The Imataca Forest in Eastern Venezuela is one the most reliable places in the Neotropics to see Harpy Eagle. Photo: David Fisher
Eastern Venezuela is a remote region only recently opened up to tourists thanks primarily to the paving of a road to Brazil that runs south parallel to the border with Guyana. This passes through vast tracts of lowland Guianan rainforest, before climbing up five thousand feet through a rainforest-covered escarpment where it is known as the Escalera (staircase). It then continues through the rolling grasslands and ‘lost-world’ plateaus of the Tepuis, which form the magnificent landscape of the Gran Sabana. This is one of the most exciting birding roads in South America along which a wide selection of species can be seen, many of which are confined to this dramatic region that overlaps the borders of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil — the pan-Tepui endemics. Most of our tour will concentrate on finding as many of these endemics as possible, as well as enjoying one of the widest selection of cotingas available in anywhere in the Neotropics, including Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Pompadour Cotinga, and two species of bellbird.
We’ll also spend three nights close to the Imataca Forest Reserve, world famous for its healthy population of Harpy Eagle, one of the world’s most spectacular raptors. Local guides stake out active nests each year, and seeing a wild Harpy is often the highlight of the tour.
This tour can be taken in conjunction with our tour Venezuela: The Andes, Llanos and Coastal Range.
Day 1: The trip begins at 7 p.m. near Caracas International Airport.
Day 2: We’ll fly this morning to Ciudad Guayana on the south bank of the Orinoco River and continue by road southward to the town of El Palmar. Along the way we’ll visit the awesome rapids of the Caroni River, where we’ll look for Capped Heron and Black-collared Swallow. We’ll then drive to El Palmar, stopping for some pleasant roadside birdwatching en route. Night in El Palmar.
Days 3-4: We’ll spend two days birdwatching in the Imataca Forest Reserve. Although it has been selectively logged the forest here is still largely intact. The birdlife is amazingly rich, as evidenced by the presence of one of the most sought-after birds in South America - Harpy Eagle. The Imataca may be the best place in the world to see this magnificent raptor and we’ll devote most of one day to the search. In the process we can expect to see a host of other birds such as Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Red-throated Caracara, Painted Parakeet, Paradise Jacamar, Black Nunbird, White-throated Toucan, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker and Cayenne Jay. We’ll also hope to find an antswarm which seem to be fairly common in this forest, and we’ll stand quietly and watch the birds which come in to feed on the insects disturbed by the ants. Here these usually include the stunning White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds as well as various woodcreepers and foliage-gleaners. We’ll also search for local specialities such as Crimson Topaz and Ferruginous-backed Antbird. Nights in El Palmar.
David and Judy were fantastic! They worked extremely hard to find the highest possible number of species, and to ensure that every group member saw the birds. Always thoughtful of everyone’s needs, they still managed to keep us on a tight schedule. Meeting these two very professional leaders, and benefiting from their travel experience, ornithological knowledge, and field skills, was my personal trip highlight.
Day 5: This morning we’ll drive south through open ranchland reminiscent of the llanos in central Venezuela, stopping at various roadside pools that hold a good selection of wetland-associated birds including Black-collared Hawk, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, White- headed Marsh-Tyrant, Lesser Kiskadee, Gray Seedeater and Yellow-hooded Blackbird.
In the afternoon we’ll walk a side road through tall rainforest and scan the treetops from a clearing where in previous years we have seen a variety of raptors, parrots, toucans, aracaris, and cotingas. Night in Las Claritas.
Days 6-9: We’ll have four days to explore the Escalera and the nearby Guianan lowland forest. Our days on the Escalera should provide repeated views of the striking scenery of the Tepuis. These flat-topped mountains rise steeply from dense forest or from the rolling grasslands of the Gran Sabana. Their characteristic silhouettes create an unforgettable effect of immensity and remoteness. Along the lightly traveled road we’ll look for such pan-Tepui endemics as Fiery-shouldered Parakeet, Tepui Swift, Velvet-browed Brilliant, Tepui Spinetail, Roraiman Barbtail, Rose-collared Piha, Scarlet-horned Manakin, Ruddy Tody-Flycatcher, Golden-tufted Mountain-Grackle and Greater Flowerpiercer. The area is famous for cotingas and other spectacular possibilities include flashy Pompadour and Spangled Cotingas, brilliant orange Guianan Cocks-of-the-Rock, and noisy White and Bearded Bellbirds. We’ll also walk a rainforest trail that offers an entirely different selection of birds such as Blackish Nightjar, Eastern Long-tailed Hermit, Tiny Blackish Nightjar, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Screaming Piha, and White-browed Antbird, to name just a few. Nights in Las Claritas.
Day 10: Today we’ll drive back to Puerto Ordaz stopping en route to walk a side road through lowland rainforest where in previous years we’ve seen Great Jacamar, Black-spotted Barbet, Guianan Slaty Antshrike and Purple-throated Fruitcrow. In the late afternoon we’ll fly to Caracas. Night near the Caracas international airport.
Day 11: The tour concludes this morning in Caracas. **
Updated: 11 August 2011
- 2014 Tour Price Not Yet Available
- (2013 Tour Price $3950)
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
* This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Please review the explanation of our Sunbird pricing here.
This tour is limited to eight participants with one leader.
** Flights home for European participants depart Caracas in the late afternoon so a morning’s birding is arranged on Day 11 to areas near Caracas. North Americans who would like to delay their departure to take advantage of this extra birding should contact the WINGS office.