Wednesday 21 December 2022

Colombia. Finally!

It was finally happening. A trip booked in early 2020 for November of that year, cancelled not once but twice by Covid, was finally underway. We were four - Dave, trip organiser, world-birder, lover of 8kg field guides and Antpitta fiend. Richard, world-birder, calm under pressure and neotropical lister. Bob, world-birder, minimalist packer and one-a-minute awful puns. And me, passenger, along for the ride, and will there be Hummingbird feeders?

I travelled alone via Spain, less convenient perhaps but more comfortable, and as a bonus I got an evening eating tapas and a morning birding in Madrid. I would be the only person to see Sardinian Warbler on the trip. I arrived in Bogota a little earlier than the rest of the team, and was met by the father and brother of a Colombian colleague of mine, concerned that I might head out of the wrong door and be gobbled up. These kind people passed me on to Alejandro, our guide for the week, who was waiting at the hotel I had booked for the few hours I was here. I should have just gone to a bar or something, but I guess a few hours sleep were worthwhile at 2500m altitude.

The guys arrived direct from London right on time, and now five we flew the short hop to Medellin on the western side of the central cordillera. The Andes split into three fingers in Colombia, separated east to west by the Magdalena and Cauca valleys. Our trip was centered around the central and western branches, with time on three difference slopes each with different aviafauna. It had been a long time coming and to say we were keen was an understatement.

I would normally write a post about logistics etc, but that is only really meaningful when I have done all the organising. This was a guided trip, and as such the itinerary and logistics were all sorted out by Manakin Tours working with Dave to understand what we wanted to see. Antpittas apparently. My contribution was paying Dave my share of the bill when the time came, an incredible luxury. I could get used to this! 

Nonetheless here is a map of where we went and a rough outline of the days. This was an Andean speciality trip, with almost all birding at high altitude in cloud forest and rainforest habitat on the western and eastern slopes of the central and western cordilleras. My experience of birding in South America is pretty minimal - Costa Rica in 2018 and a wedding in Argentina in 2008. There would be little cross-over and I had high hopes of seeing many many new birds.


Day 1: Bogota to Medellin. La Romera reserve. Drive to Jardin, Cock of the Rock lek.
Day 2: Alto de Ventanas. Antpittas.
Day 3: Across the Cauca Valley to Rio Blanco reserve (Manizales).
Day 4: Rio Blanco reserve. Antpittas.
Day 5: Hacienda el Bosque. Antpittas. The Paramo of Los Nevados.
Day 6: Otun Quimbaya reserve, transfer to Montezuma/Tatama. 
Day 7: Montezuma
Day 8: Montezuma
Day 9: Montezuma, fly from Pereira to Bogota and then home.

In short it was as amazing as we had all hoped, Manakin were great, the timing of everything was spot on, the people on the ground were sensationally organised, including moped lunch deliveries high up mountain tracks. The local guides were really good and the birds mostly behaved impeccably with the notable exceptions of Tapaculos. There is really no point to Tapaculos. Anyway, neotropical birding is the best birding on the planet and since returning I have been having a really hard time trudging around Wanstead seeing nothing whilst being very cold. Day one beckons...


  1. Reading this from the Gambia (birding trip - 132 species in 3.5 days so far) , and you are so right that exotic birding is the way forward.

  2. Your brain starts putting Neo Tropical stuff in the bushes in front of you on local walks back home. It can very very cruel.

    1. I am beginning to get over it. New beginnings in 2023 is helping.