The poor man’s Manu road gets a birding lodge

Satipo road – Colibri Cloud Forest

One of the best areas of birding in Peru is along the old Satipo road connecting Satipo with Concepción. The area has been close to my heart for a long time. I started exploring this area in  in 1999 for the first time and made the first sound recordings from the area of newly described Junin Tapaculo (Scytalopus gentryi) and Jalca Tapaculo (Scytalopus frankeae).

In spite that the Satipo road is often referred to as the poor man’s Manu road when it comes to the birding, very few birders and bird photographers have made the effort to visit the area. Manu road, near Cusco, is of course being the most species rich stretch of road in the world cutting through a number of altitudinal ecosystems and hosting over 1000 species. Satipo road is very similar in species composition with Torrent Duck, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzal, Cock of the Rock, Solitary Eagle, Black-and-Chestnut Eagle, Andean Motmot, and a bunch of beatiful tanagers and hummingbirds. It also hosts a number of unique species such as Bay Antpitta, Marcapata Spinetail, Eye-ringed Thiseltail, Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant and Fire-throated Metaltail. Nearby are Black-spectacled Brush-Finch and an undescribed Wren and an undescribed Thornbird.

A decade of conservation projects.

Over the years I have made a number of campaigns in favor of the area. In 2008 I did a fundraiser to enable a trip to Mindo bringing 6 campesinos from Satipo road and Carpish area to Mindo in Ecuador for a week so they could see how a cloud forest village in Ecuador has become an eco-tourism Mekka in only some 10-15 years.

On Satipo road, my seed of a community project was past over to US based NGO Rainforest Partnership. One of the partipants of the Mindo trip became RP:s coordinator in the Satipo road area. A vast area was declared a reserve, community hostels were set up for eco-tourists.  A trend of habitat destruction was broken.

In 2009, I run my first marathon after a long hiatus, and turned it into a fundraiser for Rainforest Partnership and the Satipo road project (called Colibri Cloudforest by RP, as it would be weird among non birders to donate to conservation of a road. Sic!).

Three years ago I made an additional small fundraiser to improve the capacity of beds at the new community hostel at Calabaza-Apaya at 2300m on the Satipo road. Yet, the lodging is still VERY BASIC, and to the date no one has taken the reigns to do the necessary work to make this lodge attractive enough to attract foreign visitors in larger numbers.

Colibri Cloudforest Lodge 2020

By powering up the existing resources, we hope birders and bird photographers shall follow suit. The key will be to start reporting from the area through social media with lots of photos of birds and wildlife, and for this a full time birder/caretaker is needed here.

Right now Peru has been locked down to fight the spread of the coronavirus, so it is a good time for us here at Kolibri Expeditions to put our focus on something else than birding tours for a while.

We want to improve the comfort and the resources at the community lodge of Calabaza-Apalla.

The new building needs room separations, a kitchen area and improve its water supply to the shower, toilet and kitchen.

Resources for bird photography will be set up with feeders for hummingbirds and tanagers, a hide for tinamous and woodquails, and try to habituate Antpittas to come to food.

Our guide Juan Julca will be leading the field work the first months. It will also be open for volunteers to help out with the project, once foreigh flights resume to Peru.

By securing a viable ecotourism proejct in the area it will give income to the community, and locals will be given work. Our project here will spread to other communities where there are other key species to see.

Fundraiser – Win-Win!

We need to raise about US$5000-$7000 to make everything top notch and keep the project running for two months, but a more detailed budget will be establshed once we have done an inventory. Regardless, we shall get started with much less than this as soon as possible.

The cool thing about this project is that you don’t have to donate, as the full amount (or part of it, if you wish) of what you put down to the project can be used as a deposit for your future Satipo road birding trip. Win-Win for everyone. You can’t lose.

The timeline is the following:

  1. Raise awareness through blogs, social media and newsletters
  2. Raise funds for the project attracting donations and deposits for future trips.
  3. Contact the key players in the area from the community, the municipality and Rainforest Partnership, who has a full time antropologist in the area
  4. Initial recce trip once the travel ban within Peru has been lifted. This is hopefully by early April. Local birdwatchers from Lima can join for a reduced cost. Gunnar will meet with all the key players and stake holders.
  5. Guide from Kolibri Expeditions Juan Julca stays on to start building feeders, and set up hides. Produce bird photos to share on social media and to the initial backers of the proejct.
  6. Additional weekend visit when the community hold their monthly  asamblea (community meeting) – usually on the third Sunday of the month.
  7. After all this, and with the bona vista from the municipality, Kolibri Expeditions and the community Calabaza-Apaya comes to an agreement and create a partnership.
  8. By the end of April, we shall have a better picture when birders can start arriving to Colibri Cloudforest Lodge.

Become a volunteer

Once the corona virus pandemic has blown over we are ready to recieve birders to volunteer helping running the lodge on a daily basis and do regular updates with photos of birds, plants, butterflies etc to the Social Media channels to promote the area. Volunteers will also help teaching English to locals and Kolibri Expeditions staff.

We shall open two volunteer spaces on a three week basis. Volunteers, may also be contracted in the future as bird guides for Kolibri Expeditions and 7 Wonders Birding. It is really a dream position. The birder get some of the best birding in Peru, and has a chance also sto become a guide.

How to contribute?

Smaller amounts can be donations, and larger amounts can be deposits for your future Satipo road trip. It is not as easy as I had thought to set up ways to recieve funding swiftly, and without larger fees.  But here are the ways I have come up with so far.

  • 1. Deposit to our bank in Peru. This shall be the fastest way to get money to us.
    If you plan to do a trip with us, you can prepay the trip directly via the Peru bank. You can of course also prepay deposits of your other trips with us, even though a small amount will be available for the project. There are bank fees of course why very small amounts make little sense to send this way.
  • 2. Start a GoFundMe page in support of the project.
    In former years I have made fundraisers via GoFundMe and IndieGogo, but Peru is no longer an eligable country, so I can’t put up a page myself. This is unfortunate. But you can set up a page to support us. I urge anyone who want to contribute to volunteer and set up a GoFundMe page (which takes no commission except the 2.9% credit card fee) in your own country and currency and to help to spread the word to friends directly. Set a small goal of i.e. $100-300, so friends can contribute with very small amounts. Also, once the goal is reached one, can change the goal and the campaign can continue a bit longer. I’ll help you with details to post on the page. And once a page is created in each currency, I shall direct people those same pages.
  • 3. Paypal.
    I have created a Paypal link where you can donate any amount you like in your own currency. There are considerable fees to take into account to get the money to Peru, but it is a convenient way get us funding fast to be able to act straight away when we again are allowed to travel within Peru.
  • 4. Payment Platform. Make a deposit for your Satipo road trip via our payment platform called WeTravel. It somewhat inconvenient because the platform has changed their policies in light of the coronavirus situation. Funds will only be available to us 30 days after the trip has been concluded. The advantage is that with 6 different currencies you can do a transfer from your bank acount with out any fees. It is a so called ACH transfer.

    I have created a fictional April 3 day-tour that I call Satipo Road Community Lodge in 6 different currencies at an approximate value of US$100. Please, note that you can deposit a larger amount by entering more (fictional) participants. The complete amount you deposit is valid 100% to your future trip with us.
  1. US$ 
  2. GBP
  3. CAD
  4. AUD
  5. ZAR
  6. EUR

The money deposited would be available to us by the beginning of May, which may be a bit late, but on the other hand we really do not know when we will be allowed to travel to the area, so it may just be fine. 

The Satipo road birding itinerary.

The coming days, I shall set up a few departures to Satipo road that you can join in 2020. The contribution/deposit you make is valid for three years as down payment for your future trip.

Finally, here is the itinerary for the 5 day Satipo road program as well as the longer 16 day Complete Central Peru trip. Central Peru has more endemic birds than any other part of Peru.

2 thoughts on “The poor man’s Manu road gets a birding lodge

  1. steve melcher

    Enjoy your posts, Gunnar, and the music as well. Is there a webcam available at the lodge? Just would like to check in, folks are doing more virtual Birding – good that we are keeping their interest but unfortunate that we can’t take them
    Out there to get some Vitamin N. But also want to stress that Birding and social distancing are very compatible. And I like your idea of small Birding groups. Let us know if you’re doing a live broadcast sometime. Stay safe Steve, Odonata Sanctuary


    Here is a comment! I read your entire blog Gunnar. Would love to visit Satipo Road and would do it ahead of Manu. I do not have any idea of the likelihood of this actually happening. Right now is not the right time for me to start fund-raising as there are too many friends struggling and needing to consider how to raise their own income. We have even stopped fund-raising for our children’s school. But all this will happen, one brighter day.

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