A 16-day birdwatching and wildlife holiday visiting the Araya and Paria Peninsulas, Oilbird Cave, Guayana Shield and Table Mountains, with an extension to the Angel Falls.
Home to 1,400 different bird species, Venezuela boasts the sixth richest avifauna on Earth. To sample this wealth of birdlife, bird tours have traditionally focused on the north of the country; this holiday, however, will explore the little-known southern region which forms the core of the world’s largest tropical wilderness area, the territory idealised in Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’s and Hudson’s ‘Green Mansions’s. Here we will focus on the birds of the famous tepuis, or table mountains, together with the lowland forests which collectively comprise the ancient Guayana Shield. By adding a visit to the Oilbird Cave and the Paria Peninsula (the point at which Columbus finally landed on mainland America), we offer you an unbeatable wildlife tour of eastern Venezuela!
We begin on the Caribbean coast, with a night in an inn not far from the airport before flying on, the following morning, to the north-east of the country. Here we will spend the rest of the day exploring the strange, arid moonscape of the Araya Peninsula, looking for such dry country specialities as Yellow-shouldered Parrot, Buffy Hummingbird, Glaucous Tanager and Vermilion Cardinal, as well as American Flamingo, Scarlet Ibis and a wide range of waders. An hour’s drive onwards takes us to Finca Vuelta Larga, a German-owned conservation ranch where we will look for the diminutive Black-dotted Piculet, White-chested Emerald and the stunning Crimson-hooded Manakin, together with a variety of both open country and wetland birds.
Cerro de Humo (Smoke Mountain), on the Paria Peninsula, is our fourth day’s destination. Here we hope to rendezvous with the Paria endemics — Scissor-tailed Hummingbird, White-tailed Sabrewing, White-throated Barbtail, Paria Whitestart and Venezuelan Flowerpiercer — and also try to find such birds as Venezuelan Parakeet, the local form of Slate-crowned Antpitta and Handsome Fruiteater before we drive on to Caripe. This site is best known as the location of the Oilbird Cave first described by Humboldt, and on one of our two evenings here we will witness the remarkable sight of thousands of Oilbirds leaving their cave. Whilst in Caripe we will also take a hike up Cerro Negro in search of the endangered endemic, Grey-headed Warbler, and Venezuelan Sylph.
Bidding farewell to Venezuela’s north-east, we now set our sights on an entirely different avifauna. Our lodge in the Imataca Forest Reserve is best known as the access point to the world’s top region for breeding Harpy Eagles. Here we have arguably the best chance anywhere in its range of finding this, the world’s largest eagle. The reserve is also home to a plethora of superb lowland rainforest species and we will spend the next three nights here in search of them. Amongst the hundreds of species that we could see here, Marail Guan, Black Curassow, many parrots (including Caica and Red-fan Parrot), Black-necked and Green Aracaris, Guianan Toucanet, Black-spotted Barbet, Curve-billed Scythebill, Fasciated and Great Antshrikes, a host of antbirds (such as Rufous-throated, Ferruginous-backed and the spectacular White-plumed), antwrens (including Todd’s, Spot-tailed, Long-winged and Grey) and Pompadour Cotingas are just a few!
Reluctantly dragging ourselves away from this rainforest bonanza, we next drive southwards towards the tepuis, where we will spend our final four nights in the wonderful, family-run Barquilla de Fresa lodge. The owners are excellent hosts and know exactly what we have come for, their lodge being located in the fabulous lowland forests at the base of the Sierra de Lema escarpment — home to Capuchinbirds and other cotingas. After each long day’s birdwatching in the lowland rainforests, and on the wall of the table mountain above the lodge, we will no doubt return to relax at the lodge with a cold drink and to enjoy the Crimson Topaz at the feeders, the Paradise Jacamars in the garden and the Swallow-winged Puffbirds nesting by our cabins. However, our main targets will be the 30 or more tepui endemics, amongst them Tepui Tinamou, Tepui Parrotlet, Tepui Goldenthroat and so on; not to mention the Tepui Spinetail, Antpitta, Brush-finch, Whitestart, Greenlet and Mountain-grackle! Blue-cheeked Parrot, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Bearded and White Bellbirds and such rare birds of prey as Orange-breasted Falcon and Black-faced Hawk will be amongst other species that we hope to see in this unforgettable prehistoric-looking landscape with its sweeping vistas of unbroken rainforest and sheer tepui walls. It is little wonder that this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! A marvellous spot at which to conclude our tour!
Those of you wishing to stay on may opt to take our 3-day extension to visit the Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall. Our lodge lies alongside the stunningly beautiful Carrao River, with a series of waterfalls close by. One day will be devoted to travelling up-river in canoes to visit the base of the Angel Falls.