Rainforest Photography Tour / Ecuador – South America – Amazon Basin

“From the Cloud Forest to Añangu”An Eight-Day Natural History & Cultural Photography Tour

    • Leader: Bruce Farnsworth, editorial conservation photographer, zoologist & environmental education researcher.
    • Visit our booking area to reserve your place for your tour. Contact us to arrange tailored photography tours for educators & academics, conservation groups, artists and environmental/science groups.

Hosted by:

  • The Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, Western Andes Mountains (Days 1-3)
  • Añangu Lowland Quichua Community (Days 4-8)
  • Yasuní National Park & UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Amazonian Ecuador


  • Wildlife & landscape photography
  • Creative visualization activities
  • Individual portfolio reviews
  • Understand place-based cultures
  • Environmental portraiture
  • Conservation forum with Añangu elders
  • Dugout canoe travel
  • Rainforest canopy observation
  • Nocturnal close-up photography
  • Details

    Comfort: First Class Cost per person is $3,250 (U.K. £ 2,056)
    Difficulty: Moderate No single supplement
    Group size: Limited to eight photographers International airfare is not included (see below)

    Proceeds to benefit Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & the Añangu Lowland Quichua community

    Join conservation photographer and zoologist Bruce Farnsworth at two of his favorite locations on this eight day immersion into natural & cultural history, with creative photographic activities and time to wander. he is formerly the co-coordinator of the Center for the Interpretation of Amazonian Ecuador. He lived in the region for several years.  You’ll begin in the refreshing elevations of the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve on the northwestern slopes of the Andes mountains.  This will provide an introduction to the tropical forest environment with spectacular birds and butterflies, and a wonderful contrast to the lowland Amazon rainforest of Yasuní National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This is not a birding tour per se, rather a diverse engagement with cloud and rainforest environments.

    Our hosts for five full days will be the lowland Quichua community of Añangu, whose Napo Wildlife Center represents the best in indigenous community-based education.  The reserve and well-appointed lodge is 100% owned, administrated and operated by them. The Añangu people have over 50,000 acres of communal lands in Yasuní National Park, so this tour benefits a rainforest reserve of global significance as well. Yasuní is home to 600 species of birds, 550 species of mammals including eleven species of primates (monkeys, tamarins and marmosets), over 160 species of reptiles and amphibians,  2,400 species of fish and over 60,000 different insects.  During this tour, you will learn of research and conservation activities underway in Yasuní National Park, several of which Bruce has photographed in his own editorial work.

    Participants will enjoy a variety of photography locations and approaches from which to chronicle the diversity of  the rainforest. We will move from backwater lagoons and streams to breathtaking canopy views. We’ll walk slowly into the intricate interior of the primary rainforest.  Photograph spectacular parrots and parakeets at rare mineral licks in the Añangu forest.  A family of the endangered Giant river otter inhabits the Añanguyacu river and main lagoon near the lodge. The itinerary includes a mini-forum with community elders addressing the preservation of their land, an evening photo review and periods of freedom for independent image-making.

    Feel free to call or email Raw Rainforest Photography Tours with any questions or concerns you may have. Take a few moments to review the tentative itinerary of “From the Cloud Forest to Añangu. We are now booking for the August 2014 tour with a minimum of five participants and a maximum of eight.


    Full details day by day:

    Quito Arrival

    Flights into Quito from North America typically arrive late at night. A best-case scenario would be to arrive in Quito two nights before the tour, so you will have a full day to adapt to the elevation in the Andea region if you need. Quito sits at 9,000 feet of elevation. You’ll have a full day to enjoy the city and make last minute purchases. Upon your arrival at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, you will be met by Bruce Farnsworth, Founder/Director of Raw Rainforest and his driver. You will be promptly shuttled to your accommodations. Your tour includes one night accommodations at the charming San Sebastian Hotel on the night before the tour. Please contact us as early as possible to facilitate an additional night if you are arriving earlier in Quito.

    We will assist you into the hotel and make sure you are set for a good night’s rest. The Sebastian Hotel provides their safe to Raw Rainforest Immersion Photography tour participants, free of charge, for the duration of your time in Ecuador. Clients will receive a guide to Quito for purchasing memory cards and accessories, outdoor clothing and shops. We give preference to small stores that represent individual artists and indigenous community-produced art, and return profits directly to those artists.

    Day 1

    We will cater local Quiteño pastries for you this morning and provide an orientation to the tour. Before we leave for Bellavista, you will have another opportunity to mail a couple postcards from Quito.

    We will travel by comfortable 10-passenger chartered luxury passenger van to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve and Lodge. We will stop briefly at the “Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the Earth) monument on the way. This is the site of the geographical equator line and a chance to make a few photographs and stretch your legs. We will arrive at the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve after a two-hour drive in time for lunch. The Bellavista Reserve is 700 acres of pre-montane cloud forest in the northwestern foothills of Ecuador’s Andean mountains and administered by Richard Parsons, an Englishmen who began the reserve some twenty years ago with his Ecuadorian wife. As Bellavista collaborates with area landowners, the reserve continues to expand.

    After lunch, our guide will be an English-speaking university biology student from Quito. During our two-hour forest hike, you will be introduced to many species of birds and the unique character of the cloud forest ecosystem. The ambience of new landscapes, wildflowers, birds and patterns in nature will be the backdrop for some exercises in visualization and a chance to get warmed up creatively as photographers.

    Day 2

    The mornings are the best opportunity to photograph some of the hummingbirds which visit the feeders at the lodge. Up to 11 species of hummers have been observed. Bruce will speak about their unique physical adaptations and how they have co-evolved with the local flora. After lunch, there will be a short botanical photography walk along one of the forest trails in the reserve. We will have a guided walk into the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve lodge before dinner. We’ll be on the lookout for native birds such as trogons and toucans.

    Day 3

    Today, we will get up early to visit a nearby forest where the spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana) can be found (shown at left). Known locally as the “Gallo de la Peña”, the bright red males will jump up and down on a particular set of branches and make a low guttural “croak” to attract females. It’s all part of a unique mating system known as the “lek”. Following a box lunch and some time with a local Ecuadorian reserve manager, we will visit a local butterfly garden to photograph some of the more than 20 native species of tropical butterflies in licensed cultivation there.

    We will return to Bellavista mid-afternoon. You will have the rest of the afternoon to relax on the veranda of your cabin and prepare for an early departure the next morning.

    Day 4

    Today, we are up early. Our destination is the Napo Wildlife Center in Yasuni National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Our flight into the Amazon leaves Quito at 10:00 a.m. We will have an early breakfast and leave Bellavista at 7:00 a.m.

    To get to the Napo Wildlife Center, we will fly by jet on a 30-minute flight to the town of Coca (officially known as Francisco de Orellana) on the Napo River. After a short drive from the airport to Napo Wildlife Center dock, we board a large motorized covered canoe for a two and a half hour trip down the Napo River to the mouth of the Rio Añanguyacu. Upon arriving at the entrance to the Añangu community reserve, we will have a restroom break. Then we transition to traditional dugout canoes and are paddled up the blackwater creek to the main Añangu lagoon and lodge (motorized transport is not allowed on the creek or lagoon so that wildlife is not disturbed).

    The beauty of the forest will be mesmerizing during this slow paddle, but stay alert. The canoe trek can take anywhere from one to three hours depending on what we see along the way. Bruce and your Añangu guides will be on the lookout for wildlife which will be seen and heard along the river edges. You will be scanning from river’s surface up to the treetops. Hopefully, the local Giant river otter family will make an appearance for us. There are good chances of sighting various species of monkeys as well as large birds like toucans, parrots or even macaws. You may also see potoos, kingfishers, hoatzins, jacamars and hawks.

    We eat lunch en route and arrive at the lodge by late afternoon. We can provide a GPS waypoint file (in Garmin MapSource format) for our guests who use GPS units or enjoy geocaching. There will be time before dinner to unpack your gear in the spacious rooms, relax and take a hot shower. Before dinner, get a beverage of your choice from the Añangu staff and enjoy it from atop the observation tower connected to the dining room. There you will find a wonderful view of the main lagoon. On a clear day, you can even see the Andes mountains to the west.

    At dinner, you will receive a formal welcome from an elder of the Añangu lowland Quichua community. The Napo Wildlife Center is 100% owned, managed and operated by the Añangu Lowland Quichua community, and we are their guests. Each evening, Bruce and your Añangu guide preview the next day’s activities, answer questions, comment on photographs or just be there to chat with you and enjoy a cool drink in the lodge’s comfort.

    Day 5

    For our first full day at the lodge, we’ll have an early wake up to reach the best parrot clay licks in Ecuador, about one hour by dugout canoe from the lodge, followed by a short walk of about 10 minutes. You will reach the first lick at about 7:30 in the morning, before the first birds arrive. As many as eleven species of parrots, parakeets and macaws are seen feeding on these mineral-rich clay soils. This is an experience that depends on weather conditions but is usually successful.

    After a short dugout canoe ride and 30-45 minute forest walk, we will visit the second clay lick where we will see several species of parakeets and parrots. We will have a box lunch here at the clay lick observatory. We will return to our canoes, arriving at the lodge in the late afternoon.

    After dinner this evening, there will be a brief presentation by an Añangu community elder about their ecotourism operation. We will learn about their current projects in health and education, and the challenges and successes of maintaining their relationship to their land through ecotourism. This aspect of collaboration, building on a relationship which your Raw Rainforest Photography Tours has established with members of the community, is what make our tours unique and lead to photographs which are rich in context.

    Day 6

    After an early breakfast, we will travel by canoe and foot to the finest rainforest canopy experience in the upper Amazon basin. The community’s 36-meter (111 feet) canopy tower is a great way to experience life above the forest floor. The tower is located about 20 minutes from the lodge and deep within the reserve’s primary “terra firme” forest (this refers to errestrial forest which is not flooded seasonally). As you ascend the 12-story tower, you will experience successive strata or layers of the rainforest from forest floor to understory to canopy. Finally you will emerge on top of a giant Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) tree.

    You will walk onto a large wooden platform that is actually set into the tree and experience a view which is usually reserved only for birds. The metal tower and platform at the top of the tree were designed by engineers and constructed by tree platform specialists.

    From top to bottom, there is no finer canopy experience in Amazonian Ecuador. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, and Blue-and yellow macaws fly overhead. Spider monkeys may be seen searching for fruit, possibly carrying young on their back as they swing from tree to tree. There are two species of large toucans that call in the early mornings and afternoons, and so the life of the forest canopy opens before you. Birds that are nearly impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right in front of you and oblivious to your presence. The canopy tower opens a whole new world to guests of the Napo Wildlife Center!

    Lunch will be served at the main lodge. In the afternoon, we will set out on a trail to discover the interior of the primary rainforest. This will be an opportunity for guests to receive personalized guidance from Bruce in the development of their personal photo-essays and thematic work. We may find colorful lizards, showy manakins (tropical bird) and maybe the striking Golden mantle tamarin monkeys which are endemic to Yasuní National Park. On our return from the hike, we may explore the Añangu lagoon area by dugout canoe with a chance of viewing the resident Giant river otter family.

    Relax at your lodge accommodations prior to dinner. After dinner, there will be a presentation about the Añangu reserve and Yasuní National Park. After the program, you can join Bruce Farnsworth on a nocturnal foray for close-up photography of insects and amphibians along a short rainforest trail near the lodge.

    Day 7

    This morning, we will travel down the Añanguyacu river by dugout canoe once again to visit the newly constructed Añangu Cultural Interpretive Center. Members of the community will demonstrate their forest-based artwork and craftsmanship in this center of their own construction which was funded by proceeds from their Napo Wildlife Center. Our conversations may turn toward traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), economic solutions for conservation, biomimicry, north-south perspectives on the rainforest, etc.

    We will walk into nearby forest where the giant Crested Owl is often seen resting by day. There is also a good chance of observing a local pair of Pygmy marmosets, the world’s smallest monkey. The rainforest is an environment of extremes, and all creatures find their special niche within the diversity of habitats. We will have a box lunch during this outing.

    We will return to the community interpretive center for an enlightening session with community elders. They will speak to us about their use of rainforest materials in many facets of their lives. You will gain great insight into just how important is the wilderness – and “wildness” – in the place-based forest culture of the these lowland Quichua (Napo Runa) people.

    In the late-afternoon, we will be back at the lodge. After some relaxation, we have planned a short dugout canoe trip up one of the creeks adjacent to the lodge. We like to give our Añangu guides and other community members the opportunity to make some photographs of us if they choose, and this provides a fun setting in which to thank them for their hard work.

    Day 8

    Following an early breakfast, we will enjoy our final excursion down the Añanguyacu river to its mouth at the mighty Napo. This early morning glide may reveal new sights of Giant river otters, Monk Saki monkeys or rare birds. At the community center docks, we will disembark for a bathroom break before we board the motorized canoe for our trip back to the port town of Coca. The canoe ride again will last about two and a half hours.

    At the airport in Coca, you will be able to confirm your flight arrangements for Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito. We should arrive in Quito at approximately 11:00 a.m.

    Bruce will offer an extension for those interested – more details forthcoming on that. In any case, you will be in Quito to enjoy dinner Friday night. Raw Rainforest can provide participants with recommended restaurants and locations for nightlife in Quito.

    What’s Included

    • Lodging in-country
    • Meals during the itinerary
    • Park entrance fees at Yasuní National Park
    • Travel during the itinerary
    • Individual portfolio reviews (participants will receive instructions after registration)
    • Taxes and surcharges related for the aforementioned
    • Transfers between airport and hotel on first day, between Bellavista Lodge and airport
    • Professional driver and air-conditioned luxury van between Quito and Bellavista Lodge
    • Professional bilingual photography leader (assist shooting and captioning) and/or Professional native guide at host lodging locations

    What’s Not Included

    • International airfare or travel to Ecuador
    • Airport departure tax ($25)
    • Alcoholic drinks
    • Tips or gratuities
    • Snacks outside of meals
    • Soft drinks and bottled water outside of meals
    • Souvenirs

    Please Note: Complete travel information and our terms of service, including liability, reservations, payment and cancellations policies, can be found at the Client Area tab of our menu bar. Please be sure to scan our FAQ’s section for the answers to common questions such as recommended gear, availability of camera accessories in Ecuador, and travel preparation.

    There is a minimum of five (5) and a maximum of eight (8) participants on this tour, including non-photographers. We require a deposit to ensure you have a place on the tour. Once you complete the online tour reservation form, you will receive instructions on how to proceed with your deposit. The deposit is applied toward the final costs of your tour. In the event that the tour does not reach the minimum number of participants, your deposit will be fully refunded or applied to another trip as you prefer. Reservations are made according to the date of signup and receipt of deposit.

    This is the proposed itinerary and it is subject to change for a number of reason such as weather conditions, safety and the shared interests of participants. Changes may be made in order to maximize wildlife viewing or wilderness enjoyment or be fully responsive to the needs of our host communities.

    Please see our Client Area for more details.