About the Workshop
The tour will start and end in the Andean city of Cusco, located a short 1-hour flight from Lima (Peru’s capital city). After a tour briefing at the hotel, the group will transfer to the Yellow River Homestay located on the banks of the Vilcanota River in the Sacred Valley, the base for our week-long photography explorations of the Peruvian cloud forest. In terms of birds, we aim to get excellent imagery of Cock-of-the-rock (Peru’s national bird), Racket-tailed hummingbird, Paradise tanager, Inca jay, Cinnamon flycatcher, Mitered parakeet, Andean dipper, Torrent duck, and if we are really lucky Lyre-tailed nightjar. In addition, we will visit organic coffee and cacao farms, small tea estates, waterfalls, hot-springs, a small cave complex, and will eat healthy locally-sourced meals prepared by an experienced chef. Check out the optional trip to Machu picchu at the end.
What's included in the package?
From Cusco, the group will transfer to the Yellow River Homestay located on the banks of the Vilcanota River in the Sacred Valley, the base for our week-long photography explorations of the Peruvian cloud forest. The homestay has a combination of private rooms with en suite and shared bathrooms, as well as a comfortable relaxation area, a small dining room, and a family kitchen, as well as a well managed garden with flowers, shrubbery and fruit trees. It is located approximately 200m from the Vilcanota RiverView Lodging
Equipment and software
Cameras and lenses for this workshop are not included, however, tripods are supplied for those unable to bring them due to traveling complications. Laptops are provided and chargers for various battery types are supplied. Camera traps are also provided for capturing the nocturnal wildlife. The image editing software that participants will learn to use, include: Helicon Focus, Lightroom, and Photoshop. Hennessy hammocks are also supplied for those intrepid enough to want to spend a night out under the rainforest canopy. EQUIPMENT LINKED BELOW HOWEVER CAN BE PROVIDED.View Equipment
Workshop Map Routes
Birds of the Peruvian Cloud Forest Photography Tour
The route from Cusco to the Yellow River Homestay takes us through the high Andean valleys around Cusco, first to the Maray-Moray area, and then through the small towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, before climbing up to the 4,300m-high Abra Malaga Mountain Pass and then down the other side into the misty cloud forest where coffee, tea and citrus fruit plantations are common. The journey time between Cusco and the homestay, including stops for lunch and photography, is an estimated 6 hrs
Arrive in Cusco and transfer to a 3-Star hotel (4-Star optional). Afternoon excursion around the historic central plaza area, with a unique opportunity based on local knowledge to image the area from interesting vantage points - including near the bell tower of one of the cathedrals. We will call in and visit a local family within two blocks of the central plaza, who will serve us a healthy cup of steaming coca tea to help us acclimatise to the thinner air at this altitude (3,400 metres or 11,150 feet), after which we will taste a variety of delicious Peruvian coffee and chocolate options at a specialist restaurant, the raw materials of which we will see and pick straight from the tree later in the tour. Once everyone from the group has arrived in Cusco, we will convene before dinner at the hotel for a tour briefing, where the leaders will also showcase some of the images from their portfolio of earlier trips. We recommend participants do not eat too much (or consume alcohol) on this first day, as part of a normal altitude acclimatization process. Night in Cusco.
After an early breakfast (6 am), and with most of the city still asleep, we will board our private mini-bus and wind our way out of the Cusco valley and head across the Chincheros plain to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. On route, we will spend an hour and a half exploring two picturesque sites, Moray (circular agricultural stone terracing) and Maras (salt ponds). We will lunch in Ollantaytambo, an old Inca fortress town, before continuing on to the Yellow River Homestay via the Abra Malaga mountain pass (4,300 m or 14,000 feet). On this section of the route, expect to see and photograph herds of alpacas and llamas, snow-capped mountains, small waterfalls and lakes, Mountain caracara, and the Royal cinclodes – a range restricted species that is quite common here. On arrival at Yellow River (locally known by its Quechua name Quellomayo), we will be met by the proprietors and shown to our rooms (some rooms have en suite bathrooms while others have shared bathrooms). After lunch, we will head out to explore the nearby landscape, including staking out a roost site of a noisy group of Mitered parakeets located on a cliff ledge beside the raging waters of the Vilcanota River. A dinner high in organic, local produce will be served in the main dining room. The homestay has mains electricity, wifi internet, flushing toilets and hot-water showers. Night in Yellow River Homestay.
After a late breakfast, as we will still be recovering somewhat from yesterday’s long journey, we will head up the side of the valley in our vehicle to walk a set of trails that lead deep into cloud forest habitat (around 2000 metres or 6,500 feet in altitude), spending time at known areas where Racket-tailed hummingbirds, tanagers, green jays and other birds congregate to feed and display. Glorious views across the forest and into neighbouring valleys are possible, including all the way to Machu picchu in the far distance, as long as the cloud layer stays above us. In the deep parts of the cloud forest light levels may be very low, so expect do use a flash potentially. We will eat a boxed lunch near a small waterfall, before preparing our gear for the afternoon visit to one of the local Cock-of-the-rock leks. With care, we will make out way along a special trail that leads to the lek, and once we get there we will take our positions on the seating and benches provided (don’t forget to bring the spare cushions from the vehicle) for the duration of the peak afternoon lekking period, about 2 hrs. Once the birds have left the lek, we will return downhill to our homestay in our vehicle, potentially walking part of the way in order to stretch our legs. Dinner tonight will be set outside in the garden, with time afterwards to review some of the day’s imagery. Night at Yellow River Homestay.
The morning will be dedicated to observing and photographing birds along the local fast-flowing rivers and streams and associated vegetation and rocky outcrops, with an emphasis on Andean dipper, Torrent duck, Neotropical cormorant, Fasciated heron, Black phoebe, among other species. Rubber boots are not essential but recommended. There will be an opportunity towards the end of the morning to bathe in a hotspring, so consider packing some swimwear. We will return to Yellow River for lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit another Cock-of-the-rock lek in a small valley called Tunkimayo, coinciding our visit once again with the afternoon peak activity period. On our return to our homestay we will spend 45 minutes at the largest Mitered parakeet roosting site in the area, where on a good day one can expect upwards of one thousand birds. Before and after dinner we will sit down to review the group’s imagery. Around 9 pm, we will head out for a walk along the main path that leads parallel to the Vilcanota River in search of the elusive Lyre-tailed nightjar. Night at Yellow River Homestay.
After an early breakfast (around 4:30 am!), we will once again board our vehicle for the 20-min drive to the trail head that leads to the Cock-of-the-rock lek we visited on Day 3, with the aim of arriving at our seating positions at or just after dawn (bring a flashlight with you). Shortly afterwards the orange-black-and-white males will begin arriving at their respective dance perches and will begin their morning display. During this visit to the lek, which should last around 3 hours, there will be good opportunities to also photograph passing flocks of colourful tanagers, oropendolas, jays, not to mention solitary hummingbirds doing the rounds of the canopy flowers and bromeliads. Having shot all the imagery of the lekking males and females that we need, we will head off to visit a set of rare limestone cliffs, small cave system, and associated waterfall, with the plan to photograph swallows and swifts, parakeets, Swallow-tailed hummingbirds, and Blue dacnis. We will return to Yellow River for lunch, via a local flower farm. The afternoon will be free for editing images, relaxing, or exploring the local tropical-plant-lined paths around the homestay. Before dinner, we will have an opportunity to participate in a coffee tasting and cacao roasting activity, including picking the ripe fruit from the trees in the garden. Dinner will be set outside under the stars, near the barbeque and campfire area. Night at Yellow River Homestay.
This morning’s photographic excursion will take us by road to the upper reaches of the Yanatile River valley (about 1.5 hours away), an area dominated by lush green and mountainous landscape where our focal bird species will be Red-crested cotinga, Andean guan, Andean solitaire, and Andean motmot, among others. We will have lunch at a secluded spot by the river, and on our return to Yellow River in the early afternoon we will stop to pick some passion fruit or pineapples (which ever one is in season) from the homestead of a friendly farmer. There will also be an opportunity for a half-hour swim in a hotspring for those interested, or another chance to photograph a Torrent duck on the main Vilcanota River. Back at the homestay, we will relax, edit images, and then set a time to review everyone’s best shots of the day. Barbeque dinner outside in the garden. Night at Yellow River Homestay.
Optional Visit to Machu Picchu (One Extra Full Day) Up early (4.45 am) for breakfast, followed by a 40-minute car ride to the train station at Hidroelectrica. We will board the 6 am train, which gets in to the small town of Aguas Calientes just 30 minutes later. Here we will board a bus for the 20-minute ride up to the gates of Machu picchu, where we will meet our guide, show our entry tickets and passports, and head through to the archaeological complex itself. Our guide will lead us on the most picturesque route around the ruins for a period of 2 hrs, explaining the main areas and features of interest, and then will leave us to explore by ourselves. By midmorning the crowds will be increasing, so we recommend taking the path towards the Sun gate or (if previously requested) the path up to Wayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain – the views from which are even more spectacular! We will reconvene at the gates around 1 pm for lunch, and then head back down to Aguas Calientes to catch the return train back to Hidroelectrica and then by car to Yellow River Homestay once again. What remains of the afternoon will be given over to relaxation and image editing. Dinner at the regular time. Night at Yellow River Homestay.