28 Nov,2013

Many folks arriving on their own to Cabañas San Isidro can find it helpful to hire a generalist or specialized birding guide for a more enriching and complete experience. BIRDECUADOR has many years of experience and works with the most experienced guides and drivers in Ecuador. Setting up and running high quality birding and general interest tours to Cabañas San Isidro and Guango Lodge, as well as many other popular and off-the-beaten-track destinations in Ecuador, is Birdecuador forte. If you have the Galapagos Islands in your sights, contact us for reasonable rates on a variety of well-run and comfortable vessels.


Birdecuador can help you to create any combination of destinations throughout Ecuador for your personalized trip. Birdecuador has designed and suggests the itineraries below for a well-rounded visit to some of the favorite spots chock-full of birds and other natural wonders within easy reach of the capital city, Quito. Please contact us directly for more information about these and other trips.


  • Cabañas San Isidro & Guango Lodge: Birds of the High Paramo and Lush Cloud Forests of Ecuador 's East Slope.

    A week long emersion in to the heart of the richest and most accessible highland Andean cloud forest habitats on Ecuador 's NE slope, which form the upper headwaters of the Napo River.
    For those with less time on their hands, this itinerary is the perfect way to dive right into a fabulous and diverse avifauna while based at two comfortable lodges in the subtropical (San Isidro) and temperate (Guango) zones.
    Cabañas San Isidro and Guango Lodge also offer the best access to nearby birding in the higher paramo and lower foot hill zones, and can easily be worked as day and half-daytrips.

    Day 1 - Quito to Guango Lodge.
    Day 2 - Guango Lodge and vicinity.
    Day 3 - To Cabañas San Isidro.
    Days 4, 5 & 6 - Cabañas San Isidro .
    Day 7 – Return to Quito.

  • Cabañas San Isidro, Guango Lodge & Tandayapa Lodge: Birding in the Andes (at its best) along a transect of the fabled 'Highway of the Volcanoes'

    The ideal cross-section of habitats for birds seeking a fine and vast selection of birds occurring on both the west and east slopes. No ten day trip has such potential for mind-boggling numbers and quality views of hummingbirds, tanagers and other Andean highlights.

    Day 1 – To Tandayapa Lodge.
    Day 2 - Full day birding the Tandayapa area.
    Day 3 - Full day exploring the slopes of the west slope based out of Tandayapa Lodge.
    Day 4 – Return to Quito.
    Day 5 - To Guango Lodge.
    Day 6 - To Cabañas San Isidro.
    Day 7, 8 & 9 - Three full days to bird the Cabañas San Isidro and nearby areas.
    Day 10 – Return to Quito.

  • Cabañas San Isidro , Guango Lodge & Amazonian Lowlands: Mountain Peaked Highlands, Cloud Forest-Blanketed Hills and Vast Amazonian Lowlands

    From seed snipes to tanagers, sensational birding awaits on Ecuador's NE slope & down into the Amazonian Low lands while following in the footsteps of Spanish conquistador, Francisco Orellana.
    This impressive trek follows the same route that Orellana took 400 years ago, when he made his way to Ecuador's Amazon from Quito. Althought he spectacular birds and their pristine habitat are still there, Orellana's arduous route through the jungle has been eased significantly by paved roads that stretch all the way to Coca. From here a motorized canoe ride whisks visitors up the impressive Napo River and into the dense forest lowlands of the Amazon. If only Orellana's journey had been this comfortable!

    Day 1 - Quito to Guango Lodge.
    Day 2 - To Cabañas San Isidro .
    Days 3, 4 & 5 - Three full days to bird the Cabañas San Isidro and nearby areas.
    Day 6 - To Coca.
    Days 7, 8 & 9 - Three full days at the Amazon Lodge of your preference.
    Day 10 – Return to Quito.

  • Itinerary 7 Nights / 8 Days


    Day 1:
    Time to escape from Quito! Today we will want to rise early and get on our way since we have a variety of habitats that we will want to explore. Our drive to Guango Lodge will initially lead us through the drier central valley where we will pass through a mix of agricultural zones and native chaparral forests before rising up steeply to the high and (often) windswept paramo.
    Among the many bird possibilities, we will be particularly on the lookout for Andean Condor (sometimes hard), Carunculated Caracara, Andean Gull, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Scrub & Blue-and-yellow Tanagers and Southern Yellow-Grosbeak. If there were a day to have your camera ready, this would be it – on clear days the scenery is spectacular, with superb views of the snow-capped Volcán Antisana, and seemingly endless high Andean mountain-scapes harboring a backdrop of textures that make for an unforgettable birding setting. This area, known as the Papallacta Pass by birders, is rich in paramo birdlife, and with the proper weather, you can expect to see some of the following: Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, some interesting seedeaters, and even Giant Conebill (with a bit of luck, up in the Polylepis woodlands).
    The Papallacta Pass is right on the continental divide, and once we finish up with our paramo birding, we will work our way down the east-slope – Amazonian drainage now – towards Guango Lodge. On the way we will pass through some beautiful high-elevation temperate forests where we will have a chance to stop and soak in this birdy zone; some of the possibilities include Blackchested Buzzard-Eagle, Viridian Metaltail, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, just to name a very few. We should arrive to Guango Lodge in the late afternoon/early evening for a first crack at the hummingbird feeders that will be
    dripping with species such as Tourmaline Sunangel, Sword-billed Hummingbird and White-bellied Woodstar. Our box lunch in the field will allow us to remain flexible with respect to how we plan our birding for the day. At dinner we will be officially welcomed by the lit fireplace and have our first taste of Ecuador’s best known hot toddy, a delicious drink - called “Canelazo” - made from water boiled with real cinnamon, fruit juice and a dash of cane alcohol, that is sure to help warm us up. Night at Guango Lodge.

    Day 2:
    Depending on the weather - which can change unpredictably - we will drive back – about 20 minutes - up to the lower entrance to Cayambe-Coca National Park (just uphill from the town of Papallacta) to bird the elfin woodlands there for the morning for a shot at a few special mountain-tanagers (Black-chested and Masked) and other flock birds. This makes for a comfortable morning excursion since we have two nights at Guango. If it turns out to be rainy, we may want to stick closer to Guango, so our plan will be weather contingent.
    At any rate, a hot lunch awaits us at Guango, once the morning activity has waned. The afternoon will be devoted to birding the trails and spectacular hummingbird feeders (which can be a bonanza for those interested in photography) at Guango Lodge. On the grounds at Guango we frequently run into some of the best temperate forest flocks on any of our tours in Ecuador; in a matter of minutes it isn’t uncommon to see Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-banded Tyrannulet, Bluebacked Conebill, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Slaty and Palenaped Brush-Finch, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, several species of mountaintanager and even Plushcap. We will always have our eye out for other particularly local or aesthetic highlights, and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Mountain Avocetbill are among them. Night Guango Lodge.


    Day 3:
    After a very early breakfast, we will start driving down from the higher eastern slopes of the Andes to the lowlands, until we reach the small Amazonian town of Loreto, located at 400 meters above sea level. Along the way, if time and weather allow, we will take the time to search some interesting eastern foothill specialties such as the Cliff Flycatcher and the rare and local Orange-breasted Falcon, and maybe even a mixed flock or two, which often grace the roadsides.
    The drive from Loreto towards Bigal River Biological Reserve will offer some fine opportunities to spot such colorful birds as araçaris (Lettered Araçari, Chestnuteared Araçari, and Many-banded Araçari), toucans (Black-mandibled Toucan, White-throated Toucan, and Channel-billed Toucan), parrots (Blue-headed Parrot, Orange-cheecked Parrot, Mealy Amazon, Orange-Winged Amazon, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, etc), macaws (Chestnut-Fronted Macaw, Military Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw, Red-and-Green Macaw), birds of prey (White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Orange-breasted Falcon, Barred Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Swallow-tailed Kite, Black Hawk-Eagle, etc.) Woodpeckers (Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Red-stained Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Crimson Crested Woodpecker, Little Woodpecker, etc.), among many others.
    Once we have reached the end of the drivable path, all gear and supplies will be sent by mule; we'll just keep our binoculars, cameras, and rain-gear handy to enjoy about an hour-and-a-half of birding, as we hike our way to Bigal River Research Station. Once there, we will settle in, have dinner, and spend the night.
    As we get ready to fall asleep, alongside the chorus of countless tree frogs, we will get acquainted with the calls of birdlife coming from the jungle after dark (Nocturnal Curassow, Foothill Screech-Owl, Band-bellied Owl, Black-banded Owl, Crested Owl, Spectacled Owl, among them).


    Day 4:
    Bigal River Biological Reserve's old growth, foothill forests (situated between 450 and 1000 meters elevation above sea level) are home to a wide array of animal life which includes Andean higher elevation species, as well as many species usually found in the Amazonian lowlands. Birdlife is particularly diverse and flamboyant, with more than 460 species recorded so far.
    Today we will get up very early to start birding the Reserve's main track (Bigal Trail), on the lookout for some species difficult to find in other parts of the country (White-chinned Woodcreeper, Pink-throated Brilliant, Collared Puffbird, Speckled Spinetail, Olive Tanager, Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner, Plain-winged Antwren, Blackish Pewee, and more). Back at the buildings around 11:30 am, we will rest for a bit before devouring a substantial lunch. At 4 pm, we will undertake some understory birding; this is a more challenging habitat with respect to spotting birds, due to vegetation density, but with some patience, there are always some good finds. Although we will probably hear more species than we will actually see - typical in the humid tropics - we do have realisitic opportunities to see some rare species, like Salvin's Currassow, Sapphire Quail-Dove, Graywinged Trumpeter, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Hairy-crested Antbird, Streamcreeper, etc. With any luck at all, we will likely come across some large canopy flocks that will greatly heighten or chances of spotting countless tanager species and many other families of interest, such as manakins and woodcreepers.
    Back to the Station around 6 pm. After dinner, there will be an option to go on a night walk in search of nocturnal birds, birds sleeping in the understory, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. Night at Bigal River Research Station.

    Day 5:
    This Morning, after breakfast, we will pack our lunch and follow one of the Reserve´s longest trails. The PNS trail will take us to the largely unexplored southern boundaries of Sumaco National Park giving us the opportunity to observe more species of interest (Nocturnal Curassow, Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner, Ocellated Woodcreeper, Foothill White-crowned Manakin, Tinamous, Wood-Quails and Trogons). We'll have lunch in the forest and will start hiking back to the camp around 1:30 pm, always on the prowl for more bird species, canopy flocks, and even a troop of monkeys or two. Arriving back at the camp at approximately 3 pm, we will relax until dinner. Those who wish to continue birding can feel free to do so around the Station with or without a guide. After a good hot meal, a night walk will also be an option. Night at Bigal River Research Station.


    Day 6:
    We’ll start the morning off birding on foot along the Bigal Trail and take full advantage of the morning activity to observe some new species, or maybe even explore a different trail, depending on what birds we have already seen to this point.
    After the morning activity has run its course, it will be time to zip up our bags, pack the mules, and get ready for the drive to Cabañas San Isidro.
    Driving straight through takes about 3 hours but, as birders, we’ll probably find ourselves making birding stops along the way. The plan is to take a packed lunch from Bigal and find a nice spot at which to eat along the way. We'll get to San Isidoro between 3 and 4 pm and will be able to spend the rest of the afternoon either birding one of the forest trails – maybe down to the Andean Cock-of-theRock lek – our try a stroll along the forested roadside. As dusk settles in, we should try and spotlight Rufous-bellied Nighthawk as they often come zooming in overhead around the lodge.
    After a wonderful dinner, and assuming the weather cooperates, we will probably want to try a short night walk - right between the cabins and the dining room - in search of the “mystery owl”. This is a gorgeous owl that may one day prove to be a new species to science. Night at Cabañas San Isidro.

    Day 7:
    We plan to start the morning off with some busy birding right around the lodge, where we often find it hard to pull ourselves away… the birds just sometimes keep coming. Some of the regulars include Powerful Woodpecker, Montane and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Blackbilled Peppershrike, Inca Jay, Bluish Flowerpiercer and Subtropical Cacique! After about an hour of this, we will want to visit the Antpitta feeders, where you will likely see White-bellied Antpitta only feet away, and maybe even the very rare Peruvian (!). The rest of the morning will be spent birding the ample trail system and/or forested roadside at Cabañas San Isidro. After lunch at the lodge (and possibly an afternoon break), we can choose any of the trails that sprawl out from the lodge (or even the roadside) for a second crack at flocks and other activity… quetzals or maybe a fruiteater anybody? We may even want to try a spot near the lodge for Andean Potoo and Rufous-banded Owl pre-dinner. Night at Cabañas San Isidro.

    Day 8:
    Morning birding the beautiful Guacamayos ridge trail – only about 20 minutes from the lodge by vehicle - where some of the birds we hope to see include Green-and-black Fruiteater, Handsome Flycatcher, Rufous Wren, Turquoise Jay, Grass-green Tanager, a few species of skulking tapaculos (and maybe even an Ocellated) and Northern Mountain-Cacique. While not as common, but still regularly seen here, some of the other harder possibilities include Greater Scythebill, Dusky Piha and Black-billed Mountain-Toucan. Depending on the guide’s plan for the day, we may enjoy one last meal at Cabañas San Isidro, or choose to bring along a box lunch for our birding drive back to Quito to give us a chance at cleaning-up some of the missed species we had searched for on the first day.


    Based in 1 participant: 3,020 USD per person
    Based in 2 participants: 1,840 USD per person
    Based in 3 participants: 1,700 USD per person
    Based in 4 - 6 participants: 1,465 USD per person
    SERVICES INCLUDED: Lodging from day 1 to day 7 (please note that lodging in Bigal will be in a tent), meals from lunch on day 1 to lunch on day 8, transportation when needed, bilingual naturalist guide, Spanish speaking bird guide, all activities, purified water and taxes.
    SERVICES NOT INCLUDED: Meals in Quito, extra expenses if a bag doesn't arrive on time, drinks (except purified water), and personal expenses.


    Day 1: Quito
    Day 2 & 3: Antisana & Guango
    Day 4 to 7: San Isidro
    Day 8 & 9: Wildsumaco
    Day 10 to 13: Lowland lodge (Sacha, La Selva, Napo Wildlife Center, Sanior Tapir Lodge)
    Day 14: Quito



    Day 1: Guayaquil
    Day 2, 3, 4: Buenaventura (Umbrella Bird Lodge)
    Day 5, 6: Jorupe (Urraca Lodge)
    Day 7: Loja
    Day 8, 9: Tapichalaca
    Day 10, 11: Copalinga
    Day 12: Cuenca
    Day 13: Guayaquil.

Birds & Wildlife

25 Mar,2013


    The following downloadable list includes all of the species that have been recorded (with certainty) at Cabañas San Isidro and its immediate surrounding areas, within a 5 km radius, such as the early stretches of the Guacamayos (Jumandy) Trail.


    This easy checklist format can be printed up at home before your trip so that you will be ready  to keep track of your sightings upon arrival.


    At the lodge we can provide you with a more detailed, annotated list for further reference.







    This preliminary mammal list is included to give those interested an idea of what mammals have been reported in the area. Much research and observation is still needed, but the motion sensor camera traps have really succeeded in learning about what goes on out there when we aren’t looking! An asterisk (*) means that the animal has been either photographed or caught on video.




    Bird 1

    Plush Cap

    Bird 2

    Glossy Black Thrush

    bird 3

    Inca Jay

    Bird 4

    Montane Woodcreeper

    bird 5

    Rufous Banded Owl

    Bird 6

    Peruvian Antpitta

    Cabañas San Isidro and its immediate surroundings boast a bird list of about 330 species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country. We are situated at about 2050 meters above sea level, but the trails lead through habitats from 2,400 meters all the way down to 1,900 meters. What this means to birders is an ideal base to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the heart of the subtropical zone. Birding groups visit Cabañas San Isidro.

    Birds such as Highland Tinamou, Bicolored Antvireo, and Peruvian Antpitta, are a few of the exciting rarities that live within shouting distance of the lodge. The White-faced Nunbird might even put in an appearance as it has been seen at San Isidro more in recent years than at any other single site on the east slope in Ecuador.

    What really makes Cabañas San Isidro such a joy to bird though are the hundreds of other bird species that one has a good chance of seeing while quietly strolling down the forest trails and forested roadsides. Right from the doorstep folks often get their first looks at Powerful Woodpecker, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Inca Jay, Black-billed Peppershrike. And, during the right season, sightings of singing Wattled Guan (a large turkey-like bird) can virtually be guaranteed as they sit unobstructed in the crowns of large emergent trees, belting out their bizarre territorial call while Glossy-black Thrushes perch nearby singing 'back-up'!.

    A short walk from the cabins, the forest awaits. Here mixed understory and canopy flocks seemingly drip from the foliage, furgivores - large and small - raid trees and bushes for the 'fruit-of-the-month' and skulkers steal about in the shade of low vegetation betraying their presence by an occasionalwhistled song. Be especially on the lookout for Sickle-winged Guan, Masked Trogon, Highland (Andean) Motmot, Streak-capped and Striped Treehunters, Long-tailed Antbird (a bamboo specialist) and Slate-crowned Antpittas, Marble-faced and (only a few of a long list of varied tyrannids to be found in the mixed species flocks), Black-chested Fruiteater, Pale-footed Swallow, a wonderful selection of colorful tanager species including Red-hooded and White-capped and Northern Mountain and Subtropical Caciques.

    All of these species, among many others, are residents here and are frequently seen by our guests. Of all of the known sites where Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is found in Ecuador, the small congregation of brilliant orange, screaming individuals at San Isidro's mating lek (most active between Oct.-Mar.) is by far the most easily accessible, being only a twenty-minute walk from our cabins.


    The majority of the forests at San Isidro are what most newcomers to the tropics envision: large hardwood trees draped with lush mosses that support a seemingly endless number of orchid and bromeliad species.

    Orchids and other flamboyant epiphytes reach their peak diversity at these mid-elevation habitats, and the accessibility of these species for photography and admiration are amazing benefits of our vast and rich mountain forest. Insect lovers will always be in heaven as there are always beautiful butterflies and strange moths to find, as well as the occasional Hercules Beetle.

    Mammals are also a real possibility, but shy and less predictable, but since we stationed motion sensor cameras along the trails, we have been making some amazing finds, and you will have the chance to have a look right out in the field. Some of the mammals that are seen with more regularity include night monkeys (that hop about right over the cabins on many evenings), black agoutis (that feed fearlessly around the gardens), and even mountain tapir! Some guests have even stumbled upon the bizarre giant anteater while strolling along the trails.

    You just never know what will turn up.


Lodge Activites

25 Mar,2013


archaeology biology
Birds butterflyingkids Guinea pigs farm
Mammal watching orchid garden
photography San Isidro at night Tasting Menu trekking
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