Going on safari in Colombia? You would have never imagined it. However, it is possible to go on a safari in Colombia and it is an incredible experience that you should live once in your lifetime. You will not see lions, zebras or giraffes —at least not native—, but native wildlife will impress you quite as much.
There are a few places where you can have a real safari experience in Colombia. You will find about them in this post.
Safari in the Orinoquia
East of the Andes mountain range, vast savannas cover the ground with green from Colombia’s Orinoco region to Venezuelan territory.
In Colombia, Los Llanos Orientales (the Eastern Plains) comprehend the departments of Arauca, Casanare, Vichada and Meta; however, they extend in some parts to Caquetá, Guainia and Guaviare.
Representing almost a third of the Colombian territory, they are highly uninhabited and most of the population lives in Villavicencio, the largest city of the region.
Los Llanos in Colombia are not a massive tourist destination, even though they boast an unparalleled natural beauty. The importance of the region lies in its aptitude for extensive livestock production and agriculture, besides oil extraction.
Usually the first city to visit is Villavicencio, which is 3 hours by road -or 1-hour flight- away from Bogota. However, for going on safari, your best option will be Yopal.
Flights from Bogota take 1 hour and the trip by road takes about 7 hours. The weather in the region is warm and there are only two seasons: rain and dry season.
Next, you will find about the two departments of Los Llanos with the greatest potential for going on safari: Casanare and Meta.
Casanare is on the eastern part of Colombia and is over 44,000 km2, which corresponds to 4% of the national territory. Most of Casanare has flood plains and marshlands, which are an important biodiversity reservoir, due to its level of fauna and flora species.
Here you can find 3 reserves for going on safari in Colombia.
4 hours northeast of Yopal in a 4×4, the capital of Casanare department, Hato La Aurora offers the best safari experience in Colombia. 42,000 capybaras, 2,500 deer, 350 bird species and more wildlife. This is the presentation card of La Aurora, located in the town Hato Corozal.
The llanero Armando Barragan built his ranch of 16,000 hectares on the riverbanks of the Ariporo river, then he turned it into a Civil Society Natural Reserve. The reserve has an eco-lodge called Juan Solito that offers accommodation in rooms, cabins or hammocks.
All include 3 meals and the option of hiking. Sustainability principles are well adopted here, since they promote the conservation of the environment having a low-impact service that goes hand in hand with the local community, to offer tourists the experience of connecting with the culture and nature.
At Juan Solito, you can do guided hikes, go fishing or horseback riding. However, the main attraction is, of course, the Safari Llanero.
Going on safari in La Aurora means witnessing capybaras, white-tailed deer, spectacled caimans, wild horses, cattle, iguanas, anacondas, birds such as the Orinoco goose, herons, the Double-striped Thick-knee, the Jabiru, owls, varieties of Ibis, including the Scarlet Ibis, and much more.
Jaguars and cougars also inhabit the reserve, but they are difficult to spot. You can also observe how the llaneros tradition of herding cattle while singing folklore songs to the rhythm of guitars, harps and maracas. The safari day ends with a breathtaking sunset of yellow, orange and pink hues.
El Encanto de Guanapalo is a bit closer to Yopal, 110 km east. It has around 9,000 hectares of reserve consisting of 3 ranchs —Hato Mata de Palma, Hato Altamira and Hato Montana.
Whether you choose touring the area on horseback or by tractor or 4×4, this 5-hour experience lets you photograph mammals such as capybaras, deer, spectacled caimans, wild horses, giant anteaters, southern tamanduas, scarlet ibis, iguanas, ducks, howler monkeys, owls, armadillos, red-footed tortoise, foxes, wild pigs, pumas, hundreds of bird species and, of course, cattle.
This is a great llanero experience that you can book with us here.
Reservas de Altagracia is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), located in Trinidad – Casanare, suitable for a safari experience in Colombia.
From here, you can get to the Buenaventura and Lagunazo lagoon natural reserves, Yatea canyon and other Civil Society Natural Reserves, where you can observe deer herds, otters, howler monkeys and giant anteaters.
Also, it hosts about 142 bird species, including 31% of the world population of Orinoco goose and 1% of the hemispherical population of Large-billed tern and Buff-breasted sandpiper. This is also a perfect place to enjoy the sunrise and sunset landscapes.
Meta is one of the departments in central Colombia with an extension of 85,000 km2. Because of its fertile soil, it is a major agricultural producer, providing Bogota with 48% of its food demand.
Its economy also depends on hydrocarbons exploitation and extensive livestock production. 80% of its territory is plains, but it has highlands such as Paramo de Sumapaz and Sierra de la Macarena. You can have a safari experience in Meta.
Lagos de Menegua is a hotel and Civil Society Natural Reserve located in the municipality of Puerto Lopez, Meta, about 3 hours from Bogota.
The hotel can accommodate up to 100 people in 24 rooms and has a ‘slow food’ restaurant which uses local ingredients, a pool, a game room and a garden where you can sow your own plant!
As for the natural reserve, it is 1,000 hectares and is home to over 800 animal species, including mammals, fish, reptiles and birds.
On a safari around the place, you can see capybaras, cougars, caimans, lizards and yamú fish. You will get to know every corner of the property, including Lago del Silencio and other lakes, while riding a jeep through highlands and forests.
A safari along the Meta river is also offered, this is in Puerto Gaitan, where the Manacacias and Yucao rivers flow into the Meta river and create a fauna sanctuary that hosts monkeys, turtles, otters, reptiles and river dolphins.
Lagos de Menegua has worked with Cormacarena to return more than 200 animals to their natural habitat ensuring their safety. You can also go horseback riding, hiking, fishing and birdwatching.
In another municipality of Meta, Puerto Gaitan -actually 1.5 hours from there, lies Finca Hotel Mururito Reserva Natural, a biodiversity reservoir of 2,000 hectares for wildlife conservation and ecotourism, along the Manacacias river.
Forests, canyons, lagoons, savannas, estuaries and highlands shape the natural reserve. At Mururito, you can see many species from the Llanos including the giant anteater, giant otter, ocelot, cougar, jaguarundi, South American tapir, giant armadillo, collared peccary, white-tailed deer, red brocket, lowland paca, red squirrel among others. It is a truly safari experience.
Birds and butterflies are attracted by the orchids and fruit trees garden. You can engage in many activities such as horse rides, hikes through the primary forest, fishing at the lakes, bike tours, learning about beehives, participating in the farm routine and enjoying the gorgeous llanero sunsets.
Safari in the Amazon
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, shared by Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, Suriname, and Bolivia.
The Amazon region in Colombia, south of the country is over 470,000 km2 and has both plains and highlands. This region keeps a great biodiversity and cultural richness, since several indigenous communities preserve ancient traditions that cherish mother nature.
When you travel to the Colombian Amazon, you usually get to the capital Leticia, located on the Colombian border with Brazil and Peru, which allows an enriching cultural exchange.
From there, you can embark on the adventurous Amazon safari experience, which is different from any other safari. You won’t be riding a jeep or a horse, but in a boat or by foot, exploring the lush jungle that surrounds the mighty Amazon river.
You will feel lucky to see so many monkeys, caimans, anacondas, birds and, perhaps, the river pink dolphins, who were believed to be a young indigenous warrior, whom a god decided to turn into an animal, since he envied the man’s skills.
Safari in Antioquia
Believe it or not, you can go on safari in Antioquia, home of the spring city Medellin and pretty villages such as Jardin and Jerico. This is possible in Hacienda Napoles Theme Park, a 1,600 hectare park which was formerly owned by the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar.
After the disarticulation of the Cartel de Medellin, the premises were acquired by the Colombian state, turned into a tourism attraction and are currently managed by a private entity and a non-profit organization.
With some of the animals brought to the country in the late 70s, a fauna sanctuary was created and now works as a reserve for their preservation.
On the safari, you can see ostriches, zebras, zonkeys, blackbucks, crocodiles, a monkey island, meerkats, capybaras, hippopotamus, elephants and felines such as lions, tigers and jaguars.
The safari can be paired with the water attractions, the butterfly farm, a journey to the past in the Jurassic park, the bird, African and memorial museum.
Colombia is blessed with incredible wildlife and no tourists can visit the country without going on safari. Whether it is in Los Llanos, the Amazon or the Napoles theme park, there is a wildlife tour for every adventurous traveler.
About the author
Ana María Parra
Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content. Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.