The Gateway to the Colombian Amazon: Putumayo

Putumayo is one of the most beautiful and promising post-conflict scenarios to enjoy nature tourism.  has a perfect harmony between the rainforest and the Andes mountain range. In the south of the department is the city of Villagarzon where rivers begin to take the shape of a snake along with flat green landscapes; in the west of the capital, Mocoa, is the Sibundoy Valley.

Putumayo has an incredibly high biodiversity, it offers you the opportunity to meet species such as parrots, toucans, monkeys, tapirs, capivaras, tigers, panthers, spectacled bear and a great variety of birds. This is because its territory occupies a Andean – Amazon Piedmont, and numerous rivers.

Mocoa

Mocoa is Putumayo’s Capital City. It is a city that offers a combination of jungle walks, waterfalls, ecotourism, adventure sports, ancestral wellness, bird watching and Amazonian fauna.

What to visit staying in Mocoa?

Fin del Mundo Waterfall

It is one of the main tourist attractions in Mocoa. The waterfall is located in the Dantayaco stream and has a drop height of 70 meters forming two beautiful natural pools.

To get there you must hike up the mountain for 1.5 – hours, and when you are at this point apart from taking beautiful pictures you can do water activities such as canyoning.

Mandiyaco Cañon

Located at km 25 of the road that leads from Mocoa to Pitalito very close to the Caqueta river. This natural wonder is a rock formation of volcanic origin, called “Mandiyaco” in the Inga language.

The rock formations that can be observed are possible to see different faces like the lion, the tiger’s claws, the nose of the bear, among other figures, in this wonderful place full of positive energy where you can take a boat ride.

Suruma Park

This reserve and preservation center of the Amazonian flora and fauna is located 8.3 km from Mocoa, has an area of 131.6 hectares of which 90% is forest.

There you will be able to take tours to learn more about the flora and fauna found in the Amazon as well as gain knowledge of the species that are endangered and those that are already in recovery.

Paway Butterfly Farm

If you want to learn about the evolutionary process of butterflies, this place is ideal for you. It is located 7.7 km from Mocoa; there you will be surrounded by nature and many species of butterflies.

In addition the butterfly farm offers you the opportunity to stay in a cabin built in a Ceiba “sacred tree”, you can spend a night surrounded by nature and wake up with the original sounds of the Amazon rainforest.

Hornoyaco Waterfall

To get to this beautiful waterfall of 55 m of fall you must make a 2 hour walk from the center of Mocoa. It is known because its inhabitants say that the guardian of this waterfall is the rainbow, since most of the time when the rainbow appears you can see how it surrounds the waterfall. It is a place of tranquility and peace where you can spend a wonderful afternoon.

Licamancha Caves

In Putumayo it is also possible to do caving activities, in the limits between the departments of Putumayo and Cauca on the banks of the Caqueta River is the access point to the caverns; it is advisable not to visit in rainy seasons due to the risks that can be run by the increase of the current of the river.

During the one hour tour it is possible to appreciate paleontological vestiges of more than millions of years old, besides walking through internal halls inside the cavern of 15 meters high.

At the moment it is an area that is in constant investigation for the discovery of more caverns or internal tours inside the already known ones.

El Salto del Indio

In the Kuriyaku ravine (in the indigenous language of the sector means “golden water”) just 19 km from Mocoa it is possible to find this natural wonder. It is formed by 2 waterfalls where a natural pool of emerald green water is generated.

Thanks to the fact that the inhabitants of the cabildo Tigre Playa offer the service of canoe to cross the river, the hiking time was reduced from 1 hour to 20 minutes, so now you will have more time to enjoy this natural wonder.

Donde se Oculta el Sol waterfalls (where the sun hides)

Located 22 km from Mocoa, when you arrive at the indicated point you will hike 2 km to reach the waterfalls that are formed in the Sardinas Creek; the waterfall “Mohano” (in indigenous language “Jaguar Man”) has 18 m of fall and the waterfall “Wakana” (in indigenous language “Llanto de la Mona”) has 17 m of fall.

Between the two waterfalls it is necessary to cross a stone bridge and a stone tunnel that connects the two waterfalls.

There you will be able to go bird watching, there is a camping area or if you prefer rural lodging.

How to arrive to Mocoa?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Where to stay in Mocoa?

In Mocoa you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • Posada Turistica Dantayaco

Orito

It is located in the Amazonian foothills, there you will be able to meet and have contact with the Kofan indigenous community, you can acquire knowledge of the ancestral wisdom of the hand of them, also you will be able to know the Pijili River, noted for its emerald green waters.

What to visit in Orito?

Isla Escondida Nature Reserve

There are about 25 kms of walking trails in and around the reserve. Apart from the trails there are many tracks for walking and exploring!

The reserve has more than 350 bird species, with many range-restricted species. Among the main targets are the  Nocturnal Curassow (Nothocrax urumutum), Salvin’s Curassow, Chestnut-headed Crake, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Napo Screech-owl, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Pavonine Quetzal, Collared Puffbird, Spot-winged and Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Fulvous Antshrike, Hairy-crested Antbird, Spectacled Bristle-tyrant, Foothill Elaenia, Black-&-white and Golden-winged Tody-flycatcher, Grey-tailed Piha, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Foothill Schiffornis, Musician Wren and Fulvous Shrike-Tanager.

There are registers of  jaguar, margay, trumpeters, deer, opossums, nocturnal curassows, kinkajous (Potus flavus), olingos (Bassaricyon alleni), pacas (Cuniculus paca), night monkeys (Aotus), band-bellied Owls (Pulsatrix melanota), etc.

Maloka Oso Kofan

It is a meeting center of the Kofan indigenous community, the name of this Maloka is due to the fact that the Taita Oso Kofan is located there; also if you visit the department in January you can have the opportunity to participate in the annual camp where the indigenous community offers visitors the Amazonian ancestral knowledge along with the Yage ceremony supervised by members of the indigenous community.

Ma&Ju Ecotourism Center

In Ma&Ju you will learn about the agricultural processes of planting and harvesting of pepper and cocoa that takes place in the department. You can also do activities such as Canopy and walk on Tibetan bridges over the jungle.

If you wish to spend the night in this center there is a camping area or private cabins in the middle of the jungle.

Corunta Ecotourism Center

In the center you will be able to enjoy a private waterfall, La Silvania, you can also go horseback riding in the middle of the jungle, enjoy a natural pool and take tours in rural areas and have contact with the farmers of the sector.

Pijili Stone

It is a huge stone located in the flow of the Pijili River, is one of the most visited resorts for the majesty of the stone along with the tranquility and beautiful scenery offered by this river.

How to get to Orito?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 3-hours ride (118 Km) to Orito.

Puerto Asis

It is the municipality with the largest population of the department, besides being known as the commercial capital of Putumayo due to the development of commercial activities of great importance for the economic development of the department.

Moreover, Puerto Asis was the national center in the development of the Colombian-Peruvian war or known as “the conflict of Leticia” between 1932-1933.

What to visit in Puerto Isis?

La Esmeralda Pier

This important dock is the place where all the boats connect with Puerto Leguizamo, being one of the most important fluvial connection points of the department. You can also take a tour through the Putumayo River where you will be able to appreciate the immensity and enjoy the scenery during the tour.

Playa Rica Village

During your journey through the Putumayo River you can enter this magical trail where you can do bird watching, appreciate various species of the jungle in this part of the country and learn about Amazonian fruits.

How to get to Puerto Asis?

Bogota – Mocoa – Puerto Asis

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city. Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 2-hours ride (87 Km) to Puerto Asís.

Bogotá- Puerto Asís

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Tres de Mayo Airport (PUU) at Puerto Asís city. Keep in mind that the airlines that fly to Puerto Asis are: EasyFly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and Satena (Sunday through Friday).

Puerto Leguizamo

It is called the exotic garden of the universe, as it is surrounded by the Amazon jungle, the Putumayo River and has borders with Ecuador and Peru. Formerly known as Caucayá, since it was the name it received when it was founded in 1920 and in 1950 it received its current name.

What to visit in Puerto Leguizamo?

El Guardian de la Selva (The Guardian of the Forest)

A magical ceiba tree 60 meters high and 40 centimeters in diameter. The inhabitants of the sector consider it to be the grandfather tree, being the sacred tree that is full of positive energy and is raising requests to heaven.

Caucayá River

It is located at the entrance to the Amazon, from here you will be able to observe the pink dolphin, river otters, different species of birds and Amazonian monkeys.

Laguna Azul

It is a body of water located in the deepest point of Puerto Leguizamo, it is said that its waters are healing, also rituals of cleansing and purification of the body and spirit are performed there.

La Argelia Fish Farming Station

In this station you will meet and feed the Amazonian fish Pirarocu, one of the largest freshwater fish and can measure up to 3 meters, this experience is possible with the support of the inhabitants of the sector.

How to get to Puerto Leguizamo?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Caucayá Airport (LQM) at Puerto Leguizamo city.

Keep in mind that the only airline that operates to this airport is Satena on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Villagarzon

It is part of the Amazonian Piedemonte region, surrounded by the rivers San Juan, Conejo, San Vicente and Guineo, is 15 minutes from Mocoa; it is also known as the heart of Putumayo for being one of the most diverse areas of the department.

What to visit in Villagarzon?

El Escondite Natural Reserve

It is a Private Natural Reserve, which has a protected area of approximately 124 hectares, of which 70% is in natural regeneration or in a state of conservation located in the village of La Joya. Here you can go bird watching, as it has a record of 299 species of birds, you can also observe frogs and insects and primates.

Kayaking on the Guineo River

You can do this activity surrounded by a landscape of Amazon jungle and pure waters that invite us to have fun and connect with mother earth.

Rio Vides Archaeological Park

In the park you can observe stones with petroglyphs that show motifs of stars, plants and animals and other classified carved by indigenous ancestors.

How to get to Villagarzon?

Bogota – Mocoa – Villagarzon

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city. Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 30 – minutes ride (17 Km) to Villagarzón.

Where to stay in Villagarzon?

In Villagarzón you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • El Escondite.

Sibundoy Valley

It is one of the cultural epicenters of Putumayo, with the presence of the indigenous cultures Kamentsá (men from here) and Ingas (close), unique in the world.

The inhabitants of the sector say that the missionaries arrived there during the colonial period, leaving numerous educational centers of great importance for the region.

What to visit in Sibundoy Valley?

The Interculturality Park

Known as the meeting point for the inhabitants of the municipality, it is adorned with eight sculptures made of wood by the indigenous communities, being an ideal place to spend the afternoon and visit the headquarters of the Municipal Administration.

Ambiaku Tourist Center / Colón Hot Springs Center

Termas Colón is a place where you can visit during the day or at night; you can experience shock therapies between hot and cold water, you can also have an outdoor mud therapy.

Ayen Botanical Garden

The place is ideal to learn about medicinal plants; you can also participate in harmonization or cleansing activities through the taita Juan, you can also participate in a yage ceremony with a previous reservation.

Villa Beatriz Viewpoint

From this wonderful viewpoint you will be able to watch birds and hummingbirds, besides having a panoramic view of the immense and magical valley of Sibundoy.

How to get to Sibundoy?

Bogota – Mocoa – Sibundoy

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 3,5-hours ride (81 Km) to Sibunday.

If you want to know more about Colombia, or wants to book your trip, please contact us.

References
About the author

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Discovering Amacayacu National Natural Park in the Colombian Amazon

Welcome to the land of river dolphins, manatees, anacondas, and the smallest primate in the world: the Amacayacu National Natural Park. The protected forest is home to more than 5,000 species of plants, as well as being the region with the greatest diversity of primates on the planet.

It is the habitat of the Pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea) the smallest primate in the new world, the largest water lily in the world (Victoria amazonica), the giant silvery-blue butterfly Menelaus blue morpho (Morpho menelaus), and hundreds of more species.

Discovering Amacayacu National Natural Park

Amacayacu National Natural Park protects a strip of jungle in southeastern Colombia in the Amazonas department. This protected area represents 40% of the Amazonian Trapezoid and has a funnel shape, with a total area of 2,935 km².

Amacayacu National Natural Park currently belongs to the municipalities of Leticia, Puerto Nariño, and Tarapacá, in the Amazonas department. The park aims to preserve the most representative samples of tropical rainforest landscapes, flora, and fauna species present in the Amazonian Trapezoid.

Additionally, within the depths of this natural Park located southeast of Puerto Nariño, there are indigenous settlements from the Tikuna ethnicity.

Through the jungle, you will explore swamps, marshes, madre-viejas, and river systems representative of the Amazon rainforest. You will also learn about the Tikuna culture with the help of the guides in the park.

Sunset at the Amazon River

A Little bit of the Tikuna’s History

Between 1630-40, the Cristian missionaries Cristobal de Acuña and Laureano de la Cruz recorded the first registers about the Tikuna natives. The Tikunas were described by them as semi-nomadic people, they avoid contact with foreigners by moving their settlement to inter-fluvial areas within the Amazon jungle.

In the middle of the XVIII century, Tikuna natives were forced to labor during the incursions of the Portuguese colonists who came from Brazil.

At the end of the 19th century, the Tikunas have their own exclusive territory until now. It extends from the Atacuari River up to the current city of Fonte Boa, extending between the bordering countries (Peru and Brazil).

The Role of Community-based Tourism in Amacayacu Park

Most of the human groups present in the park’s area and its zone of influence belong to the Tikuna ethnic group, which is present in Brazil and Colombia. There are also Yagua and Cocama ethnicities, although in smaller numbers, and nowadays, mestizo families.

Indigenous traditions, including the Tikuna, have been strongly affected by the destructive intensity of the gold, rubber, fur, timber, drug trafficking, and mining fevers. All this brought disease, violence, and slavery, among many other situations, detrimental to the local ecosystems and the local people.

Today, indigenous communities look for a balance between traditional and modern life. For this reason, the main subsistence activities for the Tikunas are fishing, agriculture, hunting, ecotourism, handicrafts, research, and monitoring of their natural resources.

Amacayacu Park works together with the local Tikuna community to make community-based ecotourism the best strategy towards sustainability and to counteract the natural resource extraction activities.

How to get to Amacayacu National Natural Park

Firstly you must flight to Leticia, the capital of the Amazonas department in Colombia. The most popular route is from Bogota with Avianca, LATAM, and Satena airlines.

The flight takes a 1,5-hours flight from Bogotá to General Alfredo Vásquez Cobo International Airport (LET) at Leticia city.

Once at the airport, you have to go to Leticia Fluvial Port, an approximately 30- minutes ride. Once at the Port you should take an extra 1,5 hours boat ride to Puerto Nariño.

The schedule offered by the 3 companies providing services begins at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, and 1:30 pm. For the return, the schedule starts at 7:30 am, 11:00 am, and 3:30 pm.

It is possible to book your own schedule by hiring private operators, but costs may increase with respect to the already established schedules.

What to do in Amacayacu National Natural Park

The park is currently closed to the public due to the Pandemic situation. The indigenous people of Mocagua and San Martin offer the following activities:

Hiking

There are four different trails: Las Chagras, Selva, Acuaticos and Miquiando.

  • Chagras Trail: On the trail, you can appreciate the crops used by locals and production techniques.
  • Selva (Jungle) Trail: A tour through the Amazon jungle to appreciate the most diverse number of Amazon’s plants and animals, such as primates, mammals, and a great variety of birds.
  • Aquatic (Aquatic) Trail: Diurnal or nocturals tours that cross the Amacayacu River and the Matamata Creek. In these tours, you can appreciate the different aquatic mammals such as the so-called pink dolphins or Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis).
  • Miquiando (Monkey) Trail: In the Mocagua indigenous reserve, the Maikuchiga Foundation offers a tour where you can learn about the 9 species of primates present in this part of the Amazonian trapeze. In the foundation, there are specimens that have been rescued from illegal trafficking.

Birdwatching

More than 468 birds have been registered in the Amacayacu park, representing almost a third of the country’s bird population. Among the most outstanding birds are the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), Wattled curassow (Crax globulosa), Razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum), and Grey-winged Trumpeter (Psophia crepitans capensis).

Wildlife tours

Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), also known as the boto, bufeo or pink river dolphin

More than 150 different kinds of mammals have been recorded to inhabit this area. Three of the four species of freshwater aquatic mammals existing in Colombia can be found in the park:

Other interesting animals include:

  • Pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea)
  • Brown woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha)
  • Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
  • Matamata turtle (Chelus fimbriata)

Where to stay in Amacayacu National Natural Park

Currently, the Amacayacu Natural National Park does not offer accommodation for travelers due to its closure. You can stay in Leticia or in Puerto Nariño. We recommend you to stay in La Ceiba and Decameron Decalodge Ticuna in Leticia, Cabañas Maikü Selva in Puerto Nariño.

Best time to visit Amacayacu National Natural Park

Amacayacu can be visited all year round, there is no dry season but July is the month with the least amount of rainfall and a temperature of 26º C (97 ºF).

Amacayacu National Natural Park Entrance fees

The park is currently closed, so there is no entrance fee. Possible costs vary depending on the services provided in Mocagua and San Martin.

What to Consider Before Visiting Amacayacu National Natural Park

  • To take any of the tours inside the park you must hire an authorized and certified guide.
  • Consider wearing personal protective items (sunscreen, sunglasses, towel, insect repellent, and hat).
  • Use binoculars to watch animals’ behavior.
  • Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
  • Be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you in a personal first aid kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

References
  • Colparques
  • SINAP
  • Colombia travel
About the authors

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Best Amazon River Dolphin Spots in Colombia ( A.k.a. Pink River Dolphin)

Dolphins are undoubtedly wonderful creatures, worthy of our affection and wonder. That is why many of us want to meet them in person. Moreover, true river dolphins, commonly known as the Amazon River Dolphin, the Pink River Dolphin, Tonina, or Boto, are much more attractive, mysterious, and charismatic. They are among the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates in the world.

In this post, we will present you where to see the Amazon River Dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) or as many people call them, the pink dolphins, in Colombia.

Pink dolphin – Inia geoffrensis, picture by Fundacion Omacha

Amazon River Dolphin Facts

  1. The Amazon River Dolphin is the largest freshwater cetacean in the world, it manages to reach lengths of up to 2.80 meters long and a maximum weight of 200 kilograms.
  2. Its color varies depending on age, young dolphins and females show grayish colors while adults, and principally the males, turn pink, which gives them their characteristic name.
  3. There are many theories to explain its color, but many agree it is a result of the wear and tear of their skin, and some scars.
  4. Scientists discovered that river dolphins come from a very ancient lineage that inhabited the seas.
  5. Its behavior is very different from sea dolphins. They use to have a solitary life, sometimes in small groups composed of a maximum of four members.
  6. Their food consists of crabs, river turtles, piranhas, and other river fish.
  7. The pink dolphin is part of the folklore of the inhabitants of the Amazon and there are many legends and myths around this animal.

Myths and Legends around the Pink Dolphin

These legends generally attribute supernatural powers to the dolphins. One of the most famous legends tells that the pink dolphin was a young and very handsome indigenous warrior who awoke the envy of one of the gods for his masculine attributes.

This god decided to transform the warrior into a dolphin, condemning him to live in the rivers and lakes of the Amazon. It is said that the attractive dolphin dances perfectly and no woman can flee before his charms.

Pink Dolphins are Endangered Species

According to the classification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Amazon river dolphin is endangered, with only one category below the risk of extinction.

People kill them on behalf of their cultural traditions, or because they are competitors for fish. Other threats faced by the pink dolphin include accidental fishing, habitat loss, being killed for fish bait, and contamination.

With scientific research and responsible tourism, many people became aware of the importance of the conservation of these animals. In Colombia, NGOs as OMACHA and ECONARE are doing a great job to protect and conserve these animals.

Where You Can Find the Pink River Dolphin

These dolphins are widely distributed in South America and can be found in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Scientists have not agreed on how many subspecies of pink dolphin exist, but certainly, they are not similar among the different regions. The IUCN recognizes three subspecies:

  • I. g. geoffrensis (Amazon river dolphin)
  • I. g. boliviensis (Bolivian river dolphin)
  • I. g. humboldtiana (Orinoco river dolphin)

While the Committee on Taxonomy of the Society for Marine Mammalogy only recognizes the first two of these.

Distribution map of all known species and subspecies of Inia. Black outline denotes the limit of the Amazon basin. Question marks denote uncertainty as to which species occurs in the Tocantins River downstream of the Tucuruí dam which potentially delimits the distributions of I. geoffrensis and I. araguaiaensis sp. nov. Bars on the Madeira River represent a series of rapids that delimit the distribution of I. geoffrensis and I. boliviensis. The single bar on the northern limit of the Amazon basin represents the Casiquiare canal which connects the Amazon and Orinoco basins, and is thought to delimit the I. g. humboldtiana subspecies from I. g. geoffrensis.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083623.g001

To see how little is known about the pink dolphin, a relatively recent scientific study proposes a new species living in southeastern Brazil, the Inia araguaiaensis. They even propose the Bolivian subspecies should be recognized as a separate species, I. boliviensis. Take a look at the map above.

Where to See Pink River Dolphins in Colombia

Many people who contact us wanting to plan their trip to see the pink dolphin believe that it is only possible to see it in Leticia, the capital of the department of Amazonas in Colombia.

However, the Amazon as a region encompasses many more departments, not only the Amazon but also Vaupes, Guainia, Guaviare, Caqueta, and Putumayo.

On the other hand, all these departments are connected by a dense network of rivers and canals that run not only through Colombia, but all neighboring countries. And this is how the pink river dolphin manages to expand throughout the region.

Map of distribution of Inia geoffrensis in Colombia. ©Trujillo, F., Crespo, E., Van Damme, P.A. & J.S. Usma (Editors). 2010. The Action Plan for South American River Dolphins 2010 – 2020. WWF, Fundación Omacha, WDS, WDCS, Solamac. Bogotá, D.C., Colombia. 249 pp.

Thus, the pink river dolphin is not only distributed throughout the Colombian Amazon region but also reaches the eastern plains and the Guyanese shield, in the departments of  Amazonas, Putumayo, Caqueta, Vaupes, Guaviare, Guainia, Vichada, Meta, Casanare, and Arauca. Take a look at the map above to find your way around.

Despite its wide distribution, you can only visit a few places to meet the pink dolphin in Colombia.

Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), also known as the boto, bufeo or pink river dolphin, Puerto Nariño

Amazonas

You can visit Leticia and Puerto Nariño on short boat trips along the Amazon river. However, we recommend you go to Puerto Nariño.

Puerto Nariño

The city of Puerto Nariño is the destination to see the river pink dolphins in the department of Amazonas. Here you have to navigate the Correo and Tarapoto lakes to see the wonderful pink dolphins up close.

Zacambu and the Three Frontiers

You can also depart from Leticia on a river tour on the majestic Amazon River. It is a tour towards the Zacambu village and the three frontiers region.

During the navigation through the river, you will be able to appreciate the flooded jungle. Arriving at the border with Peru, you will find Islandia (Peru), known as the Venice of the Amazon. This is a town that floods periodically, and that is why its houses are elevated as well as its streets. Once in the lakes of Zacambu, it will be possible to see river dolphins.

Where to Stay

Waira Suites Hotel – Leticia

Vichada

The department of Vichada is a known destination for sportfishing. However, it is also possible to go there and see the pink river dolphin. There the Meta, Bita, and Orinoco rivers converge, and there are tours in a boat to watch the pink dolphin departing from Puerto Carreno, the main city of Vichada.

Where to Stay

Carreño Plaza Hotel – Puerto Carreno

Meta

The “Ruta del Amanecer llanero” is the best way to see the pink dolphins in Meta. Visit our entry #1 Llanos Experience near Bogotá: The Llanero Dawn Route in Meta, to know more about this route.

The city of Puerto Gaitán, located 194 km south of Villavicencio, is bathed by the waters of the Manacacías river. Boat tours to watch the dolphins are an almost every day offer.

Puerto Gaitan is the most recommended destination if you do not have enough time to travel to far destinations such as Leticia, or Puerto Carreno. It is also the nearest to Bogota, the capital city of Colombia.

Where to Stay

Lagos de Menegua Hotel and Bioreserve

Mururito Natural Reserve

Guaviare

In the Nare Lagoon, very close to the city of San Jose del Guaviare, pink dolphins live and you will have the opportunity to swim with them.

There, with the help of local guides, you will learn the story of how they got there. You can also observe different species of fauna and flora throughout the tour.

With this trip, you will be directly helping the families that are part of ECONARE. Econare is a local association of community-based tourism in charge of preserving the nature of the area and the safety of the dolphins that inhabit the lagoon. You will also help all those people who make it possible for you to live these experiences.

Where to Stay

Quinto Nivel Hotel

How is a Pink Dolphin Tour?

Dolphins can only be observed from a certain distance on wooden platforms or in boats. Sportfishing adjacent to their hunting areas is prohibited and along with this, feeding them is forbidden as it would cause human dependence.

Best Time to Visit the Pink Dolphin

All year round in Colombia, especially in Guaviare and Meta.

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines before arrival.
  • Do not forget the mosquito repellent, it is highly recommended.
  • Rubber boots, raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
  • OMACHA Foundation.
  • Hrbek T, da Silva VMF, Dutra N, Gravena W, Martin AR, Farias IP (2014) A New Species of River Dolphin from Brazil or: How Little Do We Know Our Biodiversity. PLoS ONE 9(1): e83623.
  • Trujillo, F., Crespo, E., Van Damme, P.A. & J.S. Usma (Editors). 2010. The Action Plan for South American River Dolphins 2010 – 2020. WWF, Fundación Omacha, WDS, WDCS, Solamac. Bogotá, D.C., Colombia. 249 pp.
  • Status and conservation of river dolphins Inia geoffrensis and Sotalia fluviatilis in Colombia. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/ [accessed Apr 15 2021].
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism–environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Discover the gateway to the Colombian Amazon, the city of Mitú on the banks of the Vaupes River


Mitú, the capital of the department of Vaupés, located between 50 to 120 minutes by plane from Bogotá, is the ideal destination to immerse yourself in the depths of the jungle, where birds, nature, and ancestral culture allow you to leave aside the daily routine of modern life.

This is a unique destination, where the distance and the little communication with the rest of the country, has made it possible to maintain a large part of the culture and nature of the region.

The Ethnic Richness of Mitu

About 70% of the territory has been declared as an indigenous reserve, and for this reason, visitors and access must have the permission of the indigenous leaders.

Mitú has a population that is mostly part of ancestral indigenous tribes such as the Tukano, Guananos, Yurutíes, Cubeos, Piratapuyos, Desanos, and many others. There are 26 communities in total, and about 29 dialects, which represents the amazing ethnic richness in this region of Colombia.

The Vaupes River is the connector of these communities. People move in boats and canoes transporting local people, agricultural products, merchandise, and tourists.

Get to know Mitú

It is a simple and small city, located on the banks of the Vaupés River, surrounded by freshwater streams and the thick Amazon jungle.

When you arrive in the city, you can stroll through the main square Parque Santander, where you will find the Governor’s Office, the María Inmaculada Cathedral and the monument to the “Guio”, which pays homage to the origin of the indigenous peoples who live there. Guio means anaconda.

In this square, it is common to find food, handicrafts, and the typical gastronomic offer of the region.

The Fabio Alberto Leon Bentley Airport is the main gateway for travelers arriving to discover the territory. The Satena airline is the only one with flights to Mitu from Bogota or Villavicencio.

Satena airline offers flight to Mitu from Bogota and Villavicencio.

Places to Enjoy in Mitu

The trip to Mitú is ideal if you like bird watching. In Vaupes you will find more than 570 bird species, which offer a unique spectacle. Local guides specialized in the subject will give you all the information about the birds that you can find in the city.

Find more information about birding in Vaupes in our entry Vaupes, a Must to Visit Birding Destination in the Colombian Amazon.

Birdwatching at the Colombian Amazon, Mitú, Vaupés

It is also possible to walk along special trails outside the city center to enjoy a wide variety of species, not only birds but also flora and different types of animals, always accompanied by local guides.

To visit these places, you will have to access the territory of the communities, and you can only do so if you have permission from the leader of the community and if you are accompanied by a local guide.

The Malecon

The Malecon has a pedestrian walkway that runs one kilometer along the Vaupes River. It has small squares and kiosks adorned with gardens of local vegetation, where many birds arrive.

The Food Market and Port

This is a very rustic square, located next to the river where you can find typical food of the region prepared by the hands of indigenous women in wood and charcoal stoves. Here you can enjoy traditional dishes for very cheap prices.

Food Maloka, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

There are about 15 food stalls where you can find “borugo en caldo”, “lapa”, fish, cassava, manioc, among other foods provided by the jungle. The natives take advantage of the permitted hunting seasons to obtain the animals to eat.

Lapa soup, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Around this place, indigenous gather to offer many kinds of products. Every Friday, people from different communities arrive in the place, bringing their products to sell in the market. It is possible to find cassava flour, casabe, pichuna grapes, quinapira, copoazu, fish, and reptiles that are used as food.

Hiking and River Trips in Vaupes

There are trails for hiking and river trips that will take you to the indigenous communities, open to tourists with their ancestral vision of the birds and other animals of the region.

Hiking Routes Around Mitu

The ecological walks established around the city have as a special destination different high hills, or tepuis, from where we suggest you to observe the jungle that expands from and towards the river.

Mituseño Urania

Five kilometers from the city you can visit the Mituseño Urania community. It is a small village with two important sacred places: the chair of the god Cubay and the hill of Urania.

The Odocabeba (Urania) Hill, is a rocky outcrop 200 meters high, where you will observe the jungle, and share the day with the Cubeo indigenous people, owner of this beautiful viewpoint of the jungle.

You will also visit the territory of the Cubeo’s god Cubay, and a rock traditionally called the “Silla de Cubay” from where, according to legend, the deity observes the jungle.

Once you reach the top, you will find a jungle landscape crossed by the waters of the Vaupes river that carries small boats with goods and tourists in the middle of the jungle.

Ceima Cachivera

6 kilometers from Mitú is the Ceima Cachivera community. This community opened to visitors following the motivation of its captain Sergio Gutierrez, which is a professional tourist guide formed at SENA, the national institute of learning.

Sergio cordially welcomes visitors who want to get to know the treasures of the jungle. After an introduction about the characteristics of the territory and the community, he leads the expeditions that last an average of two hours.

There are different stops during the hike, the first one is the raudal of Cachivera Tucunare, a waterfall. Then you will continue towards a series of caves and rocky formations, sacred for the Cubeos, such as the Tiger Cave or the Toad Cave, where the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock is usually observed.

Cerro Flecha Mitú, Vaupés

Finally, there is Cerro Flecha, a hill with a spectacular 360 view of the jungle. It is also a sacred place for the Cubeos, since this hill was the place from which its god Cubay prayed over the region.

Trekking Cerro Flecha Mitú, Vaupés

Cerro Guacamayas

Cerro Guacamayas is another jungle viewpoint. To reach its summit you must take a path through swamps and through the Chagras, or small spaces for the sustenance of the indigenous communities, where they plant and establish a series of relationships with the land.

As the trail is rough, you should bring along food and drinks, swamp boots, long-sleeved shirts, and insect repellent. The entire route is flat until you reach the hill, a gigantic rock that encloses an ecosystem in which characteristics shrubs and vegetation grow.

Inselberg, Cerro Guacamaya, Mitú, Vaupés

You may climb up the rock with the help of a harness, or if you feel confident, you can reach it by your own. Once you reach the top you will find the entire Amazon rainforest at your feet.

Amazon forest – Cerro Guacamaya – Mitú, Vaupés

Once you descend from the viewpoint, you will reach the Caño Sangre, a natural “jacuzzi” of terracotta color, fruit of the vegetation that grows at the bottom of the pipe.

Mitú, Vaupés

River Trips

Before continue, I must tell you that for the indigenous people, the Vaupes River is sacred. For them, under the waters of the river resides the world of the gods. It is a place where the ancestral cycle of the anaconda takes place.

Vaupés River, Mitú, Vaupés, Colombia

The anaconda gives identity to the community, and plays a central role in their mythology and genesis of their people. We recommend you to watch the documentary El Sendero de la Anaconda to better understand the sacred relationship that the indigenous people established with the river. It is available on Netflix.

Cachivera Cerro Flecha Mitú, Vaupés

You can visit several streams and pipes that connect with the Vaupes River. Among them, one of the closest is the Raudal Tatu Chachivera, a ravine feared for its strength.

It is important to be accompanied by a local guide who knows very well how to overcome these ravines. Generally, the indigenous people of the Trubon community are in charge of guiding you through this part of the Vaupes River.

Another place, very close to Mitu, is the Cucura bathing place, where the huge stones form natural pools.

Learning about different cultures

The most interesting thing about Mitú is that it is possible to share with some communities their traditions, observe their costumes and learn about their customs. You will be received in a Maloca, in the famous festivities of Yuruparí, where you will be invited along with the children to participate in a traditional dance.

Jerico Community

Here you can interact with the culture and tradition of the Tatuyo people. This community is located two hours from Mitu. There you will be welcomed by the wise man of this community called Agustin Munoz.

The main attraction is the colorful Maloca of the community. There you will enjoy an opiparous banquet prepared in the traditional way with typical foods such as cassava, fish muquiado, fish with caruru, and copoazu and azai juices. Everyone can help themselves to the food they want.

Traditional food served in handmade dishes, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Afterwards there will be a protection ritual, where with a reddish powder called carayuru, the women will paint your face with a set of lines on your forehead and cheeks.

Protection Ritual, Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Mambe is also offered to the attendees. It is a powder obtained by toasting, grinding, and sifting the coca leaf, which is mixed with ashes from a cecropia tree. Don Agustin will explain to you the benefits of consuming this preparation.

Beware that the Mambe is a stimulant that should only be chewed, so don’t eat it!

Souvenirs

The handicrafts of Vaupes are beautiful. The indigenous people capture their culture and tradition in these unique handicrafts. You can find clay pots polished with river stones, plates, blue clay vessels with traditional engravings, trays, and baskets handwoven with vegetable fibers, vases, etc. All worked in fibers such as cumare or guarumo, clay and wood.

Indigenous jewerly from Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

These handicrafts greatly represent the Colombian Amazon and are a source of pride for the inhabitants of Vaupes.

Handicrafts of Vaupes

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines before arrival.
  • Do not forget the mosquito repellent, it is highly recommended.
  • Rubber boots, raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
  • Colombia Travel
  • SINCHI – Institute of Scientific Reseach of the Amazon.
  • Satena
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism–environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Vaupes, a Must to Visit Birding Destination in the Colombian Amazon

Vaupés, with its capital Mitú, is the gateway to the Amazonian trapezoid in Colombia. Its rich biodiversity is evident everywhere, and it is a must to visit birdwatching destinations in Colombia.

This wealth is not only biological, in Vaupés we have a wide diversity of indigenous cultures represented in 26 ethnic groups that share traditional knowledge about the management of the forest, and about their culture.

Miguel Portura, one of the best birding guides in Vaupes.

Vaupés has more than 570 bird species. Most of the species are widely distributed in the Amazon, but there are several subspecies associated with the Guyanese shield. The avifauna of this region is very special, which fully justifies its protection and study.

Birdwatching tourism has grown in the region as a good strategy for bird conservation and sustainability. Thanks to the organized work of indigenous communities in conjunction with SENA, the national learning institute, many locals found profit on this business.

In 2018, the local community, SENA, and the ACO organized the most important ornithological meeting in Colombia, the National Meeting of Ornithology (ENO), making its successful opening as a well-organized birdwatching destination.

ENO 2018, Mitú – Vaupés – Colombia

Today, Vaupes has a very good supply of local guides prepared to receive all visitors. They know the stories about the origin of the birds, their songs, their habitat, their signs, and the important role that their plumages play in the culture.

The great diversity of indigenous cultures, and their oral and sung tradition about birds make Mitú the ideal place to marvel at the great cultural and natural richness of our country. It is a unique destination in Colombia for Ethno-Ornithology. In addition, Vaupes is a territory of peace, recovering as a post-conflict destination.

Where is Vaupes?

The department of Vaupés is located in the southeast of Colombia, in the region of the Amazon known as the Guiana Shield. This region covers an extensive area of northern South America.

Find out more about the Guiana Shield in our entry Why Chiribiquete is called the Sistine Chapel of Colombia?

In Vaupes you will find one of the least populated, best conserved, and most heterogeneous regions in the world. There the Guiana and Amazonia ecosystems converge, and you will find in one place the famous tepuis of the Guiana shield, and the dry land forests, whitewater, and blackwater flooded forests, largest patches of white sand forests and savannas of the Amazon.

How to get to Vaupes

It can be reached by air, the commercial passenger company SATENA has direct flights of approximately 50 minutes.

Bear in mind that flights are limited, and they only depart on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from Bogota; and, Thursdays and Saturdays from Villavicencio.

There are also other companies that may eventually, make passenger charter flights.

Best time to visit

The best time to go for a birdwatching trip to Vaupes is after the rainy season, specially the months between November to April.

Birds of Vaupes

Given the great diversity of ecosystems in Vaupes, it is possible to find a great variety of birds. The checklist of the department of Vaupés includes 579 species distributed in 360 genera, 63 families, and 24 orders.

You can download a very complete checklist of the birds of Vaupes at the SINCHI institute website.

Highlighted birds

Discover near-endemic birds such as Chestnut-crested Antbird (Rhegmatorhina cristata) and Orinoco Piculet (Picumnus pumilus), and endangered birds such as Crestless curassow (Mitu tomentosum), and Grey-winged trumpeter (Psophia crepitans).

Among the birds found only in the department are Brown-banded Puffbird (Notharchus ordii), Tawny-tufted toucanet (Selenidera nattereri), Yellow-throated Antwren (Myrmotherula ambigua), among others.

Other interesting birds you can find are:

  • Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin
  • Screaming Piha
  • Citron-bellied Attila
  • Tawny-tufted Toucanet
  • Brown-banded Puffbird
  • Azure-naped Jay
  • Pompadour Cotinga
  • Fiery Topaz
  • White-plumed Antbird
  • Black Bushbird
  • White-fronted Nunbird
  • Spotted Puffbird
  • White-plumed Antbird

Birding Routes in Vaupes

All birding routes are immersed in the indigenous communities surrounding the capital of Vaupés. You need permission to visit them, and also you must be accompanied by a local guide. But don’t worry, if you plan your trip ahead before your arrival everything will be ready.

Mituseño – Urania

This indigenous settlement belongs mostly to the Kubeo (Pamiwa) ethnic group and is located on the banks of the Vaupés river to the northeast of Vaupés. There are rock formations and Varzeas that are flood plains of the Vaupés River.

Golden-headed Mankin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala), Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Highlights

  • Swallow-winged Puffbird
  • Bronzy Jacamar
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • White-crowned Manakin
  • Amazonian Umbrellabird
  • Azure-naped Jay

Mitu Cachivera

This community is located just five minutes from the town of Mitú, on the banks of the Vaupés River. This place offers about four trails that include white-sand forests, rivers with red water, and rocky outcrops.

Birdwatching at the Colombian Amazon, Mitú, Vaupés

Highlights

  • Fiery Topaz
  • Pavonine Quetzal
  • Black-tailed Trogon
  • Amazonian Trogon
  • Blue-crowned Trogon
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Brown-banded Puffbird
  • Rusty-breasted Nunlet

Cerrito Verde

This birding spot is located 45 minutes from the urban center of Mitu, it has well-preserved mature terra-firme forests. It has a mosaic of landscapes ranging from primary forests to savannas and rocky outcrops within the Amazon jungle.

Red-fan Parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus), Mitú, Vaupés

Highlights

  • Guianan Cock-of-the-rock
  • Black-eared Fairy
  • Pavonine Quetzal
  • Amazonian Trogon
  • Tawny-tufted Toucanet
  • Maroon-tailed Parakeet
  • Chestnut-crested Antbird
Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), Mitú, Vaupés

La Libertad

This indigenous settlement is located across the Vaupés River from the town of Mitú. You will find trails of white sands, flooded forests, and dry land. In one of the trails, you will have to take a canoe at some point to continue.

Birdwatching at the Amazon Forest, Mitú, Vaupés, Colombia

Highlights

  • Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
  • White-bearded Hermit
  • Black-throated Hermit
  • Swallow-winged Puffbird
  • Orange-cheeked Parrot
  • Yellow-crowned Parrot
  • White-crowned Manakin
  • Green-tailed Goldenthroat
  • Amazonian Umbrellabird
Amazonian Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), La libertad, Mitú, Vaupés

Santa Marta – Puerto Golondrina

It is located 12 kilometers downriver from the governor’s port on the Vaupés River and entering through the Cuduyarí River. This is the land of the community of Kubeos. Its main trail connects with the community of Puerto Golondrina. It has terra-firme forest and white sands.

Highlights

  • Straight-billed Hermit
  • Green-tailed Goldenthroat
  • Ivory-billed Aracari
  • Pompadour Cotinga
  • Amazonian Tyrannulet
  • Amazonian Grosbeak
  • Coraya Wren
White-bearded Manakin – Manacus manacus – Cerro Guacamaya, Mitú, Vaupés

Pueblo Nuevo

Located on kilometer 20, this community has well-preserved mature terra firme forests and a mosaic of landscapes that range from mosaic of landscapes ranging from primary forests to savannas and rocky outcrops.

Swallow-winged Puffbird (Chelidoptera tenebrosa), Mitú, Vaupés, Colombia

Highlights

  • Gilded Barbet
  • Tawny-tufted Toucanet
  • Ringed Antpipit
  • Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet
  • Chestnut-crested Antbird
  • Amazonian Scrub-Flycatcher

Santa Cruz

Located 32 kilometers from the urban center, the community is located past the Vaupés River and the trail is near the Vaupés Micro Hydroelectric Plant MCH. This site is of great cultural interest because it is the site of the great cachivera of Iparare, where most of the cultures of Vaupés were born.

It has well-preserved terra firme forests and rocky elevations where the flora and fauna of the place converge such as quetzals, trogons, and antbirds.

Highlights

  • Opal-crowned Tanager
  • White-fronted Nunbird
  • Black Bushbird
  • Musician Wren
  • Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin
Vaupés Micro Hydroelectric Plant MCH ©laotraopinion.net

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines before arrival.
  • Do not forget the mosquito repellent, it is highly recommended.
  • Rubber boots, raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
  • Colombia Travel
  • Stiles, F. G. : La avifauna de la parte media del río Apaporis, departamentos de Vaupés y Amazonas, Colombia. Rev. Acad. Colomb. Cienc. 34 (132): 381-390, 2010. ISSN 0370-3908.
  • SINCHI – Institute of Scientific Reseach of the Amazon.
  • Etno-birding Vaupes.
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism–environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Jirijirimo Waterfall and the Anaconda Trail in Vaupes, Amazon Region, Colombia

The Raudal de Jirijirimo (or Jirijirimo waterfall) is a regional nature reserve between the limits of the amazonian departments of Vaupes and Amazonas in Colombia. It is located in the middle-lower course of the Apaporis river.

The reserve is named after the waterfall that is located there, the Jirijirimo, which is one of the most beautiful and impressive in Colombia.

The Apaporis River: The Anconda Trail

The Apaporis River rises in Mesa de Pardos, in the municipality of La Macarena, department of Meta. It results from the union of the Tunia and Ajajú rivers, and has a length of 1,200 kilometers.

This river serves as the northeastern limit of the department of Caquetá with the department of Guaviare. It is of black water and has a general NW – SE direction throughout its course.

In the upper part of its course it serves as a natural boundary between the departments of Caquetá and Vaupés.

It bathes the lands of Caquetá, Guaviare, Vaupés and Amazonas and serves as Colombia’s border with Brazil. It is little used for navigation because of its streams, among which is the Jirijirimo.

Raudal de Jirijirimo (or Jirijirimo Waterfall)

Jirijirimo is a waterfall in the form of gigantic steps, and it is about 100 meters wide and almost 100 meters high.

The word “Jirijirimo” is an indigenous word that means “Bed of the guio”. The guio is an indigenous word to call the Anaconda. They are aquatic boas, which can measure up to 10 meters and feed on large animals. Their scientific name is: “Eunectes“. The Anacondas are often found in this place.

The Apaporis River at this point reaches a width of 100 meters. It splits in two by surrounding an island in the middle of the river. Just there, the Raudal de Jirijirimo (Jirijirimo Waterfall) begins. There, the river falls furiously through a rocky and deep gorge. It is a route of impressive waterfalls and rapids.

It is a sacred place of the Macuna, Tanimuka, Letuama, Cabiyari, Barazano, Yujup Maku and Yauna peoples of the Apaporis, who are spread out in about twenty communities along the river.

The spiritual practices of the indigenous people and their management of the territory have made this region one of the best preserved natural destinations in Colombia.

The river closes at about 40 meters beyond, and rushes between rocky walls with impressive force. Then, it runs for several kilometers until it reaches a tunnel where it backwaters.

The Apaporis Tunnel

Either because the river found it, or because the river itself carved it, the fact is that, after the Jirijirimo, the Apaporis ends in a tunnel about 60 meters high, 20 meters long and 10 meters wide.

It is the mythical tunnel of the Apaporis, which is also sacred to the indigenous people of the region and the subject of many legends.

It is an impressive place due to the scene formed by the black rocks, the vegetation, and the light crossing the tunnel. The river, which before rushing down the waterfall was several hundred meters wide, is now reduced to a mere 10 meters and therefore the depth is incalculable.

Local people affirm that the depth of the Apaporis is several tens of meters inside the tunnel.

Morroco Mountain Range

Near the raudal flows the black water river called Cananari. In the background, the Morroco mountain range frames the landscape of the river. This mountain extends for 5 km, and reaches a height of 500 meters above sea level.

The Morroco Range breaks the Apaporis River to form the Jirijirimo waterfall, a few kilometers from the mouth of the Cananari River.

You can hike to the top of the Morroco mountain range. From the top, it is possible to observe the landscape of the raudal of Jirijirimo, the Apaporis river and the jungle in all its splendor and extension.

There are many macaws in Morroco, and these have become emblematic birds of the destination.

Expeditions to the Jirijirimo

Since the late 19th century, Jirijirimo has been admired by travelers, scientists and tourists. One of its most famous visitors was the British botanist Richard Evan Schultes, in the 1940s. And most recently, the botanist Wade Davis, who made a documentary, along with Martin von Hildebrand.

In the documentary they follow the steps of Schultes through the jungles and rivers of the Colombian Amazon. The documented journey is called El Sendero de la Anaconda, which is available on Netflix.

El Sendero de la Anaconda – Trailer from Laberinto Producciones on Vimeo.

In the last Colombia Bio expedition, which results were presented in July 2019, scientists recorded around 2,335 species of flora and fauna, and 228 of which were new records for the country.

In the reserve is possible to observe the exotic Amazonian fauna. It is perfect to find anacondas, macaws, deers and large mammals such as Amazonian tapirs.

How to get to Jirijirimo

To get there you will have to take a plane from Bogota to Mitu, the capital of Vaupes. From there, you have to take another plane to the region where the raudal is located. The flight covers 179 km from Mitú to the municipality of Taraira.

You can also arrive by boat from the municipality of Pacoa in the Amazon. The trip lasts 4 hours.

Weather at Jirijirimo

The climate in the region is warm and humid, with a temperature between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius (+/- 83 F).

Best time to visit Jirijirimo

The best time to visit this place is between November and January, after the rainy season. Before is not recommended since it can be very dangerous, and the landscape get lost below the strong waters.

This destination is part of the deep Colombia, and it is a place that recently opened its doors to tourism. For this reason, and for being in the middle of indigenous settlements, the environment is preserved unaltered.

Sometimes, visits are restricted or closed, so it is important you get informed about that in advance.

Do not expect to find hotels, or a great infrastructure. You will have to stay in the nearby towns to spend the night, or you can also camp in the places allowed by the indigenous community.

The Cabiyari indigenous people inhabits these area of the reserve. They will be your guides, and you will learn a lot about their customs and traditions.

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines before arrival.
  • Do not forget the mosquito repellent, it is highly recommended.
  • Rubber boots, raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
  • Colombian Airforce Website
  • Colparques Website.
  • Caracol TV Youtube Channel
About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Why should you Visit Guaviare in Colombia? Remnants of a Remote Past

Guaviare is one of the least populated departments of Colombia, and one of the most pristine nature destinations in the country.  

Additionally, this department is located in the Colombian Amazon region, although part of its territory is also in the Orinoquia. Its capital is San José del Guaviare. 

Brief history of Guaviare

In the past, the colonization of Guaviare was mainly due to the enormous natural riches of its soil and the exploitation derived from these.

People came there to cultivate balata and rubber. Moreover, trade of wild animal skins, native plants and ornamental fish was also common.

Finally, the illicit cultivation of coca attracted many people, bringing also war and chaos to the region.

Today, tourism is opening as a new possibility for the economic development of the region, and it works as a good strategy for the protection and conservation of natural and archaeological areas.

Weather and Landscape

The dry season happens from December to February, and the rainy season during the rest of the year (especially April-July and October-November). Annual rainfall ranges from 2,000 to 3,500 mm. The temperature during the day reaches 25° to 30 °C, dropping at night to 12 °C between July and August.

Its soils are bathed by numerous rivers and a network of streams, divided mainly into two basins: Orinoco River Basin and Amazon River Basin.

Tourism in Guaviare 

Tourism is making its way in this destination dedicated to adventure and sustainability. It is an opportunity for sustainable development in he region. The natural environments for swimming, the sunsets, and its ecosystems make it a unique destination.

Archaeological places, and the fauna and flora that make up an abundant biodiversity, are the greatest attraction of Guaviare.

The Most Featured Destinations in Guaviare 

Serrania de La Lindosa and Cerro Azul

Serranía de la Lindosa @Parques Naturales

This place is one of the eight archaeological zones declared as a protected area by the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

Here you will find the famous cave paintings, among others those of the Guayabero River and the Caño Dorado, with vivid colors. In the Cerro Azul in the Serranía La Lindosa, you can observe paintings that are twelve thousand years old.

The summit of Cerro Azul can be reached by a medium level hike of approximately 40 minutes. In Cerro Azul, there are a series of cave paintings painted with reddish pigment by indigenous people who inhabited the La Lindosa mountain range 7,250 years ago.

It is a two-hundred-meter-high peak to explore and walk. During the walk you can find giant trees and native species of flora and fauna. From the top you can see numerous streams of crystalline water and the jungle.

Raudal of the Guayabero

Raudal del Guayabero @ Juan Pablo Rozo – Wikiloc

This spectacular spot is one hour by river, and one hour and thirty minutes by land, from San José del Guaviare.

The Guayabero River, before its encounter with the Ariari, is framed in a canyon formed by walls of rocks of Pre-Cambrian origin.

From there, a current is unleashed that reaches half a kilometer in length. Although it is navigable throughout the year, the summer season is the best time to cross it.

Throughout the tour you can see the gray freshwater dolphin or Tonina (Sotalia fluviatilis), as it is called by the inhabitants of the region.

Natural Bridges

Rocky Bridges Pic. by Parques Nacionales

These natural bridges are high and have been shaped and polished by water over time. They stand on a ravine to which it is possible to descend with certified guides.

The City of Stone

Serranía de la Lindosa ©Parques Naturales

The Stone City of San Jose, is an enigmatic place that consists of ancestral rocks distributed with an impressive and mysterious symmetry.

In the company of guides, you can tour this site that has labyrinths, caves, and monoliths with very old petroglyphs. A special place for hiking and caving.

Natural Baths of Agua Bonita, Villa Luz and Tranquilandia.

Tranquilandia Bath

They are located only five miles from the city, in Caño Sabana. The ancient rock formations form pools of crystalline waters of different colors. The rich plant and mineral environment is the one that colors these waters, so it is very similar to the rainbow river in La Macarena. You can go there and enjoy a good swim and landscape.

Puerta de Orión

Puerta de Orión Pic. by Parques Nacionales

Orion’s Gate is a rock formation emblematic of the city, found 9 kilometers from San José del Guaviare. It is twelve meters high and 20 meters wide. It has two natural holes, one on top of the other.

To get to Puerta de Orión you must pass through cavities and cornices that make it an enigmatic scenery.

The particularity of this natural wonder is that in the summer solstice you can observe Orion’s Belt through the upper window, creating a unique spectacle.

Sport fishing and Kayaking at Laguna Negra 

Sunsent at Laguna Negra ©El Tiempo

Laguna Negra is located 11 kilometers from San José del Guaviare. The black color that the water projects is because at the bottom there are decomposed leaves from the surrounding forests.

Its name is due to the dark tone of its waters seen from the air. Once on land, you can see a scenario of crystalline water, according to experts, because of the thick vegetation that surrounds it.

This natural reserve, 11 km from San José del Guaviare, constitutes the ideal scenario for the practice of artisan fishing and snorkel. You can find “cachazas” and “payaras”.

Kayaking and sailing, among other practices, are part of the new offer.

Chiribiquete National Park

Jaguar Petroglyph Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

Because it is a complete planetary treasure, in 2018 it has been declared a mixed heritage of humanity.

It is located in the departments of Caquetá and Guaviare, and preserves the largest sample of rock art in the world.

In Chiribiquete there are approximately 70,000 paintings and 50 panels of an average height of 7 meters.

These have served to distinguish a cultural tradition of roots, apparently very old, of the Paleo-Indian. Therefore, they have been associated with groups of hunter-gatherers of the Tropical Rainforest and semi-dry enclaves of the Guianas and the Amazon.

Other Attractions

Guayabero Pic. by Juan Pablo Rozo – Wikiloc
  • Rural and community tourism: Finca Chontaduro, Finca Diamante, replacement of coca for fruit.
  • The “Flor del Guaviare” (Paepalanthus formosus Moldenke) is one of the emblems of the department.
Guaviare Flower, ©Gabriel Arroyo – iNaturalist
  • Thermal waters, unique in the Orinoco and Amazon;
  • The Inírida River;
  • The natural National Parks of Chiribiquete and Nukak; and
  • An endless number of lakes and lagoons where pink dolphins and fishing abound.
Nukak ©Nathaly Londoño – Parques Nacionales

How to get to Guaviare

The trip Bogotá – Guaviare by plane takes about 1.20 hour. The tourist sites are easily accessible by 4X4 vehicles. The capital, San José del Guaviare, has become a center of operation with a wide range of lodging facilities: three stars hotels, hostels, and camping.

Where to stay in San José del Guaviare

We recomend you the following hotels in San José del Guaviare:

  • Hotel Quinto Nivel
  • Hotel Aeropuerto

If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us!


References

About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Why Chiribiquete is called the Sistine Chapel of Colombia?


Serranía de Chiribiquete mountain range, and its surroundings, present a landscape in which strange forms rarely seen or even imagined stand out.

Together with the enormous extensions of virgin forest, it makes an illusory, magical and very old “lost world”, in the heart of the Colombian Amazon.

The Guiana Shield

The Guiana Shield is a geographic region located in the northeast of South America. It is a very old geological formation, being one of the oldest areas on Earth, from the Pre-Cambrian era.

Almost from the very moment of the formation of the planet Earth, some very high plateaus with vertical slopes, called tepuis, have originated in this place.

Tepuy is a term from the indigenous Pemón language, which means “mountain”.

Tepuis Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

In the Guiana shield, you will find the famous Angel Falls, or Kerepakupai Meru, the highest waterfall in the world with 979 m. Also, the highest and most impressive tepui of all, Mount Roraima. Both in Venezuela.

The Guiana Shield of Colombia

The western part of the Guiana shield is located in the eastern zone of Colombia, covering the departments of Guainía, Vichada, Vaupés, Caquetá, and Meta.

Guiana shield MAP ©Free Art License

The Guiana Shield penetrates Colombia, across the border with Venezuela and Brazil, and possessess those characteristic rocky outcrops known as Tepuis.

Being so far away from the Andean system, deep in the Colombian Amazon, these outcrops of the Guiana Shield are little known, with some exceptions.

Serranía de Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

Among the most famous tepuis are Cerros de Mavecure, in the department of Guainía, Sierra de La Macarena, place of the rainbow river, in Meta, Serranía de La Lindosa in Guaviare and the Iguaje tables, in Caquetá.

These mountains are a reduced scale version of the great mountains of the Guianas that culminate in the hills of La Neblina and Roraima in Venezuela.

Serrania del Chiribiquete

The Serrania del Chiribiquete is one of the oldest geological formations on the planet and is part of the Guiana Shield.

The mountain range of Chiribiquete was the territory of Paleoindian groups that left graphic testimony of the temporary occupation of some of its tepuis in many cave paintings.

Petroglyph Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

According to the experts, Chiribiquete was used as a rocky shelter that served as a temporary refuge and also as a place of worship for centuries.

The Rupestrian Art of Chiribiquete

Chiribiquete is one of the most emblematic places of American rupestrian art.

In this place, there is a collection of murals with more than 75,000 cave paintings, where the jaguar is the protagonist. But this number only represents between 5% to 8% of all of the paintings there.

Jaguar Petroglyph Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

The pictographs are supposed to be ancient writings that have maintained the existence of the ‘secret of the world’. For this reason, it has been called the Sistine Chapel of the Amazon. From there, the ancestral stories of some of the indigenous peoples of the region emerged.

Some studies point out that the human presence in the area of Chiribiquete possibly dates back to 15500 years BC.

According to more recent archaeological and chronological evidence, it has been specified that the age of the rupestrian art of Chiribiquete is around 22000 years, which makes it the oldest on the continent.

Serrania de Chiribiquete National Natural Park

Chiribiquete is also a place where the biological richness is almost intact. There are few places in the world with these conditions, these characteristics of insularity, endemism, fragility and biodiversity.

Chirbiquete ©Parques Nacionales Naturales

The Serrania de Chiribiquete National Natural Park was created in 1989. This park is a mega reserve that contributes to maintaining the physical and biotic components of one of the areas with the highest biological diversity on the planet.

Scientists refers to Chiribiquete as a place with a high degree of endemism, and there is the discovery of new species with every expedition that has been made.

Colombia BIO expedition in Chiribiquete Park – Map ©MinCiencias

The declaration of Chiribiquete as a World Heritage Site (by UNESCO) occurred in July 2018; at which time the Government of Colombia also expanded the park’s territory.

Thus, the park constitutes a mixed heritage of humanity, since it represents a great contribution to the preservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems for the planet; as well as the multiplicity of cultural expressions of the communities that have settled through time in the territory.

Tourism in Chiribiquete

The demobilization of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2016 made one think about tourism.

Unfortunately, the human presence caused vandalism, and the park has also been threatened by mining and illegal logging.

Opening this place as a tourist destination would end up greatly altering the conditions of the place, because it requires infrastructure, services, and permanent transit of people.

Thus, in order to protect Chiribiquete’s archeological and natural treasure, it is closed to the public. And you can only fly over it.

Overflights in the Serranía de Chiribiquete NNP

The aircraft will take off and land at the Jorge Enrique González Airport in the city of San José del Guaviare.

The overflights will take place in a single corridor defined and approved by National Parks, and there is a maximum time of three hours per overflight.

Chirbiquete Aerial View ©Parques Nacionales Naturales – Julia Miranda

The season, duration, and route of the overflights were designed to guarantee the protection of the ecosystems, and of the indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation who inhabit the area.

Where to stay in Chiribiquete NNP

Staying in Chiribiquete NNP is not allowed. However, since flights take off from San José del Guaviare, you can think about staying there. This way, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the natural and cultural richness of the Serranía la Lindosa.

Serranía La Lindosa

The Serrania La Lindosa is located 1.5 hours from San José del Guaviare. It is one of the places with more cave paintings in the world, and has been declared a Protected Archaeological Area of Colombia by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History, ICANH.

Cave paintings of the Nukak, Serranía de La Lindosa. ©Julian Ruiz P. CC

This place is open for ecotourism, being the ideal space for you, before or after your flight, to get close to what you can find in the Serrania de Chiribiquete National Natural Park.

Best time to visit Chiribiquete NNP

Only two overflights are allowed per week and during January, Easter, June, July, October and December.

Chiribiquete NNP Entrance fees

Overflights might vary according to the season, availability, tour operator and the number of travelers. However, an overflight may cost around 1450 USD.

 If you are planning a trip to Colombia, we are happy to help you have an unforgettable nature experience! Contact us

 

References
About the author

Sara Colmenares
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Ultimate Guide to Visit Guainía: Jungle, Rivers and Astounding Views

Two events have consolidated Guainía in the minds of travelers, the first, the signing of the peace agreement and the second, the launch of the Ciro Guerra’s film The Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente), winner of multiple awards around the world.

Guainía

Guainía in the Yuri language means “Land of many waters”. Its capital is Inírida, and it is located in the east of the country. The temperature of the region oscillates between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade.

Most of its territory is made up of flat extensions, although there are some elevations, mainly the so-called tepuis, which are remnants of the Guiana shield, the oldest mountainous formation on the planet.

The most famous hills are the Mavecure, but there are others hills and mountains like the so-called Aracuari, Canapiari, Guasacavi, Mavicure, Pajarito, Rana, Salvaje, Sáquiras, Sardinas, and the mountains of Caranacoa and Naquén, with heights slightly above 500 meters above sea level.

In the past this was a region afflicted by armed conflict and violence, but this situation is now in the past and the community has found in tourism an opportunity for life.

Communication Routes and Transportation in Guainía

In the department of Guainía, the main communication route is the rivers, which are the road axes of access. Roads are scarce and only passable in the dry months.

It is also important the air transport. There are two airports located in Inírida and in the town of Barranco Minas. 

Tourism in Guainía

In Guainía one of the main attractions is its people, whose population is mostly composed of indigenous people (65%), who come from almost 30 different communities and belong to ethnic groups such as the puinave, curripaco, tukano, wanano, desano, piratapuyo, piapoco and yeral.

Guainía’s people

Other attractions are the Cerros de Mavecure, the Las Brujas lagoon, the Sapuara stream and the fluvial star. You can also find the Puinawai National Natural Reserve; the Pavón, Payara and Matevení Lakes, which together with the Inírida River, are destinations where you can practice water sports and sport fishing.

How to get to Guainía

You have to arrive by plane from Bogota to Puerto Inirida. The distance in straight line from Bogota is 720 Km, and it translates into 1 hour 10 min of flight.

 

It is recommended that you stay at least 4 days in the region to enjoy this majestic and sacred place.

In Inirida you can find several hotel offers, and all trips are made to and from the city by boat on the Inirida River and its tributary streams.

Below you will find the best destinations in Guainía.

Guainía Destinations

The Mavecure or Mavicure Hills

The Mavecure Hills are part of what we know today as deep Colombia. Embedded in the Amazon, they have become one of the most emblematic tourist destinations in Colombia.

In a study published about Ciro Guerra’s El Abrazo de la Serpiente, the Hills of Mavecure and surrounds are described as a landscape of enormousness, limitlessness, extraordinariness, and grandeur.

Mavecure Hills – Picture courtesy by Andrés Rodríguez, local indigenous guide.

The hills of Mavicure are three hours away from Puerto Inírida, the capital of Guainía. There are three tepuis called Mavicure, Mono and Pajarito that serve as an impressive viewpoint to the Guainía’s jungles.

From the top of the hills you can appreciate large extensions of jungle inhabited by indigenous communities such as the Puinaves and Curripacos.

According to Puinave Tomás Corda Medina, a native of the Barranco Tigre community, in an interview for a national newspaper:

“in the curripaco language, Mavecure comes from the words ‘mavi’, which is a palm used to make different utensils, and from ‘cure’, a poison that the ancestors took from a tree and put on the tips of their arrows for hunting with blowpipes.”

It is said that the hills were considered a magical space where humans could communicate with their gods.

The hills of Mavecure are 55 kilometers west of this city. To reach them you must take a speedboat that takes about 2 hours to travel the 55 kilometers through the Inírida River.

Climbing the Mavecure Hills

After arrival, you will have to spend the night in the El Remanso or in the El Venado indigenous communities placed at the foot of the hills.

You will need a guide to accompany you to the highest part of the hills, along the only trail suitable for walking and which does not require climbing equipment.

To reach the viewpoint, at 250 meters high, the only conditions are imposed by the weather and your physical condition. You must watch every step, and always go with a certified guide.

It is recommended to go up at a sunny moment. This is because, when it rains, the stone ground becomes slippery, and the slope makes the water run forming strong currents on the way down, which makes it very dangerous.

Once at the top you can see Pajarito and Mono; on their skirts you can see the dark green of a jungle that hides anteaters, water dogs, armadillos, limpets, chigüiros, tapirs, deer and tigers. In the distance, there are the caños that the river Inírida bathes, and other fluvial courses.

Mavecure Hills – Picture courtesy by Andrés Rodríguez, local indigenous guide.

The activities that you can do in the Mavicure Hills are bird watching, hiking, photography, and nocturnal fish watching on the banks of the Inírida River where you can see rays, guaracus, palometas, agujones and cuchas.

Find more details about Mavecure in our entry 5 Things you Should Know Before Visiting the Mavecure Hills in Colombia.

Las Brujas Lagoon

The Laguna de Brujas or Chalchuapa (in the language of the natives) is defined by the locals as an oasis of peace. It is a quiet place where you can escape to feel the sounds of birds and nature in all its splendor.

Situated 10 minutes by boat from Puerto Inírida, you will feel overwhelmed by the beauty of the surrounding forest. Laguna de las Brujas is announced as the preferred habitat of the pink dolphins.

Las Brujas Lagoon © Toninas Tours

A variety of stories are told among the natives, such as the legend of the “Pink Dolphin” which tells that spiritual leaders arrived there to talk to the pink dolphins about the future of the Amazon and its communities.

Others say that it was named after a legend about some witches who stole the water from another place known as “Hoyos de la caldera” (boiler holes), but during the trip they dropped the water in the air, forming the Brujas Lagoon.

The truth is that, regardless of their origins, tourists and locals can take tours through this splendid landscape in canoes, accompanied by an indigenous guide.

Caño Bocón

It is the paradise of fishing. Bocón is one of the main tributaries to the Inírida River. It is bordered by jungle.

This river is located in the territory of the Puinave ethnic community, thanks to which the river, and its lagoons, with its Peacock Bass and the large Payaras that live in it, are cared for and watched over.

Caño Bocón ©adsfishingconcept

Thanks to an agreement with the Puinave, fishing is allowed for a maximum group of 10 people, you will not see anyone else in fishing action during your week.

The fishing is fast and abundant: Peacocks, Payaras, Catfish, Palometas, Bocones, Morocotos, etc.

Viejita Lagoon

Another paradise for fishing in Colombia. Downstream from Puerto Inírida, where the river delivers its waters to the Guaviare.

After two hours of navigation towards the east, you can leave the river and walk around 15 minutes through the jungle until you reach the Viejita lagoon.

On a floating raft you go around the lagoon completely. From the raft you will witness epic sunsets and landscapes.

The Fluvial Star of Inírida (Estrella fluvial del Sur)

This is a must see in Colombia. This is a place where the rivers Guaviare, Atabapo and Inírida converge and swell the Orinoco River, one of the longest rivers in south American, and one of the top five largest rivers in the world.

Estrella fluvial del Sur, with its many rivers and lagoons, has been declared as a Ramsar Territory in 2014. This gave it recognition as a wetland of international importance, whose ecological and social value transcends the borders of a single country and benefits humanity.

The declaration of the Inírida River Star demand research efforts and substantial investments to safeguard the ecological integrity of the area. Ecotourism  appears as a sustainable practice and activity compatible with the rational use promoted by the Ramsar Convention.

Estrella Fluvial del Sur ©El Espectador

Estrella Fluvial del Sur Facts

  • The River Star is home to 34% of Colombia’s wealth in freshwater fish species.
  • Colombia has the second largest number of freshwater fish species in the world. 
  • The River Star is home to 70% of the known avifauna in Eastern Orinoco, 476 species of birds, two of which are exclusive to the place.
  • In the Inírida River Star there are 903 species of plants, 200 of mammals and 40 of amphibians.
  • The otter, the jaguar and the pink dolphin, present in the Fluvial Star, are in critical danger.
  • In the area there are two indigenous peoples, Puinave and Curripaco, five resguardos and 15 communities that inhabit them, who support and legitimize the decision of the declaration as a Ramsar territory.

The Flower of the Inírida

It is an endemic plant of Guainía that grows in humid savannas and whose petals are red tips. Technically, the flower of the Inirida is two species of monocotyledonous herbs belonging to the family Rapateaceae. Both species are endemic to white-sanded savannas, with extremely poor, precarious soil conditions that are hostile to any plant.

Flowers of Inírida, winter Guacamaya superba, and summer Schoenocephalium teretifolium.

There are winter and summer ones and one is bigger than the other. The Winter Flower of Inírida (Guacamaya superba), the bigger one, blooms mainly during the rainy season in the region (June – October). On the other hand the Flower Summer of Inírida (Schoenocephalium teretifolium) blooms mainly during the season of drought (December – March).

Guainianos love and protect it and travelers admire it. It can be seen in all its magnificence in the savannahs on the way to Caño Bitina. During the flowering season, the savannah is dyed red because of the abundance of flowers.

Alto de Caño Mina

The Raudal Alto de Caño Mina, one of the tributaries of the Inírida River, is one of the most overwhelming in the Colombian Amazon.

This is one of the most emblematic destinations of this Secret Colombia. It has has a 15-meter waterfall of black, red and yellow waters. Its color is produced due to a great load of tannins it has. 

It is necessary to go up the Inírida River for two days. Then you leave the Inírida River and enter through the Caño Mina.

Other Plans in Guainía

Ancestral writings (Coco Viejo Indigenous Community)

  • Explanation of the ancestral writings by an interpreter of the Curripaco people and field trip where you will have contact with these writings.
  • Know the petroglyphs.
  • Typical gastronomy of the communities.
  • Wooden handicrafts, natural fiber weaving, ceramics.

Visit ndigenous communities of Caño Vitina, Sabanitas, Guamal, Concordia.

  • Experiential tourism.
  • Ecological Tourism.
  • Ecological Walk.
  • Bird watching.
  • Typical gastronomy of the communities.
  • Wooden handicrafts, natural fiber weaving, ceramics.

Caño San Joaquín

  • Sport Fishing.
  • Ecological Tourism.
  • Ecological Walk.
  • Bird watching.

Raudales de Zamuro and Cualet

  • Sport Fishing.
  • Ecological Tourism.
  • Ecological Walk.
  • Bird watching.
  • Experiential tourism.
  • Typical gastronomy of the communities.
  • Wooden handicrafts, natural fiber weaving, ceramics

Wildlife observation

  • Toninas (pink dolphins) and bird watching. 
  • Visit the ornamental fish farms.

Water tourism and adventure

  • Practice water ports such as skiing, diving and sport fishing.
  • Camping or hammock nights.

Hiking and trekking

  • Hiking through the forest to the indigenous community of Venado.

Recommendations 

This is a trip to the jungle, so you have to be prepared for BASIC conditions of accommodation, food, transport etc. You will not find luxury things especially at night, because you will have to sleep in the community.

Additionally, take into account that the itinerary can vary according to the changes that the flights can have, the circumstances of the climate or unforeseen last minute.

Things you will need: 

  • Wear comfortable, light-colored and lightweight clothing, hopefully waterproof.
  • Bring hats or caps for protection from the sun and wear a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Wear hiking shoes, preferably waterproof, and extra tennis shoes.
  • Photo or video camera to not lose any detail of these beautiful landscapes.
  • Abundant hydration for the walks, sunscreen and repellent.
  • A raincoat to cover yourself in case it rains.
  • Small backpack for the daily walks.
  • Flashlight.
  • Sleepwear. It is recommended to take a light sleeping, at night it can be cold.
  • Personal hygiene equipment in small quantities.
  • Tape, micropore and anti-irritation creams.
  • Camping equipment (tent, mattress) or hammock with ropes and tarp, depending on your preference for the first night.
  • Swimwear.

If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us!

References
About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

Remote Birding Hotspot in Putumayo: La Isla Escondida, Colombia

For me, La Isla Escondida Reserve ranks in the top 5 of any sites I’ve ever birded in the Neotropics! After my first 6 months traveling through parts of Colombia and the Brazilian Amazon in 2018, I finally got some downtime in December. But not for long.

To escape some X-mas blues and treat me with some advanced birthday present, I decided for a getaway from late December until early January to La Isla Escondida Nature Reserve.

I received some firsthand tip from a good friend about a recently established reserve in the foothills of southern Colombia’s East Andean slope. He mentioned it to be remote, rarely visited by birders, but with an excellent reputation and amazing birding. Exactly, what I was looking for.

The talk is about “Reserva Natural La Isla Escondida”. The owner of which is Jürgen Beckers, one of the main authors of “Birdwatching in Colombia”.

La Isla Escondida Reserve – Picture by Jürgen Beckers

La Isla Escondida Nature Reserve

My friend’s suggestions and a quick glance at the reserve’s checklist was more than enough, to convince me for a 9-day trip. The list hosts some highly sought-after species like Nocturnal– Salvin’s Curassow, Lined Forest-Falcon, Fulvous AntshrikeBanded-, Hairy-crested AntbirdFiery-throated Fruiteater & many more. 

From a Colombian perspective, many species confined to this particular corner of the country occur Black Tinamou, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Pink-throated BrilliantNapo SabrewingCoppery-chested Jacamar, Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Western Striolated PuffbirdWhite-throated WoodpeckerBlackish Antbird, Buff-rumped Foliage-gleanerFoothill Elaenia, Ecuadorian TyrannuletSpectacled Bristle-TyrantBuff-throated Tody-TyrantYellow-shouldered GrosbeakSpotted Tanager… 

Furthermore, as a newly established reserve in such a bird-rich region, many species remain to be added to the list. Possibilities for new discoveries are mesmerizing, including Wing-banded Antbird and Shrike-like Cotinga await the lucky and persistent one. 

The Department of Putumayo was heavily affected by Guerilla operations not long ago. But the reserve’s isolated location between two deep river valleys (Sucio River & Guamuez River) prevented the Guerilla of penetrating into the area. The immediate area around Isla Escondida is and always has been safe. 

How I got to Isla Escondida

I flew into Puerto Asístook a bus ride to Orito.  There I was picked up by a taxi driver who dropped me off at the trailhead, leading to the reserve. Mules were organized to carry my luggage to the lodge.

As soon as I stepped on to the forest trail, I realized, I was in birder’s heaven. I was surrounded by tall, lush forests. The trail starts at an elevation of about 650 above sea level and leads the lodge at about 800m. aslSo, it’s located in the ecotone between Amazonian lowlands and Andean foothills, one of the most interesting elevation belts for birding.

The trail is well marked and you can follow detailed instructions on the reserve’s webpage. As well, rely on Jürgen’s help about any queries visiting and accessing the reserve.  

To give you an idea, it’s a roughly 1 ½ hours hike up a muddy trail, walking slowly without birding. It is hot and humid and you could get rained out, anytime. So be prepared. There’s the possibility to rent a horse to bring you up. 

I walked up the trail mid-day in sunny conditions, so it was fairly quiet. Short before the lodge I hit a small mixed flock including Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher. 

The lodge

The lodge is built in a small clearing in the middle of a pristine forest, and really deserves the term Eco-lodge! The rustic but very charming cabins are mainly built by fallen trees, electricity is taken from solar panels, vegetables and fruits for food are mainly taken from the garden, the water waste is equipped with a double biological filtration system. 

I was greeted by Estefan, the reserve’s hardworking soul and caretaker of the placeHe and his whole family are from the indigenous Cofan tribe. In fact, it was his father that guided Jürgen on an exploration trip years ago to the present properties of Isla Escondida. 

Birding at La Isla Escondida Natural Reserve

After a quick snack, I was off to the first forest trail. I took my not even 25 minutes to located Banded Antbird, a bird I’ve only glimpsed once before, about 20 years ago in Peru! I did some nice sound recording of it (play here).

At some point, the birds walked right past in front of me. A pretty good start. The calls of Fulvous Shrike-Tanager revealed a small mixed flock of about a dozen species, a Rusty-belted Tapaculo singing right next to trail was literally asking to be sound recorded, too. 

After some late afternoon birding, I was treated by the first of Estefan’s delicious meals and some crazy story about a guest stepping on a Bushmaster (the largest Pit-Viper), about 80 meters away from the lodge in the middle of the trail! He showed me the picture of the snake and was telling me it’s size: It was over 2 meters long. Somebody got very, very lucky. I told myself to pay some extra attention to the trails 

Birding around the vicinity of the lodge

The next morning found my birding in the clearing and close vicinity of the lodge. Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and Amazonian Umbrellabird frequent the same flocks. The latter was seen eating fruits of a Cecropia Tree. Lemon-browed-, and Dusky-chested Flycatchers were calling overhead, Golden-winged Tody and Black-and-white Tody-Flycatchers were found right outside my cabin.

Birding around the trails

Time to hit trails. I immediately run into a large mixed flock containing one of my sought-after species for the trip: Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant, a species I was looking for many times without success in Ecuador. My goal was to get as many sound recordings of this species as possible. But on my first encounter with it, I just enjoyed watching, as the bird wasn’t vocalizing at all.

The understory flock further contained: Tschudi’s-, Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleanerRusset AntshrikeFoothill Antwren4 more Antbird speciesseveral TyrannidsWing-barred Piprites and Fulvous Shrike-TanagerIn the afternoon I encountered more mixed flocks and sound recorded Sapphire Quail-Dove – the first sound recording of that species for Colombia on Xeno-Canto. 

The following days I spent exploring the same trails over and over, as every day revealed something new. I had walk-away views of Nocturnal Curassow, Fulvous Antshrike and Grey-tailed Pihaand I run into at least 2 large mixed flocks each day. I was able to sound record various vocalization types of the very little studied Spectacle Bristle-Tyrant – one of my main goals of the trip. Listen here

Trail up to Fin del Mundo

Excursions the trail up to Fin del Mundo revealed 2 new species for the reserve’s list: Zimmer’s Flatbill and Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, both of which I was able to document with sound recordings. Zimmer’s Flatbill proved to be fairly common in the area, accompanying almost all larger mixed flocks. It has been overlooked, obviously. 

The Canopy Platforms

The reserve’s 2 canopy platforms are the only ones in whole Colombia! But you have to be free from giddiness in order to be able to climb them. You only access with a ladder-climbing up a 30 m tall tree, secured by harness, of course.

My time up there proved to be fruitless because the tree was so! The only notable species up there were some Paradise Tanagers and an eye-level encounter with Ecuadorian TyrannuletShould you be up there when the tree has fruits – you shall be very happy.

It’s the place to observe Fiery-throated Fruiteater, many colorful Tanagers and Foothill Elaenia, which accompanies mixed flocks. One platform has sleeping opportunities, and meals are catered to you via cable pull! 

On my birthday I was surprised by the whole team with an (especially) delicious meal, wine and birthday cake.  

This finally marked the end of my brief visit to this special place. I can’t wait to go back there and explore more remote and unbirded forest. 

About the authors

Jérôme Fischer

Professional bird guide, swiss native, with more than 32 years of experience guiding hardcore birders and birdwatching tours. He has been focused on bird identification. He also traveled to many countries, starting in Switzerland and then exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.