Colombia is one of the most butterfly rich countries on the planet, with roughly 3800 species, about 20% of the earth's total. On this tour we won't see all of the species, but we'll see an awful lot! This trip explores beautiful areas in the west-central portion of the country.
       We retain the right to remain flexible as to our exact itinerary in order to take best advantage of hot spots and to enable us to work with the weather, not against it. Exactly where and when butterfly populations will appear is highly dependent upon local environmental and climatic conditions.  The uncertainty heightens our excitement.

Day 1. We arrive in Bogota, this evening, staying at a very comfortable hotel.

Day 2.  An early morning flight brings us to Pereira.  After meeting up with our van and driver, we will head south to visit a cloud forest reserve where we will bait along a vehicle track that extends for several kilometers through delightful forest. We hope to see many stunning species today, but the highlight must include the remarkable Elzunia (Elzunia) species) – they are large, entirely opaque, and very colorful. No less than three of the four known Elzunias fly here: Colombian, Common and Regal Elzunia (E. bomplandii, E. humboldt, and E. regalis). These were only recently believed to represent a single species. We also hope to see a couple of elegant species of leafwing:  Druce's (Anaea lyceus) and the magnificent falcate-winged Dark-lined Leafwing (A. pasibula). For some wonderful eye-candy you can’t do much better than the distinctive and endemic Blue-patched Crescent (Eresia levina), which leaves you wondering which of the two wing surfaces is the more attractive. More conventional, but still eye-catching species include Short-lead Eighty-eight (Diaethria euclides), Broad-banded Pericloud (Perisama yeba), Banded-brown Heliconian (Podotricha judith), Variable Prestonian (Tithorea tarricina), and Spartan Patrician (Patricia dercyllidas). If we are lucky we may find rarely seen deep-forest specialists such as Adopted Morphet (Antirrhea adoptiva) and Two-striped Owl-Butterfly (Eryphanis zolvizora), while in the same habitat, Orange-banded Phantom-Satyr (Pseudohaetera hypaesia) are common and will wow us with their delicate and stealthy flight. Blue-patched Satyrs (Mygona irmina) float daintily down the track, while Whitechain Oxeos (Oxeoschistus puerta) are more determined flyers. Owl-eyed Eyemark (Mesosemia metuana) provide a welcome splash of exotic blue, while it will be great to see flamboyant pierids such as Yellow-rayed Mimic-White (Dismorphia lewyi), Yellow-ringed Leowhite (Leodonta tellane), and Lucas' Greeneyed-White (Leptophobia caesia). If we are lucky we will see the spectacular endemic Colombian Beamer (Phocides perillus), and also White-bordered Firetip (Pyrrhopyge aziza). In the late afternoon, we will drive to our very comfortable hotel in Manizales, set in attractive gardens bordered by cloud forest.

Day 3. Today we'll make a day trip to the montane forests north of Manizales. This area is home to an excellent mix of butterflies to get our trip off to a great start. We'll spread bait along promising stretches of road, and hope for a variety of visitors including eye-catching favorites such as Pink-celled Leafwing (Anaea nessus) and purple and pink flushed banners such as Blue Banner (Epiphile epimenes) andPink-striped Banner (E. dilecta), while several cheerful Pericloud (Perisama) species including Variable and Golden Pericloud (P. dorbignyi and P. humboldtii) should come down in numbers to puddle. Elegant Stormy Heliconians (Heliconius clysonymus) are always crowd-pleasers, while numbers of glistening Lamplight Actinote (Altinote ozomene) are great subjects for photography, and pretty Orange-edged Daggerwing (Marpesia corinna) usually clump in conveniently aesthetic groups. Less common species include the giant Almond-celled Owl-Butterfly (Caligo oileus), and the skittish pink-tongued Brown Prepona (Noreppa chromus). Various montane satyrs include the Big-eyed Ocellated-Satyr (Eretris calisto). We can also hope for some colorful metalmarks such as Orange-spotted Sombermark (Euselasia argentea), and perhaps some dainty hairstreaks such as Auda Highstreak (Johnsonita auda) and Interrupted Stripe-streak (Arawacus leucogyna). In mid-afternoon, we’ll drive west to overnight at a comfortable hotel in La Virginia.

Days 4-6.  Over the next three and a half days we visit our wildest and most species-diverse forest, presenting us with opportunities to see a large selection of highly specialized Pacific slope (Chocó) endemics and species not found elsewhere in the Andes or in the continental lowlands to the east. This area has a unique characteristic in that these Chocó species come from the Pacific forest up the valley of the San Juan River, where they mix with the fauna of the western Andean Cauca River valley. This leads to greatly increased species diversity – over 700 species have been photographed here - and in the case of species with many local races, creates a genetic melting pot in this zone of hybridization – and so we see some unusual and beautiful forms, such as those produced by the mixing of two subspecies of Grinning Heliconian (Heliconius cydno). The forest here is beautiful, and the unpaved vehicle track allows us access across a broad spectrum of cloud forest habitat from lower montane at 4,000 feet (1300m) to upper montane at around 7,500 feet (2300m). All of the species that are listed below are beautiful and in many cases they are rare elsewhere, but we have a good chance to find them or lure them to our bait.

There are many stunning skippers, such as Bell's Beamer (Phocides metrodorus), Brilliant Firetip (Chalypyge zereda) and Chocolate-vented Mytip (Myscelus perissodora). Swallowtails are scarce, but Colombian Kite-Swallowtail (Eurytides columbus) is an especially notable species we are likely to see. Whites and yellows are well represented, especially the Mimic-Whites, amongst which the pretty and endemic Colombian Mimic-White (Dismorphia altis) stands out. Many glittering metalmarks will beguile us with their dazzling colors, amongst them Yellow-banded Eyemark (Mesosemia pacifica), Blue-bordered Metalmark (Necyria bellona zaneta), Studded Jewelmark (Anteros roratus), po, and Neglected Jewelmark (Sarota neglecta), and if we are especially lucky we may see Blue-and-orange Maskmark (Argyrogrammana leptographia) and the breath-taking Aphrodite’s Bandmark (Lucillella aphrodita). The hairstreaks are always wonderful treats, and a number of spectacular rarities have been seen here, including White-W Greatstreak (Paiwarria episcopalis) and Colombian Greatstreak (Airamanna columbia). The charaxines are present in good numbers, and include some real stunners such as White-spotted Agrias (Agrias amydon), Black-fronted Leafwing (Consul panariste), while the giant Fire-rimmed Leafwing (Anaea laura) will excite us with its maroon colored wings. Let’s also hope we are lucky and see the dramatic Red-patched Leafwing (Siderone syntyche), and the rare Chocó endemic Many-banded Prepona (Prepona werneri). Although it looks rather like a satyr, the Scalloped Morphet (Antirrhea undulata) is a remarkable species we hope to find skulking around in deep vegetation. If we are fortunate, we may chance upon a plate-sized puddling male of the high-flying Short-tailed Morpho (Morpho theseus) or lure to our bait the exquisitely marked Lilac-banded Owl-Butterfly (Caligo oberthurii). There are many unusually pretty satyrs here, amongst which are Rusted Phantom-Satyr (Cithaerias pireta), Luna Phantom-Satyr (Pierella luna) and Mimic Phantom-Satyr (Pseudohaetera mimica). Among the transparent ticlears, Orange-bordered Oleria (Oleria amalda) stands out for its gorgeous colored border, and Yellow Oleria (Oleria zelica) for its unusual black and yellow design. Your tour leader will naturally be keen to find and show you his eponymous Colombian Banner (Epiphile neildi) with its vibrant violet bands. We also hope to spot the strikingly-marked Striped Eighty-eight (Callicore atacama), and old favorites such as the gaudy Blue-bordered Panacea (Panacea procilla). Nights in a simple but pleasant hotel in the small town of Pueblo Rico – and a chance to mix with the friendly and hospitable locals, and to enjoy tasty food at the restaurant next door.

Day 7.  We will revisit our preferred sites this morning before heading off after a late lunch to Anserma, where we will overnight at a basic but pleasant hotel.

Days 8-9.  This morning we'll set out from Anserma to our butterfly sites on the mountain road to Jardín, exploring the higher elevations around the Ventanas pass and on the slopes down to Jardín, looking for some Western Andes specialties such as the rarely-encountered Yellow-tipped Mapwing (Hypanartia charon), the lovely Pink-flushed Leafwing (Anaea centaurus), the amazing Flaming Zebratip (Yanguna spatiosa), dartwhites such as Rio Cauca Dartwhite (Catasticta seitzi) and Pleated Dartwhite (Cphilone), Andean metalmarks including Yellow-banded Raymark (Siseme pallas), Blue-bordered Metalmark (Necyria bellona), and even a pretty undescribed tanmark (Emesis) species are known from the area. Of course at high elevation we can also expect some great satyrs including Oval-spotted Falcon-Satyr (Corades chelonis), Cell-spotted Falcon-Satyr (Cchirone), White-banded Lasio (Lasiophila prosymna), Big-spotted Lyman (Lymanopoda labda) among many others; high-elevation skippers could include West-Colombian Potam (Potamanaxas andraemon), Magdalena Skipperling (Dalla wardi), and Yellow-fringed Therra (Thespieus tihoneta), while high-elevation hairstreaks possibly include Ruddy-frosted Andean-Elfin (Penaincisalia loxurina). Perhaps the ultimate reward at the highest elevation is the spectacular Opalescent Morpho (Morpho sulkowskyi) - lucky is the photographer who gets a chance at one of these, but we'll do all we can!
At middle elevations we hope to see species such as Red-scarfed Firetip (Pyrrhopyge decipiens), Exclamation Mark Crescent (Gnathotriche exclamationis), and perhaps some nice periclouds such as Blue-spotted Pericloud (Pbomplandii), Yeba Pericloud (Pyeba), or even the endemic Colombian Pericloud (Perisama antioquia).

We will have a second day to return to the mountain road or to explore the area around Jardín. The immediate surroundings of our hotel, with gardens and a gravel road, can be very productive for a day of butterflying. We'll be watching for species like the endemic Colombian Kite-Swallowtail (Eurytides colombus). Some spectacular skippers are possible such as the endemic Colombian Beamer (Phocides johnsoni), Pink-banded Firetip (Mimoniades nurscia), and Coffee-and-cream Skipperling (Dalla miser). At least three species of actinotes including the pretty Pink-bodied Actinote (Altinote neleus), and the strangely angled Elongated Sombermark (Euselasia extensa), have been found here.
No matter what, this should be an exciting two days of cloud forest butterflying based in a pretty colonial town in the heart of Colombia's coffee-producing region. Nights in our comfortable hotel set in extensive gardens on the outskirts of Jardín.

Day 10. This morning we'll head down into the semi-humid forest low in the spectacular Cauca Valley. This is the great divide between the Central and Western Andean ranges, and we have a great butterflying road - forested but not dark, very lightly travelled - staked out. In this drier, lower-elevation forest, we can expect to find butterflies concentrated around creek crossings – and of course on our bait spots! On a sunny day, our favorite creek crossing can be visited by two greenmark species including the rainbow-colored Brilliant Greenmark (Caria mantinea), several sailors such as Four-spotted Sailor (Dynamine postverta) and White Sailor (Dynamine theseus), a couple of glowing (but often shy!) bluemarks (Lasaia agesilas and L. arsis), Blind Eighty-eight (Haematera pyrame), the beautiful Red-and-black Leafwing (Siderone galanthis), and even an undescribed enops (Polyctor species), a spreadwing skipper. There are plenty of enigmatic metalmarks to hope for; the tiny but beautiful Carousing Jewelmark (Anteros carausius) is often present, and other possibilities include Two-oranges Metalmark (Notheme erota), Cell-barred Geomark (Mesene phareus), Orange-striped Metalmark (Parcella amarynthina), Prison Metalmark (Hyphilaria thasus), and the eyemarks are represented by the Violet-washed Eyemark (Mesosemia telegone). There are some nice ticlears around, such as Cell-spotted Slantcell (Napeogenes stella) and Disturbed Tigerwing (Mechanitis polymnia). Finally, this has proven to be one of the best sites in the area for hairstreaks, and we've had such wonderful species as Brown Groundstreak (Ziegleria ceromia), Ambrax Hairstreak (Strephonota ambrax), Patchy Groundstreak (Lamprospilus collucia), Saddled Groundstreak (Calycopis callus), Black-edged Dreamstreak (Erora carla), Red-fringed Minstreak (Ministrymon cruenta), and Tiger-eye Hairstreak (Rekoa meton). When things slow down - or when it's simply getting too late in the day! - we'll load back into the van and drive across the mighty Cauca River and up into the Western Andes to overnight in our lovely hotel on the outskirts of Medellín.

Day 11.  We’ll spend this morning at a small reserve on slopes overlooking Medellín, before heading off east after lunch. There is a very local cloud forest specialist here which we hope to find puddling nicely for us - Cloud-banded Swallowtail (Papilio cacicus). Other rarities we hope to find include the leaf-like Big-spotted Morphet (Antirrhea geryon), the dramatic Black-striped Fiestamark (Symmachia titiana), and the exquisite Studded Jewelmark (Anteros chrysoprasta). More frequently encountered species but no less attractive include White-striped-blue Eyemark (Mesosemia mevania), which flits around leaves above stream banks, lushly chocolatey Three-barred Blackstreak (Ocaria calesia), pink-banded Small-disked Actinote (Altinote callianthe), and the common but beautifully marked Doubleday's Crescent (Eresia carme). The large Staudinger's Leafwing (Anaea pseudiphis) might put in an appearance, and hopefully will bask for us with its glorious blue upper wings wide open, and likewise Narrow-banded Banner  (Epiphile iblis) with its pink and blue flushed uppers is an exquisite species we are likely to encounter. Once again we will probably find Grinning Heliconian (Heliconius cydno), but in yet another distinct subspecies from sites we have visited previously.
In the early afternoon we’ll head through the typical Colombian scenery of the Central Andes - mountainsides punctuated by waterfalls and coffee plantations, steep forested gorges, and long vistas down lush green valleys - towards the Magdalena Valley foothills. Here, in the Río Claro area, we'll find our second most diverse butterfly community of the trip in tropical rainforest at our lowest-elevation sites. We’ll stop for a break in a river valley in the mid-afternoon, about an hour from our hotel, to explore the river banks and immediate area in the hope we can pick up some additional species before heading onwards. Even at this relatively late hour we are likely to see plenty of species including the gorgeous Cherry-bordered Metalmark (Lyropteryx lyra cleadas), eye-popping Eighty-eights such as Two-eyed Eighty-eight (Callicore pitheas) and Six-spotted Eighty-eight (Callicore lyca), and we may even turn up some puddling swallowtails such as Heliconoid Swallowtail (Mimoides pausanias).

We'll arrive in the late afternoon at our pleasant country hotel near Río Claro (complete with necessarily air-conditioned rooms in this tropical climate!). Bring your swimming suit – the pool is really warm (about 85°F / 30°C) and you can watch parrots flying overhead as the sun sets while you laze away on your back! The pool is hedged-in by bushes of red-flowered Ixora, highly attractive to swallowtails and sulphurs, as well as to the occasional gossamerwing such as the large Strymon megarus. Oh, and watch out for the giant green iguanas that amble through the gardens!

Days 12-13.  We will spend two days exploring the forest patches of the humid Magdalena River Valley. Some protected areas hold extensive pristine forest, and these are the richest areas. Some people will be surprised at the exciting variety of skippers (no, they're not all common, small, and brown!) including several flashers (Astraptes), ghost-skippers (Phanus), Nervous Skipper (Udranomia kikkawai), the glitterying Green-headed Sootywing (Gorgopas chlorocephala), and several firetips such as the striking Orange-spot Firetip (Aspitha leander), Narrow-winged Firetip (Zonia zonia), Common Mytip (Myscelus amystis), and Teal-bordered Firetip (Passova ganymedes). And yes, there are pretty grass-skippers around too, such as Dyson’s Silverpatch (Aides dysoni), Blue-costa Skipper (Aroma aroma), Superb Ruby-eye (Carystus superbiens), Squiggly Brown-Skipper (Phanes aletes), and the glowing Teal Saliana (Saliana hewitsoni) - all of these are usually found in the interior of good forest. Other forest treats include some surprising metalmarks – Flame-bordered Sheenmark (Eurybia donna), Blue-winged Sheenmark (Elycisca), and Four-spotted Mimic-mark (Pheles strigosa) like to hide their beauty under leaves, while White-patched Metalmark (Cyrenia martia) and jewelmarks such as Elegant Jewelmark (Anteros allectus), Neglected Jewelmark (Sarota neglecta) and Black-spot Jewelmark (Sacantus) are also wonderful little finds. Smooth Sombermark (Euselasia candaria) and Schaus’ Sombermark (Etarinta) are glowing little pendants that also like to perch under leaves. And of course, the forest interior is home to larger satyr-types including the stunning Gold-bordered Owl-Butterfly (Caligo atreus), the transparent Rusted Phantom-Satyr (Cithaerias pireta), and the pretty leaf-litter-hopping Red-washed Phantom-Satyr (Pierella helvina). A final reward in lush rainforest are ticlears, potentially including Cell-barred Ithomia (Ithomia diasa) and Fuzzy-spotted Ticlear (Hypoleria lavinia).  

We'll also explore more open areas, looking for large species such as Tigerwing Swallowtail (Papilio zagreus), daggerwings, the flashy Spot-celled Emperor (Doxocopa clothilda), dazzling Thick-rimmed Sailor (Dynamine chryseis), amazing Black-bordered Daggerwing (Marpesia furcula), and other tropical brushfoots such as Flaming Panacea (Panacea prola), Stub-tailed Purplewing (Eunica orphise) and Blue-and-orange Eighty-eight (Callicore tolima). There are also nearly unlimited options for great hairstreaks like Imperial Sunstreak (Arcas imperialis), Ochre Groundstreak (Calycopis trebula), and Black-barred Cross-streak (Panthiades phaleros).
There is one side road that has been particularly productive in the past: on a short stretch of it we have recorded Costa-spotted Beautymark (Ancyluris jurgensenii), Felder’s Scintillant (Crocozona pheretima), Orange-barred Pixie (Melanis electron), White-fringed Lemmark (Synargis calyce), Blue-and-white Heliconian (Heliconius sapho), Yellow Patch (Chlosyne narva), Splendid Crescent (Eresia emerantia), White-banded Morpho (Morpho cypris), Blue-celled Purplewing (Eunica volumna) and Many-eyed Sailor (Dynamine arene) – among others!
Finally, we cannot ignore the gardens of our hotel! Among the beauties we've seen here are Cloudy-eyed Whitemark (Leucochimona lagora), Squiggly-lined Eyemark (Perophthalma tulius) (two wonderful metalmarks!), different forms of Dot-bordered Heliconian (Heliconius doris), and Starry Cracker (Hamadryas laodamia). In short, there is no way we will run out of butterflies to look for in a three-day stay - this is an area with enormous potential, and an excellent way to finish our tour! Nights in Rio Claro.


Day 14.  We will spend this morning revisiting our favorite site in the Río Claro area. On top of the butterflies, the Río Claro region has the advantage of being located just a couple of hours from Medellin's international airport, so we conveniently do not need to return to the city before catching flights to conclude the tour. We will finish the tour near the airport at a hotel where we can shower and prepare for our flights home.

Leader will be Andrew Neild, experienced Neotropical butterflying tour leader.

Cost of the trip is $4895/person from Bogota.  Cost includes double-based accommodations, all meals and soft drinks (except for the first night, due to staggered arrival times), ground transportation, airport transfers, tour leader fees and entrance fees.  Not included are alcoholic beverages, laundry services, and other items of a personal nature.  Single supplement is $450.  This trip is limited to 8 participants.

Click Reservations for a Reservation Form.

 

Spot-celled Emperor
Studded Jewelmark
(Anteros roratus)

Thick-rimmed Sailor
(Dynamine chryseis)

Spot-celled Emperor
(Doxocopa clothilde)
Two-eyed Eighty-eight
(Callicore pitheas)
Tatama National Park
Colombian Elzunia
Colombian Elzunia
(Elzunia bomplandii)

Sunstreak Tours home page     Tour Calendar     Tours by Region

 

West-central Colombia

Sun. February 17, 2019 to Saturday March 2, 2019


 

 

Laura's Leafwing
Laura's Leafwing
(Anaea laura)
Neglected Jewelmark
(Sarota neglecta)
Studded Jewelmark
Studded Jewelmark
(Anteros roratus)
Colombian Beamer
(Phocides perillus)