NEOTROPICAL Tropical & Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forest

Angel Paz bird reserve, Refugio Paz de Las Aves western Andes cloud forest, Ecuador.

I visited this reserve in October of 2015. I visited this area as a day trip from Bellavista Lodge. I was mainly interested in seeing Cock-of-the-rock. (That's a bird). 

This reserve is accessible as a day tour from Mindo or any of the cloud forest lodges in the region. You will have to leave your accommodation very early, as it is advisable to get to the cock-of-the-rock display area at dawn.

Be aware, that even though the cock of the rocks display here, and quite close to the hides, they might just be hiding behind the vegetation as they bob back and forth. Also, be aware, that due to low light at dawn, it is difficult to get photographs. However, hang around after the display, and the birds will be much easier to get shots of, as they will be out in the open and the light will be better. But they are very strange looking birds, and shots of them look quite abstract!

After the cock of the rock display, one of the brothers Paz will take you around and try to show you several species of very shy rainforest birds. This may include various species of antbirds, antpittas and ant wren.

After the morning activity, you will get coffee and breakfast. During the (slightly) drier season, they also put out fruits out where the staff eat a few metres away. Don't waste time sitting down while having breakfast; grab your coffee and get over there! There are the usual hummingbird feeders below, but on the tree branches there will be various species of colourful tanagers visiting the fruit.

Their website is:

Amacayacu National Park, Amazon, Colombia

Amacayacu National Park in in the Colombian Amazon. I got a flight from the capital of Colombia, Bogota, and down to Leticia. The latter is Colombia's southernmost town and a major port on the Amazon river. It is the area where Colombia, Brazil, and Peru converge.

Because my Spanish is minimal, it was hard for me to arrange transport to the park, so I first went on a day trip up the Amazon. Here we watched hundreds of capuchin monkeys on a small island, watched 'Pink Amazon River dolphins' or 'Botus' (Inia geoffrensis) and swam in the river.  On the tour I visited the park, and then arranged transport there the next day. I stayed at the park headquarters for a few nights. (My strongest memory here is of losing my binoculars. )

At the time they had an orphaned 'Woolly Spider Monkey' who latched onto whoever he could, and wouldn't let go. I got stuck with him, but still wanted to go for a walk in the rainforest. So I just walked into the jungle with this monkey on my back. But he was actually scared of the jungle, and only occasionally stretched out and picked at a plant. 

There was also a hide here a little walk from the centre. I spotted a species of Tamarin (a tiny primate) and several of the Amazonas parrots, many of which I couldn't identify exactly because of my binocoular-less status. Sitting by the river I also glimpsed the 'Blue Amazon River Dolphins' or 'tucuxi' (Sotalia fluviatilis) rather more attractive than the Botu, and looking like a smaller bottlenose. I hired a canoe to paddle myself on the smaller blackwater back rivers, although I didn't see much this way. I also spot-lighted at night by myself and was treated to a tree snake and a Four-eyed Possum.

I must have been there in the drier season, for in the wet much of the area gets flooded and the ecosystem changes dramatically seasonally. In fact, it was reported that in 2012 massive floods closed the centre down: so check to see if it has re-opened.

Amazonia Lodge, Peru

I stayed at this lodge for four days in 2017. Of the four lodges I stayed at in Peru, I think this is my favourite! Best of all, this is one of the cheaper lodges in the Amazon. Most lodges tend to be very expensive. It is also one of the few lodges anywhere in the Amazon that allow independent travellers; there are only a handful of lodges across the countries that include the Amazon that allow people to stay that are not in tour groups. As with all the lodges in the tropical Americas, the food is great. 

This lodge has a great variety of trails. Several go along the main river. Some go along wider 'bush roads'. Another trail climbs up several hundred metres and to a very tall and slightly wobbly canopy tower. There is also a oxbow lake like environment with a bamboo raft that can be sticked out.

Antonios Jungle Lodge, the Amazon, Brazil

I stayed here in 2014, as part of a three day tour, and then for an extra two nights by myself. To stay in the rainforest in the Amazon within Brazil you usually have to be part of a 'packaged' tour. This lodge, Antonio's Jungle Lodge, is one of the cheaper lodges, and also the only one I know of in the region that allows a stay after the tour.

The tours themselves are 'jungle adventure' tours for budget backpackers. Which means you will likely be hiking with younger international backpackers with little wildlife experience or focus, and get a guide with stories and survival tricks, but who may not be able to distinguish between different bird species or plant families (In contrast to the knowledge of guides in the Pantanal or at the more expensive lodges). You'll fill up the day with activities such as jungle walks and fishing. Some of these activities are interesting, such as the piranha fishing, but if you are a naturalist, bird-watcher or wildlife viewer, you might get frustrated. The guides do their best, but they catering to a young crowd that may not have the patience or interest to bird-watch in the jungle. On the tour the guide will point out any monkeys high in the canopy, toucans, and if he sees a snake. Best of all, they are very good at enticing tarantulas out of burrows.

But hang in there until after the tour and you can spend a few days at the lodge. You have a choice of accommodation types here, from a communal hammock, a dorm, or separate 'chalets'. Perhaps the best rooms are those in the observation tower.

There is a trail at the back of the lodge that does a short loop. It is OK for birding in the morning or frogging/insecting at night.

The best birding is no doubt the gardens around the buildings, and if you sit at the restaurant you should see a number of good species (especially if they put some fruit out), including tanagers...

There is also the option of grabbing a canoe and going for a paddle on the river. You won't see a lot of animals this way (some birds, bats, butterflies, snakes, etc), but it is a very pleasant experience paddling by oneself on the back black-waters of the Amazon. 

The website for the lodge is through:

Other places to explore the South and Central American rainforest...

Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina

Villa Carmen Lodge, Peru

Thinking of doing expedition travel after everything has calmed down? I do a lot of my guiding and lecturing work on Silversea.