Natural Argentina: Ecotourism Can Fill Your Heart and Lift Your Spirit (Part 1.b.)

We are up early with the birds. Literally. On what promises to be a beautiful Spring day in late October, I arise before the sun to travel the short distance out of Salta City into the surrounding Lerma Valley to the small town of Chicoana to go birdwatching. I travel with a group of photographers and birdwatchers and our ecotourism Argentina destination is a finca outside the village whose property rises from the valley floor up into the cloud forest of the surrounding Andes Mountains.

birdwatching, ecotourism Argentina

Ecotourism Argentina: Hiking – Bonding – Eating – Experiencing

Let me be clear: I am not an avid birdwatcher.

If I am going to hike, I want to HIKE. I know that stopping and starting is going to be irritating to my (hyper) active soul. But I am here for the experience and the networking with my group, so I will try and put the dread of potential boredom out of my head and “go with the flow”.

Sunrise, Family Finca, and Vineyard, What a start in the morning!

Our hosts, Carlos and Carla greet us with coffee and a breakfast spread inside their ecotourism haciaenda where we greet the sunrise and learn more about their family finca (farm) and vineyard, and about our day’s adventure.

Carlos will be our guide to tracking some of the 187 species of birds (Argentina has 662 in total) in the area. Armed with cameras and binoculars, our now-awake party heads out to hike.

Ecotourism, a great way to explore natural landscapes and wildlife while supporting the local economy. Click To Tweet

 

Birdsongs and Owls

The air is certainly filled with birdsong, from warblers to a VERY load and jarring cackle.

Soon we see that culprit, the Chachalaca, a large bird swooping among the fields. But, loud as he was, I was grateful he drew our attention, for we came upon a field which was filled with almost a dozen mounds which look to be made by a large burrowing…. groundhog? Meerkat?

Once my eyes adjusted to the excited pointing by a more eagle-eyed (excuse the pun) Carlos, I saw sitting on the mounds were…. OWLS!

Yup, the Burrowing Owl (“Who ever heard of such a thing?”, only novice ME would think.) Well, that got me excited, and any lingering negativity about halting for sightings went flying out of my head (again, sorry).

burrowing owls, ecotourism Argentina

Hummingbirds in the Flowering Spring Trees

After seeing various other species including the national bird the ornado with its truly domed oven-shaped dwelling and hummingbirds in the flowering Spring trees, we set off through the property, past its vineyards, and begin a climb into the forest.

High-Altitude Dry Valley and Orchids

This upward hike revealed the very uniqueness of the region: from a high-altitude dry valley covered in farm and grassland, it is possible to experience diverse flora and fauna as such as orchids, large ferns and various trees, some up to 400 years old and tropical parrots, toucans, lizards and (although we didn’t see one), puma.

The climate changes as well from arid to humid.

37 Different Bird Species

On our trip I ticked off 37 species of birds that included various wrens, sparrows and flycatchers as well as the black eagle and the Andean Condor. We oohed and aahed quietly over flashes of color through green branches as if we were watching fireworks. And for a group of strangers, we bonded pretty quickly over the experience of witnessing nature together.

A group hike in nature, especially in a new place, can be a great bonding experience. Click To Tweet

 

Hacienda Lifestyle: Wine, Food, and Music

Back at the hacienda we feasted on a magnificent asada, enjoying the finca’s own wines with the empanadas and the grilled meats. We were serenaded by a local musical celebrity and his guitar (a family friend), accompanied on a drum by our waiter, proving true what I had heard about instantaneous gatherings of music and song in the valley.

It was perfect day when I expected to be perfectly bored.

Full in heart, thanks to our hosts, and in spirit, thanks to nature, we head back to the city.

Stay: Finca Cielo Verde, Chicoana, Argentina

 

Don’t forget to check out our other Argentina blog posts from this series:

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Theresa