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Colombia’s Andes & Santa Marta Mountains

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February 23 - March 6, 2018

Day 1 Feb 23

Arrival Medellin 11:29pm, transfer to Finca Hotel La Ponderosa - this is a 10 minute drive from the airport, after check in get a good night’s rest!

Day 2 Feb 24

Given our arrival time we’ll have a relaxed wake-up and breakfast, then our first look at Colombian birds in the hotel garden before heading out to Las Tangaras Reserve.  It is about a four hour drive so we’ll get lunch to go, or stop at a local restaurant.   At birding stops along the way we’ll try for the newly described and endemic Antioquia Wren and the endemic Apical Flyctacher.
Night at Las Tangaras Lodge, BLD


Day 3 Feb 25

A full day at the Las Tangaras Reserve which holds many Choco region specialties.  We'll bird the road at dawn with Narino Tapaculo and the "soon be described" Alto Pisones Tapaculo calling. Toucan Barbet often joins us along the road. We will spend all day walking slowly up a well maintained trail to a ridge top – short distance with well-placed benches to rest up and wait for flocks – we'll have a picnic lunch somewhere along the ridge. This moss laden forest is home to some very special birds including Crested Ant Tanager (endemic), Black Solitaire, Cloud Forest Pygmy Owl, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Uniform Treehunter, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Choco Tyrannulet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-headed Wren, the endemic Black and Gold and Gold-ringed Tanagers, Blue-whiskered and Scarlet and White Tanagers, and Indigo Flowerpiercer.   It is probably one of the best two places in the world to see the recently described Choco Vireo. Other possibilities include Black-chinned, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated, Silvery-throated, and Purplish-mantled Tanagers; White-headed Wren, Olive Finch, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, and more. In the late afternoon we’ll visit trail-side hummingbird feeders that attract White-tailed Hillstar, Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Purple-throated Woodstar.

Night at Las Tangaras Lodge, BLD


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Day 4 Feb 26

Leisurely morning at the hotel feeders and garden, then we’ll drive to the picturesque town of Jardin in colonial Antioquia region, the traditional economic and cultural heart of Colombia.  Nearby is a unique site for Cock of the Rock, and if time permits another hummingbird stop.
Night at Hotel Balandú, BLD

Day 5 Feb 27

Early this morning we take Jeeps to Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, named for the critically endangered species of the area. Once occurring into central Ecuador, this species is now only known from a few sites in the western and central Andes of Colombia. A new 130 hectare reserve has been acquired to protect some of the prime forest for the parrot, but the birds wander widely throughout the area in search of food, making it impossible to buy all the habitat needed. Public awareness programs have been essential to protect this species and ProAves, Colombia’s active environmental non-profit, has done a great job working with local communities. Residents and land-owners are now aware of the parrots and are proud to have them on their land. The wax palm tree, which the Yellow-eared Parrots use for nesting, has nearly been wiped out, since their leaves are highly sought-after for use in Easter and other religious ceremonies.
Some of the other birds we may see here include Tawny-breasted Tinamou, Purple-throated Woodstar, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Spillman's and Ocellated Tapaculo, Rufous-naped and the local form of Rufous Antpitta, Handsome Flycatcher, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Citrine Warbler, Ocellated Tapaculo Sharpe's Wren, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Black-collared Jay, Tourmaline Sunangel, Golden-headed Quetzal, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Rufous Spinetail, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, and Tanager Finch. Tanagers include Lachrymose, Hooded, Golden-crowned, Purplish-mantled, and Buff-breasted. Then there are the breakfast spot hummingbird feeders with a chance of the Sword-billed!  We’ll have all morning here and have lunch at the hotel before heading off to Manizales to our mountain hotel where you may take advantage of the opportunity for bathing in the natural hot-springs! 

Overnight Los Thermales de Ruiz, BLD


 Day 6 Feb 28

Morning on the paramo at Los Nevados National Park, ele. 3000 meters in the high temperate zone. Here patches of forest give way to the unique espeletia flowers and other specialized vegetation typical of the paramo. Here we will look for the endemic and much localized Rufous-fronted Parakeet which is very hard to find. One of our main targets is the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest in the espeletia patches. Western Tawny Antpitta is common and tame. In the forest patches we will look out for Paramo Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain Tanagers, and Black-backed Bush-Tanager. In the more open areas and around a wetland we shall look for Andean Teal, White-tailed Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, the localized Stout-billed Cinclodes, the attractive Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Paramo Wren, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, and a variety of seedeaters including Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Paramo and Plain-coloured Seedeaters. Flowering bushes attract a number of colorful hummingbirds but at the well-developed feeders at the hotel we will have great views and photos of Viridian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg, and Shining Sunbeam. On occasion, the somewhat nomadic Black-thighed Puffleg can be present in some numbers but at other times it is largely absent.  Other feeder visitors are Rainbow-bearded and Purple-backed Thornbills, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Shining Sunbeam, and Sword-billed Hummingbird.   (try hand feeding with miniature cups!) After dinner you are welcome to relax in the hot springs fed pool.

Night at Los Thermales de Ruiz Hotel, BLD


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Day 7 Mar 1 

A full day at the Rio Blanco Reserve. Protecting an important watershed for the city of  Manizales, the Rio Blanco Reserve holds some of the rarest and most threatened species in Colombia including the Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, and the skulking and hard to see Brown-banded and Bicolored Antpittas.  But here we have habituated antpittas coming in to worm feeders(!) and usually Brown-banded, Bicolored, and Chestnut crowned are fairly reliable;  Chestnut-naped and Slate-crowned somewhat less so but it is possible to see all five in a morning! This is also a good place for Ocellated Tapaculo and Dusky Piha, and the Jay-like White-capped Tanagers, one of the oddest members of its family - probably not even a tanager. There are good Hummingbird feeders where we may see Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet, and the tiny White-bellied Woodstar. Other species we will hope to see here include Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tyrannine and Black-banded Woodcreepers, Long-tailed Antbird, Dusky Piha, Flammulated Treehunter, Red-hooded Tanager, Rufous- crowned Tody-Tyrant, Black-capped and White-tailed Tyrannulets, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Pale-edged and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers, Glossy Flower-piercer, Capped Conebill (here with a white cap), Grass-green and Flame-rumped Tanagers, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager, Gray-browed Brush-Finch, and Black-winged Saltator.  We will also seek out bamboo specialists such as Black-eared Hemispingus and Plushcap, Yellow-billed Cacique or Masked Saltator.  Encountering a mixed species flock here is an incredible experience!

Night at Los Thermales de Ruiz Hotel, BLD 

Day 8 Mar 2 

Early departure to Rio Negro airport for 11:40am flight to Santa Marta arriving 12:52pm, transfer to Minca.  After lunch birding the mountain slope, the beginning of our Santa Marta experience.  We are joined with our new guide, Roger Rodriguez Ardila for our last 3 days.

Night at Hotel Minca, BLD

Day 9-10 Mar 3-4  

Two full days on the Santa Marta’s San Lorenzo Ridge birding different elevations for different species. One day we'll be taking our 4-wheel drive jeeps to the higher elevations of the San Lorenzo ridge. Endemic targets include Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Paramo (Santa Marta) Seedeater, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Santa Marta Brush Finch, Sierra Nevada Brush Finch, White-lored Warbler, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Streak-capped Spinetail, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Antpitta, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Santa Marta Foliage Gleaner, Santa Marta Warbler, Black-backed Thorntail (rare), and Santa Marta Woodstar. Others include White-tipped Quetzal, White-rumped Hawk, Red-billed Parrot, Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Montane Foliage -Gleaner, Spotted Barbtail, Band-tailed Guan, Black-chested Jay, Grey-throated Warbler, and Lined Quail-Dove.  A new species of Megascops Owl – the Santa Marta Screech Owl, is to be seen here too! Santa Marta Antpitta is around and often Black–fronted Wood-quail are at the conveniently placed compost heap next to the viewing deck.

2 Nights at El Dorado Lodge, BLD


Day 11 Mar 5

We’ll have a full morning to look for birds in the very birdy hotel garden.  After lunch which may be at the lodge or at Minca depending on birds and logistics, we’ll transfer to Santa Marta airport for the 6:39 pm flight to Bogota and connections home.

Overnight flight, BL








Guide:  Trevor Ellery

Originally from Hampshire in the UK Trevor Ellery spent time living and birding in Israel and Ecuador before settling in Colombia in 2008. Trevor has led numerous birding trips across Colombia and has also taken part in various expeditions to its remotest corners with the ProAves NGO. A keen photographer, sound recordist and passionate conservationist Trevor delights in showing people the fantastic birdlife of this emerging birding destination. Trevor has also travelled extensively in South America and has led tours in Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil, as well as trips to Peru. When not guiding Trevor can often be found assisting Colombian conservation projects or sneaking off in search of new birds for his Colombia list. A keen mountain biker Trevor also holds a BA in History and English Literature and has a keen interest in mammals, butterflies and dragonflies. In-country operator is Nature Colombia in partnership with Manu Expeditions

Package Cost

Per person sharing $3,300


All accommodations with ensuite bath

Comfortable bus and 4 x 4 jeeps for reserves

Entrance fees to all reserves

All meals - breakfast on day 2 to lunch on day 11

Internal air Medellin to Santa Marta


Tour Leader - Trevor Ellery

Not Included

International/Regional air to arrival and from departure airports

All items of a personal nature, such as hotel extras, phone calls, laundry and meals not mentioned in the itinerary.

Cancellation and interruption insurance.

Important Notes:

All Costs Based on 6 Passengers.

If number of passengers changes, itinerary will be re-priced accordingly.

DEPOSIT REQUIREMENTS 20% non-refundable deposit, $660, required to confirm the above mentioned arrangements.

FINAL PAYMENT due 60 days prior to departure


Time of deposit through 60 days prior to departure                       Forfeit deposit
59 days to 31 days prior to departure                                  50% of total package
30 days prior to departure                                        100% of total package
Any cancellations within the 30 day period are submitted to the ground operators and hotels.  Refunds will be made at their discretion.

Colombia Travel Information:


One blank page for entry stamp, passports must be valid on arrival.

Travel Advisories


Health and Safety

Please consult your personal physician or immunization clinic (Reading/Berks, 610-988-4761) rregarding immunizations.  For further information contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at their website at www.cdc.gov  Every effort is made to prevent accidents and ensure safety.  Participants must assume full responsibility for their own safety.  You should be able to negotiate steps, walk on rocky trails, and climb in and out of vehicles with assistance.  Medical services or facilities may not be available during all or part of your trip.  Smoking permitted only in designated areas.   


The highlands will be quite dry with little rain expected. It will be chilly in the mountains and cold in the early morning on the paramo. Layers for warm to cold conditions will be needed.


A group flight is selected but you may choose any that arrives prior to and departs later than the group.  You are responsible for any additional costs to meet or depart early/later than the group.


 A packing list will be provided specifically for this trip.  Things to remember – if you don’t have it somebody else probably will, casual wear only needed, try packing in carry-on size bag even if you check your bags.


CNT strongly advise that you purchase insurance which includes comprehensive medical, cancellation; and interruption, to the amount you wish to recover.  See www.insuremytrip.com  A TravelSafe brochure is provided with your reservation.


There are cell/mobile phone signals almost everywhere. Wi Fi is available at most hotels but not at the ProAves reserves.


Colombia is on the same time as Eastern Standard Time USA and 5 hours


Electricity is 110v in Colombia and outlets are US style flat 2 pin plugs. Bring the relevant adapters if you use a different power source. There will be electricity throughout this tour for charging equipment.


Currency is the Colombian Peso, US dollars not widely accepted at local businesses.   When using a credit or debit card please make sure it is within sight of you at all times, fraud is known to occur.


Spanish, with few local English speakers.

This itinerary is personally planned by Ceiba Nature Tours.



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