Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

Colombia 2024:
Avian Jewels of the Choco Region

Feb 11 to 18, 2024

Avian Jewels of the Choco Region

Our 2024 travelers relished in the avian wealth of Colombia, home to the richest bird diversity in the world. With 562 documented species in the Cali area alone—more than all of Europe—this journey promised incredible bird-watching opportunities. The beautiful Araucana Lodge served as a home base to explore a variety of ecosystems from the Western Andes to the wetlands. The trip also offered a unique immersion into Colombian culture, providing a holistic and unforgettable experience. 


  • Bird Diversity: Documented 416 different species on the trip and extension combined.
  • Prime Locations: Explored renowned birding spots like KM 18, Sonso Lagoon, San Cipriano Reserve, and Santa Marta.
  • Unique Experiences: Enjoyed small, private backyard birding spots as well as stunning shows like mating rituals of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.

“You take care of your clients. You go to interesting places and we get to spend quality time in those places with good/excellent guides.” -Mariann Cyr

Day 1: Arrive in Cali, Colombia

The adventure began 40 minutes after departing the Cali airport when our travelers arrived at the beautiful Araucana Lodge set on 20 acres of Andean forest perfectly located for day trips to hotspots. The property was designed by birders for birders and includes a vegetable farm and orchards, walking paths, forests, and gardens. 

“Loved Aracuana Lodge! I enjoyed the grounds, my room was fabulous, the food and staff excellent. The people at the lodge really enhanced my experience.” -Linda Walden

Day 2: KM 18

The group spent the day at KM 18, a renowned birding hotspot. They searched for endemics like the Chestnut Wood-Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Grayish Piculet, and the spectacular Multicolored Tanager. The area is a tanager paradise, featuring species like the Purplish-Mantled, Summer, Golden, and Golden-Naped Tanagers. Participants also enjoyed an impressive display of hummingbirds including the Long-Tailed Sylph, Booted Racket-Tail, and White-Necked Jacobin at a private house along the road.

Day 3: Sonso Lagoon

A two-hour drive brought the group to Sonso Lagoon, one of the Cauca Valley’s few remaining wetlands. Here, they spotted species such as Fulvous and Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks, Roseate Spoonbill, and Snail Kite. The wetlands also offered sightings of Wattled Jacana and Greater Ani, showcasing fascinating polyandry and communal nesting behaviors.

Day 4: Araucana Lodge and Bosque de San Antonio

The morning was spent exploring the 20 acres of Araucana Lodge. Birders searched for targets like Parker’s Antbird, Smoky-Brown Woodpecker, and Crimson-Rumped Toucanet. They also strolled through trails and organic gardens, enjoying the lodge’s natural beauty. In the afternoon, the group headed to nearby Bosque de San Antonio and enjoyed sightings such as the Montane Woodcreeper, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Red-Headed Barbet, and Andean Solitaire.

Day 5: San Cipriano Reserve

The group traveled to Zaragosa and entered the San Cipriano Reserve on an exciting ride via motorcycle-powered wooden carts on rails. In this humid forest, they encountered Choco Toucan, Blue-headed Parrots, and various antbirds. High humidity and heat made for a rich birding experience, with sightings of species like the Pacific Flatbill and Blue-capped Manakin.

Day 6: Upper Anchicaya – Doña Doras – Cock-of-the-Rock Lek

The Anchicaya watershed in Farallones National Park offered a day of exceptional birding. The group visited the El Descanso area where Doña Dora’s small cafeteria provided a unique bird-watching spot. Highlights included the endemic Crested Ant-tanager, Green Thorntail, and a local favorite – the Toucan Barbet. After lunch, they witnessed the spectacular mating rituals of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.

Day 7: Atuncella and Rio Bravo

A visit to the village of Atuncella introduced the group to a dry forest habitat with unique species like Bar-crested Antshrike and Pale-breasted Spinetail. Later, at the Rio Bravo Reserve, they sought out targets such as Rufous-throated Tanager and Cerulean Warbler in one of the wettest parts of the world.

“I never expected to see sooooo many birds. I have been on trips where birding was part of the experience or maybe a whole day but not a birding trip this extensive. And what a beautiful place to be.” -Linda Walden

Day 8:  Flew home or to Baranquilla for the Santa Marta Extension

After breakfast at Araucana Lodge, participants were transferred to the airport for their flights home, or they joined the Santa Marta Extension for more birding adventures.

Santa Marta Extension
February 18 to 25, 2024

Our group on the Santa Marta Extension traveled to one of the most important centers of endemism on the planet as they ascended from the Caribbean shore to the world’s highest coastal peak encountering a variety of endemic species. They explored Eldorado, Tayrona, and Los Flamencos National Parks.

Day 1: Travel to Barranquilla, Colombia from Cali

After flying to Barranquilla, participants spent the late afternoon birding.

Day 2: Barranquilla to El Dorado

The group ascended the Santa Marta Mountains, encountering a variety of bird species along the way. They also stopped for a lovely lunch in the charming town of Minca.

Day 3: El Dorado Lodge

Birding around El Dorado Lodge and at a lovely garden behind their lunch spot provided opportunities to see hummingbirds and endemic species like the Santa Marta Brushfinch. The day included efforts to spot the elusive Santa Marta Antpitta and the near-endemic Black-fronted Wood-Quail.

Day 4: Cerro Kennedy

An early start led to higher elevations toward Cerro Kennedy, home to endemics like Santa Marta Parakeet and Santa Marta Bush-tyrant. The group enjoyed a picnic with stunning views and continued birding on the descent. They were treated to an endemic Santa Marta Antpitta coming out for a worm as well as extended viewing of a male and female Quetzal entering and exiting their nest.

Day 5: El Dorado Lodge to Barlovento

The group birded along the road to Minca, enjoying lunch at the same local restaurant everyone wanted to visit again. They then descended to a hotel near Tayrona National Park.

White-tipped Quetzal© Grace Chen
White-tipped Quetzal
© Grace Chen

Day 6: Los Flamencos National Park

Los Flamencos offered sightings of male and female Vermilion Cardinal and White-whiskered Spinetail. Participants enjoyed the variety of birds in this dry forest habitat before walking on the beach and watching fisherman cast their nets among the waterfowl. They enjoyed a seafood lunch at a local spot before returning to Barlovento.

Day 7: Tayrona National Park and back to Barranquilla

The group visited Tayrona National Park, hoping to see the Blue-billed Curassow and other unique species. After lunch, they headed to Barranquilla to prepare for their flights home.

Day 8: Flew Home

Participants departed from Barranquilla, concluding their unforgettable birding adventure.

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