One of the best places to see the Andean Condor flying majestically, is the Cruz del Condor viewpoint in Peru. This viewpoint, also called Mirador Cruz del Condor is up high at the top of the Colca Canyon and these huge birds fly really close by!
Andean Condor Flying High
So I know what you’re thinking, birds? Meh. But this isn’t just any bird. The Andean Condor is one of the world’s largest flying birds.
I actually started to write all about how it was the largest, which is of course what they tell you, but it’s apparently debatable. There’s another big-boned flyer named the Kori Bustard, which might be the largest.
Anyway, who cares about superlatives, these birds are huge. And majestic. And totally worth seeing.
Mirador Cruz Del Condor
To get to the mirador, the best way is to spend the night in Chivay and head out the next morning.
The condors are most active around 10 am so either you’re going to be waking up painful early in Arequipa or you go the day before and spend the night in nearby Chivay.
We went there on a 2 day Colca canyon tour – the one without hiking, where we saw quite a few other sights.
When you get there, most people crowd near the topmost viewpoint, but there are multiple spots, just go down the hill to the next viewpoint for a bit more space.
Here’s a view of the second viewpoint from the first, it’s about a 6-7 minute walk down. It’s beautiful from here so definitely grab a few shots.
Shooting the Condors
So, it’s quite crowded as you wait to see them and it can be a little frustrating. I just kinda waited until I got a spot at the ledge and then I was just patient for a long time.
People would keep getting impatient and moving to another viewpoint but it’s probably best to find a spot and just wait until the birds show up.
And get ready because when you do see the condors, it is HARD to focus on them. I mean, on the one hand, they are close which is wonderful to watch. On the other hand, that means they zoom by fast and it’s really hard to focus on them.
It’s a good idea to learn about any focus tracking feature that your camera has.
There’s two kinds of focus that are kind of dynamic – one is focus tracking and the other is continuous AF.
Types of Focus
Focus tracking – maintains focus on an object moving within the frame.
Continuous Autofocus – maintains focus on a specific location in the frame, but not necessarily a specific object.
To read more about focusing, you can check out this article.
With a flying bird of course you need the former. Then when it’s flying toward you, you can lock focus and hope it keeps tracking as you shoot.
When I first tried tracking focus, I tried it on birds with busy cliff side not so far behind, in the background, and it did not work well. This was the one usable shot I got but you can see how it would be hard to separate the bird from this background.
It seemed to work a good deal better when the bird was clearly defined against further back mountains. The camera seemed to be able to distinguish between the bird and the background in this case.
It kind of depends on the tracking technology that your camera is using for autofocus.
It’s a good idea to turn on high speed continuous shots for this as well. Get several shots and later you can pick the best frame.
I liked this one against the craggy Andes, because the framing works nicely and the colors of the background add to the image.
If you want close-ups, I found it’s just too hard to zoom in and focus as your own handshake and movement comes into play. Instead, just shoot the bird and crop later to zoom in.
It’s probably the best way to keep the bird in focus and close up.
Incredible Colca Canyon
In between the shots, don’t forget to look around and see the unique flora around you. This awesome white flower was huge and beautiful – no idea what it is but thought it was gorgeous.
Also be sure to get some photos of the incredible canyon as well. It’s twice as deep as the grand canyon in places and the colors of the rocks make for some great shots.
For more great places to shoot around here, check out my whole post on the Colca Canyon Tour.