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NEW for 2024!
This Northern Ecuador Chocó Cloud Forest Tour covers all the important birding sites found northwest of the capital city of Quito. This area is part of the Chocó bioregion that hosts a great number of endemics and specialities that are only shared with neighboring areas of Colombia to the north. We are based in comfortable and well-located lodges for which this part of Ecuador is renowned. These lodges are near first-class birding locations like Tandayapa and Mindo valleys, Amaguza and Mashpi Wuasi reserves, the Manduriacu River, and the lower Silanche area, affording us a wide spectrum of habitats to be explored. Birding in these reserves also gives us the opportunity to support local conservation projects for long-term habitat protection.
Starting with the mystical elfin forest of the temperate zone, followed by bird-rich subtropical cloud forests, we also venture deeper into tropical foothill forests to reach the mega-diverse lowlands. Iconic species include Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Giant Antpitta, Plate-billed Mountain and Chocó Toucans, Toucan Barbet, Club-winged Manakin, Glistening-green Tanager, Orange-breasted and Scaled Fruiteaters, Velvet-purple Coronet, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, and many more. We search for rarities like Black Solitaire and Indigo Flowerpiercer, too.
A great network of birding reserves, together with excellent lodges, mind-blowing scenery, and friendly people make Northwest Ecuador one of the planet’s most delightful birding destinations. Join us!
- Seek out the region’s 350 bird species, including Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Golden-headed Quetzal, up to five species of antpittas, 45 species of hummingbirds, and tanagers galore
- Experience two critical ecoregions: the humid forest lowlands of the Chocó-Darien and the Northern Andean Mountain Forests
- Keep your eyes peeled for some of the 270 species of mammals of the region (including Spectacled Bear and Mantled Howler Monkey), 210 reptiles, and 130 amphibians
- Visit Mashpi Chocolate Farm
- Range in altitude from more than 9,000 feet to 1,200 feet and back again
- Support the Ecominga Foundation by visiting the Manduriacu Reserve
- Climb two observation towers for a bird’s eye view of the canopy
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Fri., Aug. 2 : Arrivals in Quito
Many flights from the USA arrive in Quito in the evening. Quito, one of South America’s most attractive colonial capitals, is nestled at the foot of the volcano Pichincha. The City enjoys bright sunshine during this time of the year and, on a clear day, stunning views of towering Andean peaks. Quito means ‘Eternal Spring’ in the ancient language of Quechua, and we enjoy the climate. Did you know? Quito is the second highest capital in the world at 9,000 feet above sea level. Settle in and relax; dinner tonight is at your leisure, but you are welcome to get together with the rest of the group for a casual evening meal.
Accommodations at Mercure Hotel
Sat., Aug. 3 : Reserva Zuro Loma | Tandayapa & Alambi Valleys
We have an early start this morning to visit Zuro Loma, a small-scale independent reserve that offers great opportunities to watch three antpitta species, including the specialty Chestnut-naped Antpitta (probably a cryptic new species awaiting description), as well as some other special bird species, including Barred Fruiteater and many colourful hummingbirds and tanagers. Later, we bird the famous Tandayapa Valley and have lunch in Guaycapi or enjoy a box lunch. In the afternoon, we drive through the Alambi Valley to the Piripe Lodge in Pacto, with birding stops along the way.
Accommodations at Piripe Lodge (B,L,D)
Sun., Aug. 4 : Piripe Area | Cock-of-the Rock Lek
We enjoy a full day birding around the Piripe area. Early in the morning, we visit the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek at Santa Elena, and in the afternoon, we look for birds while we visit a traditional sugar cane family project. There are many opportunities to bird in the surrounding areas and our guide picks the best options.
Accommodations at Piripe Lodge (B,L,D)
Mon., Aug. 5 : Upper Mashpi Road | Amagusa Reserve
Today is a very special day as we enjoy our first exploration of the upper part of Mashpi Road and visit Amagusa Reserve where look for the rare Indigo Flowerpiercer, Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanagers, and a whole range of hummingbirds, including Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, and many others. We have a box lunch at Mashpi Wuasi while we watch hummingbirds at the feeders. In the afternoon, we take a birding drive to the lodge.
Accommodations at Cielo Verde Lodge (B,L,D)
Tues., Aug. 6 : Middle & Lower Mashpi Road
We have an early departure from the lodge to continue birding from the middle part of the Mashpi Road down to the lower elevations, seeking birds like Black-tipped Cotinga, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Baudo Guan, Yellow-green Bush Tanager, and White-capped Dipper. We enjoy another box lunch and more birding in the afternoon, with a stop at a reservoir to look for waterbirds.
Accommodations at Cielo Verde Lodge (B,L,D)
Wed., Aug. 7 : Mashpi River | Chocolate Farm
We have a full day of exploring around the Mashpi River and the vicinity looking for Choco birds such as Rose-faced Parrot, Choco Toucan, Choco Warbler, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove, Orange-fronted Barbet, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Purple-chested Hummingbird, and many more endemics. This area is part of a chocolate farm conservation project. We enjoy lunch locally and in the late afternoon, transfer to Kapari Lodge.
Accommodations at Kapari Lodge (B,L,D)
Thurs., Aug. 8 : Long-wattled Umbrellabird | Kapari Lodge Grounds
We have an early start to visit one of the best locations in the area to see the male Long-wattled Umbrellabird in full display. Other birds in this area include the Choco Trogon and Club-winged Manakin.
Depending on the results, we might come back earlier to bird the grounds of the lodge, exploring the lower part of the reserve.
Accommodations at Kapari Lodge (B,L,D)
Fri., Aug. 9 : Silanche Road | Canopy Tower
We spend a full day of birding in the lower elevations of the Chocó area, Silanche Road, and forest reserve. This place is very special as it offers the chance to bird from a canopy tower, allowing good viewing opportunities for Scarlet-breasted and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and Blue-whiskered, Rufous-winged, Golden-hooded, Gray-and-gold, and Scarlet-browed Tanagers. Dusky Pigeon is also a regular here, and so are mixed flocks of Pale-mandible Araçari, Chocó and Yellow-throated Toucans, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Western Slaty-Antshrike, and White-tailed and Blue-tailed Trogons. We have lunch in the field and overnight at Sachatamia Lodge.
Accommodations at Sachatamia Lodge (B,L,D)
Sat., Aug. 10 : Mindo: Guide’s Choice
Today our expert local guide selects prime locations in the Mindo area to wrap up our last full day of exploring. If we dipped on any key species, this is a perfect time to see if we can get eyes on them.
Accommodations at Sachatamia Lodge (B,L,D)
Sun., Aug. 11 : Refugio Paz de las Aves | Antpitta Farm | Departures
The best way to finish this amazing birding tour is by to visiting the famous Antpitta Farm Refugio
Paz de las Aves for more specialities, including possibilities such as Yellow-breasted, Giant,
Moustached, Ochre-breasted, and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas. We spend the rest of the
morning looking for Toucan Barbet, Golden-headed Quetzal, Scaled Fruiteater, and many colorful
tanagers and hummingbirds. At the end of the morning, we head to the lodge for lunch and then
return to Quito for our international flights home. Most flights depart late evening. (B,L)
Plate-billed Mountain Toucan courtesy of Neblina Forest
Blue-headed Parrots on clay lick
Squirrel Monkey by Greg Smith
Purple bibbed white-tip & Brown Violet-ear courtesy of Neblina Forest
Golden-breasted Grosbeak by Ruth Guillemette
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the tour, from Quito, Ecuador, is $4990 DBL / $5390 SGL. Tour price includes: 9 nights accommodations, professional guide services, land transportation within Ecuador, park and reserve entrance fees, pre-departure information and services, miscellaneous program expenses, accommodation and meals at all lodges, private transport, and private bilingual bird/naturalist guide. Cost of the tour does not include your international flights to Quito, items of a personal nature such as beverages from the bar, porterage, laundry, phone calls, or gift items. We also recommend a gratuity for maid service, and for our local drivers and guides, which is left to your discretion.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), Quito Ecuador
Arrival Details: Plan to arrive August 2, at your leisure
Departure Details: Plan flights to depart August 11 after 8:00 PM After lunch at the lodge, we have a 2 hour drive to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito. Most flights leave Quito around midnight so please check the flight dates carefully.
Travel Tip: If you would like to arrive early you can book an early night at our first night tour hotel, the Mercure Alameda Quito. This is a modern hotel located in the downtown area of Quito, approximately 45 minutes from the airport (pending traffic). There are many shops, restaurants, and attractions in this area. There are also many small boutique hotels and B&B’s from economical to elegant. You can also explore the city by day while staying elsewhere. If you want a location with birding,we recommend the Puembo Birding Garden, if available, a small bed and breakfast about 20 minutes away. Another nearby hotel with birding in Puembo is the San Jose de Puembo Hotel. If you wish to explore around Quito, there is plenty to do! A visit to El Panecillo, a small volcanic hill located on the south side of Old Town, is worth it for the views of Quito and nearby volcanos on a clear day. Calle La Ronda, a cobbled pedestrian street in Old Town, is lined with galleries, traditional shops, and cafes. The Basilica del Voto Nacional is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas and one of many churches in Quito with stunning architecture. These sites and many others are a short taxi ride from the downtown area or walkable from the Old Town area. If you want to arrive early and rest up at an airport hotel, we recommend: Holiday Inn Quito Airport Wyndham Quito Airport.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Greg recently retired as the Migratory Species Coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs, working throughout the Western Hemisphere. He is Vice President for Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, serving on the Conservation and Citizen Science committees. For his Ph.D. in Zoology at University of Washington, he studied the coloration and behavior of Bullock’s Orioles. Greg studied ecology in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies and has worked internationally for the past 19 years. Greg has previously worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Birder’s World magazine (now Birdwatching), Partners in Flight, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society (AOS). He has been a birder since he was 11 and has birded in all 50 states and 46 countries.
Other trips with Greg Butcher
Western Panama: Tranquilo Bay FULL - Take a look at our March 2024 departure!February 1 - 8, 2024, w/Canopy Lodge extension
Mexico's Butterflies & Birds FULL - Check out our Wildlife Discovery in the Sea of Cortez CruiseFebruary 17 - 24, 2024
Northwest ArgentinaMarch 4 - 17, 2024, w/Iguazu Falls extension
Texas Coast & Big ThicketApril 17 - 25, 2024
Olympic Peninsula Spring ExplorerMay 6 - 13, 2024
Bolivia: Birding & NatureNovember 1 - 17, 2024, w/Blue-throated Macaw Reserve extension
- Western Panama: Tranquilo Bay
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this tour's duration in Ecuador. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Ecuador’s website for guidelines.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Ecuador and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your international flight reservations to Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival into Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), Quito
When you arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), look for our guide who will drive you to the Mercure Hotel. We have your arrival time and will reconfirm with your guide.
Please note: If you are delayed in travel, please refer to your emergency contact list, and contact your ground operator, with a copy to our office. You may also phone or text your guide. Quite a few of your guides will set up a WhatsApp connection so you can also reach your guide by phone.
You will fill out a tourist entry card on your flight; Visas are not needed in advance of travel.
When you arrive in Quito you will first pass through immigration. You will be given a customs form on the plane to fill out. Also have your emergency contact sheet handy going through Immigration to show your destinations. Look for your guide once you exit to the main terminal area.
There is an ATM at the airport if needed (see MONEY below).
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), Quito
Your departing airport is in Quito at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO). There is an International Departure Tax, but this is normally now in your international ticket, and thus taken care of, just be aware that any time leaving a country, there could be notification of an increase or change.
After lunch at the lodge, we have a 2 hour drive to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito. Plan your departure flight after 8:00 PM. Many flights leave Quito around midnight so please check the flight dates carefully.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passports, Visas & Documents
Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-InformationPages/Ecuador.html. If you are from another country, please contact the Ecuador embassy website for guidelines.
You must have a passport that is in good condition and valid for at least six months from your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per entry stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted.
At the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for stays of this tour's duration. Your tourist card is part of your airline ticket and you will receive inbound forms to complete on your flight. If you are issued a card at immigration, be sure to carry it with your passport at all times. You will need the card to exit the country.
As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.
General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency.
Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are contacted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin, though at this time of year there should be little mosquito activity. Travelers can reduce their risk of disease by protecting themselves from mosquito bites by using protective clothing.
Vaccinations: At the time of writing there were no required vaccinations to enter Ecuador. However, the CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage for Ecuador is a helpful resource or you may contact them by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.
Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers.
Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s). If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.
Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.
Altitude sickness: Altitude sickness may occur in travelers flying into Quito, which is almost 3,000 meters above sea level. It can affect some and, if there is a concern, be prepared. The most general symptoms are headache and occasionally fatigue and dizziness. You’ll want to take it easy, particularly at first. These symptoms can be reduced by resting, drinking plenty of water and taking aspirin. If you have worries about the altitude, ask your physician about medications that may be right for you.
We generally follow the published itinerary but do network with other guides and may make changes if we hear of great bird or mammal sightings or a new opportunity. The joy of our travel is tremendous flexibility, and we make every effort to do the things you particularly want to do. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of the trip is moderate, with some early morning departures and late evening excursions, extensive field time and some options for hikes. It is also easy to take it at a vacation pace! You can pace yourself within our typically active schedule.
Weather & Climate
In general, weather where we travel in Ecuador is quite variable. We start in Quito at 9,350 feet of altitude. Average daytime temperatures for August are 69°F, with night temperatures at 44°F. In the lower elevations, temperatures will include daily highs up to around 82°F and lows down around 62°F. Rain is likely, so do have good rain gear; shoes with good tread and support are essential. We recommend dressing in layers, with a good wind-breaking layer that can do double duty as raingear. Our weather will be determined by altitude, so dressing in layers works perfectly for these conditions. Please bring warm enough clothing for the morning and evening temperatures at the higher altitudes.
Annoyances & Hazards
Mosquitoes can occur, especially at lower elevations; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you may encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks; this helps a lot. When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on if it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.
Food & Drinks
Menus at lodges and restaurants are varied, sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available, and delightfully prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or refer to a guidebook such as Frommers. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines.
Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient, we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles. Your guide will let you know when bottled water is preferable.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Dress is very informal. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day.
Please, pack light! We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need many changes at these elevations. Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down.
Laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges if you choose not to handwash.
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please DO NOT pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
Ecuador has adopted the US Dollar as their monetary unit, so there is no exchange rate. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as payment.
When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards. Many U.S. banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.
We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.
Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, lodge and hotel staff, or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish! Lodges normally have a box for tips that the staff share, and at hotels you would just tip the maids as you do at home. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services.
Here is a standard suggestion for tipping on birding trips:
- Birding tour guide: US $10.00 - $15.00 per day per guest
Note: If there is more than one guide, this can be split among them, so that is a total, per person, per day
- Tour driver if different from guide: US $5.00 - $7.00 per person/day
- Lodge staff: US $6.00 - $10.00 per day per guest
- Transfer (airport shuttle) driver: US $2.00 - $3.00 per person
- Hotel & international airport bellmen: US $1.00 per suitcase
You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches, and baseball caps are always popular. Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them. They also love any nature books/coloring books.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be turned on for your phone. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one). Renting an international phone may also be an option.
If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.
Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas. Although it is generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions due to the remote locations.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests; plan on cell phone calls on your own time.
The standard in Ecuador is the same as in the United States: 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles). Plugs are set up in the same style. However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce, so it's helpful to bring along an adapter for a two-prong outlet. If your appliance plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. More information can be found at https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/ecuador/.
Ecuador is on Ecuador Time, which is the same as U.S. Eastern Standard Time. (Ecuador does not have Daylight Savings Time.) A great website for someone calling you to check the time is www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. If lighter, all the better! Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. Loose clothing discourages insects and is very cool. If you like to wear shorts, by all means bring them. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy to launder.
Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent, such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Weather & General Guidelines
We start in Quito at 9,350 feet of altitude. Average daytime temperatures for August are 69°F, with night temperatures at 44°F. Lowland temperatures will be more like highs of 82°F and lows down around 62°F. Our weather will be determined by altitude, so dressing in layers works perfectly for these conditions. Rain is likely despite it being one of the drier months in Ecuador, so do have good rain gear; shoes/boots with good tread and support are essential. When dressing in layers, a good wind-breaking top layer can do double duty as raingear.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2-3 pair
- Lightweight long sleeve shirts, 2-3 (if open buttons, may be layered with short- sleeved or sleeveless t-shirt to keep cool in the lowlands). Loose fitting keeps you cool.
- T-shirts, short-sleeved or equivalent (1-2)
- Personal underclothing (consider what dries quickly if you plan to wash) and nightclothes
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry, and long enough to tuck your pants to help protect from chiggers in the lowlands
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes) and lightweight hiking boots – 2 pair. Please note that forest trails will be on uneven terrain and may be muddy – bring shoes with good support and firm grip tread.
- Field vest (optional) a great source is Big Pockets
- Good quality raincoat and pants (recommended) or poncho
- Fleece jacket or sweater for highlands and Quito evenings
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes)
- Comfortable sandals or light shoes for evenings, travel days
- Hat with broad brim; warm hat for Papallacta Pass
- Scarf, light gloves, light hat for cold evenings (you want to go owling!)
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when hot and sweaty)
- Bathing suit if you enjoy swimming
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
- Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
- A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
- As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the ID and entry stamp pages.
- Small daypack to carry gear while hiking and in vehicles
- Walking stick (optional but recommended if you have one)
- Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored
- Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries (important – cabins may be up the hill from our dining areas). Make sure this is in good working order. Extra batteries.
- Alarm clock (yes, you’ll hopefully be inspired to get up early!) If you use your phone for this learn how to turn off data roaming.
- Sunscreen/lip balm
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent (something containing DEET, and sulphur powder or equivalent for chiggers)
- Toiletry articles: shampoo and conditioner, dental supplies, razor, emery boards, hairbrush/comb, tweezers, hand lotion, feminine hygiene, deodorant
- Sink stopper, soap for hand laundry (the new detergent sheets are super handy!)
- Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining…)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
- Camera and extra batteries, digital chips etc., lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual. Do a good check for all this before leaving, battery chargers may be hard to find! (optional)
- Adapters for three prong electronic equipment
- Water bottle (can easily be bought in the airport and refilled daily). We love the Life Steam bottles that have an internal filter, making it possible to fill from the tap and be safe – VERY handy!
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Small bottle of antibacterial hand soap/hand sanitizer
- Small bottle or bag of laundry soap (or the new detergent sheets, super handy!) sink stopper
- Washcloth (optional)
- Earplugs (optional)
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
- Steri-Pen or other UV water treatment device to help cut down on the use of plastic bottles (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Aid Items
- Heath insurance and vaccination records (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses)
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
- Personal first aid kit including medications for general and stomach ailments (pain reliever, Imodium or Lomotil, antihistamine cream or tablets, eye drops, Band-aids etc.)
- Foot powder, lotions, general “comfort” items
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- Altitude sickness medication (optional)
Donations & Gifts
We enjoy interacting with local people. Why not bring a small photo album or load your tablet with some photos of your life to share? Or some small lightweight gifts – hair ties, costume jewelry, memory sticks or flash drives, etc. Be creative here. Also for kids, school supplies – marking pens, activity cards such as number cards, small notebooks, and pencils are a bit hit, we can surely find a home for these in the smaller rural villages. Children’s books are a treat, especially if they are in Spanish.
Guides at the lodges are often isolated. They always enjoy a current newspaper, nature magazine, and books. If you have an old USA field guide you are not using, these are great for them to see some of the migrants and birds from another area.
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Ecuador; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App – Ecuador Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Ecuador.
History & Culture
There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Ecuador – Encyclopedic Overview
Free, printable maps of Ecuador
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Ecuador Birding Overview
Reserva Zuro Loma – eBird Hotspot
Reserva Amagusa – eBird Hotspot
Chocó-Darién Moist Forests
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
“The Quest to Save the World’s Most Coveted Chocolate” – Article, Smithsonian Magazine
Chocó Nature Reserve and Biological Station
“Connecting the Ecuadorian Chocó” – Article, Conservation Corridor Digest
The Nature Conservancy in Ecuador
World Wildlife Fund Strategic Plan Ecuador
Andes Amazon Fund
Geology & Geography
Geology of Ecuador
National Geological Map
Geography of Ecuador
History & Culture
History of Ecuador
Culture of Ecuador
Cuisine of Ecuador
Speaking Spanish in Ecuador
Helpful Travel Websites
Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Ecuador
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Ecuador
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Ecuador
Canadian Travel Advice and Advisories - Ecuador
Travel Health Pro (UK) – Ecuador
Foreign Exchange Rates
Electricity and Plugs - Ecuador
Date, Time, and Holidays - Ecuador
Photo credits: Banners: Quito Scenic (NJ Stock), Crimson-rumped Toucanet (NJ Stock), Spectacled Bear (NJ Stock), Hoatzin (NJ Stock), Blue-and-gray Tanager (NJ Stock), Culpeo (NJ Stock), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (NJ Stock) Thumbnails: White-faced Capuchin Monkey (NJ Stock), Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager (NJ Stock), Violet-tailed Sylph (NJ Stock), Masked Trogon (NJ Stock), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (NJ Stock), Sword-billed Hummingbird (NJ Stock), Giant Anteater (NJ Stock), Plate-billed Mountain Toucan (NJ Stock)