Tour dates: April 8th - 16th, 2024.
Colombia has the largest number of bird species in the world (over 1900!), owing to the diversity of its geography - each region with its own biodiversity and cultural significance. In our nine-day tour leaving April 8 - 16, 2024, we'll travel to Northern Colombia where the Andes splits into three distinct ranges separated by lush valleys. Next, the Caribbean coast to enjoy the warm waters and sunny beaches, oceanside forests and dry deserts. We also include Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a breathtaking mountain range abundant with life. A pre-tour to Araucana Lodge and a post-tour to Colombia's Llanos region are worthwhile complements to this trip. *Prices in your Cart are listed in CAD.
- Birding in Isla de Salamanca National Park, a sanctuary of palm-shaded beaches, extensive mudflats and mangrove trees
- Exploring the desert landscape of La Guajira, including cactus forests and visiting a traditional Indigenous Wayúu community
- A visit to the Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna (SFF) Los Flamencos - a flamingo sanctuary where you will be guided and hosted by Indigenous guides of the Tocoromana community
- An ecological walk through Tayrona National Park along the coast, at the base of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range.
- A trip to the village of Minca, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, you'll be able to visit an organic century-old coffee farm.
- A stay in El Dorado Natural Reserve, located among pristine cloud forest in a stay that will surely take your breath away. The birding opportunities along the slope of the Sierra Nevada are exquisite.
Our small group departs April 8 - 16, 2024. All meals, tours and entrance fees included.
Arrival in Barranquilla (L,D)
You’ll arrive in Barranquilla, a Caribbean coastal city where your guides will greet you. Assistance with international and domestic flights can be provided. Next, we'll drive out to Hotel El Prado, where you will enjoy a delicious dinner and orientation.
Isla de Salamanca National Park (B,L,D)
Isla de Salamanca National Park rests on the outskirts of Barranquilla, part of a huge wetland complex at the mouth of the Magdalena River. It is a RAMSAR site and a sanctuary of palm-shaded beaches, extensive mudflats and mangroves that support a large number of overwintering shorebirds. We will tour the mangroves by boat and on foot, searching for the highly localized Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird and Bicolored Conebill. Many waders and waterbirds can also be seen including Northern Screamer, Agami Heron, Bare-faced Ibis, various terns, waterfowl, and numerous sandpipers. From Salamanca, we will travel along the Caribbean coast to the city of Riohacha (approx. 4 1/2 hours) where the Ranchería River meets the Caribbean Sea. We’ll be spending the next 2 nights at Taroa Hotel. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all included on this day.
Flamingo Sanctuary | The Caribbean Coast (B,L,D)
Today marks the start of our next epic adventure in Colombia. We’ll depart to the Sanctuario de Los Flamencos located only 30 minutes from Riohacha. Two huge mangrove lined lagoons, Navío Quebrado, and Laguna Grande, contain multitudes of American Flamingo, as well as Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill and Reddish Egret. Migratory and resident water birds congregate to feed in the rich shallow waters. We will carefully approach the flamingos in simple indigenous hand propelled boats.
Sanctuario de Los Flamencos is on the edge of the Guajira desert, which extends to the far northern tip of South America. The scrubby semi-arid woodlands of cactus and mesquite supports a variety of bird species with restricted distribution to northeastern Colombia and adjacent Venezuela. Nearly all of the Guajira specialties can be seen here. Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Buffy Hummingbird, Russet-throated Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet, Pileated Finch, and the splendid Vermillion Cardinal with its unusual arching crest are species we hope to see.
In addition, we will be visting a traditional Wayúu community. The Wayúu are the Indigenous people of this region, who continue to eke out an existence in this harsh environment by goat herding, fishing and foraging. We will learn about their culture, their lifestyle and their use of medicinal plants, and then be able to witness one of their traditional dances.
Guajira Desert | Villa Maria (B,L,D)
In the morning, we will investigate another area of semi-arid woodland near Camarones to look for additional Guajira specialty species such as White-whiskered Spinetail, Glaucous Tanager, Orinocan Saltator and Tocuyo Sparrow.
Then, we will move westward to a more humid lowland environment, the Villa Maria Hotel where we’ll be staying for the next two nights. The hotel grounds contain a patch of dry forest with a trail through where it’s possible to see a variety of birds, including Rufous-breasted Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Golden-winged Sparrow as well as other forest birds and Red Howler Monkeys.
Later, we’ll be able to enjoy some leisurely time on the beach and a delectable supper at the hotel. At night, we could embark on an optional evening forest walk to search for owls, frogs and other nocturnal creatures.
Tayrona National Park (B,L,D)
We will leave early in the morning to Tayrona National Park, entrance to the Zaino. Tayrona is a magical place in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta. We will start an ecological walk of approximately three hours passing through different sectors of the Tayrona Park, allowing us to see birding specialties here. This includes a trail along the Don Diego River with a lush forest of attractive birds like the Lance-tailed Manakin, White-bellied Antbird, Black-crowned Antshrike, various Woodcreepers, and others. Inquisitive Cotton-top Tamarins with their striking tassle of hair, and Santa Marta Capuchin monkeys are frequently seen moving through the forest canopy. Lunch in a nearby restaurant before returning to the park for the afternoon, for an opportunity to swim in the ocean and search for the elusive and highly endangered Blue-billed Curassow. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included on this day.
We’ll leave early for the village of Minca, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain in the world, isolated from the Andes mountains with 28 endemic birds. Among these are critically endangered birds, sadly due to their restricted range and habitat destruction. Some stops will be made along the way to see birds in mid-elevation forests where we may observeRosy Thrush-Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Scaled Piculet, Whooping Motmot and others. Afterwards, we’ll make a visit to La Victoria organic coffee farm which has operated for over a century, still using original machinery. Many of the coffee growers near Minca retain patches of forest that conserve a great diversity of plants and animals. We will work our way up from there to the iconic El Dorado Natural Reserve situated 2000 metres above sea level among pristine cloud forest. The view from the cabins is nothing short of spectacular, with the verdant mountains sloping down to the Santa Marta and Caribbean Sea in the distance. We’ll spend the next 3 nights at El Dorado Natural Reserve. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all included on this day.
El Dorado Natural Reserve (B,L,D)
Skulking birds are seen along the trails near the El Dorado, but the best birding is along the sparsely traveled forest road. The hummingbird feeders are a constant flurry of activity with eye-popping Crowned Woodnymphs battling for space with Sparkling Violetears, and even the occasional White-tailed Star frontlet. Tiny frogs sing loudly from water pockets contained within the bromelias that line the path. The snowy peaks of the Sierra – the highest in Colombia- are often visible in the early morning before the clouds enshroud them. Scaly-naped Parrots and several raptors such as Black-and-chestnut Eagle and Semi-collared Hawk occasionally soar overhead. We might even glimpse an Andean Condor. However, there is more to see in the pristine cloud forests than birds! We’ll also keep our eyes open for the many other life forms that live here including frogs, butterflies, tree ferns and orchids.
Many of the endemics are found primarily at higher elevations above the lodge, including Santa Marta Parakeet, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Rusty-headed Spinetail, the distinctive endemic subspecies of the Rufous Antpitta, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Yellow-crowned Whitestart and Santa Marta Warbler. There are also fantastic birds to be found along the road below the lodge. The forest here is excellent; search for Blossomcrown, Keel-billed Toucan, an endemic foliage-gleaner that awaits formal scientific description (formerly considered a subspecies of Ruddy Foliage-gleaner), Gray-throated Leaftosser, Scaled and Rusty-breasted Antpittas, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Rufous-breasted Wren, and Black-headed Tanager. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all included on this day.
El Dorado Natural Reserve | San Lorenzo Ridge (B,L,D)
Today we’ll enjoy another full day of birdwatching in the El Dorado Reserve with a special visit to San Lorenzo Ridge at 2800 metres above sea level. The vista there is breath taking: scraggly elfin forest and montane palms grow along the ridge crest. Some of the higher elevation bird species are to be seen here, such as the much sought-after Santa Marta Parakeet, as well as Santa Marta Antpitta, Streak-capped Spinetail, Santa Marta Tapaculo and Santa Marta Warbler. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all included on this day.
Departure from Rio (B)
On our final day, we will bird one last time in the early morning, then make our way down slope to Minca before driving out to the city of Santa Marta for our flight home. Unfortunately, our adventure comes to a close here, but we’ve made memories and seen several rare and diverse birds that we won’t soon forget. Consider joining our post tour to the Llanos (April 16 - 21).
Pricing: $4,250 CAD / $3,150 USD per person, based on twin share.
Single Supplement: $875 USD
**$200 early-bird booking discount for bookings made before November 30th, 2023!
Tour leader: Cristian de la Sierra
Cristian was born in Santa Marta, Colombia with both Tayrona National Park and the Sierra Nevada mountain range as his neighbourhood parks. He is a bilingual naturalist, conservationist, birdwatcher, and ethnological guide and has been guiding in hospitality and tourism for eleven years. Cristian is also an avid photographer who enjoys sharing the physical and biological processes of nature at work with visitors. He led our April 2023 Colombia group!
Tour Leader: James Kamstra
James Kamstra is an ecologist and naturalist who has travelled widely in the Caribbean, South and Central America including a recent trip to Colombia’s Caribbean region. He has guided many nature tours to Latin America including Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Guyana, and Trinidad. James has been fascinated by many facets of nature since he was a boy; particularly birds, reptiles, insects, and plants. He will share his broad understanding of the region's flora and fauna, having studied tropical ecology. James works as an ecologist/environmental consultant examining the impacts of various developments on the natural environment. James led our Colombia group in March, 2023! Feel free to contact him for feedback and information on the trip. James Kamstra: email@example.com or Tel: (905) 985-4497
Tours of Exploration by Adventica Guide: Catherine Evans
Adventica's very own GM may accompany us on this tour. For over 30 years, Catherine Evans has applied a mission of “enriching lives through nature & cultural travel”, achieving this by linking conscientious travellers to like-minded hosts in remote destinations on all seven continents. She has been involved with many innovative projects that earned recognition including an Ecoliteracy Field School; a multi-disciplined arts retreat in the wilderness; volunteerism projects with whale researchers in both the Atlantic and Pacific waters; and an ecotourism project with three communities in rural Costa Rica. In 1998 CBC’s Marketplace awarded her company Tours of Exploration “10/10” for their Ecotourism practices. Catherine Evans is an Associate Faculty member at Royal Roads University in the Tourism & Hospitality Department for both Graduate and Undergraduate studies.