Colombia | Flyway Colombia: Atlantic Coast and Santa Marta Mountains

Colombia | Flyway Colombia: Atlantic Coast and Santa Marta Mountains

About this trip

With over 1,900 avian species — more than any other country in the world — Colombia is a birder’s paradise waiting to be discovered. This 9-day program focuses on the country’s northern highlights, including the Caribbean region and the Santa Marta Mountains, famed for their high level of endemic species. Explore high elevation mountains, dry forest, and coastal habitats in search of an array of tropical avifauna, including flycatchers, hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans, and more. Throughout your journey, meet members of the local community and learn about conservation efforts to use birding as a sustainable development resource.

About Flyway Expeditions

Holbrook Travel is a supporting partner in Audubon and its partners’ conservation work in Latin America and in the Caribbean. Participants on these tours have a direct economic impact on local people and communities, help preserve IBAs, and nurture an emerging ecotourism industry.  
Learn more about Flyway Expeditions.

Highlights

  • Be one of the few outsiders to explore birding-rich, remote regions of Northern Colombia led by expert local guides.
  • Bird the coastal wetland and mangrove habitats of Salamanca National Park and Los Flamencos Sanctuary along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. 
  • Explore the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world and home to more than a quarter of the country’s endemic species.
  • Enjoy several days of birding at El Dorado Lodge, the ProAves Foundation’s flagship lodge.
  • Meet the indigenous Wayúu people in Riohacha and learn about their culture, represented in their weaving, ceramics, vegetation, and gastronomy.
11 Travelers

$3,325

Land Cost

Group size

Book 10 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

13 Travelers

$3,195

Land Cost

Group size

Book 12 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

Barranquilla

Day 1

Upon arrival in Barranquilla, after clearing customs and collecting your luggage, you'll be met and taken to your hotel. This is an arrival day and no meals are included. Check-in starts at 3 pm.

Overnight at Estelar en Alto Prado

Riohacha

Day 2

After an early breakfast and program orientation, head to the Universidad del Norte on the outskirts of the city for a good chance at seeing the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. From there, continue to the area known as KM 4 to begin the day's birding in the mangrove habitat of Salamanca National Park. The wetlands of this area provide habitat for numerous species of shorebirds. Target species will include Bicolored Conebill, Pied and Russet-throated Puffbirds, Stripe-backed Wren, Caribbean Hornero, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Glossy, White, and Green Ibises, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Large-billed Tern, Sapphire-bellied and Sapphire-throated Hummingbirds, and more. Have lunch at a local restaurant before driving four to five hours to Riohacha. Check in at the Taroa Lifestyle Hotel, the first "Wayúu Lifestyle Hotel" in Colombia; the hotel is staffed by Indigenous Wayúu people, and every space in the hotel is inspired by Wayúu culture, which is represented in their weaving, ceramics, vegetation, and gastronomy.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Taroa Hotel

Riohacha

Day 3

Today, visit Los Flamencos Sanctuary and focus on the wetlands and shorebirds. Los Flamencos Sanctuary is an important coastal wetland and dry forest reserve created to protect a large population of the American Flamingo. This 17,000-acre reserve of marshes, lagoons, and dry forest also provides habitat for 185 other bird species, 80% of which are migrants. Spend some time birding the dry scrubland for specialties such as the Tocuyo Sparrow, Vermilion Cardinal, Chestnut Piculet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Pearl Kite, Aplomado Falcon, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Burrowing Owl, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Brown-throated and Blue-crowned Parakeets, Red-billed Emerald, and Buffy Hummingbird, among others. Afterward, visit the village of Camarones, where we will learn about the Wayúu Indigenous people. We will have a chance to meet with our local guide's family, visit their home and learn about their arts and crafts, especially the handmade, colorful bags known as mochilas. Have lunch at a local restaurant at Camarones Beach then search for some key species like the Vermilion Cardinal, Tocuyo Sparrow, Orinocan Saltator, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Buffy Hummingbird, Chestnut Piculet, Bare-eyed Pigeon, White-whiskered Spinetail, Glaucous Tanager, Pileated Finch, and Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Taroa Hotel

Santa Marta

Day 4

After breakfast at the hotel, check out and travel to Santa Marta with birding en route. La Guajira Peninsula is among the country's most arid regions, and as a result, low-growth shrubs and spiny trees dominate the landscape; these sub-xerophytic conditions help maintain the unique diversity of species. The dry forests in La Guajira are distributed in territories belonging to the Wayúu, who grant access to their lands thanks to the good relationship Audubon has fostered and established with them. The trails are basically sandy walkways in between shrubs and stocky forests, swamps and some creeks, which are dry much of the year. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant en route to Santa Marta. Check in at the beachfront hotel and spend time at the beach or birding in the surrounding area. (Elevation: Sea level / Accessibility: Rural, unpaved road / Temperatures: 82-97 °F.)

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at GHL Costa Azul

El Dorado Reserve

Day 5

Depart early for El Dorado, with birding along the way in the humid tropical forest around the town of Minca. Minca sits in the low-elevation foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where a dry forest ecosystem predominates across the ridges. Above the village, the premontane forest mixes with coffee crops to create habitat for many local and migratory bird species, including the Golden-winged Sparrow and Black-backed Antshrike, which tend to be difficult to find in other regions of the country. We'll have lunch in Minca while watching hundreds of hummingbirds at the nearby feeders. After lunch, board several 4x4s and journey higher into the mountains to the beautiful El Dorado Lodge, the ProAves Foundation's flagship lodge. Situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this area is home to a vast array of species, including the Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Santa Marta Sabrewing, Streak-capped Spinetail, Scarlet-fronted and Orange-chinned Parakeets, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Cinnamon and White-winged Becards, Black-chested Jay, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Streaked and Grayish Saltators, Crested Oropendola, Thick-billed Euphonia, and many others. Elevation: 2,300-3,600 feet / Accessibility: Easy, rural unpaved road / Temperatures: 75-86 °F. Lowlands of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta-Elevation: 2,620-7,550 feet / Temperatures: 59-77 °F.)

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at El Dorado Lodge or similar

El Dorado Reserve

Day 6

Spend today exploring the San Lorenzo Ridge. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, is home to an incredible 20 endemic species, which account for 27 percent of the endemics in the entire country. Search for as many of these species as you can find along the altitudinal gradient of the San Lorenzo Ridge. Some of the species that you may hope to find in the Santa Marta Mountains include the Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Screech-Owl, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Woodstar, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Antpitta, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, White-lored Warbler, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta (Black-cheeked) Mountain-Tanager, Black-backed Thornbill, Colombian Nevada Brush-Finch, Bang's Wood-Wren, Black-fronted Wood-Quail, White-tipped Quetzal, White-rumped Hawk, Band-tailed Guan, Sickle-winged Guan, Band-tailed Pigeon, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-billed Parrot, Masked Trogon, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Yellow-billed (Groove-billed) Toucanet, Emerald Toucanet, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Spotted Barbtail, Streaked Xenops, Gray-throated Leaftosser, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Mountain Elaenia, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Venezuelan and White-throated Tyrannulets, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Orange-billed and Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrushes, Great Thrush, Black-hooded Thrush, Slate-throated Redstart, Three-striped Warbler, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and many others.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at El Dorado Lodge or similar

El Dorado Reserve

Day 7

Spend today birding in the El Dorado Natural Reserve, located on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, inside a matrix of cloud forests. The reserve sits in a transitional zone between lower mountain forests and higher cloud forests, creating a confluence of species from both areas. It is the perfect place for hiking and searching for endemic species over the mountains or to simply sit and enjoy the birds that visit the feeders overlooking the Caribbean Sea on the foothills of the range. The reserve is known for its incredible feeders for hummingbirds (some of which are endemic), tanagers, guans, and wood-quails. Targets today include the Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Wood-Wren, Coppery Emerald, Black Hawk-Eagle, Military Macaw, Red-billed Parrot, Lined Quail-Dove, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Brown Violetear, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Greenish and Forest Elaenias, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Social and Piratic Flycatchers, Cinnamon and White-winged Becards, Rufous-breasted and Rufous-and-white Wrens, Black-chested Jay, Brown-capped Vireo, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Streaked and Grayish Saltators, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Crested Oropendola, Thick-billed Euphonia, and more. During the northern winter months, these foothills harbor a good number of North American breeding migrants, including Swainson's Thrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Tennessee, Golden-winged, Cerulean, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Summer Tanager. (Elevation: 5,900 feet / Accessibility: Easy to medium; rural, unpaved road; hiking trails along the reserve / Temperatures: 60-75 °F.)

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at El Dorado Lodge or similar

Barranquilla

Day 8

Spend a final morning birding around El Dorado Reserve before starting the descent toward Santa Marta, with birding en route. We'll use the 4x4 Jeeps until we reach Minca, where we'll have lunch and then continue in our bus to Barranquilla, with more birding en route.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel ESTELAR en Alto Prado

Depart

Day 9

This morning, check out and head to the airport in Barranquilla for early afternoon flights back to the U.S. Check-out is at 1 pm.

Breakfast- included