The Colombian Andes split into three cordilleras, providing an incredibly varied topography, with western and eastern slopes and inter-andean valleys. Thus the very structure of Colombia is the engine behind the amazing biodiversity that fills the countries’ superb habitats – Colombia has the richest avifauna in the world, and more butterflies than anywhere else! The coastal Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the worlds’ highest coastal mountain range, and boasts many endemic birds and butterflies.
The diversity of hummingbirds is extraordinary and the names are as beautiful as the birds – Tourmaline Sunangel, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Green-fronted Lancebill, Violetears, Incas, Emeralds, Green Thorntail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, Greenish Puffleg, Velvet-purple Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Empress Brilliant, White-vented Plumeleteer… the list should reach fifty species!
Smaller still and equally beautiful are the metalmark butterflies. We’ll see incredible hairy-legged Anteros jewelmarks, eyemarks, sombermarks, greenmarks, tanmarks, whitemarks, and euselasias. Showy species included Blue-and-Yellow Beautymark, Costa-spotted Beautymark, Ancyluris aulestes, Ancyluris etias, Necyria bellona, Cherry-bordered Metalmark, Rhetus dysonii, and the semi-transparent Chorinea bogota. Hairstreaks include beauties such as such as Arawacus aetolus, Theclopsis lydus, and Brevianta emathaon, whilst mud-puddling Colombian Kite Swallowtails will be a sight to see. The Eighty-eights are a really special group of butterflies and we’ll see these gorgeously colourful butterflies mud-puddling in numbers – Puddling Striped Eighty-eight, Six-spotted Eighty-eight, Two-eyed Eighty-eight, Blue-and-Orange Eighty-eight and Common Eighty-eight.
Orchids are everywhere and it’s a prime season for them – we should see up to fifty species a day, ranging from the tiny epiphytic Lepanthes carunculigera and Pleurothallis orecta to the showy terrestria Maxillaria speciosa and beautiful Oncidium serpens.
Oilbirds emerge in numbers at dusk from a cave across a crystal clear river. There’s both Golden-headed and White-tipped Quetzals, and we’ll see the enigmatic Toucan Barbet. Amazingly we can find no less than eleven species of Toucan, and parrot highlights will include the scarce Rusty-faced Parrot, lovely Military Macaws, noisy Golden-plumed Parakeets, and endangered Yellow-eared Parrots. Other beauties will include Green-and-Black Fruiteaters, Barred Fruiteater, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, and the stunning Orange-breasted Fruiteater. We’ll see both Blue-naped and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia. We’re likely to see no less than sixty different Tanagers with highlights being the two endemics, Black-and-Gold Tanager and Gold-ringed Tanager. Grass-green Tanager is a stunner and we’ll also see the well-named Multicoloured Tanager.
Coming back to the butterflies, Morphos glide through pristine forest clearwings. There are several species – Morpho cypris, Morpho helenor, Morpho achilles, and the lovely pale silvery Morpho sulkowskyi. We’ll see many Adelphas and there are Catones, Memphis Leafwings, Banners, Perisama, Marpesia Daggerwings, Mapwings, and Preponas, Metamorpha elissa and Blue-patched Crescent Eresia levina. We’ll see abundant moths too with many coming to the lodge walls and lights at night notably the stunning green Xylophanes chiron hawkmoth.
An Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek will get the cameras clicking but perhaps even more desirable will be a visit to a Golden-headed Manakin lek. It is always great to see any Antpitta and here we’ve the chance of several, indeed we should have wonderful photo opportunities with Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, and Slate-crowned Antpitta. We’ll encounter the remarkable Ocellated Tapaculo, and the stunning White-capped Tanager, as well as Red-billed Scythebill, Flammulated Treerunner, Pearled Treerunner, Bar-crested Antshrike, and the lovely Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant. Endemics include Colombian Chachalaca, Cauca Guan, Grayish Piculet, Parker’s Antbird, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Munchique Wood-Wren, Red-bellied Grackle, Crested Ant-Tanager, Turquoise Dacnis. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is particularly rich in endemics such as Santa Marta Woodstar, Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Hermit Wood-Wren, Bang’s Wood-Wren, Sierra Nevada Brushfinch, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Warbler, White-lored Warbler, Yellow-crowned Redstart, and Sierra Nevada Mountain-Tanager.
Dates and Prices
26th January - 14th February 2024 (20 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
The entire natural world, but particularly Birds, Butterflies and Orchids.
Minimum is 5 and the maximum is 9.
All flights. All accommodation, transport and meals in Colombia. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature, including insurance, are not included.
Butterfly and bird checklists are available.
We start in the modern comfortable Hotel Sonesta close to the airport in Pereira. Next we stay in the small Rio Blanco Lodge in the Reserve of the same name. The gardens are a hummingbird heaven and the lodge is surrounded by pasture and forest patches and has fine views down to Manizales. Next we move to the Montezuma Lodge set on the edge of superb forest in the Tatamá National Park. This family-run lodge has a superb location and good food. Then we’ve a couple of nights in the Charco Corazón Hotel Campestre by the river in Jardin before moving to the Hacienda Extremadura in Medellin for a night. This rather lovely place is in a quiet suburb and close to reserve of La Romera. Next are two nights at Los Colores Ecoparque situated just outside the Rio Claro national park. This has wildlife-filled gardens and very nice rooms as well as a swimming pool. After a night in the Hotel Minca La Casona in Minca, we move to the lovely El Dorado Lodge with views up to Sierra Nevada and down to the Caribbean amid paramo scrub. Our last night will be a good hotel close to Bogota Airport. All rooms on this tour have en-suite facilities.
Very easy throughout. Trails occasionally muddy or steep for short distances.
UK direct return flights are from London Heathrow to Bogota. Indirect routes from regional UK Airports* and various European Airports may be available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Warm to hot in the lowlands, though much of the tour is at a reasonable altitude which certainly takes the edge off temperatures and it can even be quite cool early mornings at a couple of locations. Occasional heavy showers.
Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back to us. You will receive confirmation of your place, and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.