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Colombia tour companies/guides (1 Viewer)


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We are currently looking into a 10 full birding days private tour for our first visit to the country early next year. 3/4 days around Bogota spread both sides of 6/7 days on the north coast from Barranqulla to Riohacha, with the prime focus on Santa Marta/El Dorado. I was wondering if anyone has experience, both good or bad, of being guided in these areas? We will likely use one company/guide for the whole trip, and are looking to be fully guided, not just get a driver, as time is fairly limited. The focus will be full on birding as opposed to a photography tour, but of course posing birds will have their picture taken! We have heard of Multicolor birding and Bogota birding, are there anymore guides and companies that you would recommend? Price difference seems quite significant between those two? We are not looking for a budget trip but of course the best tour for the best/lowest price would be a bonus! Also, would 3 nights at El Dorado be advised over 2 to maximise chances of seeing as many endemics as possible there, or would a 2 night stay be sufficient time? I should add that none of us are anywhere near fluent in Spanish, so would need someone who speaks English to a level good enough to communicate with!

Thanks in advance,
We have done four trips to Colombia, and two of them have involved Colombia Birdwatch: BIRDING TOURS IN COLOMBIA BY COLOMBIA BIRDWATCH

I can give them a high recommendation. Christopher, the owner, knows the entire country very well and has an excellent network of guides. He has also just built the nicest eco-lodge we have ever seen anywhere.
I would suggest 3 night at E Dorado, rather than two. If you are set on spending those days in Bogota than so be it but I personally find birding Bogota a frustrating experience as traffic is awful and pretty much all sites (except Parque La Florida) require 2+hrs of driving to get to. My suggestions would be to spend one day birding Bogota (maybe combine Chingaza with Oservatorio de Colibries OR Sumapaz with Chicaque) and then on the morning you fly to the north coast aim for a late morning/mid-day flight and bird La Florida beforehand. If you decide to opt out of spending those days around Bogota you could either add the Perija Mountains to your northern portion, or spend a couple nights down around Villavicencio (2-3 nights) birding Sumapaz en route, then Monterredondo, the Cundinamarca Antpitta feeding site, Bosque Bavaria and the edge of the llanos.

Among others, reliable and well regarded birding companies include:

Manakin Nature Tours
Nature Colombia
Colombia Birding (though not sure how many tours they are running these days?)
Not to hijack, but I am also curious if anyone has first hand experience with multicolor birding? The prices and itineraries look great.
Thank you all for your replies and suggestions! All very helpful and we will be in touch with the companies suggested!

Think we are strongly leaning to the third night at El Dorado! It makes the most sense as its the prime focus of the trip, and will be easier to try again for any missed targets at sites from Bogota on a future trip than a return to the north!

The traffic around Bogota is something we want to avoid as much as possible! And ideally want to stay the nights at places where we can get some night birding in and wake up around the birds. But some of the hummingbirds around there are big targets eg Blue-throated and Golden-bellied Starfrontlets, Black Inca, Green-bearded Helmetcrest... plus of course things like Bogota Rail, and any future trips to Colombia are likely to be just as time limited, so hoping to get them this time!
We have been considering 2 days Sumpaz/Chicaque and if time allows when there somewhere else nearby, eg Laguna de Pedro Palo or Santandercito(not seen this on trip reports/itineraries but looks a decent area on ebird for eg turquoise dacnis and indigo-capped hummingbird?), staying the middle night at Chicaque perhaps, and catching an evening flight to Barranquilla. And after the north, a day at Oservatario de Colibres and maybe Chingaza or Parque la Florida before an evening flight home. But we are not yet set on anything! Villavicencio area and sites en route, Laguna de Tabacal and Jardin Encantado have also caught our eye! The Perija Mountains are close to being ruled out unfortunately.
Its good to see Sumpaz being recommended with another site on the same day, this is something we were hoping to do but were unsure on whether it could be done! Would a visit to Arborizadora Alta for Horned Lark add considerable time to the drive to/from Sumpaz heading to another location? Not our biggest target, but a bird we would like to see if time allows!
Part of the thought of having days either side of visiting the north is a kind of an insurance policy against any flight changes or delays, as we had a bad experience with this in north Peru last year! If they do chop and change times after booking, or we miss a connecting flight due to an airport and cabin crew's incompetence again (we had both!), this way hopefully any hit in time lost will be taken around Bogota rather than the north!

Thanks again for taking the time to reply!
Hi John,

you can avoid traffic in Bogota a bit, by leaving very very early. Probably some local ground operator can get you a car + driver, you depart at 4.30-5AM and normally, you'll good with outgoing traffic.
I can't say too much about ground operators as I haven't used any, but I would fully trust Avery in his recommendations. I would probably split the Bogota part and the Santa Marta part into 2 companies if I feel one is based firmly in Bogota and the other in Santa Marta (so I would reckon they each have an edge based on location), but that's just me, and any decent company in Colombia will have plenty of logistics ready in both the capital and the Carribean coast.
Cheers Temmie! Good to know we can hopefully beat some of the traffic by setting off early! We plan to be out birding from as early as possible each day
Temmie is spot on that one should leave no later than 5am (earlier for Sumapaz). Having a day around Bogota to buffer for flight delays is indeed a good idea so can't fault that reasoning :)

Note that Black Inca is (to my knowledge) only in the lower elevations at Chicaque and this requires a steep descent down a slippery when wet road. You might be able to drive down though, not sure on the possibility of this. TBH, I have only birded the higher areas, closer to the main park entrance/restaurant on my visits as I have always been doing half day stops there with tour groups.
Not to hijack, but I am also curious if anyone has first hand experience with multicolor birding? The prices and itineraries look great.
I don't have first hand experience but over the years I have heard from several people who have used Multicolor. In general what I have heard is largely positive. As they are the main provider of more economically minded tours, that means sometimes a bit lower quality accom/transport and that is mainly where I have heard complaints. But they have to cut costs somewhere in order to offer the trips at the prices they do so as long as you go in expecting this I would anticipate a good expereince. Most of that negative feedback is also several years old now and with the increased availability of vendors offering transport/accom over a greater range of prices I would expect that to be improved nowadays.

If lower pricing is a priority they are likely your best bet.

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