Mark Smith Nature Tours
Natural History   •   Birdwatching   •   Flora   •   Wildlife   •   Travel Photography

Nature and Birds in the Andes and Rainforests

Led by Lelis Navarrete and Mark Smith

June 25-July 9, July 2-9, 2015

Jungle in Ecuador graphic

A delightful introduction to the Andes and upper Amazon, with grand vistas and many short hikes. This tour visits all four major regions of Ecuador: the high Andes, East and West slopes of the Andes, and the Amazon lowlands.  We begin on Pichincha Volcano near Quito and travel down the slopes of the western flank of the Western Andes, ranging from temperate cloud forest to lower foothill forest.  

East from Quito, the lakes and paramo grasslands of 13,000 ft. Papallacta Pass offer classic alpine walks with vistas of 20,000-foot Andean peaks, as well as unusual birds and bizarre flora.  In the Andes we explore waterfalls, lakes, and cool forests at many altitudes. In the Amazon we paddle on oxbow lakes with abundant wildlife.  Possible  large wildlife include seven primates, tapir, deer, capybara, agouti, coati, fox and ocelot, caimans and iguanas, and colorful frogs and butterflies.  Brilliant birds include Cock-of-the-Rock at their lek, toucans, quetzals, motmots, eagles and flocks of even 15 different colorful tanagers.  At lodge feeders we will see nearly 70 dazzling hummingbird species. On numerous walks we’ll discuss forest ecology, admire orchids, bromeliads, palms, butterflies,  reptiles and amphibians.  By night we’ll search for frogs, potoos and owls.  From a blind beside the river we watch macaws and hundreds of parrots gather at clay licks.

In the Andes we visit parks and natural areas at Antisana,Yanacocha, Bellavista, Mindo and Rio Salanche.  In the Amazon we fly to Puerto Francisco de Orellana (aka Coca.) where a boat takes us by river to the newly built Napo Wildlife Center,which supports an indigenous tribe.  Here we stay four nights  with daily boat and walking excursions into the rainforest . 

In Quito we visit the 17th century  Spanish colonial oldtown.  Throughout the tour we visit markets and towns and meet Ecuadorians

Leadership: Lelis Navarrete and Mark Smith

Ecuadorian biologist Lelis Navarrete is regarded as one of the finest bird and natural history guides in Ecuador. He has a Masters in Zoology and has guided in Ecuador and neighboring countries for  20 years.  He is expert with bird songs and in 1997 co‑discovered the Jocotoco Antpitta, which triggered the creation of the conservation group, The Jocotoco Foundation.  He recently completed an on-line guide to birdwatching in Ecuador.  For many years Lelis has led and co-led Mark Smith Nature Tours’ Latin American trips.   Mark Smith has guided groups to Ecuador for 25 years.

Activities, Lodgings and Expectations

Quito is at 9000ft and mild headaches are normal on arrival.  Morning temperatures at the highest elevations are near 45F but it warms quickly.  Walks are on firm trails and roads, generally fairly flat, and never more than a few miles; there are always options.
Most time in the Andes is spent at about 6000ft.  This is a drier season but some rain is possible and trails may be muddy in some places.  Day temperatures may reach the mid-80's in the Amazon.  Most days there will be a midday  break.  Transport is by small bus with no drives more than 3 hours and always with stops.  Large safe boats are used on the peaceful waters of Amazonian rivers.


Travelers will be sent a package of preparation materials, including articles, reading and equipment lists, maps, and mammal and bird lists.  No Vaccinations or pills are needed.

Rigors of Travel

Quito, in the Ecuadorian Andes is at 9,000 feet, and mild headaches are normal on arrival. Morning temperatures of the highest elevations are near 45 ° F. Walks are on roads and firm trails, and never more than a couple of miles, typically downhill. Most time is spent at 5,000–8,000 feet in forested areas.

Costs and Reservations

A deposit of $1000 is required to reserve one of the 12 available spaces, on both the 15-day and 8-day tours.

July 25 - July 9, 2015

$ 1000 Reservation Deposit
$2975 Final Payment, due April 25
$975 (Single supplement)

July 2 - 9, 2015

$ 1000 Reservation Deposit
$1250 Final Payment, May 2
$575 (Single supplement)

Air arrangements will be coordinated by
Pam Davis of Willamette International Travel in Portland, phone 503-224-0180; or 1-800-821-0401,

Make checks payable to Mark Smith Nature Tours and send to:
      Mark Smith, PO Box 3831, Portland, OR 97208

If you have any questions, please call Mark at 360-566-0458 or send an email to marksmithnaturetours@hotmail


The Single supplement for the 15-day tour is $975 and for the 8-day tour is $575 .


If the group size is fewer than 10 a reasonable small-group supplement will be added.

What's Included

All meals, lodgings, transport and park fees are included. Bottled and bar drinks are not included.  Juices and bottled drinks are included in many meals. 
Air Fares are not included.  Flights from U.S. gateways (Miami, Dallas and Houston)
round trip to Quito are $700-1000.  The round trip from Quito to Coca in the Amazon is
about $375.



Cancellations made 90 days prior to departure receive full refund less $50. Cancellations made between 90 and 60 days prior to departure forfeit $500. Cancellations made 60 and fewer days prior to departure forfeit 70% of ground costs. Trip cancellation insurance is available from Willamette International Travel.


(This itinerary has been chosen for it's geographic and natural diversity. Through gentle walks in the forest and alpine ares, several boat trips, beautiful drives and village walks we will explore this rich country. The guides are naturalists and will discuss forest and alpine ecology, as well as flora, mammals, butterflies, frogs and birds. Jaguars are seldom seen in Ecuador, but we will see other mammals including several primates. Thi itinerary is written by co-leader Lelis, an ornithologist, and he mentions many of the most interesting birds of each area (cock of the rock, quetzal, etc.). If you are not a bird watcher, don't be scared by all those names. Hundreds fo brilliant birds are easily seen, often to photographic advantage. Daily we will have several options.)

Day 1 Thursday, June 25 US to Quito, Ecuador

Flights arrive at Quito from the US in the late evening.  After being met at the airport we drive to our downtown hotel. Quito lies at 9,000 feet and has a population of one million.  Nestled in a deep valley bounded by the Andes, with an ideal climate and an extensive and well-preserved Spanish colonial old town dating from the 17th century, Quito is a fascinating city and a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site.   Hotel SEBASTIAN

Day 2 Friday, June 26 Quito, Yanacocha to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

After breakfast we drive northeast from Quito. Our first stop is the Yanacocha Reserve on the slopes of Pichincha Volcano. The high altitude forest here supports many orchids and bromeliads, and  hummingbirds, which are attracted to feeding stations: Golden-breasted Puffleg, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Mountain Velvetbreast, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and the seldom seen Black-breasted Puffleg, an Ecuadorian endemic. Other possibilities include: Curve-billed Tinamou, Plain-breasted Hawk, Purple-backed Thornbill, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-browed Spinetail, Crowned Chat-tyrant, Blue-backed Conebill, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager and Golden-crowned Tanager.
After lunch we visit a scrub woodland  north of Quito in search of  White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, Spot-billed Ground –Tyrant, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Black-tailed Trainbearer and Grassland Yellow-Finch, among others.  We continue on the Tandayapa road to reach the Bellavista Lodge and the superb forest around it at 6500ft where we spend the next two nights.                                                              BELLA VISTA Lodge

Day 3 Saturday, June 27 Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

The beautifully situated Bellavista Lodge is surrounded by 135 acres of cloud-forest and gardens with many trails.  Birds can be seen from the balconies of the rooms, and we will  explore on foot in search of  Sickle-winged Guan, Barred Parakeet, Cloud-Forest Pygmy-Owl, Gorgeted Sunangel, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Streak-capped Treehunter, Beautiful Jay, Tanager Finch and White-winged Brush-Finch among many others.                            BELLA VISTA Lodge

Day 4 Sunday, June 28 Sachatamia Lodge, Andean Forests

One more full morning in Bellavista.  Other forest denizens include White-faced Nunbird, Fulvous-dotted Treehunter, Long-tailed Antbird, Ocellated Tapaculo, Grass-green Tanager and Plushcap.  We continue down to Mindo where we check in to  Sachatamia Lodge, situated in a private forested ecological reserve.  The hummingbird garden at the lodge attracts over twenty easily seen hummer species including: Andean Emerald, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Brown and Collared Incas, Booted Racket-tail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, and Purple-throated and White-bellied Woodstar, Empress Brilliant and Wedge-billed Hummingbird just to mention a few.  We spend the next four nights at              


Day 5 Monday, June 29 Mindo cloud forest

We  visit the Refugio Paz de las Aves near Mindo where Angel Paz has a personal relationship with some forest birds that allows us to observe species that are usually difficult to find.  Giant Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta and Dark-backed Wood-Quail walk near our feet, too close to use binoculars.  We will look for Andean Cock-of-the-Rock at their lek and also for Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Scaled Fruiteater, Crested Quetzal, Golden-headed Quetzal, Olivaceous Piha and Nariño Tapaculo just to mention a few, Angel always knows where the fruiting trees are and the best places to look for “his birds”.                                      SACHATAMIA Lodge

Day 6 Tuesday, June 30 Mindo, Pedro Vicente Maldonado

Today we drive to the Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary near the town of Pedro Vicente Maldonado. This reserve is set in the wet, steamy Chocó lowlands. Rio Silanche is the best location outside of Colombia to see Choco forest and numerous Chocó endemic birds such as Purple-chested Hummingbird, Double-banded Graytail, Checker-throated Antwren, Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher and Orange-fronted Barbet. The reserve’s new canopy tower will provide unprecedented views of the mixed flocks for which this area is famous. Amongst the many dazzling tanagers present we hope to find Scarlet-breasted and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white, Golden-hooded, Scarlet-browed, Emerald, Rufous-winged, and Blue-whiskered Tanagers. Other species of interest are the Rose-faced Parrot, Chocó Toucan, Lanceolated Monklet, Chocó Woodpecker, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Dusky Pigeon, and Red-capped Manakin.                                                 SACHATAMIA Lodge

Day 7 Wednesday, July 1 Mindo, Milpe Cloud Forest Reserve

Another optional day trip, today to the beautiful  epiphyte-festooned  Milpe Cloud Forest Reserve where  Choco cloud forest endemic birds can be seen: Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Esmeraldas and Immaculate Antbird, Club-winged and Golden-winged Manakins, Choco Warbler, Yellow-collared Cholorophonia, Rufous-throated Tanager and Moss-backed Tanager.                                SACHATAMIA Lodge

Day 8 Thursday, July 2 Mindo to Quito
A last morning in Mindo and then the scenic drive back to Quito.  This evening travelers on the Eight Day Tour join us at the hotel.                                          
Day 9 Friday, July 3 Quito, Antisana Reserve

The Tundra-like grassland Páramo of the Antisana Reserve has breathtaking scenery  and we have the opportunity to see the majestic Andean Condor and Andean peaks.  Other specialties include the Andean Ibis, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Many-striped and Streak-backed Canasteros, Andean Pipit and Silvery Grebe.  We may see mammals like Brazilian Rabbit, Andean Fox and White-tailed Deer.                   Hotel SEBASTIAN  

Day 10 Saturday, July 4 Quito to Coca, Napo Wildlife Center
Today we fly to the Amazonian rainforest.  Midmorning our flight departs to Puerto Francisco de Orellana (aka Coca) where we will transfer from the airport to a motorized dugout canoe for a smooth and safe downstream ride to the Napo Wildlife Center.  The NWC is a recent and successful ecotourism program started by the local Añangu community (a Quechua group.)  The Añangu have built a top quality lodge in order to make sustainable use of their ancestral Amazonian rainforest land. This dream was finally achieved with the leadership of renowned local naturalist Giovani Rivadeneira and financing from The Tropical Nature Foundation, a non-profit, and a group of philanthropists.  We spend the next four nights at the               NWC Ecolodge (NWCE).
Days 11-13 Sun. - Tues., July 5-7 Napo Wildlife Center

Over the next three days by boat on rivers and lakes, and on miles of excellent trails we will study the Amazon.  Fine mammals of the region include White-fronted Capuchin, Squirrel, Spider, Red Howler, Titi and Night Monkeys, Tapir, Capybara, Agouti, Brocket Deer, Kinkajous, Coati Mundis, and even Ocelot.  Iguanas and Caimans too.    
       Remarkable are the clay licks located along the dirt cliff shores of the Napo River and inside the forest.  Parrots and parakeets consume many seeds and flowers loaded with toxic substances that they then neutralize by eating clay at the licks.  We will observe this fascinating behavior from the comfort of a strategically located blind as hundreds of birds from several different species visit the licks.  Species seen include: Scarlet Macaw, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Orange-winged Amazon and Mealy Amazon.  Another morning some will want to visit the Napo River Islands where we will look for specialty birds such as Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Plain-crowned Spinetail, White-bellied Spinetail, Parker¹s Spinetail, Castlenau¹s Antshrike, Black-and-white Antbird, Mottle-backed Elaenia, River Tyrannulet, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Orange-headed Tanager, Caqueta Seedeater and Large-billed Seed-Finch.
       The Amazon hosts the world's greatest diversity.  Some of the flashier birds include Buckley's Forest-Falcon, Zigzag Heron, King Vulture, Black-faced Hawk, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Lined Forest-Falcon, Crested Owl, Black-banded Owl, Pied Puffbird, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Collared Puffbird, Golden-collared Toucanet, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, White-shouldered Antshrike, Pygmy Antwren, Short-billed Antwren, Banded Antbird, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Spot-backed Antbird, Dot-backed Antbird, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, White-browed Purpletuft, Spangled Cotinga, Blue-backed Manakin, Wire-tailed Manakin and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak.  This is only a small subset of the 500+ species known from the Center.                                                                                                                   NWC

Day 14 Wednesday, July 8 NWC to Coca to Quito

Today we leave early from NWC and drive to Puerto Francisco de Orellana where we will take our flight back to Quito.  At our farewell banquet we’ll recall favorite sightings.  This evening those continuing on the Galapagos tour  will meet travelers arriving for that tour.                                                                                          Hotel SEBASTIAN

Day 15 Thursday, July 9 Quito to US or continue on the Galapagos Tour

This morning we fly home, or those continuing to  the Galapagos have a day in Quito.

White-necked Jacobin
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