Colombia: The White Sand Forests of Inìrida
January 25 - February 1, 2025
Leader: Jan Hansen
$4,195 from Bogota
The Guianan Shield stretches from eastern Colombia through much of southern Venezuela to Suriname. It is characterized by sparse forests and sandy soils known as “white sand forests.” Though the forests are sparse, the region is an area of high endemism with a great diversity of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. With the current political turmoil in Venezuela and the limited infrastructure in Guyana and Suriname, eastern Colombia provides birders with the best access to this unique and relatively unexplored ecosystem. However even in Colombia, few birders have had the opportunity to visit the white sand forests and its avian treasures are still largely undiscovered. However thanks to a developing network of contacts in Colombia, I am pleased to announce that Otus Asio Tours has been invited to bring a group to this unique region of the Amazonian basin. The regional list of birds that have been recorded around Inírida is over 450 species, many of which can be realistically seen only in the Inírida area. This is one of Colombia’s best kept birding secrets and we are privileged to have the opportunity to visit.
Inírida is very distant from Colombia’s large population centers and is relatively undeveloped, so it is reachable only by small planes. Recently a domestic carrier has begun offering several flights per week from Bogota to Puerto Inírida making visits to the region possible.
Several small hotels have opened around Puerto Inírida providing birders with basic but comfortable accommodations. The town we will base in is located on the banks of the Rio Inírida and the primary birding areas are all relatively close to the hotel, so there will be no lengthy and arduous drives that are often characteristic of birding trips to South America.
The landscape is quite fascinating. Due to the poor, sandy soils the vegetation is sparse; quite different than the dense forests found in most of Amazonia. The area is dotted with many dome shaped hills, some rising as high as 1000 feet and the habitats include sandy savanna, seasonally flooded forest, ponds and lakes and humid lowland forest. Of course the birds will be the primary draw for our tour and we will be sure to encounter many with extremely restricted ranges that are essentially unavailable to birders anywhere else in the world. Examples of some of the more unusual species we expect to see include Red-fan Parrot, Black Manakin, Orinoco Softail, Capuchinbird, Purple-breasted Cotinga, Bronzy Jacamar and Azure-naped Jay. Obviously this is just a tiny teaser of what we will actually find during the tour as the many species available are far too numerous to mention here. In addition to the birds, the tour will give participants an opportunity to step into one of the world’s truly remaining wild places and experience exotic landscapes, interact with indigenous people and add a plethora of exciting species to their life lists.
Despite the remote location, the tour will be relatively civilized as we will base at a single air- conditioned hotel in Puerto Inírida, have short travel distances to the birding sites and walk primarily on level trails. The tour will take place during the dry season so mud and mosquitos should be mini- mal, at least relative to what one generally experiences in Amazonia.