During this “Ecuador Hummingbirds & More Photo Tour ~ 2020” the focus will be on the winged wildlife of this amazingly biodiverse little nation. We’ll visit as many different areas of Ecuador’s Choco foothill’s region as time and travel distances allow so that we can create images of as many unique species as possible.
This tour is LIMITED to eight (8) travelers.
We’ll do lots of multi-flash hummingbird photography as we focus our lenses on these neotropic jewels. I’ll provide the equipment & backgrounds & other items needed to get great shots — all you need is your camera (with a hotshoe) and a lens.
The small group size assures that everyone gets a chance to use the hummingbird photography set-ups to their hearts’ content.
Hummingbirds are just part of what we’ll discover in these foothills of Ecuador’s Chocó region. This area also hosts a bonanza of beautiful tanagers. Get ready to be amazed at the number & colors of tanagers to be found here! What we have in North America provides only a small sample of what lies in store for you during this journey.
But wait, there’s more! Motmots, toucans, manakins, euphonias & the improbable looking Cock-of-the-Rock will also fill our memory cards.
We won’t rush from location to location. We’ll remain at each shot spot until everyone has had a chance to create the images he/she wants.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an estimated schedule & we’ll do our best to stick to this itinerary, but certain conditions may necessitate changes. Good photographic experiences & plenty of chances to view wildlife will be our goals at all times.
Saturday, February 22, 2020:
Arrive in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. At 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level, it is the second highest official capital city in the world. It’s also the closest city to the equator.
Please plan to arrive by 3:00 pm if possible so that you’ll have a bit of leeway before our 6:00 pm Welcome Dinner. Someone will meet you at the airport & bring you to your comfortable, double-occupancy hotel room.
You may even want to come a day early or stay a day after the tour ends so you can explore Quito’s historic center, designated a UNESCO “World Cultural Heritage Site.” (Not included in price of tour.)
Sunday, February 23:
After a typical Ecuadorian breakfast we’ll leave Quito & head even higher—to the Yanacocha Reserve. The reserve sits on the northeastern slope of Guagua Pichincha Volcano (which you can see from Quito).
Situated at 10,500 feet in dramatic cloudy terrain, this sweet spot is world-famous for its unique hummingbirds, many species of which are found only in these high elevations. This is the highest we’ll go on the tour.
Not many photo tours yet include the reserve area because in the past one had to carry gear a long distance to photo-worthy sites. But now, thanks to new feeding stations, photographers get to take advantage of this region’s amazing birdlife.
Sword-billed Hummingbirds should be this region’s star of the show. These birds are the only species in the world with bills longer than their own bodies! Their bills & über-long tongues allow them to feed from & pollinate the gorgeous Passiflora mixta (common name in Ecuador: tacso).
Here, we also hope for shots of Scarlet-bellied & Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers. In addition, we’ll focus on Yellow-breasted Brush-finch, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewings, Buff-winged Starfrontlets, & Sapphire-vented Pufflegs.
Come evening we dine at our lodge nestled into the Andean cloudforest. In addition to other specialties, expect dinner to include a delicious native soup, the warmth of which goes quite nicely with the often-chilly temps here.
Because of its biodiversity & proximity to key photography hot spots, I’ve chosen Tandayapa Bird Lodge as our base of operations. Not only is this lodge famous with birders world-wide, but it offers stunning views & exceptional opportunities to photograph hummingbirds.
The hummingbird deck at Tandyapa Bird Lodge provides the perfect place to do high-speed hummingbird flash photography. Jeff brings the set-ups so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
Monday, February 24:
Wake in your room to the animated songs, calls, & conversations between the birds who make their homes here. Start your day with a sunrise shoot as we explore the grounds, cameras in-hand.
Our lodge is especially famous for its hummingbirds, but also hosts lots of other fauna as well as tropical flora. Early-morning visits to the forest blind may serve up Scaled Antpittas, Streak-capped Treehunters, Strong-billed Woodcreepers, White-throated Quail-Dove, Zeledon’s Antbirds, & Uniform Antshrikes.
After our morning shoot, enjoy a traditional breakfast of fresh ingredients. Breakfast typically includes local fruits such as babaco & granadilla, potatoes, shade-grown coffee, & absolutely awesome juices.
After breakfast we head to Tandayapa Valley, one of the tropical Andes’ major biodiversity hot spots. As we imbibe on its lush forest environs keep a lookout for interesting flowers, trees, & critters.
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans are known as frequent-fliers here, though getting photos of them in the wild can prove quite challenging. But snagging a shot of their indigo-blue, jade-green, bright yellow & brown coloring will certainly be worth the effort!
After lunch I’ll allocate some one-on-one time for each photographer so you can tell me about any instructional needs &/or image desires you may have. This would be a good time to relax in the comfy lounge and enjoy views of the surrounding mountains & tree canopy.
Late-afternoon & into the evening we’ll focus on high-speed flash hummingbird photography, which I expect to include images of Booted Racket-tails! Never fear: I’ve got you covered when it comes to what you’ll need to create keepers; all you need to do is grab your camera & the right lens & show up at my high-speed, multi-flash set-ups!
Tuesday, February 25:
Today, after our sunrise shoot, we head to Milpe Bird Sanctuary. Situated in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, this private reserve is run by the NGO, Mindo Cloudforest Foundation.
The Foundation works hard to preserve the rainforest within these Chocó-Andean foothills. (A portion of your tour cost goes to support their work as well as the work of other reserves we visit during our trip).
We’ll enjoy lunch at the sanctuary & do some intense hummingbird photography. The café here hums with hundreds of hummers, including White-whiskered Hermits, Green Thorntails, Green-crowned Woodnymphs, & Green-crowned Brilliants.
We’ll also hone our lenses on a rainbow of tanagers, toucans, & motmots. Those able (& willing) to make the trek (a short one) may also be able to shoot for shots of the Club-winged Manakin.
Our evening shoot will be at a location TBA. Then, after dinner, we’ll check out the “moth cloth” to see what kinds of nocturnal Lepidoptera & creepy-crawlies the black lights are attracting.
Wednesday, February 26:
We begin our day with a sunrise shoot in the gardens of our lodge. Perhaps we’ll head to the “moth cloth” to see what the munchable insects from the night before have attracted. (The “moth cloth” often serves as a feeding station for trogons & Toucan Barbets.)
After your “good, honest” breakfast of fresh, local foods, just-squeezed juice, & shade-grown coffee we load up our gear & head to Rancho Suamox. This privately-owned farm in the lowlands offers lots of delights! There we’ll aim at birds we haven’t yet photographed, including woodpeckers, tanagers, & hummers found only in these lowlands.
Fingers crossed, we’ll find & photograph Silver-throated Tanagers, Rufous Motmots, Orange-bellied Euphonias, Ecuadorian Thrush, Thick-billed Euphonias, Green-olive Woodpeckers, Dusty-faced Tanagers, Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Buff-throated Saltadors, & Flame-rumped Tanagers.
Back at our lodge, take some down time or meet with me for image review. I’d also recommend a walk along one of the many paths on the grounds. Often, there are pretty waterfalls nearby.
Later, we’ll enjoy a sunset shoot (location TBA). Maybe we’ll finally get a shot of the quirky red-tailed squirrels that zip about…or, perhaps you’ll spot a tapeti (a Brazilian — or forest — rabbit).
Thursday, February 27:
We head to an important birding area (IBA) today, home to birds found nowhere else in Ecuador.
Our destination is the Amagusa-Mashpi region where steep slopes make for dramatic backdrops. Photo blinds set into this conserved habitat give us one of our most reliable chances to photograph some amazingly beautiful fliers. Over 500 bird species live here!
Possibilities include: Glistening-green, Golden-naped, Moss-backed, Flame-faced, Golden, & Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers. In addition, we hope to capture images of Crimson-rumped Toucanets, too.
Here, we also have our best chances of photographing two endemic hummingbird species: the Empress Brilliant & the Velvet-purple Coronet.
Friday, February 28:
Wake again in your cloudforest lodge to the wonderful sounds of “jungle” life. Enjoy a sunrise shoot (location TBA).
Today we’ll adventure to a couple different locations in search of subjects we haven’t been able to get just yet. We also may return to previous spots to grab more shots of especially photo-worthy fliers. That may mean another visit to Amagusa-Mashpi and/or Rancho Suamox.
Tonight marks our last in our cloudforest lodge so we’ll make sure we visit the “moth cloth” one more time.
Saturday, February 29:
After breakfast we depart to one of the most important bird areas (IBA) in this part of Ecuador: the Paz de las Aves Refuge (Refugio Paz). This beautiful reserve is set within subtropical forest, where mossy trees are covered in bright red bromeliads.
An extra early rise allows us to time to reach the Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in time for their morning forest performance; just after dawn these other worldly birds start their day with their mating displays.
In addition, we’ll be treated to other unique species, which are typically shy but habituated to photographers here. Antpittas—included Ochre-breasted, Giant, Moustached, Yellow-breasted, & Chestnut-crowned—are all frequent here & typically at least two of them hang out on most visits.
We will also search for White-capped Dippers, Dark-backed Wood-Quail, & Rufous-breasted Antthrush.
The tour ends this evening after our Farewell Dinner in Quito. (We will arrange for your transport to the airport the next morning.)
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN ON THIS TOUR:
• How to balance flash & natural light in hummingbird photography
• How to set up your own multi-flash high-speed hummingbird photography
• Techniques to get images featuring both sharp or blurred wings
• How to master manual exposure (& when it’s better than priority exposures)
• How to create the sorts of set-ups that make the best bird photographs
• How to create natural-looking images even when using flash
• Where to put your flashes & how to do them remotely
• How to increase your chances of getting in-focus shots of hummingbirds & other little birds at set-ups
• How to handle the low-light conditions of a rain/cloudforest.
A note about instruction on my photo tours:
Since skills levels vary so much on photo tours, I tailor my teaching to individual needs. Please do not be shy about telling me what you need.
• 8 nights double-occupancy accommodation.
• 7 full days of photography fun & exploration
• Jeff’s one-on-one review &/or instructional time
• Jeff’s instruction & photography tips throughout
• Meals & tea, coffee, non-bottled water, & juices from dinner on February 22nd through dinner the evening of February 29th.
• The use of multi-flash, high-speed hummingbird photography set-ups, which include radio triggers, lighting, & backgrounds
• Jeff’s instruction on high-speed hummer photography.
• An in-depth dossier
• The services of a local guide to maximize our chances of locating our feathered subjects
• Entrance to all reserves & parks
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:
• Trip insurance
• Health insurance & medical needs
• Personal items
• Phone calls
• Laundry service
• Bottled & canned beverages (including bottled water & soda)
• Alcoholic beverages
• Wifi at Tandayapa Lodge
• Tips (The dossier we provide before your trip includes info about tipping protocol for this tour.)
LOGISTICS, EQUIPMENT & SUCH:
With the exception of the steep path up to the lodge, the physical requirements on this tour are limited. We’ll do most of our photography from blinds, at set-ups, and within gardens.
That said, paths are made of earth, can be uneven, and at times quite wet. They will also include inclines in some places. If you can go up a flight of stairs you’ll be okay.
Those wanting a medium and/or vigorous hiking experience can easily get that by exploring the many paths through the cloudforest and tropical environs!
Regarding elevation, the tour begins with a Welcome Dinner in Quito, where elevation is over 9,300 feet. We will only go higher than that once — the first full day of the tour when we visit Yanacocha Reserve. The Reserve reaches as high as 11,500 feet, but we do not anticipate going higher than 10,500 feet.
Our lodge is located at approximately 5,700 feet.
You’ll want to fly into the airport in Quito, Mariscal Sucre International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre). The airport code is UIO.
Please plan to arrive in Quito by 3:00 pm February 22, 2020 if possible. We’ll begin the tour with a Welcome Dinner that evening at 6:00 pm. We’ll have a very early start the next morning.
U.S. & Canadian citizens do not need to procure a visa before arriving to Ecuador. Once you enter the country, you’ll automatically get a stamp in your passport that serves as a tourist visa (good for 90 days).
You will receive an extensive dossier as your photo tour grows closer and it will include, among lots of other things, packing lists for both photography equipment & personal items.
In the meantime, if you’re wondering what sort of photography equipment you might need for your “Winged Wonders of Ecuador Photo Tour,” here is the EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST (PDF) I send out with the dossier.
NOTE: You do not have to own everything on the checklist. It’s a list of recommended equipment. If you have any questions about the minimum lenses, etc. that will get you though, don’t hesitate to ask!
GENERAL INFO / SIGN UP:
• DATES: Saturday, February 22 ~ Saturday, February 29, 2020. ~~ NOTE: The tour ends after the Farewell Dinner on the evening of the 29th, but does include lodging the night of the 29th for those who do not have departing flights until the next day (March 1st). We will provide your transportation to the airport.
• SPACE FOR: Eight (8) travelers
• PRICE: $4,295
• DEPOSIT AMOUNT: $1500
• PAYMENT DUE DATES: A total of half the cost of the tour due 6-months before departure. Remaining balance due 90-days prior to start date of tour.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please read our CANCELLATION POLICY before purchasing
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