Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain mass in the world; The montane forests are separated from other moist forests by the lower-elevation dry forests and xeric shrublands. These special conditions together among others, results in one of the world´s largest concentrations of endemic species – those that occur nowhere else on Earth (19 endemic birds, 10 endemic anphibians) and has been recognized as the most irreplaceable site in the world for threatened species, in a study published in the journal Science.
Sierra Nevada is also home to the remnants of the Native American Tayrona Culture; Arhuacos, Koguis, Wiwas and Kankuamos. The Colombian government has granted them a large part of the high-medium elevations of the sierra, establishing indigenous reservations, where they have total autonomy.
We designed this expedition to the remote Paramo of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta to people in good physical shape, willing to walk for long days in difficult conditions with the aim of enjoying a true experience of this unique mountain massif, it’s almost unexplored landscapes and having the possibility of seeing two species of endemic, rare and highly threatened birds that only few people in the planet have been able to observe. As always in cooperation of local and indigenous communities to guarantee highest standards of quality and safety, contributing to the preservation of nature and traditions and the development of the rural communities visited.
Day 1: Arrive in Barranquilla.
Your international flights are likely to arrive in the early morning or late afternoon and you will be taken to your hotel.
Day 2: Birding around Barranquilla and Isla Salamanca
The Salamanca National Park is adjacent to the Ciénaga Grande, right in the middle of the Barranquilla- Santa Marta highway. Targets there are: Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, Bicolored Conebill, Black-crested Antshrike, Golden-green and Red-rumped Woodpeckers, Pied Puffbird, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Bronzed Cowbird and Striped-backed Wren and the American Pygmy Kingfisher.
In the late morning we will start driving east through the park but expect to make frequent stops to look at the concentrations of waders and terns that can often be found on roadside pools. In the late afternoon we will climb into the foothills of the Santa Marta Mountains, to a little town called San Pedro de la Sierra.
Day 3: Early departure to the first camping site
We will have mules to carry our luggage, that manner, we only will carry the necessary things as water, binoculars and cameras.
Most of this first day is a rocky steep path – also a bit muddy in some segments, so we´ll do it at slow pace also trying to enjoy this gorgeous montane forests as we heard and/or see some of the Santa Marta´s endemic birds such as Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, santa Marta Tapaculo and some unique endemic subspecies as Santa Marta Toucanet, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, among other commoner species.
Day 4: Departure to Sevilla Lagoons – 2nd camping site
We´ll pick up the camp in the early morning and continue the way up. Another endemic bird species will start to show up, like the Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, Santa Marta Warbler, Streak-capped Spinetail, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, and the highly threatened Santa Marta Parakeet, plus some other interesting species as Mountain Tyrannulet and Golden-breasted Fruiteater.
Day 5-6: Full days birding in the Paramo
Blue-Bearded Helmetcrest likes to feed on the Espeletia´s flowers, although there are Espeletias all over the place, the hummingbird is not common. That is why we´ll spend two full days looking for it. We´ll search in the exact place where it was rediscovered in 2015. Another goodies of this area include: the magnificent Andean Condor, the uncommon Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, the near-endemic and also uncommon Rufous-browed Conebill and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle (recently found isolated population).
Day 7: Morning birding and way back to the first camping site
We´ll use part of the first half of the day to have a second chance with the high altitude birds that we may have missed the day 5 and 6, before start the way back to the first camping station.
Day 8: Morning birding and way back to San Pedro de la Sierra
There are plenty of birds to see and landscapes to enjoy in the segment that we may have crossed too fast in the first day that is why we can take more time going downhill in this day, trying to see the lower elevation endemic birds of the Sierra Nevada.
Day 9: Morning Birding around San Pedro and transfer to the Airport
Depending in the flight hour and how we feel the last morning we can do some birding around the shade coffee plantations around the Village of San Pedro de la Sierra, which normally are very productive and can result in a number of new birds for the trip, before flight back either from Bogotá or directly from Barranquilla depending in your international flights.