Brown-throated Parakeets, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Black-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren and Northern Scrub-Flycatcher will also be looked for. Out in the costal lagoons we will look for American Flamingo, Scarlet Ibis, migrant waders and a variety of other water birds.
- After all day exploring these habitats we will arrive back to the Hotel Minca
- Night: Hotel Minca
Day 4: Minca & El Dorado Reserve
- After an early breakfast you will go by a 4WD vehicle up to San Lorenzo in the Santa Marta mountains.
- You will go the El Dorado Bird Reserve. Managed by ProAves, this reserve hosts nearly all the 19 Santa Marta endemics. Apart from the birds, the views here are spectacular. From the lodge one can watch several endemic hummingbirds in the garden, gaze at the Caribbean beaches 6000 feet below, and from the nearby raptor observation tower the snow-capped peaks that rise to over 19000 feet.
- You will settle into the lodge and do some easy birding around the bird filled gardens.
- Night: El Dorado Reserve
Day 5/6: El Dorado Reserve
- The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range is completely cut off from the Andes, and yet has the tallest peaks in Colombia. It is the highest costal mountain range in the world and due to its isolation and height; it holds the highest density of endemics of any non-island birding site in the world.
- Over the next two days we can explore at your leisure these critical habitats and unique species. One day we will travel by jeep to the higher elevations and look for the critically endangered Santa Marta Parakeet,Yellow-crowned Whitestart, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Rusty-headed Spinetail, and a likely to be split race of Rufous Antpitta.
- The sixth day we will watch birds above, near and below the lodge. We’ll explore these habitats near the lodge looking for White-tailed Starfrontlet, Streak-capped Spinetail, Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager, Santa Marta Antpitta, Colombian Brushfinch, Santa Marta Brush-Finch and lots of endemic subspecies including Cinnamon Flycatcher, Black-hooded Thrush, Blue-capped Tanager, and Emerald Toucanet. The same day we can walk below the lodge where the forest is taller and a little drier, and look for some different species like White-lored Warbler, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Woodstar, and Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner. Other attractive species include Blossomcrown, White-tipped Quetzal, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, and Rusty-breasted Antpitta.
- In the evening, we will listen for the not yet described Santa Marta Screech-Owl and look for a new specie of night monkeys.
- Hotel: El Dorado Reserve
Day 7: El Dorado Reserve to international connection home
- Flight departure times will dictate at what time we leave the reserve today. We will either drive directly to your airport or take some time to look for species we might have missed the previous days. International departure flights leave from Santa Marta via Bogotá or from Barranquilla.