Costa Rican born and raised, Paulo Valerio is an ecologist, tourism entrepreneur, and nature photographer. Paulo graduated as a tropical ecologist from the Biology School of the National University. During his graduate studies, he specialized in the development of sampling and research methods for high-flying bats in the rainforest canopy. Involved with ecotourism since 1992, Paulo has worked as a naturalist guide and field instructor for several companies, and developed and directed field study programs for the National Learning Institute (INA) in Costa Rica and universities in the United Sates, including Nassau Community College in New York, Pepperdine University in California (where he was an associate professor) and Auburn University in Alabama. He has taught tropical ecology courses and workshops at the One Earth One People international events and lectured at NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) as well as various conventions and bird festivals in the U.S. He is also a nature photographer and birdwatcher. Paulo recently also decided to pursue a long time interest and passion and obtained his PhD in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Day 1, October 1, Arrival/Quito
Arrival to Ecuador and overnight at our Quito hotel.
Day 2, October 2, Highlands/Quito
Day visit to the Metropolitan Park and Pululahua Reserve for birdwatching. This day of birding will focus on the dry highland species, including the very much sought-after Green-tailed Trainbearer. Lunch at local restaurant. Dinner at the hotel or at local restaurant.
Day 3, October 3, Amazon Foothills
After breakfast, we leave for the Sumaco Volcano area. We arrive for lunch and then enjoy afternoon birding on local trails. There are good chances of finding ground dwellers like the Spotted Nightingale Thrush and the Plain-backed Antpitta. In the late afternoon, we bird from the deck, waiting for the Guans and Toucanets to arrive.
Day 4, October 4, Amazon Foothills
Today we enjoy a full day of birding and bird photography at our lodge's trails and feeders. The trails offer good opportunities for some of the region’s specialties, including the Golden-winged Manakin, and the Eastern Andean Cock of the Rock. From the deck and open areas it is possible to observe the Lettered Aracari, Crimson Crested Woodpecker, Collared Toucanet and Chestnut Fronted Macaw, and hummingbirds such as the Golden-tailed Sapphire, Booted Rackettail, Napo Sabrewing and Wire-crested Thorntail are frequent visitors to the feeders. We take a guided night walk after dinner to search for the Band-bellied Owl.
Day 5, October 5, Amazon Foothills
All day again for birding and bird photography on the lodge's trails and feeders. This morning we will bird along the road and trails, searching for more species like the Coppery-chested Jacamar and the Maroon-tailed Parakeet. In the afternoon, we will visit the woodland hummingbird feeders, where other species such as the Gould's Jewelfront, Green-crowned Woodnymph and Many-spotted Hummingbird can be found.
Day 6, October 6, Higher Amazon Foothills
After breakfast, we travel to the beautiful San Isidro area. We arrive for lunch and then enjoy afternoon birding and bird photography on our lodge's local trails and feeders. After dinner, we take a guided night walk to search for the famous San Isidro Owl.
Day 7, October 7, Higher Amazon Foothills
All day for birding and bird photography on our lodge's trails and feeders. Birding at higher elevations we expect to find different species, including Grey-breasted Mountain Toucans, Blue and Black Tanagers, Blue-backed Conebills, and of course Spectacled Whitestarts. We hit the trails again after dinner to look for pygmy owls and nighthawks.
Day 8, October 8, High Amazon Slope Cloud Forest
After breakfast this morning, we head to the famed Guango area. We arrive for lunch and have the afternoon for birding and bird photography on our lodge's trails and feeders. This is the perfect location for the famous Sword-billed Hummingbird, which visits the feeders, along with the Collared Inca, Gorgeted Woodstar, Long-tailed Sylph, and Tourmaline Sunagel.
Day 9, October 9, High Amazon Slope Cloud Forest
This morning we hit the trails to look for local specialties such as Andean Guan, Masked Trogon, Turquoise Jay, and Red-hooded Tanager, while keeping an eye on the sky for birds of prey like the Black and Chestnut Eagle. In the afternoon we visit the Papallacta heights to look for highland species, including the Shining Sunbeam, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Glossy Flowerpiercer and Black-chested Buzzard Eagle. We then enjoy a visit to the Papallacta Hot Springs before returning to our lodge for dinner.
Day 10, October 10, High Amazon Slope Cloud Forest
Today we visit the Antisana reserve to look for Andean Condors and paramo birds such as the Andean Gull, Carunculated Caracara, Ecuadorian Hillstar and Tawny Antpitta. We return to our lodge for a delicious hot toddy (a local specialty) and a great dinner after this busy day.
Day 11, October 11, Mindo Area
Today we head over the Andes and down the western slopes of the mountains until we reach the famed Mindo area, a true paradise for birds. After a typical lunch en route, we arrive to our lodge in mid-afternoon. We'll get settled in and then head our for birding and bird photography on the local trails. After dinner we have a guided night walk to look for Black and White Owls.
Day 12, October 12, Mindo Area
We have all day today for birding and photography in the Mindo area. We'll visit a number of different local feeders and gardens that give us great chances to see Velvet Purple Coronets, Violet-tailed Sylph, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and some of Ecuador’s most amazing Tanagers, such as the Beryl-spangled, Flame-faced and Golden=naped, among others.
Day 13, October 13, Mindo Area
Early departure for a day visit to Angel Paz’ bird sanctuary for the famous opportunities to observe and photograph up to five species of Antpittas and of course the western Cock of the Rock. We'll also walk the trails to look for Fruit-eaters, Tanagers and Toucanets. We return to our lodge at the end of the day.
Day 14, October 14, Tandayapa Valley
After breakfast, we travel to the highest parts of the famed Tandayapa Valley. We arrive to our lodge for lunch and afternoon birding at the property’s feeders. Optional nightwalk this evening to look for owls, nighthawks, and maybe even oilbirds!.
Day 15, October 15, Tandayapa Valley
We enjoy the whole day today for birdwatching and bird photopgraphy in and around the enchanted cloud forest in which our lodge sits. This location offers a great opportunity to observe birds such as Montane Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Toucan Barbet, Blue-and-black Tanager as well as hummingbirds such as the Purple-throated Woodstar, Fawn-breasted brilliant, Tawny-bellied Hermit and Gorgeted Sunangel.
Day 16, October 16, Tandayapa Valley/Quito
We return to Quito this morning with lunch en route. We arrive to our capital city hotel, check-in, and then meet up for a coffee and a final bird count tally. This evening we enjoy our farewell dinner as a group.
Day 17, October 17, Departure – Airport
To the Mariscal Sucre International Airport for your flights home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
Lodging as specified
Private airport transfers on first and last days
All meals except as indicated below
Transportation w/private driver in spacious air-conditioned tour bus
Professional, full-time photo instruction from your leaders Greg and Lucas
Setups for hummingbird photography
Entrances and fees for all described activities
Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
Dinner the first night
Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
Single room supplement ($378)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
+ Will someone be there to meet me at the airport?
Certainly! We take care of you from the moment you step off the plane until the moment you leave to return home. We'll send you all of the info you need to know regarding arrival in a final info message before the trip.
+ I plan to arrive a day early. Can you help?
Definitely, we'll be happy to make your reservations to ensure that you get to the same hotel that we have booked for the official first night of the tour. By the way, private transfers to and from the airport are always included in our tours, and you can use this transfer whether you arrive early or depart later than the official dates.
+ What kind of clothes should I bring?
In general, your best choices are lightweight garments that breathe and dry quickly, and you’ll want a mix of long sleeves and short sleeves. A light polartec and a good rain jacket are also good to have. For meals, it’s informal at the lodges and in the region in general. A pair of jeans, tennis shoes, and a clean shirt are just fine for dinner, even in the captial city hotels. Lightweight hiking boots are fine for your photography out in the field, and if you’re visiting a beach area, you will want sandals or aqua shoes as well. Of course a good hat and sunscreen are important. The sun is strong in the tropics, even on cloudy days. We will send you clothing information specific to your trip after you've signed up.
+ Can I have laundry done?
Many of the lodges we use offer laundry service for a cost of approximately $1 per garment with same or next day service. We will indicate to you which lodges have laundry service after you've signed up for a given trip.
+ Can I drink the water?
This is probably the question that our clients ask us the most. And it’s the one for which we have the least definitive answer, except to say that beer is always a safe choice!. Water in and around capital cities is treated with chlorine and generally can be consumed with no worries. The lodges that we use for our photo travel often have their own well water, which is tested regularly by the Ministry of Health. Nonetheless, upset stomachs do occur as a result of change in diet or simply bacteria different from those to which Northern stomachs are accustomed. Serious disorders such as Giardia or amoebic dysentery are virtually unheard of. Bottled water is very widely available at our hotels and lodges, and a conservative strategy would be to use it as often as possible when outside the capital. As with travel to any foreign country, immodium pills are good to have along, and some of our clients also bring along Cipro or other broad-spectrum antibiotics. Some go so far as to begin taking antibiotics before arriving in-country. For antibiotic use, we suggest you consult with your physician. That said, we have very very few problems with water and food-related issues on our tours.
+ Do I need to change money?
If you are coming from outside the United States, yes. Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency. That said, since pretty much everything is included in the trip cost, you won't need much cash.
+ How do I keep my equipment safe from humidity while in the rainforest?
Photographing in lush cloud forests and rain forests means that your camera gear will be exposed to high humidity. We’ve never had problems with our gear, so humidity is nothing to be obsessed about. Nonetheless, a three-pronged strategy will help avoid damage to your gear and allow you to concentrate on your photography.
First, pack your gear well in water repellant camera bags and backpacks and sprinkle these liberally with silica gel packages. A former tour participant turned us on to this site for all of your silica gel needs: http://www.silicagelpackets.com/.
Second, try to avoid actually getting your gear wet. We try to send our photo clients to lodges with covered shooting areas but these are not always available. A good rain cover for your camera and/or a small umbrella that clips onto your tripod can be very useful. And rain showers can come down suddenly when you are out with your camera. That same small umbrella is an easy way to cover up as are garbage bags stored in handy places in your camera bag. Camera bags with built-in rain covers are particularly useful.
Third, if you really get your gear wet, at night you may want to dry your equipment with a compact hair dryer that you bring along for this purpose (most lodges do not have hair dryers in the bathroom).
+ I'd like a single room. Can that be arranged?
Certainly. Simply indicate your rooming preference on the workshop signup form.
+ I'm traveling by myself but would like a double room. Can that be arranged?
It depends. If we can match you up with a suitable solo traveler who also wants to share, we will place you in a double room.
Did you know that the Hoatzin is the last surviving member of a lineage that split from other birds 64 million years ago, shortly after dinosaurs went extinct? We'll photograph this living relic in the Ecuadorian Amazon!
You should arrive to and depart from Ecuador's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO).
All of our hotels and lodges have electricity and hot water. and even WiFi. They're quite nice!
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
This trip requires only low to moderate fitness.
Electrical current is 110 volts, the same as the US. If you are coming from Europe or Asia, you may need a voltage converter.
A small power strip for charging camera, flash, laptop, and phone/tablet is useful. We recommend this one:
We recommend purchasing travel insurance if you have not already done so. There are many companies out there, but we've found Frontier MedEx to have a pretty good selection. Note that in the case of a medical emergency, we will assist you in every way possible.
Gear insurance is also a good idea. You may, of course, have your gear covered under your homeowner's policy. If not, we've heard good things about TCP Insurance. Greg Basco has had his gear covered under the NANPA policy offered through Rand Insurance for years. He's only had to file one claim but they took care of things right away with no hassle. Note that NANPA also offers recommendations for travel insurance for photo tours.
Some countries may require that you have proof of yellow fever vaccination upon leaving for and returning from Ecuador. Please consult your doctor, and be sure to bring along a copy and the original of your vaccination certificate if your country requires it.
We have tried numerous auxiliary battery packs, and this is the first he likes that doesn't break the bank (see Quantum Turbo). We'll be doing some natural light hummingbird photography with fill-flash and fast recycle time is a big help. This Godox unit is easy to use and works very well.
Check out our reading list for our recommendations on great natural history books for our destinations.
- Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific - SOLD OUT! Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018
- Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019 COSTA RICA - Toucans, Hummingbirds, & Quetzals - SOLD OUT! Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019
- Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019 ECUADOR - Tropical Bird Photography - SOLD OUT! Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019
- Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019 ECUADOR - Hummingbirds, Herps, and More - SPOTS OPEN! Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019