Bolivia: “The Great Birding”
18 days / 17 nights
Arrival to Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz, a place surrounded by beautiful natural grasslands, hard to resist picking up the binoculars even before we leave the airport!.
After collecting our baggage and meeting our local guide and driver, we will explore some of the nearby woodlands and grasslands in search of species like White-bellied Nothura, Red-winged Tinamou, Long-winged Harrier, Golden-collared Macaw, Bicolored Seedeater, White Woodpecker and Greater Rhea amongst others (we will have access to our luggage and facilities at the airport if we need to change clothes). After lunch and a well-earned rest at our hotel after the long journey, we will continue birding in the late afternoon. After an exciting start to the tour we will have a good night’s sleep in a comfortable hotel in Santa Cruz.
Days 2 & 3
Los Volcanes – Amboro National Park
This morming we plan to depart Santa Cruz very early (probably 0430 or 0500) in order to reach our first birding trail during peak morning activity. En-route, we will enjoy a picnic breakfast in semi-humid forest along a rushing river on the lower mountain slopes, then hike a dry, gently undulating trail through the forest. Continuing westward, we will eventually reach the southern boundary zone of Amboró National Park.
Amboró is a large wilderness area of 1.5 million acres that straddles the eastern foothills of the Andes in the Department of Santa Cruz. It is conveniently situated at the confluence of four very different biogeographical zones: the southern rim of the Amazon Basin (with its humid tropical rainforests), the western edge of the Brazilian shield (with its subtropical deciduous forests), the northern limit of the Chaco (temperate woodlands), and the very diverse subtropical and temperate forests of the Andes. This mosaic of ecosystems shelters a correspondingly rich diversity of plants and animals, including no less than 830 bird species! The comfortable Refugio Los Volcanes is conveniently located in the subtropical and temperate forests of Amboró National Park, and will provide us with a very comfortable base for two nights from which we will explore the nearby forests.
The lodge is located in a valley which is favoured by many species of parrots, including Mitred, Blue-crowned, Green-cheeked, and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, and in November the strikingly beautiful Military Macaws breed here. Two-banded Warblers are almost guaranteed, and we have also had past success with the very rare Huayco Tinamou, King Vulture, Sunbittern, Spectacled Owl, Channel-billed Toucan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Blackbanded Woodcreeper, Black-capped Antwren, White-backed Fire-Eye, the shy and elusive Slaty Gnateater, Bolivian Tapaculo, Marbled-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Yungas Manakin, Rufous-bellied Thrush, and Plush-crested Jay. The area also features some very good mixed species flocks that feature a diverse group of tanagers including a distinct race of Common Bush-Tanager, Guira Tanager and Black-goggled Tanager. Between the months of May and November, cold fronts from the Antarctic drive higher altitude species down to lower elevations providing us with opportunities to see White-winged, Saffron-crowned and Blue-necked Tanagers. This is definitely one of the most exciting times to visit the lodge as figs begin to fruit during this time period. Other species we will be looking for include Yungas (Large-tailed) Dove, Military Macaw (seasonal), Scaly-headed Parrot, Blue-fronted Parrot, Rufescent Screech-Owl, Planalto Hermit, Buff-bellied Hermit, Versicolored Barbet, White-eared Puffbird, White-barred Piculet, Ocellated Piculet, the endemic Bolivian Recurvebill (rare), Gray-throated Leaftosser, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Straw-backed Tanager, amongst others.
The pace at the lodge is normally relatively relaxed. We will be waking up very early to have breakfast before dawn, then bird until late in the morning when the sun becomes too hot and the bird activity dies down. This is a perfect time to enjoy the crystal clear waters of the streams found near the lodge and we will even have the opportunity to swim in a natural pool that has formed at the base of a small waterfall. We will continue birding in the afternoon and into the early evening when nocturnal birds such as Spectacled Owl will become our target.
A number of localized species hard to see elsewhere in Bolivia occur around Samaipata, and we will spend the morning trying to get good looks at as many of these species as possible. Some of the local specialties include Huayco Tinamou, Andean Condor, Black-faced Ibis, Dusky-legged Guan, the endemic Red-fronted Macaw, Creambacked Woodpecker, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Giant Antshrike, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant and White-tipped Plantcutter.
Following a good lunch, we will continue our trip westward. With a birding stop or two along the way, we will pass through dry deciduous forests before eventually entering into a zone of arid inter-Andean valleys lying within a rain shadow formed by the surrounding mountains. Around sunset we will pull into the little town of Tambo (about 1,700 metres). This area of Bolivia is rural to say the least, and distant from any large town. We will check in to the one small hotel, the Monteblanco, which offers clean rooms with private bathrooms and a restaurant.
Days 5 & 6
Birding the hot, dry habitats near Comarapa dictates that we concentrate our efforts in the early morning and late afternoon. In the Andean foothills and the semi-deciduous woodlands and shrub-desert near Tambo we hope to see Tataupa Tinamou (rare), White-eared Puffbird (possibly soon to be split to Chaco Puffbird), the endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper, the endemic Rufous-faced Antpitta, Andean Tyrant, White-tipped Plantcutter, Blue-capped Puffleg, Red-tailed Comet, Spot-breasted Thornbird, Olive-crowned Crescent-chest, the endemic Bolivian Warbling-Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, and the endemic Gray-bellied Flower-piercer among others.
The main purpose of our trip to this remote region of Bolivia, however, is to attempt to see the endemic Red fronted Macaw. This large green macaw, highlighted with scarlet forehead and underwings, brilliant blue primaries and tail, and flaming orange epaulets, is not only one of the most spectacular of all macaws, it also ranks as one of the rarest birds in South America. It is possible that only a few hundred Red-fronted Macaws remain in the wild, and they are restricted to the arid canyons of the central Bolivian Andes. The birds are erratic, moving to food supplies, but with perseverance and a little bit of luck, we could come away with excellent views of these magnificent birds.
On one of the days we will go to a very different habitat: the cloud forests of Siberia. Just a couple of hours west of Tambo, the mountain range is high enough (2,600m) to catch the last of the moisture-laden easterlies and thus represents the southernmost limit of humid-temperate cloud forest in South America. It also marks the southern terminus in the distribution of numerous species of high-elevation forest birds. Birding will be along level roads and on trails (with some climbing near Siberia) in both the arid zone and in the cloud forest. The cloud forest trails are sometimes muddy (rubber boots recommended), although not too long or particularly steep.
Santa Cruz - Cochabamba
Today we will continue our way up to the city of Cochabamba (2,400 msnm), driving through all diferents habitats and spotting several times on the way for birding activities. We will be amazed by the fantastic Andean landscape and the birds likely to see on the way. We are expected to arrived in Cochabamba in the late afternoon, just in time for dinner and settle in the hotel.
Following arrival in Cochabamba, our base for five nights, Our first birding destination is Laguna Alalay, 30 minutes to the south of Cochabamba. Our drive to the lake will provide opportunities to look for waterfowl such as Cinnamon, Puna and Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed and White cheeked Pintail, Red Shoveler, Andean Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, White-tufted, Least and Pied-billed Grebe, Puna Ibis. Plumbeous Rail, Many-colored Rush-tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird. The surrounding scrubby habitat around the lake holds species like White-tipped Plantcutter, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Blue-and-yellow Tanager and Gray-crested Finch.
After a relaxing first day we overnight back at Cochabamba. Our hotel is the “Regina”, located just in the of downtown.
Located in the temperate valleys of the central Andes, Cochabamba is commonly referred to as the city of eternal spring as it enjoys what is arguably the most pleasant year-round climate of any region in the country. The Department of Cochabamba offers access to all of the important habitats found throughout the Andes; from upper tropical, subtropical, and temperate forests on the wet eastern slopes to arid temperate scrub, puna grassland, and Polylepis woodland on the dry intermontane side. Therefore, it should be no surprise that although being one of Bolivia’s smallest departments, more endemic species can be found in the Department of Cochabamba than anywhere else in Bolivia.
Cerro Tunari, Cochabamba
Our tour begins in earnest with a full day spent birdwatching a range of habitats in the vicinity of Cochabamba and nearby Cerro Tunari. Species to anticipate here might include Andean Condor, Mountain Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Andean Gull, Picui Ground-Dove, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Black-winged Ground-Dove, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Wedge-tailed Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Green-barred Woodpecker, Andean Flicker, Slender-billed Miner, Plain-breasted Earthcreeper, Rock Earthcreeper, Maquis Canastero, Cordilleran Canastero, Rufous Hornero, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, White-fronted Ground-Tyrant, Brown-backed Mockingbird, Black-hooded Sierra-Finch, White-winged Diuca-Finch, Short-tailed Finch, Bolivian Warbling-Finch, Rufous-sided Warbling Finch, Black-and-chestnut Warbling-Finch, Cochabamba Mountain-Finch, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch and Bolivian Blackbird.
We leave early in the morning to spend the day birdwatching in temperate forests at Tablas Monte along the new highway to Santa Cruz. Birds which may be seen during the day include Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Great Sapphirewing, Hooded Mountain-Toucan, Light-crowned Spinetail, Black-throated Thistletail (Cochabamba form), Rufous-faced Antpitta, Diademed Tapaculo, Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant and Gray-bellied Flower-piercer.
We have another early departure, this morning heading to Miguelito (lower Cloud Forest) along the new highway towards Santa Cruz. More superlative birding might include Sickle-winged Guan, Stripe-faced Wood-Quail, Solitary Eagle, Black-and-Chestnut Eagle, White-throated Quail-Dove, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Upland Antshrike, Yellowrumped Antwren (rare), Ochre-breasted Antpitta (rare), Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, White-eared Solitaire and Strawbacked Tanager.
We return to Cochabamba for our final night here.
Today we leave Cochabamba and transfer to Oruro, a beautiful drive through the Bolivian Altiplano. Altiplano means “high plain” but in reality the landscape consists of valleys, rolling hills, salt flats, volcanoes, rivers, and lakes, which together provide habitat for birds such as Crested Duck, Puna Teal, Puna Flamingo, Andean Flamingo, Cinereous Harrier, Andean Avocet, Puna Plover, Andean Gull, Taczanowski's Ground-Tyrant, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, Puna Ground-Tyrant, Andean Swallow, Short-billed Pipit, Correndera Pipit, and Yellow-winged Blackbird. Night in Oruro.
La Paz is a 6 or 7 hour drive from Oruro, but we will be birding and stopping en-route, taking all day over the journey. Taking a picnic lunch with us, birds en-route might include the newly described Inquisivi Spinetail (if we are lucky) and many other species such as Puna Snipe, Spot-winged Pigeon, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Giant Hummingbird, Andean Swift, Rock Earthcreeper, Bolivian Earthcreeper, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Rusty-vented Canastero, D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant, Bolivian Warbling Finch and Rufous-sided Warbling Finch among many others.
Nestling in a gaping canyon at an altitude of 3,600 metres, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world and with this statistic come a whole series of associated records such as the highest international airport, highest football stadium and highest golf-course! The city is overlooked by the snow-capped triple peak of 6,400 metres-high Mount Illimani, providing a wonderfully scenic background to our birdwatching activities in the altiplano. During the following days we will journey from the city to explore different facets of the Andean landscape beginning with an excursion into the foothills and mountain passes at the edge of the plateau. This final phase of the tour will further emphasize the ethnic origins of the country as we meet villagers dressed in traditional costume descending from mountain settlements to exchange goods at one of the rural markets, or enter villages where the style of life seems to have changed little over the centuries. In many of these remote communities, the ancient Aymara language is spoken in preference to Spanish.
As Bolivia´s largest city, accommodations in La Paz range from budget to luxury, and everything in between. The hotel we have chosen for this tour is the Residencial Rosario, which is in an excellent location close to the craft markets. This is important as we routinely arrive late in the afternoon to La Paz, to have the markets close is handy.
The hotel also has one of the best restaurants in La Paz; we are assured of excellent meals! We will be based in this hotel for the next four nights.
Day 14 - 15
La Cumbre and the Yungas of La Paz
We have two flexible days which we will use to explore in detail many of the excellent puna and cloud forest sites around La Paz, including La Cumbre, Valle de Choquetanga, Pongo, Unduavi, Velo de la Novia, Cotapata and Chuspipata.
Some of the best birding at higher altitudes might include Andean Goose, Puna Snipe, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Black-hooded Sunbeam, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Streak-throated Canastero, Crowned ChatTyrant, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Andean Swallow, Paramo Pipit, Drab Hemispingus, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Golden-collared Tanager, White-browed Conebill, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Moustached Flowerpiercer and Plushcap. Descending the road down the wet slopes of Coroico, there are four major habitats to concentrate upon: puna grassland and bogs above the tree line (15,092 feet); shrubby precipitous canyons; untouched stunted temperate forest with bamboo; and the subtropical “yungas” forests lower down. Descending 14,108 feet in just 100 kilometers, the road between La Paz and Coroico is considered to be one of the most spectacular in South America and, from a birding perspective, simply breathtaking!
Lake Titicaca and Sorata
Lake Titicaca is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most mystical places in all of South America.
Sitting high up on the altiplano on the Bolivia/Peru border, Titicaca derives much of its mystique from the ancient belief that its deep and bottomless waters were the birthplace of the Incan civilization. With a depth of up to 1,500 feet, there is no doubting that the beauty of its sapphire-blue waters and the lofty snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real account for some of the most splendid panoramas anywhere. As well as providing for breathtaking vistas of the expansive and rugged landscapes of the altiplano, Titicaca and its surrounding highland habitats feature some of the most interesting birds and mammals in the country. After spending the first couple of hours in the morning looking at the rich avifauna of Titicaca (including with luck the endemic Flightless Grebe) we will continue on to search for one of South America’s rarest birds, Berlepsch’s Canastero. This species can be found in one single valley close to the small town of Sorata. The drive from Titicaca down to Sorata and the return to La Paz will provide us with impressive views of Mount Illampu (20,867 feet) and Mount Ancohuma (21,080 feet).
International Flight back home.
The trip includes:
•Lunches and dinner as specified on the tour with one (1) soft drink, except on the last day.
•Accommodation as shown above.
The trips do NOT include:
•Extra and alcoholic drinks.
Any specific information please feel free to contact: or