Greg Basco is a resident Costa Rican professional photographer and environmentalist. He is a BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice prizewinner (recently winning the Art in Nature category), and his photos have been published by National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, and Newsweek. His latest work is an acclaimed coffee table book on Costa Rica's natural wonders, and he is co-author of the popular e-book The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography and Lightroom for the Nature Photographer. Greg has earned a reputation as a knowledgeable workshop leader who puts his clients first. Greg does his own shooting on his own time, not yours!
When not in the operating room (he's a cardiac anesthesiologist by day), Doug Brown is a BBC prizewinning photographer best known for images of birds in flight. Doug is a moderator at BirdPhotographers.net in the Avian: Image Critique forum. You can see his photos in the popular smartphone app iBird and also on the WhatBird.com website. His work has been published in New Mexico Magazine, Western Birds Magazine, and Aloft. His images are also used extensively in A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque and Raptors of New Mexico. Doug enjoys leading bird photography workshops in the United States and Costa Rica, his favorite international destination for bird photography.
Day 1, February 25, Arrival/Quito
Arrival to Ecuador. Meet our representative at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport and transfer to our hotel in the heart of Quito. If you arrive early this day, make sure to get over to the charming historical section of the city. The architecture and the atmosphere is amazing.
Day 2, February 26, Highlands/Quito
We leave early this morning for a fantastic day trip – a visit to the highland home of the iconic sword-billed hummingbird! We'll spend all day there with two multiple flash and one natural light setup for the sword-billed hummingbird as well as the elegant collared inca and the subtly beautiful tourlamine sunangel. We'll also be on the lookout for the torrent duck, which inhabits the river right beside the lodge. We'll enjoy a delicious breakfast and lunch at our lodge. We return to Quito in the early evening to rest up after this busy day. Dinner will be on your own this evening. There are a number of fast-food and finer casual dining options immediately surrounding our hotel.
Day 3, February 27, Amazon Rainforest
After breakfast, we depart for the airport to fly to the Amazon city of Coca. We transfer from there to the boat that takes us to our amazing luxury lodge in the hear of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We arrive late afternoon with time to photograph birds on the ground and the sunset over the rainforest. During our boat ride, we may be able to photograph the prehistoric hoatzin.
Day 4, February 28, Amazon Rainforest
After a great breakfast this morning we head to a nearby clay lick that attracts dozens of parrots and parakeets, as well as the occasional macaw. This is one of our Amazon highlights as the clay licks of the western Amazon are one of the planet's true natural wonders. We photograph all morning and return to our lodge in the afternoon. We then gear up and head out on private boats into the nearby lagoons and jungle canals in search of the ancient hoatzin bird, caimans, and giant river otters. We enjoy a fantastic dinner after this busy day.
Day 5, March 1, Amazon Rainforest
Today after breakfast gear up for macro. We'll work with macro setups throughout the day, and our subjects will include colorful poison frogs, amazing tree frogs, snakes, and if we're lucky, the super cool caiman iguana. We will teach you our techniques for working with flash for a natural look. We have all meals at the lodge today and are free to explore the grounds for birds and forest photos.
Day 6, March 2, Amazon Rainforest
After breakfast, we have a chance to try a really cool technique – wide angle macro photography – that produces amazing images of small subjects in their habitat. Later in the morning we have a second chance at the clay lick. We may encounter some different species, and it's also a great opportunity to try slow shutter speeds or to correct any mistakes you may have made on the first clay lick visit. After lunch, we have the afternoon free to relax, to explore the lagoon in a private boat, or to visit a nearby canopy tower for a bird's-eye view of the rainforest.
Day 7, March 3, Amazon to Mindo
We depart very early this morning for our boat back to Coca and then our plane back to Quito. Be sure to have a camera handy as the dawn light can be inspiring! We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then arrive to our cloud forest lodge in late afternoon with time to relax and photograph hummingbirds right outside the lodge restaurant. We will spend the next few days in the famed Mindo area, one of the world's absolute best spots for birds!
Day 8, March 4, Mindo
Today we have a full day with the multiple-flash setups for hummingbirds at the lodge. Booted Racket-tail abound, and the Velvet-purple Coronet is always a show stopper! In addition to hummingbird setups, we will be exploring the surrounding forest for colorful tanagers, woodpeckers, and even the crested quetzal.
Day 9, March 5, Mindo
After breakfast today, we head out to a few great local spots for bird photography. First, we'll visit the famed Milpe Bird Sanctuary, whose hummingbird and fruit feeders attract some great species, including the endemic Choco toucan. After lunch at a local restaurant with great opportunities to photograph the Green Thorntail hummingbird, we spend the afternoon at a local house where fruit feeders attract dozens of colorful birds including tanagers and toucanets. If the weather is promising, we have a spot picked out for great sunset photos too! We'll return to our lodge in the evening for a relaxing dinner.
Day 10, March 6, Tandayapa Valley
Very early this morning, we visit the famed reserve run by local bird expert Angel Paz. Our highlights are photographing the ant pitta and the amazing Cock of the Rock! After our early morning photography, we enjoy breakfast on site and then head back to our lodge with time to pack up before lunch. After lunch, we check out and head to our final destination, the Tandayapa Valley. We stop on the way for more photography at a local garden where we can do a setup for the red-headed barbet and the golden-olive woodpecker. We arrive to our lodge in late afternoon with time to check in and photograph some of the amazing hummingbirds at the lodge feeders with natural light and fill flash.
Day 11, March 7, Tandayapa Valley
Today we have a full day with the multiple-flash setups for hummingbirds at the lodge. Over a dozen species are waiting for us, including the outrageous Booted Racket-tail and Violet-tailed Sylph. In addition to our main target, the fantastic hummingbirds, we will be working our herp setups with subjects such as Emerald Glassfrog, Dappled Glassfrog, Gem Anole, Equatorial Anole, colorful Executioner Clownfrog, Palm Treefrog, Babbling Torrenteer, and the uber-cool Hippie Anole!
Day 12, March 8, Tandayapa Valley/Quito
We take this morning to visit a nearby lodge that is higher up and offers us great possibilities for photographing blue-winged mountain tanager, masked trogon, and the super cool toucan barbet. If we're lucky, we many even get a good luck at the plate-billed mountain toucan. We then head back to our lodge, pack up and travel back to Quito. En route, we stop at the Equator for a great typical lunch and a fun time learning a little about the culture and geography of the country that we've enjoyed so much for the past week and a half! We arrive to our capital city hotel around 3:00 for check-in and then a free afternoon and evening for you to enjoy the hotel's fantastic amenities or simply to relax and enjoy the fast Wi-Fi. Dinner is on your own this evening so that people with early transfer times the next morning can pack and rest. The hotel offers room service, and there are a large number of nice restaurants only a 2 to 5 minute walk from the hotel if you'd like to go out to eat.
Day 13, March 9, Departure – Airport
Private transfer to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport for your flights home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
Lodging as specified
All meals except as indicated below
Transportation w/private driver in spacious air-conditioned tour bus
Private transfers to and from airport
Professional, full-time photo instruction from your leaders Greg and Lucas
Multiple-flash setups for hummingbird photography
Entrances and fees for all described activities
Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
Dinner these nights (Feb. 25, 26, March 8)
Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
Single room supplement ($928)
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. Greg Basco recommends 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.
Greg has 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