How Your Visit to Sierra de la Macarena in Colombia Helps for its Conservation?

La Macarena is a municipality located in the department of Meta, Colombia, with natural reserves such as the Sierra de la Macarena Natural National Park which has become internationally known for the seven colors river, Caño Cristales.

The sierra also has petroglyphs of ancient cultures in the Angosturas I and II sectors, in the Guayabero River. There are also enormous waterfalls, such as the Caño Canoas Waterfall, the Yarumales Waterfall, the Mico Waterfall, Soplaculos among others, which are difficult to reach due to the steep terrain.

This region of Colombia has been hard hit by the armed conflict, the planting of illicit crops, extensive cattle ranching and large-scale deforestation. Even after the signing of the peace agreement, it is a territory that continues to undergo a slow process of re-organization of the territory and the role of the people who inhabit it.

Ecotourism and community-based tourism is one of the lines that the local community is developing, taking advantage of the impressive natural wealth of the territory. Plans include the creation of ecological trails where visitors can also participate in the restoration process by planting a tree.

They also want to promote other destinations that activate tourist visits at times other than Caño Cristales, and thus have an income derived from tourism activity throughout the year.

Sierra de la Macarena is a Territory of Great Value for Humanity

The Sierra de La Macarena National Natural Park is located in the department of Meta, in a strategic location where the Andes, the Orinoco Savannah, the Guyanese Shield and the Amazonian plain converge, giving it a hyper mega biodiversity character, a true biological heritage for humanity.

The protected area also connects with the Tinigua and Picachos National Parks.

Sierra de la Macarena

The Sierra de la Macarena is an isolated mountain range that due to its nature, location and type of soil is home to endemic species of flora and fauna, that is to say that only exist in that place. An example of these is the aquatic plant Macarenia clavijera, which gives the reddish, pink and greenish colors to Caño Cristales, the region’s tourist destination par excellence.

Eighty-three percent of the Macarena mountain range is made up of humid forest (tropical humid zone) with an area of 5030 km², in addition to the herbaceous vegetation of the Amazon plain. La Macarena is considered worldwide as one of the most important wildlife refuges on the planet.

Thus, this natural treasure has extraordinary landscapes that are world icons such as the above mentioned Caño Cristales, as well as unique species such as the cumin tree (Aniba perutilis), the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the tapir (Tapirus bairdii).

Sierra de la Macarena National Park, Colombia Picture by Parque Nacionales

Effects of the Armed Conflict and the Peace Process in La Macarena

During the 1970s, the Macarena sector experienced an increase in population due to the fur trade and foreign tourism, but unfortunately, in the 1980s, the logging boom began. Besides that, for more than 40 years La Macarena and surrounding municipalities were occupied by blocks of the former FARC-EP guerrilla and other armed groups in constant conflict.

Guerrilla occupation generated many displacements and a difficult task for the conservation processes of the National Park System and non-profit organizations such as WWF. In fact, no inhabitant could move freely without a mobility permit issued by the FARC.

At the same time, this territory has been the scene of territorial and socio-environmental conflicts related to land ownership, extensive cattle ranching, deforestation, illicit crops, and the presence of armed actors. Despite the efforts and hope brought about by the Peace Agreement, disputes and conflicts in this region were reconfigured and exacerbated after its signing in 2016, increasing the challenges for the conservation of these strategic ecosystems and for peace building in the communities.

Community Actions for Conservation

In the midst of this complex context, some small farmer families living in the Sierra de La Macarena have decided to make a commitment to conservation and are now participating in ecological restoration processes with the production and planting of native tree species, and with ecotourism entrepreneurship.

Tourism appeared as a saving option. Today, in fact, it is for 350 families who live directly from the income generated by this activity. People who work in simple but clean hotels, cooking for tourists, as guides, canoeists, and drivers. Even translators, although so far they only have three who speak English.

Thus, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCit) o Colombia has generated strategies to promote sustainable tourism and support the communities of La Macarena.

Sierra de la Macarena National Natural park

Sierra de la Macarena NNP is in the department of Meta, in the Andean foothills of the Amazon rainforest. In this part of the country, the Andean, Amazonian and Orinoco ecosystems converge, and it has a territorial extension of 10,000 km².

This protected area was created by Decree 1989 of September 1, 1989 and covers an area of 605,793 hectares distributed in 5 municipalities in the southern part of the department of Meta.

The park’s Environmental Management Plan incorporates an ecotourism management plan, which indicates the possible scenarios for this activity. Currently, there are only two characterized scenarios with defined carrying capacity and regulations: Caño Cristales and Raudal Angosturas 1.

Other scenarios have been identified but are not yet regulated for visits, including the La Paz Ecological Trail, the Santo Domingo and Cafetales waterfalls in Mesetas and San Juan de Arama, as well as Raudal II near Puerto Concordia. Thus, these areas cannot be visited because they are still in the process of being organized.

Tourist attractions of Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park

Today it is possible to visit Caño Cristales with its new trails and the Raudal Angosturas I, thanks to the articulated work that has been carried out since 2014 with the creation of the Mesa Ruta Sierra de la Macarena and the need to expand the supply of ecotourism trails in the Caño Cristales sector, as well as to carry out sufficient technical procedures to implement new ecotourism scenarios that will involve a larger population in the community benefits of tourism in the municipality of La Macarena.

Caño Cristales, the Rainbow River

Cano Cristales, La Macarena, Meta, Colombia.

The Macarena’s most recognized attraction in the area is Caño Cristales, better known as “the river of the five colors”, “the most beautiful river in the world” or “the river that escaped from paradise”; one poet even called it “the rainbow that melted”.

Macarenia clavigera, an aquatic plant endemic to the Macarena, is what allows the river’s crystalline and shallow waters to offer a variety of colors that visitors can appreciate. The extension of the river does not exceed 100 kilometers and has a width of no more than 20 meters, which flows into the Guayabero River. The trails established to learn more about this beautiful place are five circuits of stone and plants, ranging from 3 to 15 kilometers in length.

For more information about Cano Cristales visit our entry Travel Guide to the Rainbow River – Caño Cristales – in Colombia.

Raudal de Angostura I and Ciudad de Piedra

Raudal de Angosturas, La Macarena, Meta, Colombia.

The Raudal Angosturas I destination opened in 2017, as a new ecotourism scenario for the enjoyment of tourists from Colombia and the world. It is a project where you can appreciate the pre-Columbian petroglyphs carved in rocks in low relief that tell the story of the ancestors of the Tinigua tribe when they lived in this area. In turn, Ciudad de Piedra is a trail composed of huge gray rock formations carved over centuries by the force of water.

Many local and national organizations worked together to create this tourist destination, among them, National Natural Parks of Colombia, Cormacarena, the Governor’s Office of Meta, the Mayor’s Office of La Macarena and other members that are part of the Technical Tourism Board: Sierra de la Macarena Route.

Raudal Angosturas I is located between the border of the Sierra de la Macarena and Tinigua National Parks and in the Recovery Zone for Southern Preservation in the municipality of La Macarena, Meta.

This natural wonder contains engraved in its petroglyphs the history of the Tinigua Indians and also the footprint of the armed conflict in Colombia.

The Military Forces of the region support this process of ecotourism management, since it will ensure the safety of those who will enjoy nature tourism in the Macarena Special Management Area.

If you wish to visit the other tourist attractions, you must have a guide specialized in the area, but you must inform the park facilities in the municipality of Granada, Meta.

How to get to Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park

The following alternatives are the most time efficient, as it is possible to arrive by land but the time will be longer, and probably not safe.

Via Bogotá – La Macarena

Take a 1-hour flight from El Dorado International Airport (BOG) Bogotá to La Macarena Airport (LMC) at La Macarena city with Satena airline. There are also private charter flights that take you there.

Via Cali – Villavicencio – La Macarena

Take a 1-hour flight from Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Palmira to Vanguardia Airport (VVC) at La Villavicencio city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 1- hour ride to La Macarena.

What to do in Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park

Hiking in La Macarena

There are 6 ecotourism trails allowed, which can be done walking or with the help of a horse, and are distributed as follows:

Caño Cristales Ecotourism Scenario, Colors subarea:

  • Salto del Aguila: the number of people allowed daily is 75.
  • Los Pianos: the number of people allowed per day is 62.
  • Caño Escondido: the number of people allowed per day is 37.
  • Intermedio: the number of people allowed per day is 42.

In this scenario you can appreciate the landscape, characteristic vegetation, geological formation, waterfalls, natural pools, aquatic plants (Macarenia clavijera) red, fuchsia and pink; in addition to bird watching.

Scenario Raudal de Angosturas I

  • Ciudad de Piedra: the number of people allowed daily is 37.

In this trail you can do bird watching tour geological formation and rocky outcrop, in addition to the Caño with red plants.

Scenario Mirador Cristalitos

  • Mirador-cristalitos: the number of people allowed daily is 87.

This trail has pictograms, a panoramic view of the convergence of the three ecosystems along its route.

Bear in mind that the trails mentioned above are only authorized by the environmental authorities o the park and may have variations in the routes, which visitors will be informed of when registering. You cannot choose the trail to visit, it is assigned by the authorities and given in order of registration.

Birdwatching at Sierra de la Macarena

There are more than 450 bird species registered in the la Macarena, represented in 65 families, which means that 27% of the Colombian avifauna is present in the park. Dominant bird species are from the Guianas, Amazon and, to a lesser extent, the Andean region.

The following bird species have been recorded from the Amazon: Paroaria gularis gularis, Piaya melanogaster, Electron platyrhynchum pyrrholaemum; from the Andes: Asio flammeus, Trogon personatus personatus, Campephilus pollens, Cistothorus platensis tamae; migratory birds from North America: Anas discors, Pandion haliaetus carolinensis, Actitis macularia, and Coccyzus americanus americanus.

Where to stay in Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park

Sierra de la Macarena Natural National Park does not currently offer accommodation for travelers, it is possible to stay in La Macarena. Our recommendation of hotels are is La Manigua Lodge, a beautiful ecolodge recently installed in the area. Know more about ecolodges in Colombia in our entry Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia.

Best time to visit Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park

The main attraction of La Macarena, Caño Cristales, only receives visitors during the winter season, that is, between June and December; for the summer season the community allows the aquatic plants to recover. However, Raudal de Angosturas I is open all year round.

Dry season on the eastern side of La Macarena starts at the beginning of December until late of February at a temperature of 24º C (75 ºF). On the western side the rainfall regime is bimodal, it also has 2 dry periods separated by rainy seasons.

Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, resident foreigners and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 19,500
  • Colombians, resident foreigners and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 35,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 53,500
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider before visiting Sierra de la Macarena 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, insect repellent, and hat).
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Use of binoculars to watch animals’ behavior is recommended.
  • Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
  • It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you 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
About the authors

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.

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.

Why You Should Visit Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park in Colombia?

The answer is simple! If you like nature and also like to support community-based tourism activities, Uramba Bahía Málaga is a destination for you: It is a worldwide recognized biodiversity hotspot, you can see humpback whales there, and you will be helping an Afro-descendant community that bet on ecotourism as a new way for the development of its territory.

Uramba Bahía Málaga is the 56th National Natural Park declared in Colombia and is located in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet: the Biogeographic Choco, in the Pacific Region.

This wonderful and highly pristine place is considered a hot spot for nature conservation worldwide. The calm waters of Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park are the preferred place for the birth and breeding of humpback whales, making this place even more special.

You can’t miss the chance to visit Bahia Malaga in Colombia. This 100% marine area contributes to increasing the representativeness of marine ecosystems in the National System of Protected Areas – SINAP- and also strengthens the socio-cultural dynamics of the afro communities living in the area through community-based ecotourism.

Discovering Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park

This protected area is located in the Pacific Coastal Region in the southwest of Colombia. The park has an extension of approximately 479.94 km² of the marine surface.

The marine waters near Bahia Malaga are considered the migratory route of humpback whales, or yubartas, (Megaptera novaeangliae). This place of calm and deep waters is annually visited by more than 500 yubarta whales from Antarctica, that come to mate and raise their calves between the months of July to October.

The Socio-Cultural Importance in the Uramba Bahía Málaga Territory

Uramba Bahia Malaga is a name of African origin, which means Minga, or group. This name arose due to the particular way in which this protected area was created.

This National Natural Park born as a joint effort between the local communities that live there and the government, the latter through the National Park System. Additionally, the park is under the surveillance of the Colombian Navy.

The afro-community councils present in Bahia Malaga are:

  • Juanchaco,
  • Ladrilleros,
  • La Barra,
  • La Plata – Bahía Málaga, and
  • Puerto España – Miramar.

This important conservation unit seeks to conserve the marine and coastal ecosystems of Bahia Malaga and to strengthen the cultural dynamics and social organization for the management of the territory based on the knowledge and ancestral wisdom of the black communities that live there.

La Barra Beach, Ladrilleros, Colombia

Commercial Port or Natural Park?

But, despite the enormous natural and cultural wealth of the region, there was also the intention to turn this bay into a huge multifunctional commercial port.

Fortunately, the local community was convinced to apply alternative economic development options such as nature and cultural tourism; as well as their own conscious and responsible relationship with the territory, as their cultural practices have contributed substantially to the conservation of the area.

Thus, this reserve is the first in Colombia where community-based tourism plays a central role, and it is administered by the Afro-descendant community councils that exist in the region and the national park system. It is the first joint administration proposal in Colombia.

Thus, after much debate and argumentation from both sides, in August 2010, this area was officially declared as protected.

According to WWF:

The communities settled in Bahía Málaga affirm that the area is not only important for its biodiversity but also for its cultural richness. Black communities and indigenous peoples present in the area have achieved an important degree of social organization in their ancestral relationship with the territory, and their cultural practices have contributed substantially to the conservation of their ecosystems. In this sense, declaring Malaga a protected area serves a dual environmental and sociocultural purpose.

Uramba Bahía Málaga Biodiversity

The Uramba Bahia Malaga Park is home to an immense diversity of continental and marine flora and fauna species and has been identified as one of the priority conservation sites in the Colombian Pacific.

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

The marine and coastal ecosystems of Bahía Málaga represent the Colombian Pacific and are a fundamental scenario for the reproduction and breeding of the Humpback Whale and the perpetuation of wild species of seabirds and shorebirds, sea turtles, estuarine and marine fish, and crustaceans.

The annual arrival of humpback whales is its main attraction. However, the beauty and diversity of the landscapes of Bahía Málaga and its area of influence are also ideal to enjoy nature.

The park has diverse ecosystems such as very humid tropical forests, beaches, cliffs, islands, estuaries, and bodies of water with soft and rocky seabeds.

How to get to Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park

Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park is in the middle portion of the Colombian Pacific coast, in the District of Buenaventura, in the department of Valle del Cauca. There are two options to access the Park from Bogota:

Bogota – Buenaventura

First you make a Bogota-Buenaventura trip by air, with 1h 15m duration. There are 2 flights per week with Satena airlines. Then you must make the transfer Buenaventura-Juanchaco by sea, which takes 1 hour and is done in a speedboat.

Bogota – Cali

Travel from Bogota to Cali by air or land. Once in Cali, you have to travel to Buenaventura by land. Finally, take the maritime route from Buenaventura to Juanchaco, which takes 1 hour and is done by speedboat.

What to do in Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park

We recommend you plan your visit to stay for at least 3 days and 4 nights. Especially because of the long trip by road and then by boat. This is not a one-day stay destination.

Unfortunately, the visit to the Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park has been suspended due to the health emergency that the country is facing because of covid-19.

Hiking, Canoeing, and Kayaking

Enjoying the beautiful Pacific landscape by doing hiking is a great experience. In the park’s area of influence, there are hiking and canoeing activities through the mangroves.

Although there are no defined aquatic trails in the bay area, it is suggested to follow the internal circuits to visit the route of the piangua, ostional, the waterfall of La Sierpe and Tres Marías in the sector of La Plata, Playa Chucheros, Juán de Dios, the beaches of La Barra sector, Juanchaco and Ladrilleros cliffs and their natural pools.

Kayaking through mangroves is highly recommended, also canoeing to Isla Plata, which is not the most exciting but still worth the try.

Birdwatching

Bird watching is a potential ecotourism activity in the park, but it is not well-developed. The park has a record of 107 species of birds, being an important point in the reproduction of marine birds.

Wildlife

Despite the huge marine and terrestrial diversity in the park, the main attraction is humpback whale watching. Thus, activities such as diving or snorkeling are not offered.

Humpback whale watching is an activity addressed by young natives from the local communities, who act as environmental interpreters.

During the whale season, the highest density of whales is between the months of September and October.

If you visit the Uramba Bahia Malaga park for a whale watching tour you should keep in mind that:

  • You will receive a 10-minute induction on the importance of the area and the significance of the role it plays in ecological processes such as reproduction, calving, breeding, nursing, socialization.
  • You must take a boat that carries a flag or a sighting authorization badge. The first trips leave at 8 am.
  • All boats must be accompanied by a community environmental interpreter.
  • The defined whale watching period is between July 15 and October 15.
  • Whale watching time for each group should be in the range of 15 to 30 minutes.
  • The approach to the whales should be slow, parallel, and always from behind.
  • The boat should maintain 200 meters from the individuals, so do not ask to get too close.
  • Avoid following the females with their calves.
  • You must be patient as only up to 5 small boats are allowed per group of whales. Also, you cannot be in a hurry, as the motors will always be neutral.

Where to stay in Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park

The park does not offer accommodation, therefore our recommended options for you to stay are:

Lodging at La Barra Beach

Coco House Hotel; Casa Majagua and Vista al Mar Hotel.

Lodging at Ladrilleros Beach

Hotel Zully, Hotel Villa Cindy, and Hotel Reserva Agua Marina.

Best time to visit Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park

The park can be visited all year round. The dry season starts at the beginning of June until late September and from the beginning of December until late February. In addition, whale season starts from July to October.

Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park Entrance fees

Currently, no fees apply.

What to consider before visiting Uramba Bahía Málaga 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).
  • We recommend the use of binoculars to admire animals’ behavior and beauty in their natural habitat.
  • Carry valid identity 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, littering, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

References
  • Colparques
  • National Parks Systems
  • bahiamalaga.org
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 Place for Diving in Colombia: Malpelo Island Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

On the Pacific Ocean, 507 km west of the port of Buenaventura, is the island of Malpelo. It is the only oceanic island of the Pacific Ocean and belongs to the marine corridor of the eastern Pacific Ocean with 11 emerged islets.

The charm of Malpelo lies beneath the surface of the sea. Thanks to its location and great variety of marine flora and fauna Malpelo is among the 5 most beautiful and exotic places in the world to practice scuba diving.

The characteristics of the marine environment are strongly influenced by the type of currents that run through this area of the Pacific. Malpelo is the point of confluence of different and important currents of the Pacific Ocean. 

The encounter between the cold currents of the southern hemisphere and the warm equatorial currents makes its waters very rich in nutrients. Because of this, Malpelo is home to an incredible amount of fauna: hundreds of Green Moray Eels that swim in open waters, schools of barracudas, turtles, dolphins, manta rays in solitary and in groups, rays, longfins, and huge schools of mackerels.

Malpelo is also the sharks paradise, and this is the main reason that makes Malpelo a unique place in the world, with large concentrations of Silky Sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) and Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna lewini), among others.

Discovering Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is located on the unique submarine volcanic mountain range, Dorsal de Malpelo. The highest point is Cerro la Mona 300 meters above sea level, this marine mountain range has a length of 150 miles and 50 miles wide.

Voluminous eruptions of basaltic lava gave birth to this island. The islets that surround the island seem to be the result of erosion processes caused by the waves, causing them to be lifted by tectonic effects. This process forms terraces known as “Strath Terraces”.

Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary was declared a protected area in 1995 and has had 3 expansions in the years 1996, 2006 and 2017 with a total of 1.7 million miles.

In 2005 it was named an Important Bird Conservation Area (IBA) by BirdLife International and the Alexander Von Humboldt Research Institute. In 2006, UNESCO declared the sanctuary a Natural World Heritage Site, and today it is a Mission Blue hotspot. 

Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary has one of the most important coral formations of the Colombian Pacific; the marine fauna is very varied on the island, and in this sanctuary you can find 2 species of starfish endemic to the country. In addition to this, one of the most important hammerhead shark breeding areas in the world is located in Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Unfortunately, the sanctuary is constantly harassed by illegal fishermen, which mainly affects hammerhead sharks and hawksbill turtles. In addition, overfishing in zones of influence within the protected area’s limits, such as for tuna, can reach alarming numbers, endangering the decline of the tuna communities.

The Malpelo y Otros Ecosistemas Marinos Foundation, is in charge of promoting the protection and care of marine areas, especially sharks, so that they have a safe habitat for their reproduction. They work together with the national parks system and the national navy.

How to get to Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Bogotá-Buenaventura

The only way to access the sanctuary is by sea, after a 36-hours open sea journey from the city of Buenaventura. Take a 145- minutes flight from Bogotá to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) at Palmira city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 3- hours ride to Buenaventura.

What to do in Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Diving and snorkeling

The sanctuary has the following areas for these activities: La gringa, Escuba, Los Reyes, Los gemelos, Sahara, Vagamares, El arrecife, La nevera, Monster face, El mirador, El Freezer, Aquarium, Naufragio wall, Bajo del ancla and Bajo del Monstruo.

These areas have the optimal conditions for a unique experience. You must keep in mind that if you want to do these activities you must have previous knowledge.

Wildlife

The biological component in the terrestrial environment of Malpelo Island is represented by algae, lichens, mosses, some grasses, shrubby legumes and ferns. Seabirds provide guano that acts as fertilizer along with the rain to generate a food source for the invertebrates that inhabit the island.

Ants such as the trap jaw ants (Odontomachus baur), which is considered to have been introduced to the island by man, can be found throughout the sanctuary. It is also possible to find a new species of beetle from the Platynus genus, which is unusual and can be found in Colombia and Ecuador.

Johngarthia malpilensis – Ph. by Daniel Vásquez-Restrepo CC

On the island, it is also possible to observe the terrestrial crab Johngarthia malpilensis, which is also endemic to the island. Besides this, several other species of crabs also live on the hard substrates, and there are around 270 species of gastropods, 60 of bivalves, 3 of cephalopods, 2 of Scaphopods, and 6 of Polyplacophorans.

Four species of reptiles inhabit the sanctuary:

  • Anolis agassizi, from the equator, feeds on the remains and food waste of seabirds.
  • Dactyloa agassizi is one of the island’s endemic lizards, greenish in color. It feeds on insects and crabs.
  • Diploglossus millepunctatus is also an endemic lizard of the island. Its diet is based on the remains of seabirds and in case of food shortages they can break their eggs and consume them together with the dead hatchlings.
  • Phyllodactus traversalis, known as the geko lizard, joins the sanctuary’s endemic species. It has nocturnal feeding habits based on insects, but during the day it takes refuge in rock crevices.

Malpelo has a wide variety of marine birds, making it an excellent place for bird watching. The bird with the largest representation is the Nazca booby (Sula granti). A third to a quarter of the total breeding population of this species worldwide nests in the Island of Malpelo.

The Biological Component in the Marine Environment

You will see different specie in the rocky walls of Malpelo depending on the depth. From 3 to 6 meters the walls are covered by sponges and some corals, such as the Tubastrea aurea. After 27 meters it is possible to see filamentous algae and violet hydro corals.

In the depths of the sanctuary there are submarine terraces divided into 4 sectors; the slopes of these sectors are the areas where the coral communities are most present. The four sectors are located as follows:

  • “El Arrecife”, it is the most extensive and is located to the northeast of the island.
  • “Pared del Náufrago” (Castaway’s Wall), located to the northwest.
  • “La Bahía de la Nevera” to the west, and “El Bajo de la Nevera” to the southwest.
  • “El Bajo de Junior” to the southwest.
Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) CC Ph. By Sandra Bessudo, Malpelo Foundation

The sanctuary has identified 390 reef fish species and 5 of these species are endemic: Halichoeres malpelo, Axoclinus rubinoffi, Lepidonectes bimaculta, Chriolepis lepidotus, and Acanthemblemaria stephensi.

Pelagic fish, mammals, and sea turtles aggregate in the sanctuary, and it is considered a passageway for migratory species such as tuna, which feed in the sanctuary’s environment during their migration.

There are two species of sharks that can be seen during the visit: hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) and Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis). The cleaning zones in Malpelo are inhabited by the barberfish (Jhonrandallia nigrirostris), the king angelfish (Holacanthus passer) and juveniles of mexican hogfish (Bodianus diplotaenia).

Due to the large number of larvae present in the sanctuary, it is possible to see whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and manta rays (Manta birostris), which can be frequently sighted along with communities of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).

Where to stay in Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary does not have lodging available, you will stay on boat.

Best time to visit Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Malpelo Island can be visited all year round, it has humidity in the air and remains covered by a dense mist. The months with the lowest humidity are between December and March.

Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding a valid residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 116.000 (Diver/day); COP 79.000 (Instructors for accompanying groups/day): COP 35.500 (Boats/day)
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 25 years old): COP 216.000 (Diver/day); COP 116.000 (Instructors for accompanying groups/day): COP 65.000 (Boats/day)

What to consider before visiting Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

  • To dive in Malpelo there must be one certified guide with experience in the area for every six divers.
  • Tourists must be certified as advanced divers or two-star divers, and have a minimum of 35 dives in their logbook, information that will be corroborated by the National Parks official in the protected area.
  • The maximum diving depth allowed is up to 140 feet.
  • Each diver must have the minimum equipment for underwater activities and safety equipment.
  • Minors must have written permission from their parents, even if they are accompanying them.
  • It is important to ensure buoyancy control as a measure to avoid damage to ecosystems, and to refrain from feeding, chasing or touching marine fauna. Therefore, a buoyancy check dive is done to verify the diver’s ability.
  • Avoid carrying harmful elements that threaten the health of ecosystems such as CFC aerosols, and non-biodegradable cleaning products.
  • Diving activities are programmed from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., all within a previously defined schedule and depending on weather and oceanographic conditions.
  • Recommended the use of binoculars to admire animals’ behavior and beauty in their natural habitat.
  • Carry valid identity documents and health insurance. It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you.

Some prohibitions

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

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

References
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 places to see Anteaters in Colombia

The terror of ants and termites also lives in Colombia. They are creatures with a docile character and poses no threat to man. On a tailored wildlife holiday with SULA, you have a good chance to see anteaters in Colombia, such as the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and the Tamandua, or lesser anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla). They can often be found in savannas, and open grasslands, where the termites upon which they feed are abundant.

The Anteaters

The South American anteater is an animal that has a tongue similar to that of a long worm, which is why it is classified in the suborder Vermilingua, which literally means “worm tongue”. The anteaters are predators specialized in eating insects, especially ants and termites.

Anteaters are distant cousin of sloths and armadillos, and contrary to what you may think, they have nothing to do with aardvarks, numbats, echidnas, pangolins, and some spiders, which are also called anteaters.

Anteaters are endangered species, rice crops, African palm plantations, and livestock are the main causes of displacement of the anteater from its natural habitat. Forced displacement affects their diet and their reproduction rates decrease; in addition, anteaters may be run over by vehicles or face other problems with humans.

Ecotourism is a source of income to promote their study and conservation.

Anteaters Species

There are four species of anteaters still alive: the silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), the northern tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) and the southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla).

Silky anteater – Cyclopes didactylus © Tinka Plese – Rojano, C., Miranda, L., Ávila, R. (Editores). 2014. Manual de Rehabilitación de Hormigueros de Colombia. Fundación Cunaguaro, Geopark
Colombia S.A.S. El Yopal, Casanare. 155 p
Anteaters in Colombia, in this picture the Giant anteater –Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Southern tamandua – Tamandua tetradactyla © M.Tello Rojano, C., Miranda, L., Ávila, R. (Editores). 2014. Manual de Rehabilitación de Hormigueros de Colombia. Fundación Cunaguaro, Geopark Colombia S.A.S. El Yopal, Casanare. 155 p

The difference between them lies mainly in the habitat in which they live, which includes tropical dry forests, rainforests, grasslands and savannas, although not in the Andean mountainous regions. The giant anteater lives in savannas. And that is where they can be found in Colombia.

As for the two anteaters of the genus Tamandua, and the silky anteater, they are much smaller than the giant anteater, their fur is yellowish, and they live in trees.

The Wold Anteater Day is celebrated on 29 November every year, reminding the importance of their conservation.

Where do Anteaters Live

Originally, these animals were exclusive to South America, but once the isthmus of Panama was formed about three million years ago, anteaters expanded their range to Central America.

Thus, giant anteaters can be found as far as Central America, while silky anteaters and northern tamanduas reach as far as Mexico. Southern tamanduas extend as far south as Uruguay.

There are several names for anteaters in south America, and they depend on the species. The giant anteater is called ant bear, “oso hormiguero” in Spanish, the silky anteater is also known as pygmy anteater, and for the tamanduas there are names such as tamanduá, guazú, yautare, kuarevachú, Oso Bandera, and Oso Palmero.

Where You Can Find the Anteater

Anteaters are widely distributed in South America and can be found in the following countries:

  • Argentina (Provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Misiones and Salta)
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Peru
  • Paraguay
  • Venezuela

7 Facts about Anteaters you cannot miss

  1. Anteaters can swallow a total of 35,000 ants and/or termites per day.
  2. The anteater tongue flicks 150 times per minute, and has thousands of tiny hooks and large amounts of saliva to eat ants or termites from trees and mounds.
  3. The anteater’s stomach is similar to a bird’s gizzard, using small amounts of sand and dirt to digest insects.
  4. Unlike other mammals, Anteaters don’t have teeth.
  5. Anteaters have a disgusting smell to defend themselves from their biggest predators, Puma and Jaguar, they also have long arched claws on their strong legs that may cause fatal injuries.
  6. Female gestation is of approximately 190 days. After birth, offspring are carried at the female’s back for 2 years, camouflaging themselves in the mother’s fur.
  7. They are one of the most ecological animals on the planet. Despite the large number of ants they consume, anteaters are very careful when eating and do not destroy the habitat of ants and/or termites.

Myths and Legends around the Anteaters

The anteater is perceived as a strange looking animal although it is viewed sympathetically and fortunately without culinary objectives. Its rarity and vulnerability, being so specialized in its feeding, promote it as a symbol of conservation, and also as a great attraction for nature tourism.

The anteater appears in several South American legends and stories, both indigenous and Creole. One of the most attractive is the one compiled by the writer Graciela Repún, which comes from the Kaingangá Indians of the jungle of Misiones (Argentina).

It seems that after the great flood, Kadjurukré, their creator god, worked at night to model with mud the animals of the jungle and when he was trying to finish the anteater, in a hurry because the sun was rising, he took a stick and put it in his mouth as a tongue because he did not have enough time to put teeth. And so he sent it to eat ants….

Where to See Anteaters in Colombia

The geographical distribution anteaters in Colombia is extensive. However, despite the wide distribution of anteaters in Colombia, the best place to watch them is in the Eastern Plains of Colombia.

There are several places to go in a Safari where it is possible to find these animals hanging around the savannas or the riparian forests. The best time to see the anteater is dry season between December and late March.

Here in SULA we offer a Safari that goes through Casanare an Meta departments, in the eastern plains of Colombia, where anteaters and other species present in this region can be spotted.

Casanare

Safari in Casanare

The conservation, education and research work of the Yopal-based environmental organization Fundación Cunaguaro includes anteaters. That includes monitoring the absurd number of road killings of these creatures – 400 giant anteaters a year and at least 1,500 tamanduas.

The foundation promotes ecotourism on large private estates, from where you can go out in search of the anteaters in Colombia.

El Encanto de Guanapalo

It is a group of cattle ranches which covers 9,000 hectares of inundable savannah and acts as a strategic wildlife corridor. El Encanto de Guanapalo Natural Reserve is conformed by 3 haciendas with a total area of 90 square kilometers, you can have a typical experience of the eastern plains, along with the conservation of the flora and fauna of the sector.

Wild horses and termite mounds at Casanare’s savannas.

Corocora Camp

Corocora Camp, Casanare, Colombia

Corocora Camp, the first luxury safari camp in Colombia. It is located two and a half hours from the Yopal airport by 4×4 vehicle. There you will find five large beige canvas tents, identical to those of the high-flying African safaris.

La Palmita Reserve

The municipality of Trinidad hosts La Palmita nature reserve, which has a research center that is responsible for acquiring knowledge of the biological and social diversity of the Orinoquia region for its conservation.

Meta

Find out more information about Meta anteaters destinations in our entry #1 Llanos Experience near to Bogotá: The Llanero Dawn Route in Meta.

Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua Hotel & Bioreserve

Mururito Nature Reserve

@Colombiafrank at Mururito

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines shot prior to arrival.
  • Do not forget that mosquito repellent is highly recommended.
  • Bring rubber boots, a raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Carry valid identity documents and health insurance.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you.
  • It’s never too much to carry a personal medicine kit.

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

References
About the authors

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.

Luisa Martin

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

Bird-watching Tourism Helps to Reduce Bird Extinction Risks in Colombia


Extinction is the disappearance of all members of a species. Extinction is considered from the instant in which the last individual of a species dies.

Colombia is a megadiverse country, with a natural wealth that for a long time was hidden by the shadow of war. Recent scientific expeditions, such as Colombia Bio, have shown how little we knew about our fauna and flora, so much so that with each of them new species have been discovered.

Colombia bio ©Colciencias

However, the expeditions also left the question of how much we may not have known. We are now in a race against indiscriminate and poorly controlled human intervention.

Deforestation, expansion of the agricultural frontier, mining, illicit crops are now present in these previously unexplored territories.

Tourism still needs to make its way into these regions as a competitive and profitable alternative. At the same time, as a good strategy for biodiversity conservation.

International Union for Conservation of Nature, UICN

The UICN is an organization whose mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

IUCN has been active for more than 70 years, and today works in a combined effort to conserve nature and accelerate the transition to sustainable development.

IUCN has developed a comprehensive information system on the conservation status of animal, fungal and plant species worldwide: The IUCN Red List.

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria is a system for classifying the risk of extinction of species worldwide. It divides species into nine categories:

  • Not Evaluated, NE.
  • Data Deficient, DD.
  • Least Concern, LC.
  • Near Threatened, NT.
  • Vulnerable, VU.
  • Endangered, EN.
  • Critically Endangered, CR.
  • Extinct in the Wild, EW.
  • Extinct, EX.

Species may move up or down the list as their populations increase or decline. Find more information at the UICN Red List website iucnredlist.org.

Bird Extinction

Painting of a dodo head by Cornelis Saftleven from 1638, probably the latest original depiction of the species ©Cornelis Saftleven – History of the dodo. http://julianhume.co.uk/

According to Colombia Birdfair, 40% of the bird species that inhabit our planet are going through a population decline, and 1 in 8 species is threatened. In addition to this, 1.4% have become extinct.

Here you will find some data:

Human activities are the main factor related with bird extinction. Climate change, intensive agriculture, invasive species, illegal hunting and overfishing are behind this devastating statistic.

First Bird Extinct in Colombia

The only bird species known to be extinct in Colombia is the Colombian GrebePodiceps andinus, endemic to the wetlands in the Eastern Andes of Colombia.  It was last recorded in 1977 in Lake Tota. 

Podiceps andinus ©Paula Andrea Romero, Arte&Conservación – BirdsColombia

Its disappearance is associated with the combined result of wetland drainage, and the eutrophication and salinization that has destroyed the submerged Potamogeton vegetation, where this species fed on a great variety of arthropods. 

Additional extinction factors were the introduction of exotic fish, such as the rainbow trout Salmo gairdneri (Fjeldså 1993), hunting, pesticide pollutionremoval of reeds, and predation. 

Bogota Rail – Rallus semiplumbeus, EN. ©neilorlandodiazma CC BY-SA 2.0.

According to the Humedales de Bogotá Foundation, the extinction of the Colombian Grebe should be remembered, and should serve as a lesson. 

Currently, there are two species of birds endemic to the Bogotá Savanna in critical danger of extinction, the Bogota Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus) and the Apolinar’s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari). Sadly, very little is being done to reverse this situation. 

Know more about the wetlands of Bogotá in our entry Wetlands of Bogotá are the Best Spots for Birdwatching in the City. 

Tracking Extinction Risks

Rengifo et al. 2020, calculated the degree of extinction threat to the country’s birds from 2002 to 2016 in a recent study which is the first study of its kind.

The main conclusion of the study is that habitat loss is the main threat to the Colombian Birds. Moreover, the results of this study left two flavors, one sweet and one somewhat bitter: Colombia has the potential to become the Country of Birds, or the Country of Bird Extinction. 

Podiceps andinus, ICN, National University of Colombia, Bogotá.

On the positive side, birds have benefited from land abandonment and subsequent habitat recovery as people moved to cities, from the reduction in the rate of habitat loss as illegal coca cultivation shifted between regions, and from conservation actions. 

On the negative side, the most important causes of the deterioration in conservation status are habitat loss due to the expansion of illicit crops, the same sad story, and population declines due to hunting. Yes, hunting! 

Of the two, I will only dwell on hunting, because the story of illegal cultivation speaks for itself. The people who enter the territories to extract resources such as timber, or gold, generally illegally, need to eat. And to eat, they hunt birds. 

Additionally, other significant threats for birds such as the increased presence of invasive and domestic animals, such as trout, cats, rats, dogs, and the Shiny cowbird; as well as agriculture expansion, cattle ranching, timber extraction, illegal mining, oil production, water contamination and habitat loss due to city expansion. 

The Most Threatened Areas and Birds 

The most threatened birds are those living in mangroves and freshwater habitats in the Pacific region and the Pacific Ocean. Also, the species living in the High Andean forest and paramo. 

The Andes and the Pacific are two natural regions with many endemic and restricted-range species. 

The most affected areas are the southern Pacific and Andean regions on the border with Ecuador. 

The Andes region has experienced extensive agricultural activities and deforestation for centuries. It is also a region negatively affected by climate change. All of this has resulted in the loss of habitat for birds. 

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari – Endemic, CR.

On the other hand, the Pacific region has been affected by illegal crops, illegal logging and illegal mining, which are the main threats to birds in this region. 

Illegal crops, illegal logging and illegal mining are also important causes of habitat loss in some other regions. Illegal logging occurs mainly in Darién (Pacific Region) and Amazon. Illegal mining occurs mainly in Chocó (Pacific region). And, illegal crops also occur in the Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, on the border with Venezuela. 

Here is the list of birds mentioned in the study with the most remarkable changes in category of threat in Colombia:

Genuine changes suffered by species during 2002–2016 period. Endemic species are marked with asterisk*.

Birdwatching Tourism as a Conservation Strategy

This study concluded that local economic development based on birdwatching tourism remains a good strategy for bird conservation, because despite clear threats, the overall risk of bird extinction in Colombia remains relatively low and stable.

However, this should not be a reason to postpone actions to conserve species and prevent extinctions.

Not everything is bad, in our entry Birdwatching Tourism in Colombia During the Post-conflict Scenarium I will tell you what has been done since the signing of the peace agreement, in favor of birding tourism as a strategy for bird conservation. 

Colombia Birdfair 2021: Preventing Extinction

In 2021, the most important bird fair in Colombia, the Colombia Birdfair, has extinction as its main topic.

This year Colombia Birdfair will have an extensive program of academic talks, courses and special activities for children and young people. From February 11 to 14 it will present the theme “Preventing Extinction” and will feature national and international experts on conservation and extinction issues.

 

This year the fair will be 100% virtual. According to Carlos Mario Wagner, director of the fair,

“virtuality is a great opportunity to connect with audiences and bird lovers from different countries, and thus promote bird conservation globally”.

The event expects to gather a large national and international audience around of the seventh version of the Colombia Birdfair. It looks for an exchange of ideas and proposals on conservation and birding tourism, with specialists from several continents.

The following are the main lecturers:

  • From India: Purnima Devi Barman Ph.D.
  • From Colombia: Natalia Ocampo Peñuela Ph.D., Carolina Murcia Ph.D., María Ángela Echeverry Galvis Ph.D., Ana María Morales Cañizares, Rubén Darío Palacio, Diego Calderón Franco, Jhon Fredy Casamachin Ui, Diego Ochoa and Ángela María Amaya Villarreal (co-author of the mentioned study in this post).
  • From The United Kingdom: Stuart Pimm Ph.D., David Lindo, Phil Gregory and Stuart Butchart Ph.D. (co-author of the mentioned study in this post).
  • From Kenia: Washington Wachira
  • From The United States: Jennifer Ackerman, Kenn Kaufman, LoraKim Joyner and Mollee Brown.
  • From Spain: Josep del Hoyo Calduch

Registrations are open on the website: http://www.colombiabirfair.com/.

With the registration, you will have virtual access to the lectures and talks from February 11 to 14, 2021. Registrtion fee: 14USD.

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!

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.

Birdwatching Tourism in Colombia During the Post-conflict Scenario

Colombia is a megadiverse country. It is also a country with a difficult history. War has been around for more than 60 years. With the signing of the peace agreement in 2016, Colombia opened up as never before, presenting a rich, unexplored and under-exploited territory. It also was the starting of the post-conflict struggle.

Paradoxically, the conservation of natural habitats in Colombia was facilitated by the war conflict, preventing territories from being invaded by development and deforestation.

Colombia’s Post-conflict Scenarium

Tourism has been one of the sectors that have benefited the most from the peace agreement, especially nature tourism.

One of the economic benefits of the peace agreement in Colombia has been that local communities have an alternative business opportunity in bird watching tourism.

The most remarkable result was the bird-watching expansion to areas, that were formerly unsafe, such as Caquetá and Putumayo.

Western Striolated-Puffbird, Nystalus obamai. Fin del Mundo, Putumayo, Colombia.

However, not everything has been rosy. This time of transition has cost us, especially due to the lack of proper administration and governance in the territories that were liberated from the conflict.

The Environmental Cost of the Post-conflict

Deforestation

Many studies on post-conflict dynamics have concluded that the social, political, and administrative imbalance that remains in the new peace territories leads to environmental degradation, especially through increased deforestation.

Unfortunately, it has been recognized that the main threat to Colombian birds is the loss of habitat caused by deforestation. Deforestation occurs when people begin to use the resources to which they did not have access before.

Carrying Capacity Excedeed

Another aspect is the deterioration of the new sites due to uncontrolled visitation by tourists and visitors, which exceeds the carrying capacity limits of many of these sites.

Deforestation Hotspots in the Colombian Amazon, part 3: Chiribiquete-Macarena ©MAAP

An example of this is the Chiribiquete National Natural Park, which had to be closed to visitors due to vandalism and overcrowding. In addition, the park has also been threatened by deforestation.

Other Conflicts

Likewise, demobilization has not been complete, and there are still some illegal groups that continue with their own agenda.

Finally, it is unfortunate to have to mention that the murder of environmental leaders has also seriously affected the country.

The Boom of Scientific Expeditions

In Colombia, the peace process also allowed scientific explorations to expand in the territory, as it was possible to visit places previously closed due to public safety issues.

Colombia Bio Expeditions

Colombia bio ©Colciencias

After the signing of the peace treaty, the Colombia Bio project, promoted by Colciencias, was launched in the country.

Colombia BIO aimed to carry out 20 expeditions in the period between 2016 and 2018 in order to generate knowledge about biodiversity. The expditions were possible thanks to the end of the conflict.

The expeditions were conducted in continental and marine areas that were:

  • Unexplored areas,
  • In post-conflict territories,
  • Under threat, or
  • Associated with transformed landscapes.

Many of the explored areas shared several of those characteristics. The Colombia Bio expeditions discovered countless new species of fauna and flora in the country.

Thanks to this, and to the great impulse that the Colombian government gave to birdwatching tourism, Colombian ornithologists, as well as bird lovers, now have more and better information about the birds of the most bird-rich country in the world.

2021: 5 Years After the Signing of the Peace Agreement

In 2021 it will be five years since the signing of the peace agreement. Since then, the country has been preparing to become a world-class bird-watching destination.

Today we have improvements such as:

Additionally, today we have a big advance in terms of policy for tourism and nature tourism training.

First Sustainability Policy for Tourism in Colombia

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism launched the first sustainability policy for tourism in Colombia in December 2020. It is called the Sustainable tourism policy “United for Nature”.

This sustainability policy aims to position sustainability as a fundamental pillar for the development of tourism in Colombia through a strategic plan for 2030 called the Roadmap for Sustainable Tourism.

This plan is composed of six strategies, 14 programs, 32 projects and 140 policy actions.

Sustainable Development Goals

The objectives of the plan focus on the following guidelines:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Efficient energy management and investment in renewable and non-conventional energy sources.
  • Responsible management of solid waste.
  • Saving and efficient use of water.
  • Adequate wastewater treatment.
  • Protection of the country’s biodiversity and ecosystems.

First Guide for Nature Tourism in Colombia

They also launched the first guide for nature tourism in Colombia together with ProColombia, and the support of USAID’s Natural Wealth Program; the Humboldt Institute; and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

©Illustrated Handbook for Nature Tourism Guides in Colombia

The guide is called “Contemplation Comprehension, Conservation: An Illustrated Handbook for Nature Tourism Guides in Colombia”.

 

It will be a tool for the country to take advantage of its potential as an international destination with sustainable and responsible practices.

You can take a look to the Handbook in the website https://guianaturaleza.colombia.travel/en/

The Colombian Birding Trails

At the same time, Since 2015, Audubon, in collaboration with Asociación Calidris, has been working on bird-based ecotourism initiatives in Colombia to support local development and conservation.

Picture from Audubon: “Wayuu indigenous students and teacher Alvaro Jaramillo are bird watching in La Guajira, Colombia this past June. The program teaches locals to become tour guides for travelers interested in spotting birds. Photo: Carlos Villalon”

Audubon has been training many people as specialized bird tour informers in all regions of Colombia, and developing the following birding routes:

However, bilingual and bird-focused guides, as well as specialized birding infrastructure, such as canopy towers or canopy trails, platforms, hides, etc., are still underdeveloped.

Therefore, if you come to Colombia to watch birds, especially on your own, you will have the best guides in local people, as they have a first-hand experience with the local landscape and wildlife, but with low or basic training in bird identification and foreign language skills (i.e. English).

How We are Helping

In Sula we always work with the local community. Whether it is with the accompaniment of a local guide, with local transportation services, with lodging in hotels and lodges developed by local people, among others.

Visiting Usiacurí and Luriza Reserve

We have first-hand knowledge of all our allies, and also help people in their regions to develop and/or improve their products and services.

Organize your trip with us, so that you have the best services, and at the same time help the economic development of the regions you visit.

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 7 Most Beautiful Places to Go Stargazing in Colombia


In Colombia, you can experience the unique and rare emotion of stargazing. The whole country offers the conditions to make astronomical tourism throughout the year, from the Andes to the Caribbean Sea.

Before telling you which are the best stargazing spots in Colombia, based on tourism facilities and beauty, I will promptly mention some topics of special attention.

The Light Pollution Menace

Sadly, almost a third of humanity cannot see the Milky Way when they look at the sky at night.

There are many sources of light on Earth that emit light particles into the atmosphere, causing the skies to become hazy.

Today there is more awareness of this phenomenon, and more people are mobilizing to promote the use of cleaner light installations.

Light Pollution Map, Colombia – Powered by https://lighttrends.lightpollutionmap.info/

Effects of excessive light

According to the NGO Globe at Night, the light-dark cycle, when interrupted, affects ecological dynamics, and is a serious threat to nocturnal wildlife in particular.

Light pollution can also lead to sleep disorders and other health problems. In addition, health effects are not only due to over-illumination or excessive exposure to light over time.These are also produced by inadequate spectral composition of light (e.g., excessive blue light from cellphones).

With regard to energy waste, over-illumination can be a waste of energy, especially at night. Therefore, it generates increases in costs and carbon footprint.

Light pollution Hong Kong ©Science Magazine

What to do?

Nevertheless, the NGO Globe at Night explains that light pollution can easily be reduced by doing simple things like:

  • protecting the lights properly so that the light does not go up,
  • only using light when and where it is needed,
  • use only the amount needed,
  • install low energy bulbs, and
  • choose bulbs with spectral power distributions appropriate to the task at hand.

Astrotourism is also a way to protect the night sky from increasing light pollution. It works through the recognition and protection of areas that still have low or no light pollution.

Astrotourism or Stargazing

Let’s start with some basic tips.

Basic Tips for an Amazing Stargazing Night

Before going out for stargazing consider the following points:

1.Weather

Try to find the most accurate information about wind speed, wind pressure, cloud forecast, and temperature. Atmospheric pressure is also something important to check. The higher the pressure, the clearer the conditions.

2. Transparency

Dust or moisture ruin the fun of the stargazes since they make the skies hazy. Try to find the best season, which in Colombia, means avoiding the rainy season. But also, going to the driest regions and the higher places.

3. “Seeing”

The later you go out, the better sight.  I found an interesting paper in Science Magazine you can read later. It talks about a light pollution tracking tool ideated by a physicist. With this tool you can check whether the night sky is getting brighter. It is called the Radiance Light Trends Website.

4. High Spot

It can be a mountain or a building. This will help avoid light pollution effects.

5. The Moon

The Gibbous or crescent phase of the moon is best for stargazing. A brilliant moon will overshadow the stars and planets.

6. Prepare for the night

  • Dress appropriately for the weather
  • Let your eyes relax and enter into dark adaptation
  • Avoid devices with white light, astronomers recommend using devices with the red light option.
  • Bug spray, needless to explain, but worth recalling, especially in Colombia, where it is always summery.

Best Stargazing Spots in Colombia

Any place without light pollution is a good place to see the stars. Colombia has many places that offer beautiful starred and cleaned skies, far from the contamination of the cities. However, not all the places offer the appropiate tourism facilities.

Here I will list the best stargazing spots in Colombia, based on tourism facilities and beauty.

Tatacoa Desert

Night at the Tatacoa Desert ©Bernardo Solano

The most recommended destination for astrotourism is the Tatacoa Desert in Huila. This is the only destination in Colombia with a Starlight Certificate, nominated in 2019. 

Besides its intrinsic desertic beauty, it makes you feel like observing the stars from mars, or the moon. The ochre and grayish tones of its landscapes contrast with the clear sky.

The desert has very low light contamination, and it has three different astronomic observatories, with telescopes, which are open to the public offering educational activities and nocturnal expeditions.

The epicenter of astronomical tourism in this region is the municipality of Villavieja, in Huila, where the Tatacoa Astronomical Observatory is located. In this place, visitors can participate in talks about astronomy and see the stars through the astronomical telescope.

Additionally, in the month of August you can witness the ‘Rain of the Perseids’, a beautiful stellar spectacle in which you can see up to 200 stars per hour.

Where to stay: Yararaka Hotel Boutique

Villa de Leyva

Night at Villa de Leyva – Facetas Boyacá

Also a good place for astrotourism is this beautiful town in Boyacá. Every year Villa de Leyva is the meeting point for the amateur astronomers. They gather for their annual meeting, the Astronomy Festival, which is the most important amateur event in Latin America.

Villa de Leyva features a high elevation and a dry environment, which also facilitates the observation.

It also has a very good infrastructure to receive tourists.

Where to stay: La Posada de San Antonio Hotel

Barichara

Casa del Presidente – Barichara

This town is located in Santander. It is also a destination with very good infrastructure and also it offers ideal conditions to watch the sky, because of its dry environment.

Where to stay: Casa del Presidente.

Cabo de la Vela

Full Moon at Cabo de la vela

La Guajira is a magical place in Colombia. It is another desertic area, but placed in the Caribbean region. Cabo de la Vela, in the northern territory of Guajira, also offers a very good infrastructure for tourism, and also clean and dark skies.

Here you will hear the sea waves and learn more about the mysteries of the universe from the Wayúu community.

In Cabo de la Vela, the desert landscape merges with the sea, and the night skies are filled with shooting stars and constellations, thanks to the absence of artificial lighting from nearby towns.

In addition, if you love nature, take a visit to the Flamingo Sanctuary or a tour of the Taroa Dunes are good extras.

Where to stay: Ranchería Utta.

Lagos de Menegua

Astrotourism in Lagos de Menegua ©Lagos de Menegua

The Lagos de Menegua Bioreserve is one of the few privileged places that still have black skies. Its privileged location allows simultaneous observation of the northern and southern hemispheres.

The reserve has a calendar of astronomical events with free registration. It also offers this activity exclusively for companies and specific groups.

Between the months of December and March, the probability of 100% clear skies increases, making the best time to visit.

Where to stay: Lagos de Menegua.

Cocuy National Natural Park, Boyacá

The Milky Way observed at El Cocuy NNP ©Rodrigo Bernal Díaz

After 9 pm, on a very clear night at 4,444 meters above sea level, on the shores of La Laguna Grande in the Sierra in El Cocuy Natural Park (Colombia), the Milky Way rises behind the mountain. The cold can get to your bones, but the view is wonderful.

Rodrigo Bernal Diaz

This national natural park, located in the center-east of the country, on the border between the departments of Boyacá and Arauca, is another of Colombia’s tourist sites where people can experience an unforgettable night looking at the stars. Of course, if you don’t mind to camp.

In fact, the U’wa Indians of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy created the Astronomical Observatory on the ancestral Camino de Mal Paso. In this place tourists can marvel at the spectacular clear nights and see the stars, and, at the same time, interact with the U’wa community.

Where to stay: Camping zone.

Suesca and Tominé near to Bogotá

Niddo – Suesca

Near to Bogotá are the town of Suesca and the Tominé reservoir. All this region has a very good tourism infrastructure and also, they have altitude, with more than 2500 meter above sea level.

Altitude is fundamental because there are fewer atmosphere layers above you, so you are nearer to the sky.

Where to stay: Glamping* Niddo

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

*Find more information about Glamping in Colombia in the post The 32 Most Beautiful Glampings in Colombia You Should Know, at Pelecanus website.

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.

Top Zoos, Aquariums and Bioparks in Colombia

Find here the top zoos of Colombia! In the past entries Can Zoos be Considered as Fair Ecotourism Destinations? and Zoos in Colombia and COVID-19 Crisis: Your Visit Can Help Them, I covered the topics about defendind zoos, or not, why to visit zoos, or not, covid-19 pandemic effect on zoos survival, and about the importance of zoos in Colombia. I recommend you to read those posts to get a broader view about visiting zoos in Colombia, and around the world.

Visitors to zoos traditionally attended for entertainment purposes. Today, besides entertaining, visiting a zoo involves supporting education, awareness, and sensitization programs for the care of wildlife and the environment, and the rejection of wildlife trafficking. Some zoos are considered “a classroom open to research” or “a new place of hope“.

In this post I recommend you the best Zoos, Aquariums and Bioparks to visit in Colombia, specially during the post-covid-19 reality.

#1 Cali Zoo

The Cali Zoo is the best zoo of Colombia by far. There you will find native animals such as the Andean Condor, the Spectacled Bear, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, the tapir, the puma and some primates, birds, fish and reptiles. There are also exotic animals such as zebras, hyenas, baboons, Bengal tigers, and zuricates, among others.

The Cali Zoo is home to many events, among them the Colombia BirdFair, the most important international bird fair in Colombia, which covers topics such as: conservation, bird watching tourism, education, etc.

Cali Zoo

Website

https://www.zoologicodecali.com.co/index.php

Location

FUNDACIÓN ZOOLÓGICA DE CALI, Cra. 2 oeste Calle 14, Santa Teresita. Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia.

Programs

It has education, communication, recreation and research programs for the conservation of Colombia’s biodiversity.

How to get there

The Cali Zoo is located in a noble area of the city. The closest hotels are the Hampton by Hilton, the Intecontinental de Cali, and El Obelisco. The trip from these places can be done on foot or by cab. If you go on foot from one of these hotels, it will be a nice half hour walk along the Rio Cali.

Tickets’ fee

Adults 7USD – Kids 5USD

Notes

It is not alowed the entrace for people older than 70 years old and younger than 6 years old.

#2 Marine World Aquarium, Santa Marta

Marine World Aquarium works to harmonize research, conservation, education and recreation purposes.

The design of the infrastructure of the Marine World Aquarium allows to have replicas of some marine ecosystems and physical phenomena. It constitutes the only engineering work of this type in Colombia, which, due to its specific technical characteristics, makes it possible to develop a great number of observations and investigations that are difficult to carry out in the natural environment.

It has 24 large exhibition aquariums and a giant swimming pool, where the visitor experiences the sensation of being submerged while contemplating the wonderful underwater life.

El Rodadero, Santa Marta, Colombia.

Website

https://www.mundomarinoacuario.com.co/

Location

The Marine World Aquarium is located in El Rodadero. Carrera 2 # 11-68, El Rodadero, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia.

​Programs

Marine World Aquarium uses a series of exhibition aquariums of the different species and their environments, in order to become an educational and scientific tool.

Its objective is to promote the knowledge, conservation and adequate use of marine resources, and the commitment to the preservation of the environment, and to promote research.

It is also a destination for your company (MICE). Marine World encourages companies with special benefits and discounts if they purchase an Adoption Plan. With this plan you will be helping the care and attention of the species living in the aquarium.

How to get there

If your accommodation is in downtown Santa Marta, Mamatoco, Taganga or any other place in the city, you can get to El Rodadero by cab. It is a distance of about 5 km, and you will arrive in 15 minutes. It is not recommended to go by walk from Santa Marta.

Tickets’ fee

Adults 7USD – Kids 5USD

Notes

You can plan your kids’ birthday party there.

#3 Biopark Guatika

Most of the animals in Guátika have arrived because of the illegal traffic of fauna and have special conditions so they must remain under human care.

In Guátika Bioparque Zoo you can find more than 1000 animals of more than 100 different species. The Zoo has ample spaces, suitable in the best way possible, to provide the best welfare to the animals, for their mental and physical health.

In addition to visiting the animals, the zoo offers adventure activities such as horseback riding, buggy rides, sky coaster, wall climbing, ziplining, among other activities.

Guátika Hotel Boutique ©Booking.com

Website

https://guatika.com.co/ 

Location

Tibasosa at Km 1, Vía las Antenas, Tibasosa, Boyacá, Colombia.

Programs

Special programs for rescued animals from illegal traffic, which cannot be released to the wild and require human care.

How to get there

Tibasosa is a municipality in the department of Boyacá, located between the cities of Duitama and Sogamoso. Tibasosa is located 3 hours from Bogota.  From Bogotá you can take a private transportation to Tibasosa. The zoo is located 800 meters from the main park of Tibasosa

Tickets’ fee

Adults General 9USD – Adults Plus 20USD  – Kids and Older than 65 7.5USD

Notes

The park has the Guatika Boutique Hotel. The hotel houses a children’s club, a restaurant and a terrace. The accommodation has a hydromassage bathtub. Accommodation includes activities at the zoo. 

#4 La Reserva Biopark

The Reserve is a natural theme park and sanctuary for plants and animals rescued from illegal trafficking. This park is specialized in receiving, treating and releasing, when possible, the rescued animals.

As a visitor you will have the opportunity to connect with nature and get to know some of the Colombian ecosystems.

Green Jay – Cyanocorax yncas, La Reserva Biopark

Website

https://www.bioparquelareserva.com/

Location

Abra village, Km 1.2, Cota, Cundinamarca, Colombia. 

Programs

The reserve has developed innovative projects contributing to environmental education in Colombia, scientific research, knowledge about endangered species and the conservation of the country’s biological diversity by promoting respect for nature.

The park also has different projects related to animal care, water protection, and ecological restoration projects in which you can participate and make donations. 

How to get there

The Bioparque la Reserva is located 40 minutes from downtown Bogotá, in the municipality of Cota. From the center of Cota, you will arrive in 10 minutes by car, or in 30 minutes walking.

Tickets’ fee

Adults 8.5USD – Kids Free until 3 yeras old

Notes

Among its especial attractions are:

  • The recreation of a human construction taken by nature, where the visitor finds interpretative exhibitions of opportunistic animals such as rats, mice, cockroaches and snakes.
  • A space dedicated to illegal trafficking where visitors learn about the consequences it has on biodiversity.
  • A space to learn about the science that takes care of animals, the duties we have as pet owners, which animals you can have and which you can’t.
  • A workshop to discover the myths and truths about carnivorous plants.

#5 Ukumarí Biopark

The Biopark is located in one of the most important tourist areas of Colombia: the coffee zone. Ukumarí means, in Quechua language, the “one that has the strength of the Bear”. 

The Biopark has been under construction since 2015 and is expected to be the largest of its kind in Latin America, covering 820,000 square meters.

There will be aquariums, aviaries and attractions in the fourth dimension, as well as interactive games and adrenaline scenarios related to biodiversity.

The transfer of the animals from the old zoo was called Operation Noah’s Ark, which lasted 2 years between 2015 and 2016.

Ukumari Park ©Ukumari Website

Website

https://www.ukumaripereira.com/en

Location

Km 14 Vía Cerritos – Costado Sur – Pereira, Risaralda, Colombia. 21.5 km far from the Matecaña International Airport.

Programs

Ukumari Biopark replaced the old Matecaña zoo, with the purpose of developing a Biopark that would improve the quality of life of the animals, and also contribute to energize the tourist offer of the region.

The Biopark seeks to change man’s attitude towards the planet, the care of species and the environment.

How to get there

The Ukumari Biopark is located at Km 14, south margin, of the road that from Pereira leads to the Cerritos village. At Santa Barbara Station, only 8 km from Matecaña International Airport, you will find the clearly marked main access road that will take you (in a 1 km route) to the entrance of Ukumari and the Biopark parking lots.

Tickets’ fee

Adults 9.5USD – Kids 7USD

Notes

The nearest hotel is the Sonesta Pereira. Very nice Hotel!

#6 Los Ocarros Biopark

The biopark Los Ocarros, is committed to the preservation, rehabilitation and conservation of the native fauna of the Llanos Orientales. It consists of 5.5 hectares that have ample areas, which serve as habitat for about 680 animals of 150 species typical of the ecosystem of the eastern plains region of Colombia.

The visit to the biopark Los Ocarros is an example that tourism and ecological protection can go hand in hand.

Jaguar

Website

https://www.bioparquelosocarros.co

Location

Vanguardia village, Km 3 vía Villavicencio – Restrepo, Meta, Colombia.

Programs

This place focuses on environmental education as a tool for the conservation of the fauna of the eastern plains of Colombia.

It offers a virtual library with scientific documents of research results about the species present in the zoo.

Also, Bioparque los Ocarros, along with other organizations, attends and values confiscated or rescued animals, made available by the environmental authority, until the necessary conditioning is achieved to return them to their wild life.

How to get there

The biopark Los Ocarros, is located on the outskirts of the city of Villavicencio, 5 km from downtown. You can get there by car or walking. The Wyndham Garden Hotel is a recommended hotel to stay near to Los Ocarros. 

Tickets’ fee

Adults 4.5USD – Kids 3.5USD – Seniors 2.5USD

Notes

Guidance service is not included. The park offers specialized tours and events for one or more days, as well as workshops, conferences and seminars. 

Remember

Wild animals are not pets, leave them in their natural habitat, they don’t feel at home in your house! The possession of wild animals is a crime in Colombia and is penalized according to current regulations.

If you want to come to Colombia, don’t hesitate to contact us and plan your trip with us!

Coati walks on a trunk at he Biopark “La Reserva” in Cota, Colombia. The Coati was rescue by Colombian police and handed over to the Biopark to be taken care of.

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.