We are so glad to know what think our clients about our work!
Ian Tillotson - UK.
Hola Manakin - Luis, Andrea, Hernan, Nelson, Lydia.
It was my great pleasure during March and April, to enjoy a second visit to Colombia's wonderful diversity. My first visit had been four years earlier, and I had become just a little apprehensive that a second journey might duplicate the first and thus lack the excitement of new discovery. Happily, any doubts were quickly dispelled as we began the first of two journeys to the south of the country, areas not available to my first visit.
I was travelling with three companions of earlier journeys (though not to first-time Colombia), and we enjoyed the expert and excellent guidance and company of Hernan and Nelson, not forgetting Lydia, who added considerable charm to our travels.
After a restful day in Bogota, we first headed north east by air to Yopal, by road to Paz de Ariporo, and from there into the heart of the Llanos and to the Hato La Aurora Natural Reserve. Here, wetland, grassland and forest provided a wonderful selection of birds, while the Juan Solito Ranch provided equally wonderful food. In addition to birding, each of the members of our group pursue wide additional interests in the natural world and in photography. Hato La Aurora provided both with abundant Spectacled Caiman, Anaconda, Giant Anteater, Black Agouti, Capybara, Green Iguana, the rare Southern Tamandua, and even a family of Jaguarundi. It must be added that the ladies of Juan Solito cook the finest arapuelas in the world.
Our first venture into the wonderful Paramo at Sumapaz brought an additional and quite different selection of birds, an experience to repeated later in our trip when we visited the same habitat at Chingaza.
Further south to Mitu, close to the border with Brazil, we prospected the Amazonian valley of the Rio Vaupes, and the hugely abundant forests of the area. In addition to Hernan's considerable knowledge, by making use of local guides from the indigenous communities, our guiding expertise became complete. The abundance and variety of birds was amazing, and thanks to the detection and recognition skills of Hernan and the local guides, this included a fine selection of the elusive antbirds that we would never have found without assistance.
Much more awaited us in the humid forests of the Magdalena Valley. First to the Rio Claro Natural Reserve to enjoy another fine selection of birds of this habitat, including the bizarre Oilbird, and then deeper into the hinterland to the Paujil Natural Reserve. On my last visit to this location, we had been unable to find the enigmatic and almost mythical Blue-billed Curassow. This visit rectified that earlier omission, and added many more woodpeckers, Tanagers, Flycatchers, Puffbirds and Parrots to our ever growing list. To that list also, we were able to add a large variety of mammals, reptiles and insects, thus assuring day and night satisfaction to us all.
Closer to Bogota, and to our reluctant departure, we visited the charming and delightful Jardin Encantada to view the wonderful variety of Hummingbirds, and within the city limits, to Cerro Montserrate, high above the city, where a few bonus species awaited.
For all of us, this had been a wonderful trip, and we are grateful to Luis and Andrea for the facility to enjoy it, to Hernan
and to Nelson for their knowledge and expertise, without which we would have achieved but little in comparison, to Lydia, just for being there, and to the ladies of Juan Solito for their marvellous arapeulas.
A great trip. Everything in place. Good birding. Good wildlife watching. Good botany. Good guidance. Good food. Good company. Our grateful thanks for it all.
Ian, Bill, Chris, Oliver.
Marilyn and Mike Burge / UK
Hi to everyone at Manakin,
At the British Birdwatching Fair we were very impressed by Luis Eduardo's enthusiastic descriptions and photographs of the Manakin Nature Tours trip to the Andes, Choco and Magdalena Valley. We booked and in February we were met at Bogota Airport and taken to our first comfortable hotel.
The rest of the trip was equally efficiently organised, and the itinerary was well planned, showing us a wide variety of habitats and birds. Our guide, Hernan Arias is a extremely talented birder, identifying the birds really quickly from calls and then finding them in the thick vegetation, and he was able to show us some really difficult birds, in spite of Marilyn's eyesight problems! He helped us with menus, recommending local specialties and also carefully explained the programme for the next day. Angel our careful driver was always available a short distance behind us if we needed drinks etc. whilst walking. Some of the driving on the mountain tracks was very difficult, as was negotiating the Bogota traffic! He even found some birds for us! There were some long drives but there was plenty of time each day for birding.
All the varied accommodation was clean and comfortable with private facilities. Meals were taken at convenient cafes or restaurants, with some very good packed meals on occasions when there was no practicable alternative. As Luis had told us, everything we needed was included in the price., making it very good value for money. Colombia has had security problems in the past but things have now changed for the better. In the areas we visited we always felt safe, and we saw no signs of any problems.
We would definitely recommend a trip with Manakin to anyone considering a trip to Colombia. Many thanks to all who helped to make our trip so memorable.
Richard and Bookey Peek / Stone Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and Research Centre / Australia
Dear Luis and Andrea,
We are finally home – after leaving Colombia, we travelled to Chile where our son is working as an English teacher and had, additionally, a marvelous time in Torres del Paine and Chiloe Island.
We want to thank you for the most wonderful tour – I hope you can use some of our comments as a reference, so here they are:
What first appealed to us about Manakin was that they are a Colombian company – employing local people as guides who would really know and understand their country. We certainly made the right decision – from the start, Luis and Andrea were friendly and helpful, giving us the impression that they were people we could trust and would take care of our needs. The tour was very well organized according to our specifications, and gave us exactly what we wanted.
Having travelled all over the world in search of birds and other forms of wildlife, we can quite safely say that this trip ranked amongst our very best. The key to this was of course our guide, Jose Castano - not only is he an outstanding bird guide with a wealth of experience, he also has an excellent knowledge of the plants, history, culture and politics of Colombia. Although our tour began the day after his last one had ended, he was 100% attentive to our needs, and we felt completely safe in his hands. Jose also adapted to our needs, fitting in with how we wanted to work through the day, without sticking too rigidly to what has become the norm with birding groups. Richard is a professional photographer and Jose was tireless in his efforts to find new species, making sure that he always put him in the position for the best shot, adjusting his guiding to facilitate this.
We are not typical ‘bird listers’ but prefer to engage with the species, understanding its behaviour etc. Additionally our interests are not confined to only birds but extend very broadly to cover all aspects of the environment, and Jose’s extensive knowledge more than encompassed all these levels. He will remain a very vivid part of our Colombian experience and is an outstanding ambassador for your company and country.
All the very best to you and all at Manakin, you are certainly a company to be highly recommended.
Marco della Seta / Italy
Dear Luis Eduardo,
Let me show my appreciation for the successful 20 days birding trip Manakin organized in central Colombia.
With almost 600 species seen, the itinerary proved to be very effective and the driver+guide plan you suggested convenient. The driver, Mr. Calentura was both safe, attentive to our needs, and, above all, always on time. Hernan Arias stands out as a guide, with full knowlege of the birds and their vocalizations and, on top of that, natural skills on dealing with people and unexpected situations. I have been birding for decades around the world, with both organized and custom tours, and I believe Hernan rates among the top guides I have met.
I'm looking forward birding again with Manakin in Colombia
Mark Sutton / Manchester, UK
I have just returned from a fantastic 2 week private birding trip with Luis, concentrating on Northern Colombia, Santa Marta Mountains and the upper Magdalena Valley. The trip was primarily aimed at seeing the regional endemics and specialities especially as I had spent 3 weeks in Colombia the previous year again on a private tour with Luis. The trip was a great success, with the vast majority of the target species seen, many of which were also photographed.
I would have no hesitation in reccomending Manakin Nature Tours and Luis to anybody planning a birding trip to this country, as Luis's site & species knowledge, skills and enthusiasm are second to none. He is also great company to travel with.
Lois (Cuckoo) and Wally Goldfrank, Santa Cruz - California / USA
Forty days of birding with Luis Eduardo confirmed for us that he is one of the best young guides in the Neotropics. He has exceptional ears and eyes, handles the spotting scope deftly, and works tirelessly to try to get all participants on every bird. The logistics of our tour also worked perfectly. We are indeed eager to travel with Manakin in the future and are already planning our next trip.
Tom Fiore, New York / USA
I just want to thank you for organizing the private 5-days tour we enjoyed in the Ocana area recently… it was a great success and also a very interesting region of Colombia, rich with history and culture as well as the very special birds we were able to see. I also thank you for contacting Hernan Arias, who represented your company in a very good way, as guide and as interpreter (in a sense, literally, as with our minimal Spanish language) and of many things besides the nature of the area we visited. Also an excellent idea was the driver, Alexander who was a very polite and safe driver. In addition, we did see don Virgilio in our arrival, departure and some other days of our adventures to La Guajira’s western parts as well as near Barranquilla. I gave all three of these fine men a modest “tip”, as thanks for the work they did on our behalf. In the future I certainly look forward to some great birding in more of beautiful Colombia, with you & others, in some birding / nature tours to various regions. We are now again in New York City where we can look forward to a few Colombian birds arriving as migrants or breeding, such as that welcome summer arrival, Blackburnian… and many others soon. All the best – and we will long remember the tour we made in Norte de Santander and the areas around there!
Albert & Nancy Boggess / USA
This was a private trip for the two of us. We had been in Colombia before, and this time we wanted to concentrate on special birds.
We gave Luis a list of 54 birds we wanted to see on a two-week trip in Colombia, Luis organized the entire trip, prepared all the places we needed to go, arranged all the transport, domestic flights, hotels and lodges, places to eat, and entrance fees to Parks.
He also arranged for two excellent and careful drivers, who drove the winding and rough roads with great care. We were very comfortable and relaxed in their care.
Of the list of 54 wanted birds, Luis found all, AND ALSO FOUND OVER SIX NEW "LIFERS" NOT EVEN ON OUR LIST! We could not imagine seeing so many of these beautiful birds! These birds were very special and hard to find. Many were endemic to Colombia, and also were the kinds that liked to stay hidden in low dense undergrowth. So none of these were easy to find.
We also loved seeing a number of birds we had seen before and wanted to see again. We also enjoyed many warblers that we were familiar with back home in the United States.
Luis was very careful to search down every bird he heard, and took the time to make certain that well. He was very quick to focus his telescope on the birds. One participant, Nancy, was quite short and he always shortened the telescope quickly so she did not miss any.
We enjoyed all the lodges and places we stayed. They were very comfortable, clean, and had nice people who helped us if we needed anything. And Luis was thoughtful to arrange eating dinners, not always where slept, so we got to see more of Colombia.
Some of the drives were long, but Luis always arranged that we had a good long night's sleep.
Not only was this trip successful on seeing so many birds beyond what we hoped for. but the trip was fun. We laughed a lot and Luis and his drivers were very enjoyable. We recommend Luis highly as an expert birding and natural history guide. He is an excellent spokesman for the wonderful country of Colombia.
Grupo Argentino de Observadores de Aves / Sofia Wasilyk - SOFITOUR
Queridos Luis y Andrea:
Quiero agradecerles, de parte de todo el grupo y el mío propio, por nuestro excelente primer viaje de observación que aves a Colombia. Cuando nos consultan sobre la experiencia, les comentamos:
a) Que el oído de Luis es increíble, pues escuchaba e identificaba hasta los cantos que nadie en el grupo había escuchado, y que a su vista tampoco se le escapaba ningún pequeño movimiento de un ave entre la vegetación. Que observamos aves con un super-guía, pero que si tenía dudas en una identificación estaba dispuesto a reconocerlo y aceptar la ayuda de los integrantes del grupo con más experiencia…
b) Que los choferes que tuvimos durante el trayecto fueron muy buenos y nos sentíamos seguros, a pesar que a veces los caminos eran malos
c) Que la comida fue muy sabrosa y apta para casi todo el grupo, pero Uds deberían solicitar en los distintos lugares tengan una verdadera opción vegetariana (no solo un acompañamiento – que a veces estaba cocido en caldo de carne). Pensé que en Colombia no tenían legumbres, pero en la visita al mercado observé que había lentejas, arvejas, distintos porotos, etc., solo hay que aprender a prepararlos en forma apta para vegetarianos.
d) Que la organización fue muy buena y siempre estaban atentos a las necesidades de todos los integrantes del grupo.
e) Que a pesar de madrugar todos los días (nunca un despertar después de las 6am), para pajarear todo el día, el entusiasmo se mantuvo durante los 16 días que duró el viaje
Solo tenemos una recomendación que realizarle a Luis: que los métodos para atraer y/o mostrar a las aves (playback y puntero laser) solo los aplique cuando sean muy necesarios, sus conocimientos de las aves y su capacidad son suficientes para guiar exitosamente, prueba de ello son los casi 200 lifers que tuvieron integrantes del grupo que ya tienen mucha experiencia en la observación de aves en América.
Todos queremos volver a observar aves en Colombia con Manakin Nature Tours, y tener a Luis como guía.
Fuimos el primer grupo de 10 latinoamericanos –(argentinos) – que viajó a Colombia para observar aves, esperemos repetir la experiencia y que muchos más visiten Colombia para maravillarse con la naturaleza.
Gracias de nuevo por el maravilloso tour por las tres cordilleras de los Andes colombianos…
Philip Rostron – Austin, Texas / USA
Rank # 3 Surfbirds – Life and Year Lister
Another very successful trip, this time a cleanup trip to the Eastern Andes. Starting with Brown-breasted Parakeet, Cundinamarca Antpitta and Green-bellied Hummingbird and ending up with eye-to-eye views of Niceforo’s Wren and Mountain Grackle. Also superb looks at Golden-bellied Starfrontlet and Rusty-faced Parrot. Luis’ knowledge of how to find these special birds is second-to-none.
Ronald Petronko, Quebec / Canada
Andrea and Luis met me at the airport in Bogota and got me checked into my hotel for the start of my private tour. The next day I did the city tour and Montserrate with Diana Balcazar. On April 20 Luis & I flew to the Santa Marta Mountains area to start the serious part of my birding tour. We returned to Bogota and continued the land portion from April 26 until May 13. A total of 521 species (including endangered & endemics) exceeded my expectations. The food & accommodations were fine. Luis’ network of guides, drivers and vehicles provide excellent birding or nature tours and I highly recommend Manakin Nature Tours. Luis has sharp ears & eyes and locates birds I sometimes could not see at first. Pay attention to his instructions and you will be rewarded.
Bill Creasy, Chief Naturalist - Travel Coordinator / Cincinnati Nature Center
Greetings dear friend, Luis! I am just now catching up on my “To Do” list and am going to take a few minutes to give you my impressions of the trip. I think you are already doing an amazing job with so there is little room for improvement — it’s close to perfect! Thank you again for a wonderful trip. When I see some of the travelers, they still comment about how great the trip was for them.
1.) Great drivers and vehicles! In spite of the twisty and turny roads found throughout Colombia we always felt we were in very safe hands with the drivers. They were also very attentive to the needs of each and every person in the group. Truly fine men!
2.) The dancers at the Orchid House were an extra special nice treat for the group. Wherever we travel it is always nice to see some of the traditional dances of the local people whether it is Massai tribal dance in Africa, Huli Wigmen dancers in Papua New Guinea, or folk dancers in the Andes of South America, all of our groups have enjoyed seeing such talented displays. Tray and make sure this happens for all of your groups.
3.) The food of Colombia is very tasty (except for the food court) and diverse. From the fresh fruit at breakfast to the final desert at night everything was safe to eat and enjoyed by all of the participants. Even the snacks and breakfast in the field with the vans offered a nice selection for the participants.
4.) The surprise Chiva ride up the mountain to look for yellow-eared parrots made the 3:30 wake-up not so bad. Everyone enjoyed the surprise, even if there was a landslide to keep us from reaching our final destination — we had fun! Make sure to keep this in your planning for all future groups!
5.) Everything came across as well-organized, probably due in large part to the efficiency and hard work of Andrea. It is terrible to travel to distant parts of the world and have to wait around because they are not organized at all. The only minor tweak might be to organize some of the dinners a bit more efficiently as I mentioned above. But overall, things were very well organized.
6.) Your knowledge of many of the flowering trees and other plants was appreciated by many in the group. Some bird guides know only birds, but your knowledge of other aspects of natural history was important to us.
7.) You were both willing to say “Let me check, I’m not sure.” I appreciate that honesty in leaders when they admit they don’t know everything and they cannot identify every bird. We are all on a learning track our entire lives!
8.) You both have great eye-contact with each and every person in the group. You are so very personable, attending to any need that a group member had during the entire time we were together. In 40 years of travel I have had a couple of leaders who were too tired to pay attention to the needs of the participants. Regardless of whether they had a rough night, or just finished a group the day before we arrived, I expect professional attentive guides who help everyone whether it is seeing a bird that they missed or having the menu translated into English for them, you guys were some of the best leaders I have ever come across. Thank you for doing such a great job!
9.) Last but not least: you two have some of the best ears and eyes for finding birds in the field that I have ever met. I can count on one hand the best bird field leaders and both of you are among those top five! Some of your hearing seemed super-human at times, because the rest of never even heard a sound but you did and there would be a bird there! The same is true of seeing the birds — a flash of a wing behind vegetation or the twitch of a tail and you knew what the bird was! You truly are amazing birders and I hope to one day bring another group to Colombia to be led by your professional team!
Thank you again for a wonderful time in Colombia!
Richard and Karen Gordon, Cirencester - UK
We met Luis and Manakin Tours at Birdfair 2012 and were captivated by his enthusiasm and the promise of loads of birds. We weren’t to be disappointed. Never having birded in South America or even Central America before, we travelled to Colombia in March 13 for a 17 day private tour with Luis with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Air France had done their best by cancelling flights but we were met at the airport by Luis and Andrea despite the fact that we were arriving a day early. They found time in their busy schedule to show us the sights of Bogota for the day before the tour started which was great as it allowed us a brief introduction to the culture of Colombia and also allowed us to acclimatise a little to the altitude.
All we can say is that Luis (and Angel our driver) was superb. Luis’s ability, not just to recognise the birds by the call, but get us onto the bird and get good views and photographs, is exceptional. For the record we arrived in Bogota, flew to Santa Marta and then drove back to Bogota birding along the way. The statistics: Species seen 490. This represented 368 lifers for me and 375 for Karen. We got decent photos of 383 species with a further 12 “record shots” and some of the missing ones were the like of cattle egret we didn’t bother photographing. The last key stat is that there were only two species where only one of us saw the bird, the remaining 488 were seen by both of us. Proof that Manakin is excellent for marital harmony!
I can’t recommend Luis and his team highly enough and we are currently planning our next trip back to focus on the high Andes.
Douglas Chang, Red Rock Audubon Society President, Las Vegas / USA
This was my first birding trip and frankly I did not know what to expect. With Luis, Hernan and Andrea’s excellent leadership – everything from airport arrival to departure went smoothly every single day. All I had to do was go out and enjoy the birds. Luis and Hernan were exceptional at spotting, calling and helping all of us see the beautiful birds. In addition, they also shared with us the wonderful and color culture of Colombia. The food and lodging was excellent. They helped us with ordering in restaurants – had excellent snacks and lunches in field when appropriate. We definitely did not go hungry. I had a great time and look forward to exploring more of Colombia with Manakin Nature tours.
Dee Anne Helm, Cincinnati Group / USA
Hi Andrea and Luis, I just wanted to also thank you for a wonderful experience in Colombia. I appreciated all your help in finding the birds, photographing them and for making the trip such an unforgettable adventure. It was a pleasure to meet you and the rest of the crew who helped with our stay. Fondly.
Steve Bobonick - Cincinnati, Ohio / USA
I had the privilege of being guided by Luis and Manakin Nature Tours for sixteen days in January 2013. I was with a group of fourteen from the Cincinnati Nature Center and the tour focused on the Central Andes. We all found Colombia to be safe and beautiful, full of friendly people, great food and modern accommodations. The trip went very smoothly and Luis’ skills at hearing, finding and getting the group on the birds was second to none. And oh what birds! A trip list of 410 species, with many Colombian endemics seen and seen well. My personal “trip bird” was the Andean Condors that flew over us at 13,000+ feet! Plus the many gorgeous tanagers, hummingbirds, Mountain Toucans and the list goes on and on. If you are a serious birder, you need to come to Colombia, and you need to do it with Manakin Nature Tours.”
Dave Helm, Cincinnati Group / USA
Luis and Andrea: I want to tell you how great the trip was. You have great field skills and great people skills to go along with your expertise in the field. Your vision is incredible. I am amazed how well you see birds, and pointing them out to 14 people is an art you have mastered. I hope to be back in Colombia to see you again, and we can attack Santa Marta. Attached is a photo of a painting from my journal, and a favorite bird, and I enjoyed seeing him snap his wings! I’ll put more photos to Shutterfly once I figure it out. It is a great experience birding with you and Hernan, Thank You. All the best for you and Andrea.
Jim and Anita Romine - Cincinnati Nature Center Group / USA
Thank you for an incredible birding experience in your beautiful country. Luis and Hernan were exceptional guides, quick eyes spotting the birds and great ability hearing the target birds. Your patience guiding such a large group and efforts to make sure everyone was able to view the bird were greatly appreciated. The local guides at each location were a plus for their abilities to help locate and identify area birds. Would not have been able to navigate the country without the professional drivers provided, also enjoyed the diversity of the sites we visited and the variety of accommodations. Thanks to Andrea for her work in setting up the tour and making things run smoothly. Her assistance in the field spotting birds was also appreciated. Would highly recommend Manakin Tours to anyone looking for a birding trip to Colombia.
Jean Demers & Clémence Soulard / Canada
My wife and I were delighted with our trip in Colombia with Luis Eduardo and the very good driver Carlos Augusto, believe me you need a very good driver. The tour was very well organized, accommodation was of good quality and food was very different from home but very tasty. Luis is a very dedicated person; he wants you to see the birds and will take time to find it for you even if it takes time. He knows his birds either by sound and sight or with so many birds in this country it’s not an easy task. Colombia is a wonderful country and we felt very safe all the time. During our stay we saw 377 species and heard 24 more and some of them many times. For us we managed to add 287 lifers to our list, which is the best we ever had in our travels. Manakin is a very professional organization, and will certainly go back there again.
Hugh Dingle - Davis, California / USA
We used Manakin Tours for a quick birding trip to the Santa Marta Mountains and Guajira Peninsula and were extremely pleased with their services. Luis Eduardo, our guide was superb; he knows the birds very well, knows how to find them for his clients, and has good English language skills. Although our time was limited, Luis Eduardo managed to find just about every bird we were after, including difficult ones like sapphire-bellied hummingbird. He and his delightful partner, Andrea, are also lovely people and very service oriented. For example, they met us late at night in Bogata airport and helped us sort out a hotel after the airlines had messed up our travel to Colombia even though it meant changing their own plans. Drivers, lodging, and eating arrangements were good and went off without a hitch, including seafood on the beach. Manakin clearly has excellent connections with the local community. To the question, would you use Manakin again?, the answer is an enthusiastic, Yes! In fact we are planning a tour to the Colombian Andes and Choco with Luis Eduardo as soon as we can organize our group.
Terry S. Baltimore - Boca Ratón, Florida / USA
It was my pleasure to spend two weeks with Luis in the Andes of Colombia. Luis’ enthusiasm is infectious, his knowledge of his country is complete and his ability to find the birds is exceptional. Colombia= Manakin Tours= Luis Uruena. Magnifico.
Peter B. Armstrong - Davis, California / USA
I want to add my thanks for a marvelous trip. I much appreciate your hard work in setting up the venues and all of the work put into finding that many great birds. My final count is in. I personally saw well exactly 200 species for the trip, which includes a Barn Owl seen at 3:00 AM on Tuesday when I picked up Scott and Ginella to drive them to the Sacramento Airport for our flight to Colombia. (Scott has a Barn Owl nesting box up on a large tree in his front yard.) Of that 200, 64 were life birds for me. As satisfying as was seeing that many life birds were the superb views that I had of most of those birds. I really appreciate the opportunity to get lengthy and definitive looks at new birds. I have been telling my birder friends here the stories of the hectoring Black-fronted Wood Quail, the worm-eating Santa Marta Ant Pitta pair, and the Rusty-breasted Ant Pitta as examples of seeing a shy birds exceptionally well. Again, thank you.
Scott P Carrol - Davis, California / USA
After a long night and morning of travel, Jenella, Hugh, Don Pedro and I have all arrived home safely in Davis, feeling lucky for the opportunity we had to travel and experience the Santa Marta region with you!
Jenella Loye - University of California, Davis, CA / USA
I was so fortunate to be included in the group the Luis Eduardo led in Colombia this past week of Feb 8-15, 2011. This was my first real focused bird-watching trip. I got to tag along with a group of friends who were rounding out life lists in the thousands. They sought out a good local biologist and guide in Luis and contracted with him for a specific area: the Santa Marta Mountains and environs. We saw everything they hoped and more. We had a lovely lovely time, relaxed and focused. I learned so much, it was marvelous. We stayed at nice local places in interesting areas. Our transportation logistics was balanced and not over-bearing, no big drives for 8 hours that can happen sometimes with these trips. Everything was so great. It was an area like Costa Rica used to be before the super developed tourist industry moved in. Just perfect. We will be returning for a longer trip soon and will be hooking up with Luis and Andrea for sure, they are friends now.
Larry Rosche - Ravenna, OH / USA
Thanks you so much for leading our group of 8 on a fantastic two-week adventure in Colombia. You came highly recommend and did not disappoint us. Luis Urueña is an amazing field expert, flexible tour leader and top-notch naturalist. If you want to see the birds of Colombia, Manakin Tours will not disappoint. Everyone in our group saw well over 400 species in our two weeks in the Central Andes. Luis and Andrea did everything possible to meet and fulfil our target species list. We would all recommend you to anyone who is willing to try the Colombia birding adventure. Staying with an indigenous family at Montezuma National Park was simply too fantastic to describe in a short note. The entire tour was truly an experience of a lifetime and we hope to be able to return for trips to other parts of your beautiful country. Thanks again for really paying attention to our target bird list and for being flexible enough to give us a taste of the Magdalena Valley tour on our way back to Bogota. Forever grateful.
William Gunn Porteous - England / Panama
I lived in Colombia in the 1990s when travel in the country was restricted and potentially dangerous, and now that the greater part of the country is safe I set out to find a local organisation which could show me the birds I still needed to see. The organisation I found is Manakin Nature Tours, run by Eduardo Urueña and Andrea Borras. I have just returned from my first tour with Eduardo to the Cauca Valley and the Western Andes and I could not be more satisfied. Everything from Cauca Guan to Red-bellied Grackle, including such gems as Lanceolated Monklet, Yellow-headed Manakin, Bicoloured Antpitta and both the endemic Bangsias. Detailed attention to logistics, client comfort and expert guiding are the hallmarks of Manakin Nature Tours, and I hope to be back in Colombia in August to clean up, with Eduardo’s help, the birds of the Santa Marta Massif.
Peary & BK Stafford - New York City / USA
Just now getting my head above water and I wanted to say how much I (we) enjoyed the trip. From the Yellow-headed Manakin at La Romera to the last bit of Hooded Antpitta tape at Montezuma, it was an adventure the likes of which few will experience. Thanks to all for making it such a great time.
Olaf Soltau - New York, City / USA
In the summer of 2010, I went on a private trip with Manakin Nature Tours that focused on specialty birds of Colombia Central Andes, Cauca Valley and Choco regions. From start to finish, our group was in excellent hands. Always professional and courteous, Luis Eduardo and Andrea worked very hard to make sure we were well prepared and taken care of. Luis Eduardo is an excellent guide with in-depth knowledge of the birds and the best places to find them. As an added advantage, he has up to date knowledge of the political situation in various parts of the country and we felt safe wherever we went. We couldn’t have asked for a better guide to experience the renaissance of Colombian tourism and birding and, of course, spectacular birds!
Romney Bathurst - Highlands, NC / USA
After an amazing, fun, thoroughly safe month in Colombia I am home with wonderful memories of the sightings we shared, thanks to Luis’ expertise. His keen eyes and ears and incredible speed with the scope made my first birding trip to his beautiful country an outstanding success. Logistics went smoothly and key birds were seen extraordinarily well, especially the endemics. I plan to return for more next year, and would not consider any other guide but Luis, who, in combination with Steve Hilty, makes the best Colombian guiding team possible! Cheers and thanks again.
Joe Thompson – Eduardo Carriazo - Los Angeles, California / USA
In May 2010, we utilized the services of Manakin Tours to plan and carry out a birding tour beginning in Bogota, proceeding through the Magdalena Valley, and ending in Santa Marta. Eduardo and his future wife Andrea did an excellent job of planning all of the logistics of the tour, and then during the tour, of making sure that all of the transportation and other aspects of the tour ran very smoothly. The day-to-day attention to detail was very impressive, making the tour as comfortable as possible while maximizing our time in quality birding areas. In the field, Eduardo did a superb job of finding our target birds and helping us see them well, and he has an excellent system for digital recording and playback. I was amazed at the number of Colombian endemic and almost-endemic birds that we saw, and could not have asked for a more talented guide. Eduardo has detailed knowledge of the birding sites, and has actually done field research in several of them (as has Andrea). He has a good rappoire with the local park guides and rangers, which gave us up-to-date information on target birds and on field conditions within each park. We will certainly be utilizing the services of Manakin Tours again, and highly recommend them for dependable bird tours with detailed logistical planning.
John Wells - Newfoundland / Canada
In 2009 I made a solo backpacker trip through Colombia, visiting a number of the ProAves reserves as well as Bahia Solano, Rio Blanco and El Cairo. Near the end of my trip, I was back in Bogota with a couple of days left. I knew there were some very good species in the city area, so I had to choose between missing these, trying to get out to see them on my own or hiring a local guide. With limited knowledge of the area, hiring a guide seemed like the sensible option. I had met Luis earlier at El Paujil reserve, where he’d been guiding a VENT group with Steve Hilty, and he mentioned he was starting his own birding tour company in the near future. I sent off an email, Luis replied with a couple of birding options and so I had the honor of being Manakin Nature Tours’ very first client!
Luis and I, along with a driver, spent two very full days together, visiting Parque La Florida, La Vega/Laguna El Tabacal and Parque Nacional Chingaza. I was very pleased overall with the trips and with Luis’ guiding services, and the birding sites were brilliant, especially Chingaza. I got a nice bag of new birds, including three life rails on one day! I would happily engage Luis again as a birding guide, and would recommend him to anyone contemplating a birding visit to Colombia.
Many thanks again Luis, and very best wishes for Manakin Nature Tours Colombia! I will be back!
Dr. Brian Fletcher, Sydney / Australia
In March 2009, I went on an organized bird trip to Colombia with Manu Expeditions led by Barry Walker. The local guide on this trip was Luis Eduardo Urueña. I was very impressed by the efficient way in which he organized all the necessary factors to make the trip a resounding success logistically, including transport, accommodation, meals, paying of bills etc. In addition, he proved to be an outstanding bird guide in the field with acute hearing and knowledge of the many local bird calls. He also had an amazing ability to spot the birds even when they were perched in the thick rainforest canopy. There is no doubt that his skills contributed greatly to the enjoyment and success of the tour. I understand that he and his future wife, Andrea, who also accompanied us for part of the tour and his herself an experienced ornithologist, are now planning to set up their own tour company Manakin Nature Tours. Based on my recent experiences, I will be very happy to use the services of this company when I return to Colombia.
Shirley Sekarajasingham / USA
Back in September of 2007 I ventured into Colombia when no one else would go with me. I extended an invitation to numerous friends who refused to accompany me out of fear. What an eye-opening tour it was! It turned out to be one of my most memorable (and SAFE) birding adventures. I always felt safe! In addition to all the species of birds and butterflies that I added to my life lists, I had the great good fortune of being guided by Luis Eduardo Urueña whom I recommend with unabashed enthusiasm to all would-be travelers to Colombia. He has years of experience and is extensively knowledgeable not only about the birds but about his country Colombia. He pays attention to detail. He is persistent, efficient, and fun to be with. If you`re interested in aspects of nature other than birds, he will make sure you have an excellent tour, be it butterflies, orchids, or whatever. And, by the way, he even does a great tour of Bogotá City!
Richard E. Webster – Field Guides / USA
In March 2009 I had the opportunity to travel for almost three weeks with Eduardo (Luis Eduardo Urueña), who was guiding with Barry Walker a Manu Expeditions birdwatching tour in Colombia, as I was learning more about tour opportunities in Colombia. To start with, Eduardo`s “other job” at the time was as a biologist, and while that was not directly relevant, it is an important aspect because the training and knowledge he has gained as a biologist with ProAves add greatly to his ability to plan and conduct a birdwatching tour. During our travels, Eduardo had many roles, and in general the trip ran very well because he did them very well. I would comment specifically on several of those roles:
Finding and Identifying Birds: Eduardo was expert in the areas we visited in the Magdalena Valley, and thoroughly competent at the reserves we visited in the three cordillera of the Andes. And he was very proficient at getting what we found in a telescope.
Handling Logistics: Eduardo was extremely good at making the steady stream of minor-but-vital logistical arrangements needed on a daily basis, including 4WD vehicles and even horses to reach remote birding areas.
Improving and Changing the Itinerary: Based on recent field experience, Eduardo had learned of some better opportunities and he did not stick with the status quo. Instead he raised the possibilities, and was flexible about making changes to alter the itinerary in useful ways.
Behind the Scenes: Obviously, given Colombia`s history of internal strife, security is on the minds of visitors. While birding, one bumps into Colombians who are surprised to encounter foreign birdwatchers; Eduardo interacts easily with the locals to explain our presence. Further, he stays informed about security issues through his network of local contacts.
The Little Things: Eduardo understands that a little cooler in the vehicle with a couple of Diet-Cokes helped keep me happy, and he knew who thought 10 a.m. was not too early for a beer, and so forth. It makes a difference.
I look forward to traveling with him again.
Donnie Pierpoint / Rep. Panama
As a member of VENT tour of the Rio Magdalena Valley and the Santa Marta Mountains I had the pleasure of getting to know Luis Eduardo Urueña. I found Luis to have excellent eyes and ears. He was swiftly able to locate calling birds with an amazing accuracy. Besides his skills in birding he was also able to make the group members feel comfortable at all times. He was always there exactly when you need help and sometimes when you did not know that you needed help. I would recommend Luis to anyone as a guide for any birding in Colombia. His birding skills and pleasant personality make him an ideal guide for an expert or a beginner.
Steve Hilty / USA – Victor Emanuelle Nature Tours
I led four Victor Emanuel Nature Tour trips to Colombia this year (2009), our first trips since 1986, and Luis Eduardo co-led all of these trips with me. Just having the opportunity to return to Colombia and get into the field again was terrific, but having Luis Eduardo along as a co-leader was absolutely marvellous. His youthful energy, great eyes and ears and spotting ability, and eagerness to help everyone see the birds, and to look after their comfort, was invaluable. Equally impressive was his ability to handle an array of complicated logistics flawlessly, including meal and picnic arrangements, hotels, rounding up 4-wheel drive vehicles, horses, or whatever the situation required. Furthermore, Luis and his trusty cell phone (his list of contacts looked like a small phone directory), were able to overcome all the inevitable little emergencies that arise when traveling in remote regions. And best of all, he seemed never to have met a stranger, mingling perfectly with rural and urban countrymen alike, and always staying up-to-the-minute on issues ranging from security (important in Colombia) and road conditions to the best birding spots. I certainly plan to have Luis co-lead with me on future VENT trips— and what better recommendation is there than that!
Kent Lannert / USA
Thanks for a great trip. It went really well and you did a wonderful job of finding the birds I needed. I just got done looking at the pictures and they were great. Kathy got a kick out of the picture of me with the big leaf. Thanks so much for the pictures.
My trip home went well and I think I am catching up on sleep. One thing that makes it easier to adjust is that the time here is the same as in Colombia. I just have to get used to sleeping to 0600 instead of 0400. I think both John and I were impressed that you were able to adjust to any problem which occurred so that the impact on our trip was almost non-existent. Way to go! Job well done! The accommodations and food were just fine. Sometimes too much food. One comment or suggestion would be to ask your drivers to slow down. I was particularly concerned when there were children present. Staying on good terms with the people living in the villages and country sides where good birding locations are found is important. I would not be happy if my children or my animals were endangered by a van full of strangers flying through my village or past my farm at a high rate of speed. Some to think about. Again, a wonderful trip. I hope that someday we can do another.
Allen Family (Anne, Camille, Eleanor, Andrew and Adrian) / San Francisco, CA
We had a great time birding with you in Tatama Park. We will definitely be back… What a beautiful country you have! It is us, who thank you for everything. There is NO way we would have seen so many birds without you. Best Wishes for 2012. If you are in California please let us know, we would love to have you stay with us.
Sue and Phil Lessner - Columbia, SC / USA
Thanks for a terrific birding trip to Bogota, Soata, and the Magdalena Valley earlier this month! My final tally for 6 days was 186 species seen, 12 heard only, and 65 lifers. We were especially pleased with the excellent views of Mountain Grackles, multiple Bogota Rails (including in Soata), and the up-close Andean Pygmy Owl in Chingaza NP. We certainly got to see a good slice of the countryside and to sample some of the local specialties, such as the “lechona tolimense.” Thanks to Helbert’s excellent driving we did not go over any cliffs, even in the “zones of geological instability”, and I got to practice my high-school Spanish as a bonus. Phil got a lot of good pictures as well, but it may take some time before he gets them up on the web (I’ll send you the link once they’re on-line). Trip logistics were excellent, including our non-birding day spent at UDCA and elsewhere in Bogota.
Philip Rostron – Austin, Texas
This was my third trip to Colombia, concentrating on the Western and Central Andes. I had a specific target list of around twenty species and Luis put together a good looking itinerary which took in sites to maximize chances for my target species. In the end, through Luis’s organizational and bird-finding skills we were very successful, finding all but one of my targets and even finding some extra time at the end of the trip for a bonus bird! Along the way we saw some fabulous and rare birds such as Fuertes’s Parrot, Urrao Antpitta, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Dusky Starfrontlet, Yellow-headed Manakin, Chocó Vireo and Gold-ringed Tanager. All together a great and very successful trip – Gracias Luis!
Nick and Suzanne Charles / Seattle
Suzanne and I would like to thank you so much for showing us such beautiful parts of your country. We will always have fond memories of our times spent in the Central Andes of Colombia. Whether we were in Chingaza getting our first taste of the beautiful green Colombian hillsides seeing our first hummingbirds, high in Nevado del Ruiz tracking down the bearded-helmetcrest to the unbelievable time spent at Montezuma eating the best food of the trip it was an adventure that we will cherish for a long time. You got us to places that I am sure we would never have seen without your help. Your stamina and energy kept us going throughout the days, filling each day with new sights and new birds. Your unsurpassed talent for identifying the Colombian birds never ceased to amaze us. I liked the fact that you were also able to come back, correct errors, and take the time to figure out a difficult identification. We will never forget when you heard the Pheasant Cuckoo, a bird that you had never seen before, and how excited and determined you were to find the bird, and of course you did. This amazing bird cooperated and flew in and perched for us! As we say in the states, that was a WOW moment not to be forgotten.
You asked us on that last night’s dinner after our long and hard drive from Ibague back to Bogota what our favorite bird was. I think we were all too tired to give you an answer. After going through your pictures, our pictures, then Judy sent the pictures of the Bearded-Helmetcrest and seeing that bird on my screen over the past few days this bird has got my vote. It is such a unique bird as well as being a unique hummingbird. I love the Manakins, of course, but this bird is over the top. Suzanne’s favorite bird was the Buff-rumped Warbler, because she enjoyed the way it wagged its tail. Suzanne reminded me that you asked also what we enjoyed the most about Colombia other than the birds. We really enjoyed the soups and the fresh juices especially the lulu juice which was new for us.
Thank you for the prompt photos – we are sharing them with friends and family and everyone has been really impressed. We hope to see you both again sometime – maybe in Seattle.
All the best, hugs and thanks to the both of you
Jim Fincke / USA
Hello Luis !!! Your energy and enthusiasm really made the trip very special. Thank you for sharing you photos. I hope to visit your beautiful country and see you again.
Shirley Sekarajasingham / USA
After our return to Bogotá from Mitú, Richard flew back to the US and I had the great good fortune to travel once again with Luis Eduardo Urueña, one of the best guides in Colombia. He makes me feel as if I am totally competent in Spanish. Furthermore, it’s FUN to be with him. He totally understands how to care for clients and to get them what they want. He is an expert in “target birding.”
We spent 4 full days in the higher areas of the eastern Andes within easy reach of Bogotá. Our first stop was MONTERREDONDO ROAD, just a half hour up the slope from Villavicencio at 5,900 to 6,600 ft elevation. Although it was not a lifer, a flock of White-capped Tanagers crossed our path, up close and personal. SULPHUR-BELLIED TYRANNULET, LONGUEMARE’S SUN ANGEL, and MATORRAL TAPACULO were all target lifers. A special encounter was a new skipper photograph for Richard—Racta dalla!
Next stop, via Tunja city in Boyacá Department, through potato, corn, and carrot fields and cattle grazing, was Rogitama Reserve’s wild gardens for a LAZULINE SABREWING and SHORT-TAILED EMERALD glowing golden in the sun. El Peligro Reserve’s sub-páramo habitat was brimming with orchids.
Lunch at La Quinta featured Colombian churrasco with strawberries and cream for dessert.
On the road to Soatá (situated only 2 hours from the border with Venezuela) we stopped long enough in the páramo for a RUFOUS-BROWED CONEBILL and continued on in the rain dodging rock and mud slides. In the little village of Soatá our dinner was boiled potatoes and roast chicken which you could eat with your hands, wearing plastic gloves to keep your fingers clean. Above Soatá in the lush oak forest we found a flock of MOUNTAIN GRACKLES, followed by the endemic SILVER-THROATED SPINETAILS and MUSTACHED BRUSH-FINCH higher up.
Luis’s family owns the Café Lotus in Tunja, where specialty coffees and cocktails are featured. As the first international client I enjoyed a complementary signature frappée of chocolate and whipped cream. Dinner was a Boyacá arepa, generously filled with cheese.
After an overnight in Bogotá we finished our whirlwind tour in Chingaza National Park (my second visit there). Via the Piedras Gordas entrance we drove to the páramo at 4,000 meters (over 13,000 ft), where the road is lined with elfin forests of low-growing Chúsquea Bamboo. Our first target lifer was a pair of BRONZE-TAILED THORNBILLS perched on Espeletia stalks.
After a lunch of charcoal-grilled Capybara steaks at the Humo y Sabor Grill, we made a final dash via the Mundo Nuevo entrance to the park. Under severe pressure, Luis Eduardo pulled out, at almost the last minute, a lifer COPPERY-BELLIED PUFFBIRD, just where he thought it might be. I repeat: traveling with Luis Eduardo Urueña is always a fabulous experience, especially loaded with hummingbirds this time! We were exhausted and delighted.
Edward F. Strong, / USA
I`m writing you to say how much I enjoyed being with you on the May 28, 2009 Colombia Victor Emanuel Nature Tours birding trip. You are likeable person with your engaging smile and personality. I also observed you having friendly and enjoyable relations with all you came in contact with. On the tour you were an excellent guide. You were truly a professional. I benefited greatly from your ability to locate and assist me seeing the bird. You’re clearly spoken and knowledge of the English language enabled me to easily communicate with you. I found you not only knowledgeable of birds but of the flora and wildlife as well. This birding tour went smoothly getting to places, eating, and lodging. Luis you handled exceptionally well the logistics for our accommodations and travel. Steve Hilty, our Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, leader guide made the comment to me how well you handled the logistics for this tour. Certainly Steve Hilty would know how important this is given his vast experience of leading tours. Luis I appreciated you taking care of those problems regarding our comfort. If a problem occurred you quickly took charge and took care of the matter. You always seemed to want us to have the best memory of our Colombian birding experience.
Andrew Stevens, Canmore – Alberta / Canada
I spent the month of December 2008, in Columbia this past year and had an absolutely amazing time! My guide Luis Eduardo and his wife Andrea were both fantastic people to spend a couple of days exploring the jungles and cloud forests of this amazing country. We saw an incredible diversity of avifauna during our time together and Luis Eduardo was great at identifying each new species that came into view. We were able to call in some more difficult to see understory species which I certainly never would have been able to see on my own. I would certainly recommend both Luis Eduardo and Andrea to anyone wishing to visit this beautiful country and get off the beaten track to find some super rare birds and hard to reach places. I hope to return soon and get out for some more excellent birding and nature trekking!
Mark Tasker / Scotland
I visited Colombia in December and January 2007-08 and was lucky enough to have Luis as a guide for most of that period. I found him to be an extremely skilled guide, finding birds and identifying them on the slightest flicker or squeak, just what is needed from a great guide. In addition, our party was of mixed ability and he showed a great deal of patience with us all. The tour went perfectly, with a great deal of credit to Luis.
Marion Degroff / USA
Thank you for your email. Our Magdalena Valley trip was a trip of a lifetime and I really enjoyed being with you. Thank you and Andrea for my birthday cake and celebration! That was so kind of you and such a nice surprise.
John Hoye and Audrey McCarthy / USA
Thanks for sending the link for the pictures. You did a great job on the tour to make everything run smoothly. You have a beautiful country! We also appreciated you getting the birds in the scope so quickly
Joan Renninger / USA
Thank you so much for sending the pictures. I enjoyed them all. I think you did a fantastic job in arranging the trip. You worked very, very hard to make sure we saw the birds, and in choosing the best places to go. I would travel with you anytime, and would know I was in good hands. I was very impressed with your knowledge of the birds, and the birdcalls. You are one of the best tour guides I’ve had, and I’ve travelled to many, many places. If I ever return to Colombia, I’ll contact you directly to arrange my trip. I’ll keep checking your website to see what tours you are doing in the future. Until then, I wish the very best to you and your family, and to your continued success. Warmest regards.
Bob Tallyn / USA
Luis Eduardo, mucho thanks for sharing your wonderful photos with us all. Thanks again for being such a great guide and for all the help during the trips. I really enjoyed birding with you and REALLY enjoyed Columbia, people, food, birds – the whole thing! I would like to return some day to do some more birding. Is the Sapayoa (Sapoyoa aenigma) hard to get in Columbia? Where would be the best place to find it? Cheers