The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail of Colombia


The north of Colombia borders the Caribbean Sea and has a continental area of almost 133,000 square km. Try not to get excited with this fantastic video about the northern birding route in the Colombian Caribbean: Northern Caribbean Birding Trail of Colombia!

 

Colombia’s Caribbean coast is home to some incredibly special birding hotspots. One of them is the highest coastal mountain range on the planet, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with a wide elevation gradient, offering all thermal floors and a great biodiversity, it concentrates a large number of endemic species.

In front of it, the Serranía de Perijá, another mountain range that also has a very different avifauna and is very rich in endemisms.

Between these mountains are the threatened dry forests of Cesar and La Guajira, which also harbor very special birds and ecosystems.

Fianlly, also located there, between the Caribbean Sea and the dry forest of La Guajira, is the Los Flamencos flora and fauna sanctuary, an area of coastal lagoons watered by streams. This is an important feeding area for the birds that give it its name: flamingos.

Thus, in the Northern Caribbean of Colombia you can find most of the ecosystems of the tropical fringe of the planet: Tropical dry forest, Tropical humid forests, Low dense forests, Mountain forests, Páramos, Grasslands, Savannas, Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral reefs in the Caribbean islands.

The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail

 The National Audubon Society the largest bird conservation organization, along with the US Agency for International Development (USAIDand the Colombian bird study and conservation association, Asociación Calidris developed a sustainable bird watching itinerary in Colombia in order to achieve economic development and nature conservation: the Northern Caribbean Birding Trail. 

Clink in the following link to see the suggested itinerary proposed by them: http://www.northerncolombiabirdingtrail.com/

Birding Spots of The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail

The birding spots included in the Northern Caribbean Birding Trail are:

  • Los Besotes Ecopark,
  • Serranía del Perijá, 
  • Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary,
  • Tayrona National Natural Park and
  • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

In Serranía del Perijá, Los Flamencos and Sierra Nevada, birdwatchers and bird photographers will be delighted with the avian diversity and will be able to shoot unique and gorgeous species. 

Accomodation

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta offers one of the most known birding lodges in Colombia and around the world, El Dorado Birding Nature Reserve. Located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, it is the best place to stay for a birdwatching tour in this area. 

Serranía del Perijá offers a simple birding lodge with basic amenities. It is called Chamicero del Perijá Reserve. However, if you dont mind to wake up very early in th morning to get to the highest area, you can stay at the lower part in the town of Manaure.

Finally, the accommodation in the cities of Valledupar and Riohacha is intended to be at local hotels. We recommend you Casa Rosalia Hotel Boutique in Valledupar and Hotel Taroa in Riohacha. 

Itinerary

The trip lasts 10 days, it starts in Valledupar and ends in Santa Marta, and includes experienced tour leaders and trained local guides in every location. 

Paramo and Dry Forest in Cesar

Los Besotes Eco Park

Ten kilometers from Valledupar, in the direction of Patillal, is the natural reserve Los Besotes, which treasures a large part of the fauna and flora of this region of the Colombian dry forest in the department of Cesar.

Los Besotes Eco Park, Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia.

Established in 1993 by the lawyer and historian Tomas Darío Gutiérrez, the ecological park is the result of an extraordinary, almost individual effort of a man with a passion for nature.

Toucans, macaws, chachalacas, condors and other typical Caribbean species live in this region. One of the most important highlights is the Blue-billed Currassow, Crax alberti.

The 14 kilometers of trails that run through the park allow you to circulate through the massif of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, between the Murillo and Los Besotes hills, and access points of almost 2,000 meters high, such as the Alto del Condor.

Serranía del Perijá: Páramo

Cerro Pintado, Perijá Mountain Range, Manaure, Cesar

Perijá is an isolated offshoot of the Eastern Andes that forms the border with Venezuela and was a key spot during the Colombian internal conflict before turning into a paradise for birders all around the globe.

Since it has not always been accessible, scientists are still discovering and classifying many local species. The endemic species are  the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Sierrafinch and Perijá Tapaculo.

Perijá Thistletail – Asthenes perijana, endemic

However, it has been found that common species such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local variety of the Yellow-breasted Brushfinch are endemic.

Other birds that can be spotted are Crested and Goldenheaded Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, Buffbreasted Mountain-Tanager, Hook-billed Kite, kinds of Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager and Golden-bellied Starfrontlet.

Luckily you may see  the White-rumped Hawk or even Black-and-chestnut Eagle. The Chamizero del Perijá Reserve is the birding lodge that receives tourists that want to explore this remote area full of avian surprises. 

Dry Forest and Wetlands of La Guajira

Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary 

In La Guajira peninsula, characterized by vast desert areas, this nature reserve has shallow ponds that fill with rain and evaporate during the dry season.

American Flamingo – Phoenicopterus ruber at Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, Colombia

The salt water is the proper habitat for brine shrimp, which attract the American Flamingos —the stars of the sanctuary—, as well as Scarlet and White Ibis, gulls, terns and other shore birds.

Birds of La Guajira – Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus

Caribbean Dry Forest

Orinocan Saltator – Saltator orenocensis at Camarones, La Guajira, Colombia

The bright-color pattern continues with the Vermillion cardinal found in the dry forest and other species that can be seen are the White-whiskered spinetail, the Chestnut piculet, the Slender-billed inezia, the White-tipped inezia, the Buffy Hummingbird and the Orinocan Saltator. 

Buffy Hummingbird – Leucippus fallax, Camarones, La Guajira, Colombia

Find out more details about these destinations in our entry Discover the Caribbean Dry Forest Birding Trail of Colombia.

Mountain Forest and Páramo of Santa Marta

Tayrona National Natural Park

Tayrona National Park is a place full of myths and legends of the ancient communities that inhabited the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is a place for those seeking new and amazing ecotourism experiences.

Tayrona Park, picture by David Paez

Around 396 species of birds have been recorded here, including Little tinamou (Cripturellus soui), King vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Road hawk (Buteo magnirostris), Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) and Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis).

Find out more details about this destinations in our entries Best Time to Visit Tayrona Park to Avoid Crowds and Bad Weather and Travel Guide to The Lost City Trek – Ciudad Perdida – in Colombia.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta 

The Santa Marta mountain range is isolated from the Andes and the highest coastal mountain in the world! With 19 endemic bird speciesit is also among the most important endemism centers in the world

W Santa Marta Antbird – Drymophila hellmayri, endemic. Minca, Colombia

Many endemics have the Santa Marta moniker, such as  the Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Woodstar and Santa Marta Brush-Finch.

There is a screech owl unnamed but endemic, and species such as the Santa Marta Wren, the Santa Marta Sabrewing and the Santa Marta Blossomcrown are difficult to spot.

Santa Marta Brushfinch – Atlapetes melanocephalus. Minca, Colombia

If you are lucky, you will see  Black-backed Thornbill,  Santa Marta Woodstar,  Santa Marta Antpitta and Black-fronted Wood-Quail, but there are others that are more common: Santa Marta Brushfinch, Yellow-crowned Redstart, and Rusty-headed Spinetail. 

Be ready to focus your lens on the stunning White-tipped Quetzal, Band-tailed and Sickle-winged guans, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Golden-breasted Fruiteater. El Dorado Bird Reserve is the lodge where you will stay and relax while birds are not around. 

San Lorenzo Ridge – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Watch our birding experience in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta here. Find out more details about this destinations in our entry Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

As time goes by, the list of Colombian birding trails has grown and you can be sure that you will find fantastic birds in any region of the country.

Check all of our Birding Routes here

References 
 About the authors

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.

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.

Beginners Route Top 9 Birds of Colombia: From the Caribbean to the Andes

While in the world there are more or less 10,000 species of birds, Colombia has around 2000! I know, it is a huge number. But don’t worry, here I will tell you which birds to start with if you are coming for the first time to Colombia to watch birds.

Also, this guide may help you if you don’t have much experience with birding, or if you don’t feel like traveling to difficult or remote destinations. Moreover, if you are not sure about your birding style, visit our entry What Kind of Birder You Think You Are – Birding Colombia, and find out the best birding trip options for you.

The Beginners Route to the Top 9 Birds of Colombia

You will see these spectacular birds in places that are equally interesting, varied and fun. Besides, with the excuse of knowing these birds, you will be visiting half of the country, from the Caribbean to the Andes.

First Stop: The Caribbean

Start your trip visiting La Guajira and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Find out more information about birding in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in our entry Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Regarding La Guajira and the Caribbean Dry Forest birding destinations, please visit our entry Discover the Caribbean Dry Forest Birding Trail of Colombia.

1. Vermilion Cardinal

Vermilion Cardinal – Cardinalis phoeniceus

This is a bird endemic to the Colombian Caribbean and Venezuela. In Colombia, it is found only in the dry forests of La Guajira.

It is a very easy bird to observe. You will spend a fantastic day in the company of a local indigenous guide from the Wayuu community. Plus: Lunch at the beach!

If you have enough time, you can visit the Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, another beautiful attraction of the region.

Where to Stay: Hotel Taroa

2. Santa Marta Brush-finch

Santa Marta Brushfinch – Atlapetes melanocephalus

This is an endemic bird of Colombia that lives in the shrubby edges of the rainforest and secondary forests, between 1,500 and 3,200 m  (4921 – 10498 ft) of altitude, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Knowing this bird may be one of the best excuses to visit the Sierra Nevada. Besides, it is a bird that has become very comfortable with the presence of tourists.

Although it is not recommended, if you throw it pieces of bread or fruit, it will approach without a doubt. It may even land on your hands just to eat!

Where to Stay: El Dorado Bird Lodge

Second Stop: Santander

Santander is an adventure destination by tradition. There you can find the Chicamocha Canyon, one of the largest in South America. There is also the town of San Gil, the cradle of extreme adventure tourism in Colombia.

3. White-mantled Barbet

White-mantled Barbet – Capito hypoleucus ©CC 2.0 Ron Knight

This is another endemic bird of Colombia, and its distribution is associated with the Magdalena Valley. It can be seen in many places of Antioquia, Caldas, Boyacá, and Santander.

Two of the best places to observe and photograph the Withe-mantled Barbet are the Rio Claro Reserve, 3 hours from Medellin, in the department of Antioquia. Find more information about Rio Claro in our entry #1 Colombia Mid-Magdalena Valley Birding Hotspot: Rio Claro Reserve.

On the other hand, there is the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve of Proaves, which is located in the municipality of San Vicente de Chucurí, department of Santander, 87 kilometers from Bucaramanga. From Bucaramanga, you will have an approximate travel time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Where to Stay: Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve of Proaves

Third Stop: Antioquia

Does Guatapé sound familiar? Antioquia is a department with an immense wealth of nature destinations that have been little explored.

It is also home to several towns in the network of Colombia’s Heritage Villages, such as Jardín, Santa Fé de Antioquia, and Jericó.

4. Andean Cook-of-the-Rock

Andean cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus

This is an emblematic bird of the Andean forests. It is very striking for its color and size, and especially when found in groups of males, called leks.

It lives near rivers and rocky areas. Many people travel to distant places to see them under bridges, or, from a considerable distance, on a tree branch.

However, there is a place in Antioquia where you can go to see them easily and up close. It is the private reserve Jardín de Rocas in the municipality of Jardín.

It is worth mentioning that Jardín is one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia and is part of the country’s Network of Heritage Towns. So, it is well worth the visit.

5. Yellow-eared Parrot

Yellow-eared Parrot – Ognorhynchus icterotis

This parrot nests and lives among wax palms in some areas of the Western and Central Cordillera of Colombia. It is also endemic to Colombia. If you are curious about wax palm, then visit our entry The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

For a long time, this parrot was endangered, and thanks to the efforts of many people and NGO’s this bird is nowadays in a lower category of threat.

The ideal, and safest, place to see it is the Jardín-Riosucio road, between the departments of Antioquia and Caldas. There are some remnants of wax palm forest that have been used for nesting programs for these birds.

Of course, you will have to get there very early!

Where to Stay: Cassa Passiflora Hotel Boutique

Fourth Stop: The Coffee Triangle!

Colombia’s must-see destination par excellence, the coffee region has a lot to offer. It comprises the departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío, in addition to northwestern Tolima, and some parts of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca.

In 2011 UNESCO declared this area a World Heritage Site for its cultural importance and its coffee landscape. Since then, it has been known as the Coffee Cultural Landscape (#PCC).

6. Andean Condor

Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus

It is no longer necessary to go to remote places to see the Andean Condor in Colombia. In Manizales, just 40 min by flight from Bogotá, there is a place called Nido del Cóndor (Condor’s Nest).

This is a hotel placed over a strategic place for the sighting of the Andean Condor. You will have the privilege of observing a pair of condors nesting on the rocky outcrop under the tents of the lodge.

Moreover, you will see them flying over the balcony of your room, entering and leaving their nest. The plateau where these birds nest is one of the three areas known in Colombia where the Andean Condor is found.

Nido del Cóndor is located in the municipality of Villamaría, Caldas, Colombia.

Where to Stay: Nido del Cóndor

7. Tolima Blossomcrown

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

Among these top 9 birds of Colombia, I included just one hummingbird. However, Colombia is a great destination for hummingbird watching. Find out why in our entry 17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

The Tolima Blossomcrown is a species of hummingbird endemic to Colombia. It is threatened by the loss of its habitat. It is found in tropical montane forests between 1200 and 2300 m  (4921 – 10498 ft) on the eastern slopes of the central cordillera of the Andes.

This bird is very easy to see in the Combeima Canyon, in Tolima. Especially in the Ukuku Lodge, a place that has specialized in attracting birds and hummingbirds.

It loves to visit the gardens of nectar plants grown around the Ukuku’s house.

Where to Stay: Ukuku Lodge.

Fifth Stop: Cali!

Cali is a city with a wide cultural offer, as well as a wide range of natural destinations. If you want to know more about the cultural offer of Cali, visit the Dancing Salsa in Cali Colombia blog on the Pelecanus website.

8. Multicolored Tanager

Multicoloured tanager – Chlorochrysa nitidissima, Valle del Cauca

The Multicolored Tanager is a bird endemic to the western Andes of Colombia. It is considered a winged jewel among the birds of Colombia and is one of the most wanted birds by birdwatchers.

Although it is a common bird moving around the treetops, it is very difficult to see. It always flies on the tallest trees, and it is a very small bird… and it is green! and restless!…

For this reason, some places have concentrated on attracting this bird to feeders in open gardens, to watch them up close.

This is the case of the Minga Ecolodge, a birdlodge near Cali. Every day between 6:00 and 8:00 am you will have the opportunity to see and photograph this beautiful bird.

If you like tanagers a lot, you’ll love our entry Top 7 Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

Where to stay: Minga Ecolodge.

Final Stop: Bogotá!

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia. It has many activities to offer in and around the city. There are plenty of birding activities you can do in Bogotá, I wrote about them in our entry Where to go for Birdwatching in Bogotá? Complete Bogotá Bird Guide.

9. Apolinar’s Wren

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari – ENDEMIC

This is a bird endemic to the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes of Colombia. It was very easy to find in the wetlands of the urban area of Bogotá. However, intense urbanization and pollution have limited its distribution to the páramo areas.

You can drive to the Sumapaz Park and from the road you will have the opportunity to hear it several times and even see it. When we went there, we were lucky, just watch the picture we got!

Find out more details about the Páramo of Sumapaz in our entry The Biggest Páramo in the World is in Colombia: Know the Sumapaz Park.

Where to stay: Muisca Hotel.

For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia,visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

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


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.

What Kind of Birder You Think You Are – Birding Colombia

Yes, we have been watching you. We want you to come and make a birding trip in Colombia, and that’s why we are interested in knowing what kind of bird watcher you are.

Since we can’t give you a direct diagnosis, here I will tell you what the most common types of birders are, according to recent studies. This will help you identify with one of them.

If you know what kind of bird watcher you are, it will be easier for you, and for us, to plan the birding trip of your dreams in Colombia. 

We will give you some of our suggestions on what you could do and where you could go if you come to Colombia to watch birds. To start, I recommend you visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

Without further ado, here are the most common bird watchers’ types: Hard Core Birders, Enthusiastic Birders, and Casual Birders (Ecotourists). Each segment differs in objectives and means to achieve satisfaction.

Hard Birding

Hard birding corresponds to extremely specialized tours to find difficult bird species targets.

The Hard Core Birders 

You are the difficult to influence birdwatcher. If your interest is to identify the greatest number of birds from a given location, and increase your life list, you can consider yourself as a hardcore birder.

In general, hardcore birdwatching is associated with competitions among birders, whether it be on a lifetime/region basis, or during a specified period. Examples of this are the Global Big Day, the Big Year, or to get into the top ten world listers.

If you are a lister, Colombia is a must to visit since we have more than 70 endemic bird species in our country. There is no way to avoid your visit.

Comedy icons Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson star in THE BIG YEAR. ©HBO

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

For a hardcore like you, Colombia can be expensive because of transportation. Many of the endemic species are found in places far form big cities, where the road infrastructure, and even hotel infrastructure, is not very good. Additionally, add the costs of the flights you must take to arrive there.

Once in the place, you will need specialized transportation, as for example 4×4 trucks that can enter these sites, or horses. It is also necessary your willingness to endure long journeys to get to some places.

Examples of places where you need specialized transportation are Bahía Solano, in Chocó, Montezuma, in Risaralda, the Ukuku Lodge, in Tolima, or Mitú, in Vaupés.

Guianan Cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola rupicola, Mitú, Vaupés

Getting up very early in the morning is almost unavoidable. This is because some birds appear at specific times early in the morning, so if you arrive late, you will miss it.

Examples of such morning birds are the Fuertes’s Parrot in Risaralda, the Santa Marta Parakeet in the Sierra Nevada, or some antpittas in Caldas.

Finally, the guide will be expensive. Local birding guides in Colombia with a high level of expertise in birds, and who also speaks your language are few. 

There are some specialized birding companies who can offer you these services, many of them from outside Colombia. In Sula, we want local companies to grow, and that is why we support and promote local operators and guides.

Characteristics of a Hardcore Birder

  • Extremely dedicated birders
  • Impatient with less-skilled birders and crowds
  • Pursue to increase “life list”
  • Competitive
  • Bring their own equipment
  • Not interested in other activities
  • Satisfaction comes from nature observations
  • Predominantly men
  • Will travel long distances to see new or rare birds
  • You guys are the smaller segment, less than 20%

Soft Birding

If you like birds, but also socializing, living other experiences. Or if you are not interested in filling lists, or competing, or do not want to be “suffering” so much in your birding trip, this is your group of birders!

The Enthusiastic Birders

I consider myself into this kind of birder, I am a broad-based nature lover. Yes, I am under suspicion for being a biologist, but I know competing of life lists are not in my preferences.

However, I have the desire to watch a large and diverse number of birds. And this does not imply going through discomfort.

Enthusiastic birders still need specialized attention related to birds, with good and fast transport services, easy to walk trails, and satisfaction. Satisfaction comes from being able to watch, as much as possible, all the available birds.

Local Birders at Vado Real, Suaita, Santander, Colombia

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

Places that will make you happy are the civil society nature reserves. Among them, we recommend you Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve in Caldas, El Dorado Bird Reserve in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Mururito and Lagos de Menegua in Meta, El Encanto in Palestina – Huila, El Descanso in the Old Way to Buenaventura, and La Minga Ecolodge in Valle del Cauca.

If you want to know more about nature reserves in Colombia visit our entry Responsible Travelers and Nature Reserves in Colombia.

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

The above-mentioned places still retain some of the privacy and direct contact with nature that we always try to find. There, everything is ready for you to watch the birds, and take with you the best experience.

Characteristics of an Enthusiastic Birder

  • Broad-based and knowledgeable nature lovers
  • Slower, more relaxed travelers
  • Tolerate birders of all skill levels
  • Satisfied as long as birds are seen
  • Confortable in larger groups
  • Interested in other nature and cultural activities
  • Satisfaction comes partly from socializing with others
  • Slightly more women than men
  • You represent about 50% of birding tourists.

The Casual Birders

The family guys! If you like to watch birds with less effort and more comfort, and/or travel with your spouse and kids, this is your group!

For these groups, birds are not the main goal of the trip. Birdwatching may be an add-on to other activities such as cultural experiences, safari, trekking, bicycling, glamping, etc.

@Colombiafrank at Mururito

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

There are plenty of option in Colombia for you to find. The coffee destinations and the coffee triangle are the most recommended for this kind of experiences. You can mix your love for coffee with your interest in nature and watch some birds, I recommend you read our entry Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia

So, if you like birds, but also to do trekking or bicycling I recommend you visit Minca, in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Or if you prefer to experience the local culture and observe other animals, I recommend you El Encanto de Guanapalo, Hato La Aurora or Altagracia in Casanare for a safari and eastern plains cowboy activities.

For more information about safari in Colombia read our entry Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

But, what if you like is coffee and rum, and walk around, a swimming pool?, visit Hacienda Venecia in Caldas, or La Palma y El Tucán near to Bogotá.

Safari in Casanare

In general, these tours do not need an expert birding guide. You can venture out just to look for the birds, as there will always be easy routes designed for this within the places you lodge or in the surroundings.

You would be paying for the comfort, convenience, and variety of activities.

Characteristics of a Casual Birder

  • Non specialist birder
  • Combine birding with other nature-based activities
  • Interested in seeking something different from home
  • Prefer nature destinations accessible by road
  • Satisfaction comes from superficial interaction with nature
  • Your group represents about 30% of birding tourists

I hope you found your answer about what kind of bird watcher you are. Now you are ready to plan your trip!

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.

#1 Llanos Experience near to Bogotá: The Llanero Dawn Route in Meta

Also called the Meta River Tourist Route, the Ruta del Amanecer Llanero, or Llanero Dawn Route, is one of the four special destinations the Meta department has to offer to its visitors.

Here I will tell you everything you can do in the Amanecer Llanero Route in Meta, just a 20-minute flight from Bogotá.

Llanero Dawn Route (Amanecer Llanero)

If you want to know the path that leads to the Sun, this will be your route! You will see the Sun reflected on the waters of the Meta River, which sustains the fishermen, or warming up the sandy beaches of Cabuyaro, and finally you will see it set from the Manacacías River boardwalk.

And of course, you will see the Sun rising: before six o’clock in the morning you will witness an orange and red disc inflaming the sky. You will then know that you are on the Llanero Dawn route (Amanecer Llanero Route).

Location

The Amanecer Llanero route includes the municipalities of Cabuyaro, Puerto López and Puerto Gaitán in the department of Meta, in the Llanos Orientales (eastern plains) of Colombia.

Amanecer Llanero Route or Llanero Dawn Route

Weather

On this route, you will find an equatorial climate. It is usually (very) hot, humid and rainy all year round. The average annual temperature is 19°C, reaching maximums of up to 35°C depending on the season.

On the other hand, the average annual rainfall is 1216 mm, and it is also very humid, with an average relative humidity of 83%.

What to do in the Llanero Dawn Route

The route begins in Villavicencio, in the piedmont plains, on the road that leads to the municipality of Puerto López. Before crossing the bridge over the Ocoa River and leaving the urban area, it is recommended to stop at the Chorillano sector and enjoy the famous chorizos, empanadas, and fast food that have made the city famous.

Tiuma Park

Tiuma park is a theme park and hotel located in Villavicencio at Km 15 via Puerto López. It is focused on a nature and adventure theme and has spectacular scenery.

There you can do activities such as canopy at 120 feet, horseback riding, attend shows of Vaqueria and the culture of the plains, rappelling, herding cattle and Llanero work, and ecological walks, all under the supervision of trained personnel.

Additionally, this place offers glamping type accommodation, being one of the pioneers in offering Glamping in Villavicencio. These accommodations have air conditioning, Jacuzzi and a private bathroom. They also have a view of the lake, where you can observe animals of the region, the Llanero sunset and sunrise, and the unique landscape of the savannah plains.

Puerto López – Obelisk

86 km after leaving Villavicencio you will arrive at the municipality of Puerto López located on the banks of the Meta River. In Puerto López, you can visit the Monument to the Canoero, which honors the fishermen of the region.

Creative Commons Licence – Ph. Mateo Luna De Mateo Luna – Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Obelisk is known as the belly button of Colombia for being the point that demarcates the geographical center of the Colombian territory. When arriving in Puerto López, you can see Alto de Menegua, where the obelisk stands. The obelisk is 30 meters tall, and there you can observe the sun in all its splendor at noon.

There you will find the Mirador Matapalo Tower, 50 meters high, from where you will have the most spectacular view of the Llanos Orientales of Colombia, just in the geographic center of the country.

Cabuyaro

Cabuyaro is a town with fabulous landscapes and whose main attraction is the majestic Meta River. Throughout the town, you can find beautiful Morichales typical of the savannah landscape surrounded by great beauty. The “morichales” constitute a very common and representative ecosystem of the Orinoco region, and are mainly formed by individuals of the moriche palm (Mauritia flexuosa).

Cabuyaro Beach

In Cabuyaro, the natives have designed a peculiar way to travel the Meta River in boats and canoes, and they also offer fishing instruction.

Likewise, this territory has a great variety of festivities that make it one of the best vacation destinations. There are, for example, the Regional Harp Festival and the Plains Sunset Beauty Contest, held in November; and the Beach and River Festival, in February.

Ostrich Park (Parque Avestruz)

Parque Avestruz is located 1.5 km from the Obelisk and only 4 minutes away, on the road to Puerto Gaitán in the Colombian plains.

There you will have a guided tour to interact with the ostriches and learn from them. You will be able to touch and feed the ostriches. Also, you will be able to take pictures and videos of these exotic birds that can reach up to 3 meters high.

COLOMBIAFRANK at the Ostrich Park in Meta
COLOMBIAFRANK Feeding Ostriches at the Ostrich Park in Meta

The park offers exotic ostrich meat in hamburgers and grilled, as well as dishes prepared with ostrich eggs. You can also find products such as ostrich skin for the manufacture of luxury items including cowboy boots, handbags, wallets, briefcases, belts, clothing, furniture, and car accessories. Ostrich oil, which is supposed to have countless health and skincare benefits.

Shoes made with ostrich skin at the Ostrich Park in Meta
Ostrich Oil at the Ostrich Park in Meta

You will also find ostrich feathers, crafts, leather goods, and ostrich eggshells formerly used as cooking bowls or canteens.

Earrings made with ostrich feathers at the Ostrich Park in Meta

Hotel & Bioreserva Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua is located 17 kilometers ahead of Puerto López, department of Meta, on the road to Puerto Gaitán.

Morichal at Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua is a natural reserve to enjoy the beauty of the rolling savannas of the eastern plains. It is an ideal place to enjoy a safari with your family. There you will be able to do bird, reptile, fish, and primate watching. Its main attractions are the Macaw Lake, the sunsets that can be seen from the El Morichal viewpoint, and also the sunrises.

Kayak Trips at Lagos de Menegua

There is no excuse to stay only at the pool because you can go on bike or horse rides, kayak trips, or walks through the preserved forest. There are also the ponds where thousands of mojarras and cachamas are farmed, as well as the Lake of Silence, where you can fish for pavon fish and yamu fish, among others.

Mojarras at Lagos de Menegua
Fishing Mojarras at Lagos de Menegua

Finca Hotel Mururito Nature Reserve

Mururito is a 2000-hectare nature reserve in the Orinoco, with a high-quality hotel farm at its heart and several guided activities and safaris. To get to the farm you need 4×4 transport. However, you can also arrive by charter flight, or enter via the Manacacías River.

Exploring the Savannah on horseback at Mururito Nature Reserve

There you can take daytime and nighttime walks in the forest or in the savannah. You can go out by bike or on horseback to discover the farthest places in the reserve, its pastures, its marshes and its lagoons. You can also learn the work of a cowboy, and participate in the activities of the farm.

Walks in the forest at Mururito Nature Reserve
In the photo two forest foxes (Cerdocyon thous), one of the species that has been increasing its population thanks to conservation in Mururito.

On the other hand, you can take a bath in the waters of Caño Tigre or in the Manacacías River. Also, in the lagoons or in the river you can fish piranhas and other fish.

Manacacías River at Mururito Nature Reserve
COLOMBIAFRANK enjoying his trip along the Manacacías River in Mururito

Mururito is also considered one of the hotspots for bird watching in the department of Meta. Birds from the Amazon and the Orinoco region have been recorded there.

Golden-headed Manakin – Ceratopipra erythrocephala
Swallow-winged Puffbird – Chelidoptera tenebrosa

Puerto Gaitán

Leaving the Obelisk in Alto de Menegua you continue the route 112 km through the plain leading to the municipality of Puerto Gaitán. The beaches of the rivers Manacacías, Yucao, and Meta are an alternative for rest and recreation. In the mouths of the Manacacías river, you can appreciate the Pink Dolphins, here known as “Toninas” (Inia geoffrensis).

Manacacías River at Puerto Gaitán, Meta

Ethno-tourism project

This project will allow you to participate in the life of the local indigenous people, learn about the customs of the Piapoco community, and integrate yourself into the ancestral ritual of the Dance of the Anaconda. Likewise, you can be guided by the community through ecological trails in their reserve.

Visiting the Piapoco’s territory in Meta

Where to Stay when you Visit the Llanero Dawn Route

If you are a nature lover and you like to be away from civilization, Lagos de Menegua and Mururito are the best options to stay when you visit the Llanero Dawn Route.

Hotel & Bioreserva Lagos de Menegua
Mururito Nature Reserve

The easiest place to visit is Lagos de Menegua because the entrance is on the main road that leads to Puerto Gaitán. On the other hand, to get to Mururito you need to go into the plain on an unmarked and uncovered road. You can only get to Mururito by direct indication, but not on your own.

If you want to know more about Lagos de Menegua and Mururito, visit our entry Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia. Also, if you are looking for the best safaris in Colombia please visit our entry Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit the Llanero Dawn Route (Ruta del Amanecer Llanero) in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just 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.

The Ultimate Llanos Orientales of Colombia Bucket List

Over the last few years, Los Llanos Orientales has become a top favorite nature destination in Colombia. Travelers have fallen hard for the incredible landscapes, the safari experiences, the culture, and food.

With 16-17 million ha in the country, there is a long list of things you want to see and do. So I put together a bucket list with some of the most remarkable Colombian Llanos travel experiences and destinations.

From Caño Cristales in La Macarena to rafting in the Güéjar River Canyon, bird watching in Restrepo, aero-safari in Altagracia, horse riding and cowboy experience in El Encanto de Guanapalo, cocoa experience in Arauca, sport fishing in the Bita river in Vichada, glamping in the Corocora Camp to boating along the Manacacias River chasing dolphins in Meta— The Llanos Orientales is full of incredible adventures!

Here’s our ultimate Colombian Llanos Orientales travel bucket list!

Meta

Meta is one of the top bird watching destinations in Colombia. The multiple ecosystems you can find in Meta offer some of the most varied bird species checklists from the paramo to vast plains with echoes of the Amazon forest and parts of the Guiana Shield.

It also offers more than 47 festivals and cultural events throughout the year. The International Folkloric and Tourist Festival of El Llano is one of the most important and has the Cuadrillas de San Martín horse exhibition, which is Cultural Heritage of Colombia.

Another highlight for Meta is the Caño Cristales river, along with wonderful natural landscapes and adventure destinations. In Meta, you will have incredible gastronomic, cultural, wellness, nature and adventure experiences just a 20-minute flight from Bogotá. It is a great destination for those who have little time, or for those who travel with their families.

Top Experiences in Meta

La Macarena Mountain Range (Sierra de la Macarena): Caño Cristales Route

Caño Cristales – Creative Commons Wiki

Piedemonte Llanero Route: Birdwatching, Wellness and Horseback Experiences

Undulated Savanna – Mururito Nature Reserve

Llanero Dawn Route (Amanecer Llanero): Safari and dolphins

Manacacías River

Llanero Spell Route (Embrujo Llanero): Rafting at Rio Guejar Canyon

Travesía Aventura, Rio Guejar

More Bucket List Experiences in Meta

  • Birdwatching at UNAMAS Nature Reserve: Amazon jungle transition Orinoquia-Amazon
  • World Cowboy Meeting
  • 51st International Joropo Tournament.
  • Los Ocarros Biopark
  • Lomalinda Regional Natural Park
  • Guaicaramo Hot Springs (Barranca de Upía)
  • Ostrich Park
  • Las Malocas Park
  • Obelisk of Puerto Lopez

Casanare

Casanare is one of the top safari destinations in Colombia. The multiple nature reserves in the flooded plains of Casanare offer some of the best wildlife viewings in northern South America, especially during April and December.

Another highlight of Casanare is the cowboy’s rich culture. Discover the Cowboy culture in the Ranchón del Llanerazo, a museum that invites you to live the life of the Llanero man. There you will know the “Cantos de Trabajo del Llano”, which is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world.

Top Experiences in Casanare

Aerosafari in the Colombian Plains

Aero safari – Altagracia Nature Reserve

Colombian Cowboy Experience

Cowboy Experience – Hato Los Deseos

Safari at Nature Reserves and Hatos

Safari in truck – Hato Matepalma

More Bucket List Experiences in Casanare

  • Birdwatching at La Primavera
  • Visit Corocora Camp for Luxury Glamping
  • Wildlife Photography tours
  • Gastronomy
  • Horseback Riding Expedition
  • Culture & Traditions
  • Conservation Experiences

Vichada

Vichada is the biggest department of the Colombian Llanos and is blessed with an incredible richness of water. It is the place where the Orinoco River forms its natural border between Colombia and Venezuela. From the spectacular El Tuparro national park to the mighty network of rivers, lagoons and canals and abundant wildlife – it’s the perfect destination for anglers and nature lovers.

To get to Vichada, you need an air connection since there is no direct road in good condition. You will find the airport of Puerto Carreño its capital, and also other airfields in other places in the department. You can also get there by boat, through the rivers that run on its territory: Orinoco, Meta and Vichada.

Top Experiences in Vichada

Tuparro Natural National Park

The Eighth Wonder of the World Tuparro Natural Park Colombiaamazinglandscapes / CC BY-SA

Streams of Maypures and Ventanas

Streams of Maypures and Ventanas © FishIn Colombia

Sportfishing at Bita and Tomo Rivers

Fishing in Puerto Carreño © FishIn Colombia

Bojonawi Nature Reserve

Bojonawi Nature Reserve

Pink river dolphin at Meta, Bita, and Orinoco Rivers

Bita River © FishIn Colombia

More Bucket List Experiences in Vichada

  • Hills of Casuarito
  • Orinoco and Bita Rivers beaches
  • Streams of Tuparro
  • Azul and El Pañuelo lagoons.
  • Peinillas Canal
  • Mesetas Canal
  • Rancho Barú and Rancho Wisi
  • Tomo, Tuparrito, and Tuparro rivers
  • Pedro Camejo Island
  • Guahibos and Cuibas Tribes
  • Maipures Indigenous Cemetery
  • El Unuma Indigenous Reserve
  • Gaviotas Center
  • Marandúa Project
  • Trekking

Arauca

Arauca is a diamond in the rough for nature and adventure tourism in Colombia. Its poor development is related to the presence of illegal armed groups. Here oil and livestock play an important role in the national economy.

In 2018, this area of Colombia was supported as a Tourism, Peace and Reconciliation zone with Creata Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, and USAID collaboration. However, despite the efforts, it is still a conflict zone in the country.

Its attraction lies in the richness of its landscapes. Its territory is divided into a mountainous part, an alluvial plain of the Orinoco, and the foothills of the plains with vegetation of savanna and tropical forest. Thus, the contrasts between mountains and plains offer you exotic landscapes and a great diversity of flora and fauna.

Top Experiences in Arauca

“Cotizas” of Arauca – handmade shoes and handicrafts

©Creata

Arauca Birding

©Creata

Cacao Experience

©Creata

Llanero Experience and Vaquería Songs

©Creata

La Barcaza: Boat trip on the Arauca River

©Creata

More Bucket List Experiences in Arauca

  • Cravo Norte
  • José Antonio Páez International Bridge
  • Las Toninas Aquapark
  • Arauca River
  • Los Morichales Park
  • El Alcaraván Experimental Farm
  • Rondon Port
  • Saravena
  • Tame

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit the Llanos Orientales, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References

  • www.mincit.gov.co
  • SITUR Meta
  • http://www.vichada.gov.co
  • Fundación Omacha

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.[/vc_column_text]

 

Top 7 Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and Where to Find Them

Did you know that Tanagers are a very large family of birds? Yes! and you must know that many species from this family are brightly colored. Therefore, we decided to dedicate a whole post to them, however, if you want to know other colorful birds of Colombia, you can visit our entry Most Colorful Birds of Colombia and where to find them. In this post you will find the Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and where to find them.

First of all, I will tell you that the initial selection was not easy, many of tanagers are beautiful. Secondly, tanagers are very widely distributed along the entire American continent! Here is a preliminary list of those chosen: Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Guira Tanager, Masked Crimson Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Multicolored Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Golden Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Red-hooded Tanager, and White-capped Tanager.

Colombia also has important, but less colorful tanagers to speak of, belonging to the Bangsia genus. We will talk about these in another post, stay tuned!

In this entry I will focus on Tanagers with reduced distribution, and/or exclusive to Colombia.

Multicolored Tanager: The Queen of the Most Colored Tanagers

Chlorochrysa nitidissima

This bird has an incredible color pattern: electric cerulean chest and flanks, black belly, green nape and wings, cream colored back, golden face and throat, and brown-black ear patch.

Endemic to the forests of the central and western mountain ranges of the Colombian Andes, it is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is the symbol of the IBA “Bosque de Niebla San Antonio – km 18“, in the department of Valle del Cauca. There you can easily photograph this bird at La Minga Ecolodge.

Flame-faced Tanager 

Tangara parzudakii

Among the most colorful tanagers, you cannot miss this one. Know that this bird has unmistakable colors with a bright red-orange face, which turns yellow on the crown and nape. Also, it has a black patch on its ears, and its back is black. Its underparts and wing covert patch are opalescent greenish and the rump is reddish.

Depending on its geographical location in some places it shows individuals with bright red on the face, while in other places they may look more orangish.

Yes, I know you can say “but this bird is widely distributed among Colombia, Ecuador y Perú!” But I also can tell you that it is still an eye-catching attraction when you are in a birding tour in Colombia. You can find it around the whole Andean region of Colombia, in altitudes between 1000 and 2500 m.

Golden-eared Tanager

Tangara chrysotis

This colorful bird moves on top of the trees, however it visits low troughs from where its colors can be appreciated. It is blue-green with an orange face, coppery belly and contrasting black patches on its head and back.

You can find this bird in the departments of Huila and Caquetá, in the south of Colombia. It is very easy to photograph in the El Encanto Nature Reserve and in the Mirador de las Tangaras on the old road to Florencia, capital of Caquetá.

Scarlet-and-white Tanager

Chrysothlypis salmoni

You must know this Tanager is rare, like, difficult to find. You can find it only by visiting the lowland and foothill rainforests of western Colombia, throughout the Pacific region, which also corresponds to the Biogeographic Chocó forest.

The male has a spectacular coloration, which makes him different from any other South American bird. It has a bright red plumage with white flanks and slightly darker wings.

You can watch this bird when you visit the old road to Buenaventura, better known as Anchicayá, in the department of Valle del Cauca. Also at Las Bangsias Reserve in the department of Nariño.

Rufous-throated Tanager

Ixothraupis rufigula

All the species of the genus Ixothraupis have a very particular plumage, presenting very vivid colors of greens, blues, whites and yellows, but they become weird by the black spots in the midle of their feathers, which make them look with scales, as a fish… Among them, the Rufous-throated Tanager differenciates the most.

The Rufous-throated Tanager has a set of colors, which makes those Ixothraupis scales look less trippy. This Tanager may appear as of sober plumage, however when you see it in the sun it is spectacular. It has a mostly black head, and a very striking orange throat. Its neck, back and scapulas are dark with a flaky appearance, as well as the contrasting black spots on its breast and flanks over the white of its belly.

You will find this tanager throughout the Pacific region of Colombia, which also corresponds to the Biogeographic Chocó forest. You can photograph it when you visit Anchicayá in the department of Valle del Cauca. Also in the department of Nariño at Las Bangsias Reserve.

Purplish-mantled Tanager

Iridosornis porphyrocephalus

This tanager is almost completely blue. However, the truth is that its plumage represents almost every shade of blue, from a brighter dark blue on the head, to a paler cerulean blue towards the tail. And, to complete its beauty, it has a bright lemon-yellow throat.

It is difficult to find the most beautiful among all the species of the Iridosornis genus. Firstable, what can you expect from a genus called Iridosornis which means rainbow bird? I found Iridosornis is a word derived from the Greek roots “iris = rainbow” and “ornis = bird“. Second, they all look alike and have the same range of colors: all blues, yellow, black and a little bit of rufus.

I decided that Purplish-mantled Tanager and Golden-crowned Tanager (Iridosornis rufivertex) are the most beautiful in this genus. And you can find them in Colombia. You can observe the Purplish-mantled Tanager in southern Colombia, and it is especially easy to see in the department of Putumayo.

On the other hand, the Golden-crowned Tanager can be found all over the Andean region of Colombia, the luck is to find it, but in places like the national natural park Los Nevados in the coffee axis, or the national natural park Chingaza, near Bogotá, you can get easy records.

Golden-crowned Tanager is rare to see, its color is mostly dark cobalt blue with a black head and a bright yellow cap. Its under tail coverts are reddish, which differentiates it from the rest of the birds of this genus.

Rufous-winged tanager

Tangara lavinia

This tanager is mostly green. The male is deep emerald green with a yellow back and neck. The head and wings are mostly ferruginous and the belly is bright sky blue.

You can find this tanager throughout the Pacific region of Colombia, which also corresponds to the Biogeographic Chocó forest. Also, the best places to photograph this bird are Anchicayá in the department of Valle del Cauca, and Apía in the department of Risaralda.


References

  • The Internet Bird Collection IBC
  • The Macaulay Library

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.

The Uniqueness of Tatamá Park and Montezuma Road Destination

Tatamá Park is situated on the borders of the department of Chocó, Risaralda, and Valle del Cauca, along the western Colombian Andean mountain range. It is situated in the confluence between the biographical Pacific and the Coffee Triangle.

The park has an extension of 51900 ha, and it is located between 2000 and 4200 meters above sea level. Temperature ranges between 4 and 22ºC and precipitation is high all year round, especially towards de Chocó side, in the west.

Discovering Tatamá National Natural Park

The park was created in 1987. Its uniqueness lies in its geographical location which makes that many of Colombia’s endemic and near-endemic species are found here. This protected area is of high scientific interest because of the excellent state of conservation of its Andean ecosystems.

Its territory is also home to tributaries that drain the slopes of the San Juan and Cauca Rivers. At the highest area of the park, there is the Tatamá Paramo which along with those of Frontino and El Duende are the only three paramos in Colombia that have not been altered by humans.

According to historians, this place was inhabited in pre-Columbian times by the Sima or Tatamá indigenous groups, belonging to the Anserma indigenous people. It was them who gave the name to the hill Tatamá. According to this theory, tatamá meant “the land or the highest stone” in their dialect.

Other historians have a different theory, and say that the name comes from the Chocó indigenous people, of Caribbean influence, who attribute the meaning of “the grandfather of the rivers” to the word tatamá.

Flora and Fauna at Tatamá

According to the documentation on the park found on the official website of the System of Protected Areas of Colombia, in the park you can find a great richness of plants, among them the endemic Black Anthurium (Anthurium caramantae) and more than 560 species and morpho-species of orchids. Tree species with fine woods are also protected, some of which are in danger of extinction.

There are also more than 600 species of birds, some of which are locally and globally vulnerable, 11 are endemic to the Western Cordillera, 9 are endemic to Colombia and 14 are near-endemic. An example of these is the Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta).

110 species of mammals have been registered, representing the endemic fauna of the Andes. Among them stands out the Colombian Weasel (Mustela felipei), which has been catalogued as the rarest mammal in South America. Within the reptiles there are records for 108 species.

Black Anthurium – Anthurium caramantae ENDEMIC

What to do at Tatamá

Currently, the park is closed to public, however, in some areas around the park, and at the lower areas, it is possible to do hikes, trekking, climbing and bird watching activities.

Hiking and trekking at Tatamá National Natural Park

Given its high level of conservation, the Tatamá Park has a scenic beauty unknown to the public. Los Planes de San Rafael  Visitors’ Center is located in Los Planes de San Rafael, municipality of Santuario, in the department of Risaralda.

In general, this visitors’ center, in agreement with Risaralda Regional Autonomous Corporation (CARDER), and the Community Action Board of the village, offers  personalized attention for tourists, with tours where environmental interpretation is fundamental.

There are several trails related to these tours:

  • Path to the Tatamá Waterfalls: The path to the waterfalls is located in the lower area of the park, at 2500 meters above sea level. It has a great natural tourist attraction, where you can climb and enjoy the exuberant vegetation. It starts at the visitors’ center, and follow a four kilometer route that leads to the area of the waterfalls. Once there you can enjoy the landscape formed by the waterfalls, some of which reach 70 meters high. The route takes between eight and ten hours, so it is better to start it early in the morning.
  • Valley of the Frailejones: It is a sector located at 3,700 meters above sea level, in the territory of the department of Chocó. It is a destination that requires experience in hiking and mountaineering. To reach the valley it is necessary to climb and descend in ropes. Here you can see frailejones that reach five meters in height.
  • Valley of the Lagoons: It is located near the Valley of the Frailejones. It is a territory of glacial origin surrounded by steep hills, which protect the mountain lakes between them.
  • There is also the trail to the Centro Experimental Altoandino Tatamá. It takes over 30 minutes.

Birdwatching at Tatamá: Montezuma Road

This place is included in the Central Andes Birding Route, developed by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MINCIT), the Productive Transformation Program (PTP) and Procolombia.

This bird watching route enters the Tatamá National Natural Park through its northern zone, via Pueblo Rico. Pueblo Rico is a municipality of about 10,000 inhabitants and is the last town in Risaralda before entering the Colombian Pacific.

The Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge is located in the lowest part of the Tatamá National Natural Park. Although it is not the official entrance to the Park, it is a place authorized by the National Natural Park System to be able to enter and observe the biodiversity and ecosystems that Tatamá offers, and especially to observe the great amount of birds of the tropical humid forest.

Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge is a farm located on the western slope of the western mountain range, in the Department of Risaralda, on the border with Chocó, in Colombia. From Pueblo Rico you have to travel about 17 km to get to Montezuma, at Montebello village.

There you will find signs of entry to the National Natural Park Tatamá. The classic visit for birdwatching is through the road connecting the Montezuma Lodge and a military base at the top of the Montezuma Hill at 2600 meters of altitude.

Military Base at Montezuma Hill. We are accompanied by the local bird guide Arnulfo Sánchez and the guide of Montezuma. The soldiers always ask for a photographic record of the visitors, to be spread with the message that they feel safe and proud of the Colombian National Army.

The road has about 11 km long, is open, and has steep slopes without any place for resting. Several feeders and drinkers have been installed along the road, at strategic points, to facilitate the appearance of the birds that come out of the dense forest to feed. Thus, it is possible to find Collared Inca, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, and Olive Finch, easily.

Purple-bibbed Whitetip – Urosticte benjamini

Tourmaline Sunangel – Heliangelus exortis

Olive Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

Green-and-black Fruiteater – Pipreola riefferii

Gold-ringed Tanager – Bangsia aureocincta ENDEMIC

Collared Inca – Coeligena torquata

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer – Diglossa gloriosissima ENDEMIC

The best birding area (Montebello) is where a bird endemic to Colombia, and restricted only to that region was found, the Tatamá Tapaculo (Scytalopus alvarezlopezi).

In front of the house there is a garden with bird feeders that permanently has bananas and papayas, and  bird drinkers with sugary water, where many species of tanagers and hummingbirds arrive.

Explore the eBird Field Checklist for the PNN Tatamá – Camino Montezuma. This checklist is generated with data from eBird (ebird.org), a global database of bird sightings from birders like you.

If you enjoy this checklist, please consider contributing your sightings to eBird. It is 100% free to take part, and your observations will help support birders, researchers, and conservationists worldwide.

How to get to Tatamá

Zoom In the map to check the complete destinations.

The administrative headquarters of the Tatamá National Natural Park is in the municipality of Santuario, in Risaralda, 1 hour and 20 minutes from the city of Pereira on a paved road.

It is only possible to arrive by 4×4 truck. From Pereira, take the road to Cartago at the point known as Cerritos. There you turn right until you reach the municipality of La Virginia.

From there, follow the Pan-American Highway to Choco and at the site known as La Marina, take a detour to the left to reach the municipality of Santuario.

To get to Tatamá National Natural Park, take an open road of about 10 km to the Los Planes de San Rafael trail, and from there take a trail to the lower limit of the Tatamá Park at 2500 masl.

The park can also be accessed from Pueblo Rico town, following the road connecting the Montezuma Ecolodge and a military base at the top of the Montezuma Mountain. However, road conditions make this transit exceedingly difficult, and if you are going for bird watching, it is necessary to depart at 3 a.m. from Pueblo Rico to be able to arrive before dawn to Montezuma.

The other option is to sleep at the Montezuma Ecolodge, but this one is always booked, so you have to book at least a year in advance.

Where to stay in Tatamá National Natural Park

CARDER visitor’s center

CARDER visitor’s center, picture by Fecomar Risaralda 

The park does not have specialized infrastructure for tourist services in general.  However, the visitor’s center, located in the Los Planes de San Rafael village, has the capacity to accommodate 40 people in quadruple occupancy. It offers restaurant service, lodging and guidance on the different trails with environmental interpretation. The place is owned by CARDER and managed by the village’s Community Action Board.

Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge

Montezuma Rainforest Ecolodge, picture by Risaralda Travel

Montezuma Ecolodge is prepared to receive about 10 guests in independent rooms with private bathroom and hot water. The place is very simple, there is no luxury or excessive comfort, as it is a rural accommodation that has been gradually adapted for tourism.

There the disconnection is complete because there is no telephone or television signal. The food is also simple, but very good.

What you should consider when you visit Tatamá

It’s not allowed in the park:

  • Hunting, collecting or introducing animals or plants.
  • No fires allowed.
  • It is forbidden to throw or burn garbage.
  • It is forbidden to get drunk or make a fuss or noise.
  • Logging is forbidden.
  • Excavation is forbidden.
  • Fireworks and explosives are prohibited.

Recommendations:

  • You must be vaccinated against yellow fever at least 30 days before access and you must present your valid card at the entrance of the protected area.
  • You must wear clothing suitable for cold weather such as balaclavas, scarves, boots, waterproof coat, and gloves.
  • You must abide by the observations and suggestions of park officials since the Colombian park system is not responsible for any accident you have during your stay in the area or for the loss of objects.
  • You should only walk the authorized trails and always be accompanied by an official or a guide.
  • We recommend that you never get separated from the group and that you keep an eye on your fellow travelers.

Check out our tour in this region of Colombia!

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.

Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia

In a previous post about coffee and birding we told you about the important relationship between the coffee you consume and the conservation of wild birds and ecosystems. Colombia is the number one country in terms of bird species richness and at the same time it is a world reference for the quality of its coffee. Recently, there is a growing awareness in the coffee sector about the importance of shading coffee to obtain better flavor qualities. But the benefits are not only in terms of flavor quality, but also in environmental terms, since shade is facilitated by the use of native tree species or even fruit trees of agricultural interest such as avocado, orange, chachafruto, among others, that protect and shelter wild animals like birds, bats and bees.

There are coffee farms with different approaches to nature and bird conservation. Some, in addition to maintaining a shade grown crop, are concerned with preserving relics of primary or secondary forests that serve as biological corridors and wildlife refuges. In addition, some of these farms have understood the importance of caring for these forests near rivers and streams, as this ensures the protection and maintenance of water sources and soil. Finally, they are also concerned about the social and economic development of the local human communities.

On the other hand, these estates offer unique experiences related to coffee, from showing how it is produced from the seed, to conducting experienced tastings or barista workshops. Thus, they offer their visitors incomparable stays in typical coffee houses, unique in their architecture and colorful, where they can stay and relax. Here we will tell you which are the best coffee farms in Colombia where you can join the passion for coffee and birds.

Top 5 Coffee and Birding Destinations in Colombia

Hacienda Venecia – Caldas

226 species

Location

Located in the countryside between Salento and Medellín, 20 minutes (10.5 km) from the center of the city of Manizales, near the Coffee Highway, towards Pereira. It is located in the Central Andean Mountain Range, near Los Nevados National Park. The area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its exclusive Coffee Cultural Landscape (PPC).

How to get there

Due to its central location in the coffee axis, there are routes from Manizales, Pereira, Salento, Medellín and Bogotá. It can be done by public transportation or private transportation organized by the hacienda.

The Farm

Hacienda Venecia is a coffee farm with 100 years of tradition with experience in growing, processing, exporting, roasting and marketing coffee. Its coffee brand is known as Hacienda Venecia, and is a coffee of Colombian origin. Its coffee plantations are surrounded by native trees and water springs, which support the movement and permanence of birds and wildlife in general.

The most interesting thing about the Hacienda, for travelers, is that it offers a variety of accommodations that encompasses all types of travelers from the most demanding high-end to the cheapest backpackers and overlanders. It has a main house, a lodge, and a hostel. Free coffee is always available at each of the accommodations. The farm has a swimming pool at the Coffee Lodge that can be used by all guests. It also offers coffee tour, coffee preparation and barista workshop, chocolate workshop, banana cooking class, bird watching, ecological walks around the reserve and horseback riding.

Environmental responsibility

Organic food production is promoted, such as happy hen eggs produced by neighboring farms. The farm also protects bees through beekeeping, providing shelter and sustenance for these important pollinators. One of their current projects is to support the local primary school located a few meters from the Hacienda Venecia. In this project, biology students from the University of Caldas teach the children of the school how to observe birds. The Hacienda offers binoculars as a gift, so that they can connect with nature and inspire older generations to care for the environment. The class also promotes the children’s interest in perhaps one day becoming birding guides.

Bird watching at Hacienda Venecia

This activity is open to the public and guests at no cost. The hacienda itself has developed a self-guided birding tour, which includes a guide, binoculars and checklist, and which is free of charge. Just over 220 species of birds can be observed here. The development of this activity at Hacienda Venecia is so important, especially for promoting this activity as part of local development and education about birds. You can even find a guide for people who do not have experience in bird watching. In the guide you can learn from how to use the binoculars, to what applications are recommended to identify and list birds, which are Merlin and eBIrd.

Highlights

Colombian Chachalaca, Dwarf Cuckoo, Blue-tailed Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Grayish Piculet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Bar-crested Antshrike, Parker’s Antbird, Black-chested Jay, Scrub Tanage, Black-winged Saltator among others.

Hacienda la Sierra – Antioquia

150 species

Location

it is located in the Central Andean mountains of Antioquia department, Via Medellin – Fredonia, Corregimiento Los Palomos, Colombia.

How to get there

by car just one hour from downtown Medellín and two hours from José María Córdoba International Airport. Private drivers from Hacienda La Sierra can pick you up and drop you off at the airport or at your accommodation in Medellín. You can also arrive by helicopter upon request.

The Farm

Oro Molido is a family business that produces and exports premium gourmet coffees. Through the Foundation that carries the same name, they are committed to social and environmental responsibility, through sustainable practices to increase the economic growth of the region.

Hacienda la Sierra is located on the slopes of the extinct volcano Cerro Bravo. It has a large, traditional house with very spacious and luxurious rooms. From the Hacienda you can visit the village of Fredonia. Inside the hacienda you can take walks or horseback rides through the plantation and the reserve; a guided tour of the coffee harvesting process; a barista workshop; picnics on horseback. Walks through coffee plantations or along wide shady paths in the middle of walnut trees are also offered, as well as an ascent along a pre-Hispanic trail to the top of Cerro Bravo, located at 2600 meters above sea level, or the top of Cerro de Tusa, the region’s archaeological site.

Environmental responsibility

The welfare of the communities living around it, especially children and young people, are the main concern of the hacienda, offering education programs, medical brigades, research stations, art exhibitions and music training for the Peace Symphony Orchestra. Hacienda La Sierra is certified by the Rainforest Alliance for protecting the region’s biodiversity. It protects eight natural water sources, which guarantee the viability of the plantation, as well as the well-being of the local communities. At the same time, they ensure the protection of the flora and fauna and the sustainable use of the soil.

Bird watching at Hacienda la Sierra

About 150 species of birds have been reported at the farm. When we had the opportunity to visit, we completed a list of about 50 species in a short time and without much effort of walking or searching. This activity can be booked as a day trip or during your stay, the tour is done with professional birding guides who take guests or visitors through the different trails of the hacienda.

Highlights

Colombian Chachalaca, Striped Cuckoo, Andean Emerald, Short-tailed Hawk, Red-headed Barbet, Azara´s Spinetail, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler, among others.

Finca Vista de Nieve – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

100 species

Location

The farm is located 14.5 km from the municipality of Minca, towards the village of Cincinati, a road that ends about 30 km from Minca.

How to get there

The only way to get to the Finca is by 4×4 car due to difficult road conditions. It is also possible to arrive by motorcycle from Minca. The inhabitants of the region generally use motorbikes for transportation.

The Farm

Vista de Nieve is one of the most special coffee farms in Colombia. It has a spectacular view of the Barranquilla – Santa Marta highway through the Magdalena swamp and the sea. Like Hacienda la Sierra, it belongs to Oro Molido, a family business that exports premium coffees.Finca Vista de Nieve is located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, immersed in one of the most emblematic places for bird watching in Colombia, as there is a great concentration of endemic bird species. The farm, located between 1300 and 1500 m asl, has shade grown coffee plantations, where you can find several endemic species of the region. It has private lodging, a comfortable house of more than 100 years of construction. The advantage of Finca Vista de Nieve is that it offers good quality alternative accommodation in Minca for bird watchers. At the moment, no coffee or barista tours are offered there.

Environmental responsibility

As part of the Oro Molido company, Finca Vista de Nieve is also under the objectives of the Oro Molido Foundation to preserve the region through sustainable practices, in this case, by strengthening the local economy by hiring local personnel and producing a coffee of origin.

Bird watching at Finca Vista de Nieve

bird watching can be done around the house, along the road or between the paths of the coffee plantations. Lodging and food service must be reserved in advance. The place serves as the epicenter for visiting the hotspots in the area such as the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo.

Highlights

Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, White-lored Warbler, Bay-headed Tanager among others.

El Encanto Natural Reserve – Huila

219 species

Location

km 2 via PNN Cueva de los Guacharos, Palestina, Huila. It is located in the area of influence of the Guacharos Cave and Churumbelos National Park, within the Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO as a mega-diverse territory.

How to get there

you can get there by motorcycle or 4×4 truck through an open road from the municipality of Palestina Huila, which is 2.6 km away. Its location within a radius of less than 200 km from the capital cities of Popayan, Mocoa and Florence is strategic as the epicenter to travel the region. The nearest city is Pitalito, 22 km away, which has a transport terminal and airport.

The Farm

El Encanto is an ecotourism project that emerged in 1997, in the municipality of Palestina Huila. Today, it is a Civil Society Natural Reserve declared by National Parks as one of the best ecotourism destinations in the Department of Huila. El Encanto is a natural paradise surrounded by mountains, water, coffee, flowers and birds. Thanks to the effort of 20 years by the Molina Cruz family, today it offers lodging services in Guadua Cabins, typical food of the region, gourmet dishes with local ingredients, and also offers vegetarian and vegan options. This is the dream come true of this family that hopes to share with their guests the richness of their region and offer the best service. They produce a delicious organic coffee grown under shade and with permaculture practices, where more than 260 species of birds live.

Inside the reserve you can enjoy guided bird watching activities, coffee production workshops, orchid watching, arthropod watching and hiking. This is a community tourism destination where you will find the coffee landscape along with the magic of the Andean forests of southern Colombia.

Environmental Responsibility

In addition to enjoying one of the most beautiful regions of Colombia, the Colombian Massif, many farmers are being supported in their hard work to conserve natural resources as well as native fauna and flora. As a Nature Reserve, it works to improve land use, conservation, agricultural production and ecotourism. Its main objective is the preservation of natural resources and the sustainable use of them, combining agricultural production, in a permaculture system, with the conservation of Andean forest. The use of ecotourism specialized in birds, orchids and arthropods also helps to finance the reserve. By promoting sustainable tourism practices, El Encanto guarantees the conservation of these ecosystems, as well as the work and livelihood of many rural families who respect their territory. They also offer volunteer work.

Bird watching at El Encanto Natural Reserve

El Encanto offers specialized birding guide service, with 219 species of birds, among which 7 are endemic species. You will be able to enjoy the birds between 1400 and 1500 m asl as follows:

  • El Encanto Ecoturistic Reserve, subandean forest with +200 species;
  • La Riviera Natural Reserve, Andean forest, between 2000 – 2200 meters above sea level, with +300 species;
  • Alto del Oso, Andean forest between 1900 and 2100 meters with +200 species.

El Encanto also has one of the best bird feeders in the country, well adapted for bird photography.

Highlights

Colombian Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Tolima Dove, Tolima Blossomcrown, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Apical Flycatcher, Dusky-headed Brushfinch, Velvet-fronted Euphonia among others.

La Palma & el Tucán – Cundinamarca

360 bird species around

Location

The farm is located 2 hours from Bogotá, in the municipality of Zipacón, Cundinamarca.

How to get there

You can get there by private transportation leaving from the south of Bogota on the Bojacá-Cachipay road, a journey of about 65 km. This is the closest coffee destination to Bogotá.

The Farm

La Palma & el Tucán is a small producer of specialty coffee, awarded for its high quality. The plantation is surrounded by relics of Andean cloud forests. In 2017 this farm made an innovative proposal around coffee production, creating a boutique hotel to offer experiences. Among the experiences offered by the hotel, visitors can: learn about the different stages of the coffee process in an ecological coffee farm, get in touch with nature, learn about the different species and factors that make coffee special, coffee cupping workshops, learn about the machinery that is behind the processing of coffee, learn about the steps needed to transform a freshly picked coffee bean into the coffee that is packaged in the markets. The food offered by the hotel is prepared with ingredients that grow in the region.

The hotel consists of nine wooden cabins, all with terraces and an open-air shower in the middle of the coffee plantations. They are built with an eco-friendly vision, as if they were palafittes. Interio Magazine published a review of the particular architectural concept envisaged for the hotel. The idea was to maintain coherence with the coffee brand and add value by being respectful to the environment and landscape. The location of the cabins was carefully chosen so that each had optimal orientation in terms of lighting and view. They were named after nine varieties of coffee. The farm’s rugged topography allows all the cabins to be surrounded by a unique natural environment.There is a main house, overlooking the Valle de la Mesa, where the restaurant, the kitchen, a bar for tasting and drinking coffee, and outdoor jacuzzis are located. The Hotel also offers an ideal space for corporate, educational and recreational events.

Environmental responsibility

La Palma & El Tucán has a model of inclusive, purposeful and value-driven coffee farming, working with over 100 traditional coffee growing families in the region. The community project (called “neighbors & crops”) benefits coffee growing families in the area by supporting fair trade and agro-ecological farming methods. Small coffee growers strive to create a sustainable business by marketing their product, so La Palma & el Tucán offers a solution by distributing and processing coffee in a fair manner, so that farmers can focus on the care and quality of the product. All the coffee is roasted and distributed by Libertario Café, which has two stores in Bogotá and Cartagena.

Bird Watching at La Palma & El Tucán

Bird watching is done at the Pedro Palo Lagoon located 8 km, 20 minutes, from La Palma and the Toucan. Inside the farm you can also visit the coffee plantations to watch birds.

Highlights

Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Tropical Parula Blackburnian Warbler Yellow Warbler  Canada Warbler  Andean Guan  Booted Racket-ta Turquoise Dacnis Moustached Puffbird American Redstart Black-crested Warbler Yellow-billed Cacique Mourning Warbler, among others.

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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.