A 14-day wildlife tour to northern Argentina focusing on the birds, mammals and other natural history of the spectacular Andes mountains and concluding with time at Iguazú Falls. The tour travels up through the yungas cloud forests around the city of Salta to the high puna steppe, home to hardy Tawny-throated Dotterel and herds of Guancos. It also includes a visit to Laguna de Pozuelos, a soda lake that sits high on the altiplano and around the shores of which breed Andean and Puna Flamingoes, Andean Avocets and much more. At Iguazú we will not only admire the Falls themselves, but will spend time enjoying the flocks of Great Dusky Swifts flying around and through the cascades, and will explore the forests that surround the Falls in search of Toco Toucan, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Manakin and South American Coati.
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
26th Sep 2020 - 9th Oct 2020 - 4634€
25th Sep 2021 - 8th Oct 2021 - 4634€
A mix of comfortable, but mostly simple, guesthouses, hotels and lodges. All rooms have private facilities.
All included in the price from dinner on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 13.
NB. Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse
weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the
course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather
The mighty Andes, the longest mountain chain in the world, and the second highest, extend the length of the South American continent from Colombia in the north to the southern tip of Patagonia. In the northern Argentinean Provinces of Salta and JuJuy, the influence of the mountains extend beyond the awesome allure of their numerous jagged peaks to create a fascinating botanical strata of vegetation types and ecozones each of which supports their own unique assemblage of birds and other wildlife. The aim of this exciting tour is to transport the traveller into the heart of the Andean Cordillera, climbing from the yungas cloudforests to the high altiplano, to sample the region’s superlative birdwatching and spectacular scenery. Many of the birds we will encounter are endemic to the region, but the long list of other species ranges from the colourful Puna Flamingo to the mighty Andean Condor and iridescent Red-tailed Comet. The tour then ends with time enjoying the spectacular Iguazú Falls and birdwatching in the tropical forests that surround them.
We depart from London’s Heathrow Airport on a scheduled overnight Iberia Airlines flight to Buenos Aires, via a change of aircraft in Madrid.
Fly Salta & transfer San Lorenzo
We arrive in the Argentine capital at around 0800 hours this morning meet our local guide at the international airport. We then transfer to the domestic airport in the city, a journey of about one hour. We will then catch an early afternoon flight to Salta and on arrival, drive a short drive into the surrounding mountains to our strategically placed lodge in the village of San Lorenzo where we stay for two nights. Sitting at an altitude of 1,200 metres, the lush gardens of the lodge offer an interesting introduction to the birds of the region with an abundance of species such as Sayaca Tanager, Brown-capped Redstart, Tropical Parula and White-bellied Hummingbird. After dinner we will take a short trip to the nearby Huaico Reserve in search of the localized Hoy´s Screech-Owl and possibly Scissor-tailed Nightjar. We stay overnight at Selva Montana Ecolodge.
An early start for a morning visit to the Huaico Reserve which protects a wonderful tract of yungas cloudforest which clothes the slopes above San Lorenzo. Here we plan to spend a few hours walking along well-maintained trails in search of forest birds such as Yungas Dove, Barred Forest-Falcon, Dusky-legged Guan, Ocellated Piculet, Dot-fronted and Cream-backed Woodpeckers, Mitred Parakeet, Scaly-headed Parrot and the rather confiding Gray-necked Wood-Rail. From the list of more than 200 species recorded in this private reserve we hope that our sightings will also include White-winged and Crested Becards, Stripe-crowned and Azara´s Spinetails, Roughlegged and Sclater´s Tyrannulets, Mountain Wren, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Rufousbrowed Peppershrike, Andean Slaty Thrush, Pale-legged Warbler, Common Bush-tanager, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Fulvous-headed Brush-finch, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Rusty-browed Warbling-finch and the attractive Goldenwinged Cacique. After a picnic-lunch in the reserve we drive eastwards into the Sianca Valley to a private protected wetland. An amazing abundance of waterfowl concentrates in this lagoon including the rare Comb Duck, Rosybilled Pochard, White-cheeked Pintail, Speckled and Cinnamon Teals, Brazilian and Lake Ducks, White-faced Ibis, White-tufted and Pied-billed Grebes, Spot-flanked Gallinule, coots, herons and storks. The reeds and rushbeds give shelter to occasional Southern Screamer, Snail Kite and Wren-like Rushbird, while the surrounding thickets will provide chances for the attractive Red-crested Cardinal, Lined Seedeater, Black-and-Chestnut Warbling-finch, Golden-billed Saltator and many others. Once again we overnight at Selva Montana Ecolodge.
Day 4 & 5
Calilegua National Park
This morning we begin our climb into the mountains with two days exploring the Calilegua National Park. This reserve protects over 70,000 hectares of rugged country with deep valleys and steep-sided slopes carpeted by dense and moss-draped Yungas cloudforest. Here, we hope to find White-throated Quail-dove foraging on the forest border and, if fortunate, we may locate the rather tame, but elusive, White-throated Antpitta and the shy Giant Antshrike, as they call and forage in the understory and thickets. Golden-collared Macaw and the endangered Alder Parrot will hopefully catch our attention too with their loud raucous calls. The mid-strata of the forest is home to Squirrel Cuckoo, Planalto Hermit, Blue-capped Puffleg, Speckled Hummingbird, Slender-tailed Woodstar and Ocellated Piculet, whilst the canopy is home to its own suite of species including various, foliage-gleaners, woodcreepers, flycatchers and tanagers. We spend a full day exploring the park and the contiguous Loma Chata Reserve where we have chances to come across with the scarce Solitary Eagle, King Vulture, Andean Condor, Black-and-Chestnut Eagle, Short-tailed Hawk and White-rumped Hawk soaring overhead. Listening for calls and watching for movements in the canopy, we also hope to find some of the subtropical Andean forest inhabitants such as Chestnut-vented Conebill, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Black-backed Grosbeak, Rough-legged and Whitethroated Tyrannulets. Much easier to spot will be the spectacular Crested Oropendolas and the inquisitive Plushcrested Jays. We will spend two nights in a comfortable hotel in the town of Calilegua which sits near the entrance to the national park.
Humahuaca Canyon, overnight Abra Pampa
We continue our climb into the Andes with a full day excursion traveling northwards into the Humahuaca Canyon where we will enjoy the region’s spectacularly rugged and colourful landscape and spend some time walking in search of such birds as Band-tailed Seedeater, Gray-hooded Parakeet, the attractive Blue-and-Yellow Tanager and the endemic Moreno´s Ground Dove. As we follow Route 9 forever higher we can enjoy the wonderful landscapes and geology all around us along with the old adobe villages we pass through and the ancient churches at their centre. Indeed, the region was given World Heritage status in 2003.
The suite of bird species we will encounter changes with altitude and today we need to keep our eyes open for Andean Swift, Andean Lapwing, Rufous-banded and Puna Miners, Rusty-vented Canastero, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Mourning Sierra-finch, Greenish Yellow-finch and the localized Brown-backed Mockingbird. Flowering tobacco bushes attract the Giant Hummingbird (the largest of the family) and the striking Red-tailed Comet, whilst Andean Tinamou can often be spotted foraging on the drier slopes.
Late in the afternoon we arrive at Abra Pampa village for one night at a simple, but comfortable, hotel which sits at around 3,500 metres (11,500 feet).
Lake Pozuelos, overnight La Quiaca
We will make an early departure today for an unforgettable journey into the altiplano wilderness. Our main focus will be Argentina’s iconic Lake Pozuelos, a high mountain soda lake – designated a national park in 1981 – that sits on the altiplano near the border with Bolivia. Ornate Tinamous are often recorded along the dirt track that cuts across the puna steppe to the lake and Vicuñas can be seen running in small herds across the plain. We plan to reach Lake Pozuelos by mid-morning and spend the rest of the day exploring this magnificent landscape where we hope to find the Puna and Andean Flamingoes that breed here along with Lesser Puna Rhea, Silvery Grebe, Andean Goose, Puna Teal, Andean Avocet, Mountain Caracara, the localized Giant Coot, Puna Plover and a host of migratory shorebirds such as Baird´s and Pectoral Sandpipers and Wilson’s Phalarope. In the afternoon we reluctantly leave the lake and move northwards to the town of La Quiaca – which sits at 3,442 metres at the end of Route 9 – for two nights in a comfortable hotel.
We might start our birding today in the small creeks along the roadside near Yavi where White-winged Cinclodes, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Andean Negrito and Andean Lapwing are often to be found. Other high altitude species to look out for include Citron-headed Yellow-finch, Bare-faced and Golden-spotted Ground-doves, the highly localised Wedge-tailed Hillstar and the ubiquitous Common Diuca-finch. The Andean grasslands hold some interesting furnariids such as Slender-billed Miner, plus a variety of other species including Band-tailed Sierra-finch, Yellow-rumped Siskin and Puna Yellow-finch. On the rocky slopes above we also hope to find elegant Vicuñas and hardy Mountain Viscacha (looking not unlike a crossing between squirrel and kangaroo) jumping amongst the boulders.
We will spend the whole day exploring the puna steppe and altiplano habitats including several small Andean wetlands. These sit at around 4,500 metres above sea level and attract a wide variety of birds such as the attractive Red-backed Sierra Finch, the elusive Puna Tinamou, Puna Snipe and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, plus Black-fronted, Puna and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants. If fortunate we may even find the rare and beautiful Diademed Sandpiper-plover, which can found from time to time in several of the highest wetlands. For much of the day we will be birding to a backdrop of the snow-capped cordilleras dotted with imposing volcanoes rising over 6,000 metres, before returning to La Quiaca for a second night on the ‘Roof of the World’.
Today we will return to San Lorenzo, descending back through the different habitats and biomes as we leave the altiplano and pass back through the Humahuaca Canyon and eventually down into the yungas cloudforest once more. With birding breaks en route the journey will take us much of the day, but we will stop from time to time to look for some of the species we missed on our ascent and to admire the wonderful scenery which will be as spectacular on the way down as it was on the way up! We will spend our final night in the Andes at the Selva Montana Ecolodge in San Lorenzo.
Depending on the time of our flight to Iguazú, there may be a couple of hours this morning to visit a nearby lagoon, or perhaps a second wander along the trails of the Reserva del Huaico. We will then transfer to Salta Airport for a direct two hour flight to Puerto Iguazú in the northeast corner of Argentina. On arrival we will transfer to a comfortable hotel for a 3-night stay.
In the afternoon we will visit a private hummingbird garden in which the owners have hung numerous feeders. Here it is possible to see eight species of this beautiful family at wonderfully close quarters including Swallowtailed Hummingbird, Black Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Versicoloured Emerald, Planalto Hermit and Violetcapped Woodnymph, plus other non-hummers such as Bananaquit, Sayaca Tanager and Violaceus Euphonia.
Day 11 & 12
Iguazú National Park
We end our tour with time exploring one of the world’s great natural wonders, the magnificent Iguazú Falls – a vast watery curtain of 275 cascades that tumbles into a dramatic gorge on Argentina’s northern border with Brazil. Our time here will be special, for not only are we able to marvel at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, but we can also enjoy the wonderful variety of wildlife that lives in the encircling forests.
We will spend a full day within the Iguazú National Park. The reserve is not open to visitors until 0900 hours, but our guide will have special permission to enter the trails early. Here we will slowly explore this lush tropical forest in search of a very different assemblage of birds than we would have already enjoyed in the Andes. The Macuco Trail can be especially productive first thing. Species to look out for include Band-tailed and Swallow-tailed Manakins, Surucua Trogon, Swallow, Green-headed, Black-goggled, Magpie and Ruby-crowned Tanagers, Blondcrested Woodpecker, Lesser Woodcreeper, Spot-billed Toucanette, Rufous Motmot and many others. Toco Toucans are sometimes seen around the visitor centre and cafes, whilst patrolling gangs of South American Coatis are always on the lookout for an unguarded sandwich!
Once the early morning bird activity slows down we will turn our attension to the Iguazú Falls themselves. We will walk the ‘Lower Trail’ which affords a view up the gorge and the numerous smaller falls on its right-hand-side and the ‘Upper Trail’ if time permits. We will then take the park’s small train to the infamous U-shaped ‘Devil’s Throat’, the main Iguazú cascade. Here, over two million litres of water per second thunder over an 82-metre precipice into a boiling cauldron of spray and mist. Diving in and out of the spray we will see wheeling flocks of Great Dusky Swifts, which nest behind the falls themselves, plunging through the curtains of water to raise their chicks on the vertical cliffs behind. In the evening thousands of these amazing birds return to roost behind the falls and we will ensure we are positioned at the best spot to watch this natural spectacle unfold.
We will keep our second day here flexible, perhaps to return to the trails of the national park or to explore other areas of forest nearby, such as Urugua-I Provincial Park home to Black-faced Piping Guan, Streamcreeper and Riverbank Warbler. The tropical forests of the province of Misiones are home to a wonderfully-diverse assemblage of birds and other wildlife and there will be plenty to keep us entertained.
After each full day in the field we will return to our comfortable hotel in Puerto Iguazú for the night.
Depart Puerto Iguazú
Depending on the time of our flight home there may be time for a final short walk before we must return to the airport to catch our flight back to Buenos Aires. On arrival we then transfer to the city’s international airport for our mid-evening Iberia Airlines’ flight to London Heathrow, via a change of aircraft in Madrid.
14 Arrive London
We are due into London’s Heathrow Airport late afternoon.