Colombia's Undiscovered Amazon: Mitu
January 18-25, 2021
Leaders: Jan Hansen & Luis Urueña
$3695 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 Amazonian region. In conjunction with a tour to the region around Inírida, this tour will explore the white sand forests near the town of Mitu which is located several hundred miles to the southwest and is very near Colombia’s border with Brazil.
The regional list of birds that have been recorded around Mitu is nearly 400 species, many of which can be realistically seen only in eastern Colombia. This is another of Colombia’s best kept birding secrets and we are privileged to have the opportunity to visit.
Mitu 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 Mitu making visits to the area possible. Several small hotels have opened in the area providing birders with basic but comfortable accommodations. We will base in Mitu which is located on the banks of the Rio Vaupes 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. Many of the birds in the Mitu area will also be available around Inírida, however because of the extremely small ranges of many Amazonian birds there will be many different species present. Of particular interest will be species like Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Fiery Topaz and White-plumed Antbird. Furthermore, though species numbers in Amazonia are high, the number of individuals is low and many are often very difficult to find especially on a single visit. In Mitu we will not only have a chance to see new species, but also to make more attempts to those we missed around Inírida.
Despite the remote location, the tour will be relatively civilized as we will base at a single air-conditioned hotel inMitu, 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 minimal, at least relative to what one generally experiences in Amazonia.