• JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 44

You are here:3.11 Playa de Oro-Los Tigrillos Reserve

3.11 Playa de Oro-Los Tigrillos Reserve

Playa de Oro is a small Afro-Ecuadorian village along the Santiago River, with the nearest large settlement being Borbón.  This site is located in EsmeraldasProvince. The Playa de Oro community has deeded land of over 10,000 hectare, of which at least 4.400 hectare are protected.  This area is one of the finest examples of conservation performed by local people, with the assistance of various NGOs, and the Ecuadorian government.   The area which birders can access and visit the Playa de Oro Reserve is located at an elevation ranging from 135m to 235m.  In spite of the fact that the community has had the desire and willingness to protect the land, there still are several threats to the status of the reserve.  The hope is that most of the issues will be resolved to conserve this unique Chocó lowland rainforest, where 330+ species have been recorded and where many of the range restricted Chocó endemic birds find a heaven.



Chocó Lowland Rain Forest, the “Pluvial Forest”.



Playa de Oro-Los Tigrillos Reserve

There is regular bus service from San Lorenzo to Esmeraldas going through Borbón and the beginning of the side road to Playa de Oro. Selva Alegre is the small town along the Santiago River from which you take the boat ride to Playa de Oro. Bus transportation to Selva Alegre from Borbón is not very reliable.  Selva Alegre is close enough to the town of San   Lorenzo to make the hiring of a taxi or pickup truck a better choice.   A four wheel drive vehicle is not necessary, though a high clearance vehicle is recommended.

You can find more information about Playa de Oro community and its people at, or contact Tracy Wilson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reservations and plans need to be made as far in advance as possible before your visit.  This organization that helps with lodge reservations usually requires at least 2 weeks advance notice from visitors planning a stay. 

Tracy Wilson will give you necessary information about the place.   She will also give you times to arrive to meet the boat that will take you to Playa de Oro from Selva Alegre.  On the way to Reserva de Los Tigrillos, visitors will stop at the Playa de Oro village.   Here you will pay your entrance fee to the reserve, and have time to socialize for a while with the villagers.  It would be nice and greatly appreciated if you could take medicines and school materials to the village.  To find out the most needed materials or medicines needed in the village, ask Tracy Wilson at the time you make reservations. It is also important to know the proper person or persons to receive the items to be delivered.

Lodging is $50 US per night, per person.  This covers all meals, activities and jungle guide service.  There is no minimum night stay required. The only way in and out to the Playa de Oro lodge, via canoe is $50 USD per one way ride, regardless the number of occupants. The Reserve entrance fee is $10 per person, to help maintain their reserve and protect their borders from loggers and hunters. The entrance fee is to be paid separately to the president of the village along with the lodging and canoe fee. Playa de Oro will accept cash only, and bills in denominations of $20 or less.  Playa de Oro does NOT accept credit cards or travelers checks. You will pay the village president or treasurer upon your arrival.

Please note that the community speaks only Spanish, so you or someone in your traveling group needs to speak intermediate Spanish, at least, in order to communicate properly with the staff at Playa de Oro during your stay.

The Playa de Oro village used to have a few cabins where visitors stayed.  Since 2008 the cabins were closed due maintenance issues.   The Playa de Oro community operates the Reserva Los Tigrillos Lodge, which is a bit more than an hour upstream from the Playa the Oro village. The Tigrillos Lodge is a two story building with about 10 screened rooms.  There are mosquito nets over beds, two shared bathrooms, a kitchen and dining room facilities. The lodge will have a small crew appointed to help with the cleaning and meal preparation for your visit. You must take your own rubber boots for they are not provided at the lodge. Accommodations at the Los Tigrillos Lodge include comfortable bed, shared bathrooms and showers, soap, towels and well prepared meals featuring local cuisine.

You should plan to stay for at least 2-3 full days at the lodge so that you can have plenty time to explore and bird the forests surrounding the Tigrillos Reserve.



You can start your visit to Playa de Oro-Los Tigrillos Reserve after exploring the San Lorenzo area sites.   There are hotels in San Lorenzo, or at the nearby Tundaloma Lodge. 

You must start your journey to the Playa de Oro-Los Tigrillos Reserve beginning at the Ruta del Sol Highway, which is 1.4 km from Tundaloma Hotel entrance, or 16.8 km from San Lorenzo town respectively.

From the start of the “Ruta del Spondylus” highway, 0.0km. Drive south toward El Yalare reserve-Borbón-Esmeraldas city for 24.2 km crossing over the Santiago River.  At this point there is a side dirt road to the left.  

(Click here to download Map. Playa de Oro English).

Do not drive beyond the fork into Borbón.  After taking the side road on your left you will go through Eloy Alfaro at 4.3 km.  Another 11.2 km along the road, or 15.5 km from the highway, you will enter a small town.  Turn to the right heading toward Selva Alegre.  Go on for 3.2 km, or 18.7 km from the highway, to a yet another fork.  Here go on the main road ahead until passing through Selva Alegre town.  You will reach the Santiago River edge after 0.5 km, or 19.2 km from the highway.  The right hand road fork heads upstream towards Palma Real and a yet unfinished road (as of 2008) to Playa de Oro village.

The boat ride from Selva Alegre, on the Santiago River, to Playa de Oro takes about one and half hours, depending on the level and flow of the river.  Another half hour boat trip upstream will take you to the Tigrillos Reserve.  While moving upriver look for the rare Fasciated Tiger-Heron.

At Los Tigrillos you can bird the lodge surroundings, as many species can be seen from the lodge gardens itself.  These include Bat Falcon, Scaled Pigeon, Dusky Pigeon, Pallid Dove, Rose-faced Parrot, Bronzy Hermit, White-whiskered Hermit, Stripe-billed Araçari, Lita Woodpecker, Yellow-margined Flatbill, Lesser Greenlet, Blue Dacnis, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Golden-hooded Tanager, the ultra-rare Blue-whiskered Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager and Scarlet-breasted Dacnis.

In order to explore the various inside forest trails you will get the assistance of a local guide.

Right behind the Los Tigrillos Lodge trails enter the forest.  There is a trail that connects to the Playa the Oro village, a long way downstream.   The main trail goes to a water tank up a hill following a ridge and getting deeper into the forest.   This main trail also has a trail that leads to the left upstream.  This trail begins just before heading up the hill to the forest ridge.  The best two trails to bird are the trail upstream and the trail that follows the ridge top.

The forest on the ridge is a good place to look for Crested Guan, Great Jacamar, Five-colored Barbet and Golden-chested Tanager. There are many other birds along this trail but they can also be seen in other areas.

The first 500 meters along the main trail are good for Tawny-faced Quail, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Streak-chested Antpitta, Dagua Thrush and Lemon-spectacled Tanager.

The trail inside the forest heading upstream along the Santiago River eventually emerges onto the open river.  The staff will offer you a boat ride to return to the lodge. I suggest you bird on your way in and out.

This trail is mainly level, but the most interesting areas are located immediately after going into the forest at two small streams that cross the trail.  Here the Broad-billed Sapayoa and Green Manakin occur. A bit further along this trail there are a few territories for the Club-winged Manakin.  This is a very low elevation for this species.

Across the Santiago River, catching a boat in front of the lodge, there is yet another trail which is level for a while after the landing place.  It then climbs up onto a flatter area and continues on for approximately 2 km before descending back to the Santiago River further upstream.   Once again, I suggest walking your way in and out while birding.

The first part of this trail is good for Uniform Crake and Streak-chested Antpitta.   The upper and flatter area is good for Golden-chested Tanager.

Any of the small inside forest streams can be good for Berlepsch's Tinamou.   This is a rare species and here is your best chance to see it.   Walking slowly and listening up and down the streams is the best way to look for the bird.

Other specialties inside the forest include Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, White-whiskered Puffbird, Lita Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Western Woodhaunter, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Checker-throated Antwren, Spotted Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Stub-tailed Antbird, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Pacific Flatbill, Rufous Piha, Red-capped Manakin and Stripe-throated Wren.

If you are lucky enough to find a big antswarm, you should check for Bicolored Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, and with great good luck Rufous-crowned Antpitta and Banded Ground-Cuckoo.


Birds to look for

Playa de Oro-Los Tigrillos Reserve

Second-growth   (2G), Forest (F).

Common:  Mealy Amazon (F), Chocó   Trogon  (F),Stripe-billed   Araçari(2G, F),Chocó Toucan (2G,   F), Black-cheeked Woodpecker (2G, F), Western Slaty-Antshrike (2G, F), Checker-throated   Antwren (F), Dusky Antbird   (2G, F), Chestnut-backed Antbird (F), Chocó Tyrannulet(2G, F), Sooty-headed Tyrannulet (2G), Scale-crested   Pygmy-Tyrant (2G), Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (F) Boat-billed Flycatcher (2G, F), Rusty-margined Flycatcher (2G, F)   Cinnamon Becard (2G, F), White-bearded Manakin (2G), Bay Wren (2G, F), Dagua Thrush (F), Lesser   Greenlet (2G, F), Green Honeycreeper (2G, F), Blue Dacnis (2G, F), Yellow-tufted   Dacnis (2G, F), Lemon-rumped Tanager (2G, F), Thick-billed Euphonia(2G, F).

Uncommon: Gray-headed Kite (F), Double-toothed kite (2G, F),   Bat Falcon (F), Crested Guan (F), Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail (F), Tawny-faced Quail (F), Uniform   Crake (F) Scaled Pigeon   (F), Dusky Pigeon(F), Pallid   Dove(2G, F), Olive-backed Quail-Dove (F),   Rose-faced Parrot (F), Bronzy Hermit(2G, F), White-whiskered   Hermit (2G, F), Stripe-throated Hermit (2G, F), Purple-chested Hummingbird(2G, F), Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer (2G,   F), Purple-crowned Fairy (2G, F), Lita Woodpecker (2G, F), Cinnamon Woodpecker (F),   Guayaquil Woodpecker (2G, F), Orange-fronted Barbet(2G, F), Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (2G, F), Western White-tailed   Trogon (F), Great Jacamar  (F), White-necked   Puffbird (F), White-whiskered Puffbird (F), Pied Puffbird (2G, F), Western Woodhaunter (F), Black-striped   Woodcreeper(2G, F),   Spotted   Antbird (F), Immaculate Antbird (2G, F),Stub-tailed Antbird (2G, F), Bicolored Antbird (F), Ocellated Antbird (F), Streak-chested Antpitta (F),   Brown-capped Tyrannulet (F), Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant (2G),   Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher (2G, F),   Gray Elaenia (F),Yellow-margined Flatbill (2G), Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher (F), Pacific   Flatbill (F), Gray-capped   Flycatcher (2G), White-ringed Flycatcher   (F), Western Sirystes (F), Masked Tityra (2G, F), Rufous Piha (F), Purple-throated Fruitcrow (2G, F), Green Manakin (F), Red-capped Manakin (F), Broad-billed   Sapayoa (F), Tawny-faced Gnatwren (F), Buff-rumped Warbler (2G,   F), Stripe-throated   Wren (F), Red-legged Honeycreeper (2G, F), Golden-hooded   Tanager (2G, F), Rufous-winged Tanager (2G, F), Tawny-crested Tanager (2G, F), Dusky-faced   Tanager (2G, F), Gray-and-gold Tanager (2G, F), Scarlet-browed Tanager (2G, F),Lemon-spectacled Tanager  (F), White-vented Euphonia (2G, F),  Fulvous-vented Euphonia (2G, F).

Rare: Semiplumbeous Hawk (F), Plumbeous Forest-Falcon (F),   Banded   Ground-Cuckoo (F), Short-tailed Nighthawk (F), Blue-chested   Hummingbird (2G, F), Great Jacamar (F),   Five-colored Barbet (F), Rufous-crowned Antpitta (F) Black-tipped   Cotinga (2G,G), Blue Cotinga

( F), Club-winged Manakin (F), Blue-whiskered Tanager(2G, F), Golden-chested Tanager (F), Scarlet-thighed   Dacnis (2G, F), Scarlet-breasted Dacnis(2G, F), Slate-throated   Gnatcatcher (F).

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

All rights reserved. This web book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author and Jocotoco Foundation except for the use of brief quotations in a book review and to print the information for traveling in Ecuador purposes.

You may not mirror, modify or otherwise alter any files in this website for rebroadcast, print or distribute in anyway the information contained therein with commercial purposes , without written permission from the author. Except as expressly provided above.

Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


Jocotoco Foundation

  • Lizardo García E9-104 y Andrés Xaura,
  • Quito - Ecuador
  • Tel: +593 2 250-5212
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.