Farallones de Cali Natural National Park, the Land of the Tororoi Bailador

In west of the city of Cali you will find páramos, waterfalls, trails, mountains and rivers hidden in the  youngest rock formations of the Western Cordillera of the Andes: Farallones de Cali Natural National Park.

This protected area, distinguished by its majestic blue peaks that rise above a plain that separates the basins of the Pacific and the Cauca River, is recognized for its great natural wealth and therefore becomes a must-see destination when it comes to nature tourism in this region of the country.

Below you will get the information you need to enjoy and fall in love with the largest natural reserve in Valle del Cauca.

Discovering Farallones de Cali Natural National Park

Farallones de Cali National Park is located in southwestern Colombia, in the department of Valle del Cauca, between the municipalities of Cali, Jamundí, Dagua and Buenaventura, covering an area of 1,500 km².

The “farallones” are rock formations of about 20 million years ago, being the youngest of the Western Cordillera of the Andes, formed by the folding of the South American and Nazca tectonic plates.

The protected area is the largest in Valle del Cauca and allows the conservation of more than 540 bird species and more than 30 rivers that originate there. The rivers and streams that originate in this area are divided into two basins: the Cauca and Pacific basins, and supply the southwestern part of Colombia.

Pance Peak, Farallones de Cali National Park, CC Parques Nacionales Archives

The elevation gradient is between 200 and 4,100 meters above sea level, where the following ecosystems are present:

  • Tropical Rainforest (200 and 1,200 meters above sea level);
  • Humid Sub-Andean Forest (1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level);
  • Humid High Andean Forest (2,000 and 3,500 meters above sea level) and
  • Páramo (above 3,500 meters above sea level).

Farallones de Cali NNP has the only paramo ecosystem in Colombia that does not have frailejones. However, the park is considered one of the richest in flora and fauna Colombia.

How to get to Farallones de Cali Natural National Park

Bogotá-Palmira-Pance

Take a 145- minutes flight from El Dorado Bogotá (BOG) to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) at Palmira city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 45- minutes ride to Pance at Centro de Educación Ambiental El Topacio.

What to do in Farallones de Cali NNP

Colombia’s National Natural Parks announced that as a contribution to the country’s economic reactivation and as a continuation of the reopening of protected areas with an ecotourism vocation, the Farallones de Cali National Natural Park reopened its doors so that visitors can enjoy its natural and cultural values.

Authorized sectors for entry

The organization, in charge of administering and managing the Natural Parks System and coordinating the National System of Protected Areas of Colombia, announced the following points that will be authorized for visitors:

  • Puesto de atención a visitantes el Topacio, located in Vereda el Topacio Corregimiento de Pance, Distrito de Cali, access to the attractive Pico de Loro.
  • Quebradahonda Visitor Service Station, located in the Quebradahonda Village, Corregimiento de los Andes, District of Cali, access to the Peñas Blancas attraction.
  • Km 81 Visitor Service Station, located in La Cascada, municipality of Dagua, access to the Cañón del Anchicayá attraction.

Schedules and measures to take into account

National Parks informed that visitors will be able to enjoy the protected area “in day trip mode” and it is important to follow the instructions of the park rangers, the National Police and members of the communities that provide ecotourism support.

The entrance hours are from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and the departure time should be no later than 5:00 p.m.

Biosecurity protocols

At the same time, the entity highlighted the recommendations and biosecurity protocols, which have been developed given the pandemic situation and among which are: maintaining social distance, permanent use of masks and glycerin alcohol, as well as avoiding crowds.

Additionally, the tourist load capacity of each of the trails has been reduced to 30% for this reopening stage, and also police accompaniment is provided.

What to enjoy in Los Farallones?

In this protected area you can spot species such as the spectacled bear and the anteater, along with guans, chachalacas, parrots and eagles.

Los Farallones de Cali National Natural Park, located in the Western Cordillera of Colombia, allows visitors to enjoy relaxing landscapes, which are also home to marsupials and monkeys, as well as camping and hiking activities.

Hiking

Hiking is an exciting activity in Farallones de Cali National Park. You can hike on 4 trails: Pico de Loro Trail; Burbujas Trail; Peñas Blancas Trail and Anchicayá Canyon.

  • Pico de Loro Trail: Starting point 1718 masl to 2860 masl arrival point. Difficulty level: Medium – High and maximum capacity of 50 people per day. (3 hours)
  • Burbujas Trail: Starting point 1676 masl to 1735 masl arrival point. Degree of difficulty: Low and maximum capacity of 267 people per day.
  • Peñas Blancas Trail: Starting point 1987 masl to 2886 masl arrival point. Degree of difficulty: Medium – High and maximum capacity of 50 people per day.
  • Anchicayá Canyon: It is a natural well with a depth of approximately 80 cm to 6 meters. Degree of difficulty: Low-Medium and maximum capacity of 200 people per day.

Birdwatching

Tororoi Bailador. CC Diego Calderón (Colombia Birding)

The most representative birds of the park are the:

  • Long-wattled umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger);
  • Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima);
  • Yellow-green tanager (Chlorospingus flavovirens);
  • Cauca guan (Penelope perspicax);
  • Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana);
  • Banded ground cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus); and,
  • Baudó guan (Penelope ortoni).

Land of the Tororoi Bailador, or the Dancing Grallaria

Species number 562 was named Tororoi Bailador, which was discovered in the Dagma conservation area, immersed in the Farallones de Cali National Natural Park.

Thus, the Tororoi Bailador is an endemic bird recorded in the park, and it is known to be present in five rural territories near the park.

Wildlife Tours

In Farallones de Cali NNP you can observe small bats up to pumas, in addition to panthers, ocelots, foxes and spectacled bears.

The amphibian community includes the Lehman’s poison dart frog, Oophaga lehmanni. Check our dart frogs tour here.

Orchids tours are also a very well developed activity to do in the park. Know more about orchids of Colombia in our entry The Richest Country in Orchids in the World: Colombia.

Where to stay in Farallones de Cali NNP

Thanks to the proximity of Farallones de Cali NNP with the city of Cali it is not necessary to stay overnight in the park.

We recommend you to stay in Cali, where there are plenty of nice hotels you can stay. Our recommendations for you are:

  • Hotel Casa del Hidalgo
  • Hotel Dann Carton Cali
  • Cali Marriot Hotel

Best time to visit Farallones de Cali NNP

We recommend that you visit the park during the 2 dry seasons, between the months of January and March, and between July and August.

Keep in mind that Farallones de Cali NNP has an average temperature of 25º C (77º F) in most of the marked trails but in the summits it has a temperature of 5º C (41º F).

Farallones de Cali NNP Entrance fees

Farallones de Cali NNP does not currently charge admission to visitors.

What to consider before visiting Farallones de Cali NNP

  • The park currently has regulated access, so you must request access to the following email farallones@parquesnacionales.gov.co.
  • The hours of entry and permanence of the trails allowed in the park are:
    • Pico de Loro Trail: Entrance from 6 am to 8 am; departure 4 pm maximum;
    • Burbujas – Pance: Entrance from 6 am to 5 pm;
    • Peñas Blancas Trail: Entrance from 6 am to 8 am; departure 4 pm maximum;
    • Anchicayá Canyon: stay from 7 am to 5 pm.
    • The Pico Pance trail is currently restricted because it is in an intangible zone.
  • The entry of pets or domestic animals is prohibited.
  • 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
  • Parques Nacionales
  • Colombia.travel
  • Colparques
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.

#1 Birding Hotspot in Meta: Bosque Bavaria. Only 5 min. from Villavicencio!

The Bosque Bavaria in Villavicencio is one of the main hotspots for bird watching in Colombia and the first hotspot in the department of Meta. It is considered a place of ornithological interest due to the high concentration of bird species in a relatively small area. In this place more than 350 bird species have been registered.

In this place is located the Proaves Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus) Bird Nature Reserve which, together with the forests of the former Bavaria beer company headquarters, preserves the forest in the piedmont plains of Los Llanos sheltering bird species in a gradient between 200 and 1100 meters above sea level.

Guatiquía River Canyon (IBA)

Bosque Bavaria Hotspot is part of the Important Bird Area (IBA) Guatiquía River Canyon. The Guatiquía River Canyon is located on the eastern slope of the Eastern mountain range of Colombia, in the Llanos piedmont. Guatiquía IBA is part of the department of Meta and covers an area of 450 square kilometers.

The Guatiquía River Canyon goes up from the Bavaria bridge in Villavicencio, at 400 meters above sea level, to the Chingaza paramo, at 3,000 meters above sea level. It crosses towns such as Montfort, San Francisco, El Calvario, Santa Teresa, Candelaria and San Juanito.

Guatiquía River and Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot

The fairly wide altitudinal gradient of the IBA Guatiquía River Canyon favors the presence of fauna and flora belonging to different thermal floors. Globally threatened species, restricted-range species and biome-restricted species are found in this area.

Among them, it is worth mentioning the Band-tailed Guan (Penelope argyrotis), Blue-throated Starfrontlet (Coeligena helianthea), Crimson-rumped Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus), Brown-breasted Parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera), Cundinamarca Antpitta (Grallaria kaestneri), Andean Siskin (Spinus spinescens), Ochre-breasted Brush-finch (Atlapetes semirufus), Pale-naped Brush-finch (Atlapetes pallidinucha) and Moustached Brush-finch (Atlapetes albofrenatus).

It is possible to do a bird watching daytrip from the paramo to the lower part of the piedmont, you just need a good guide and a 4×4 truck.

Bosque Bavaria Location

The Bavaria forest is located five minutes from the city of Villavicencio, Meta, in the vicinity of the old Bavaria brewery warehouse. You can find it on the left side of the road that leads to the municipality of Restrepo, shortly before crossing the bridge over the Guatiquía River.

Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot at 5 minutes from Villavicencio

The forest is part of a transitional piedmont forest fragment between the mountainous part and the adjacent plains. Bosque Bavaria is a tropical humid forest formed by slightly altered primary and secondary forests.

It is located at an altitude ranging between 467 and 651 meters above sea level and is the boundary between the bird species present in the low areas of the Orinoco and the species typical of the mountainous forests of the Eastern Mountain Range.

Bosque Bavaria Weather

Bosque Bavaria has an average annual temperature of 27°C and an average annual rainfall of 3,663 mm (IGAC, 1996). Besides, the first period of rain occurs between April and May and the second between September and November; 62% of the total rain falls during these five months. Also, September and October are the rainiest months while January and February are the driest.

Birding in Bosque Bavaria, Meta

The tour is made along an unpaved road that connects several farms with the city. During the tour, you can observe the canyon of the Guatiquía River from the observation balconies offered by the steep forest slopes that surround the road.

Double-toothed Kite – Harpagus bidentatus. Ph. Sara Colmenares

Among with the Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus), there are other interesting birds such as the Gilded Barbet (Capito auratus), Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata), Amazonian Motmot (Momotus momota), White-chested Puffbird (Malacoptila fusca), Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala), White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus), Sooty-capped Hermit (Phaethornis augusti), Moustached Antwren (Myrmotherula ignota), Amazonian Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), Dwarf Cuckoo (Coccycua pumila), Green Manakin (Cryptopipo holochlora), and Striolated Manakin (Machaeropterus striolatus).

Unfortunate picture of the Striolated Manakin – Machaeropterus striolatus. Ph. Sara Colmenares

Besides birds, you can also find mammals such as the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), along with other animals such as turtles, and amphibians, butterflies, etc.

Butterfly Watching in Bosque Bavaria

The list of butterflies that live in Bosque Bavaria is composed of about 470 species. This region is the best sampled in butterflies in the entire Eastern Cordillera and has a high potential for butterfly watching tours.

Here are some of the butterfly species you can find in Bosque Bavaria:

Fig. 1. Morpho telemachus iphiclus . Fig. 2. Morpho achilles patroclus . Fig. 3. Morpho achilles phokylides . Fig. 4. Morpho marcus intermedia . Fig. 5. Morpho menelaus occidentalis . Fig. 6. Antirrhaea philoctetes philaretes (Salazar et al. 2017).
Fig. 15. Parides anchises nielseni . Fig. 16. Coenophlebia archidona . Fig. 17. Pterourus zagreus f. bacchus . Fig. 18. Eueides tales cognata . Fig. 19. Methona confusa confusa . Fig. 20. Hamadryas chloe chloe . Fig. 21. Brevianta ematheon . Fig. 22. Semomesia croesus lacrimosa . Fig. 23. Cyrenia martia ssp. . Fig. 24. Callicore lyca bella . (Plates G. Nielsen) (Salazar et al. 2017).

Where to Stay near Bosque Bavaria Hotspot

There are several option to stay near Bosque Bavaria, either you stay at Villavicencio or in a nearby town called Restrepo.

However, for birders and nature lovers, I recommend Rancho Camaná Natural Reserve as the nearest place to stay when you visit Bosque Bavaria. Besides, from Rancho Camaná you can also visit other birding spots as Camino Monfortiano, Caney Alto, and Upin Salt Mines along the piedmont plains.

Recommendations

  • Wear boots, a raincoat, and a mosquito protection.
  • Disinfect shoes with hypochlorite or Clorox to prevent the dispersion of the chytrid fungus (one of the main causes of death of amphibians in the world).

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Bosque Bavaria or Guatiquía Canyon in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

La Planada Nature Reserve: All you Need to Know Before Visiting

La Planada Nature Reserve was created by the Foundation for Higher Education (FES) in 1982, with support from the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). The objective of its creation was to avoid genetic loss and to preserve the life of hundreds of plants and animals, which are unique inhabitants of the last remnants of the tropical cloud forest in the western andean mountain range, in the so-called biogeographic Chocó in the Colombian Pacific, which has been so badly affected by intense forest clearing.


After more than 30 years, there is a historic moment for the Awa Indigenous people, with the help of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Since 9/27/2020 La Planada is connected to the interconnected network (internet).


Having an internet connection benefits the local community, the research and conservation processes in the reserve, and all visitors in La Planada.


9 Facts about La Planada Nature Reserve

La Planada Natural Reserve is one of the most biologically rich places in Colombia:

  1. It has 3,200 hectares of cloud forests.
  2. It has the largest concentration of native birds in South America, with more than 240 species, including rare and endangered species such as the Black-and-chestnut eagle, the Toucan Barbet, the Club-winged Manakin and the Long-tailed Sylph.
  3. It has been described by the famous botanist Alwyn Gentry as the supreme empire of the Epiphytes plants: a paradise of lichens, bromeliads, mosses and orchids.
  4. More than 1,800 species of trees and plants are found here.
  5. It is one of the places with the greatest diversity of orchids in the world with more than 300 varieties.
  6. It has registered, until now, more than 80 species of mammals, among them the Colombian white-faced capuchin (Cebus capucinus), the Mantled howler (Alouatta palliata), ocelots, deers, coatis, weasels and the emblematic Spectacled Bear.
  7. Its cloud forests are also one of the last refuges of the Spectacled bear in Colombia.
  8. Approximately 50 species of reptiles.
  9. And more than 30 species of amphibians has been registered at La Planada.

Sustainable Tourism Destination

In 2010 the FES Foundation donated the La Planada Nature Reserve to the Awá Indigenous People. Since then the community has led the recovery of the Reserve as well as projects for the conservation of biological diversity, with the development of three work programs: community organization, sustainable production and conservation.

Also, it has been able to establish good inter-institutional alliances, having technical support from important organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the MacArthur Foundation, the European Union, the Humboldt Institute, RESNATUR among others.

Know more about Sustainable Destination in Colombia in our post Recommended Sustainable Tourism Destinations in Colombia.

Characteristics

The premontane rainforests of the La Planada Nature Reserve are distributed in two plains, five hills and two pronounced canals. It is located between 1,300 and 2,100 meters above sea level (3937 – 6889.7 ft). It has an average annual rainfall of 4.700 mm, with a dry period between June and August. The average temperature is 20ºC.

Location

La Planada Natural Reserve is placed 27 km from the municipality of Ricaurte, department of Nariño, in the southwest of the country.

Important Bird Area and Protected Forest Reserve

It has been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) in 2008, under criteria A1 and A2. This means that the La planada holds significant numbers of one or more globally threatened species, and to hold a significant population of at least two range-restricted species.

Within the IBA there are about 1667 hectares declared as a Protected Forest Reserve, within the system of protected areas of Colombia. In Colombia, a reserve of this type corresponds to geographical areas where forest ecosystems maintain their function, even though their primary structure has been changed. They can be public or private and are intended for the establishment, maintenance and sustainable use of forests or vegetation cover.

In La Planada you can find almost 360 species of birds. Within this large group, 29 species are of special interest because of their restricted distribution. Some of them are under threat category in the IUCN red list.

SpeciesIUCN Red List CategorySeasonDistribution
Dark-backed Wood-quail (Odontophorus melanonotus)VUresidentRestricted
Gorgeted Sunangel (Heliangelus strophianus)LCresidentRestricted
Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis)LCresidentRestricted
Hoary Puffleg (Haplophaedia lugens)NTresidentRestricted
Brown Inca (Coeligena wilsoni)LCresidentRestricted
Velvet-purple Coronet (Boissonneaua jardini)LCresidentRestricted
Empress Brilliant (Heliodoxa imperatrix)LCresidentRestricted
Cloudforest Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nubicola)VUresidentna
Colombian Screech-owl (Megascops colombianus)NTresidentRestricted
Semi-collared Hawk (Accipiter collaris)NTresidentna
Plate-billed Mountain-toucan (Andigena laminirostris)NTresidentRestricted
Toucan Barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus)NTresidentRestricted
Yellow-breasted Antpitta (Grallaria flavotincta)LCresidentRestricted
Narino Tapaculo (Scytalopus vicinior)LCresidentRestricted
Uniform Treehunter (Thripadectes ignobilis)LCresidentRestricted
Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (Margarornis stellatus)NTresidentRestricted
Club-winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus)LCresidentRestricted
Orange-breasted Fruiteater (Pipreola jucunda)LCresidentRestricted
Beautiful Jay (Cyanolyca pulchra)NTresidentRestricted
Black Solitaire (Entomodestes coracinus)LCresidentRestricted
Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia flavirostris)LCresidentRestricted
Tanager Finch (Oreothraupis arremonops)LCresidentRestricted
Dusky Bush-tanager (Chlorospingus semifuscus)LCresidentRestricted
Scarlet-and-white Tanager (Chrysothlypis salmoni)LCresidentRestricted
Indigo Flowerpiercer (Diglossa indigotica)LCresidentRestricted
Purplish-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephalus)NTresidentRestricted
Black-chinned Mountain-tanager (Anisognathus notabilis)LCresidentRestricted
Glistening-green Tanager (Chlorochrysa phoenicotis)LCresidentRestricted
Moss-backed Tanager (Bangsia edwardsi)LCresidentRestricted

Scientific Research at La Planada Nature Reserve

During its more than 20 years of history, the Reserve has developed several investigations on the natural history of tanagers and birds of prey and some threatened species such as the Toucan Barbet and the Plate-billed Mountain-toucan. Studies on the Spectacled Bear and studies of vegetation and floristics have also been carried out with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute. Today, long-term scientific research is being carried out in the reserve to study the dynamics of the Andean forest.

Spectacled Bear rescued at La Planada Nature Reserve. Its name is Arcoiris (Rainbow)

What to do at La Planada Nature Reserve

The birds, as well as the natural and scenic wealth are the main attractions of La Planada. Tourism, as well as the reserve, is in charge of the Awá community. Enjoy one of the most beautiful natural reserves in Nariño by hiking, walking to an impressive waterfall, and resting in the middle of the forest in simple but cozy cabins. The reserve offers accommodation, food and guidance. There are also suitable areas for camping within the reserve.

Fishing and Indigenous Culture

You can make day and night tours through the reserve, and through the ancestral territory of the Awa people. You can also do recreational activities and river fishing, share with the communities the different aspects of the marimba culture and learn about their typical foods.

Orchids and Plants tour

There is a 2 km trail called El Tejón where you can find ecological stations with different attractions such as tuber crops, bromeliads, plants from which the Spectacled Bear feeds. One of the most attractive is the orchidarium with about 3,000 species of orchids.

Birding at La Planada Nature Reserve

Brown Inca – Coeligena wilsoni

Birding in La Planada can be difficult if you do it inside the forest, there are steep slopes and very tall trees. On the other hand, if it is cloudy it is even more difficult to watch the birds. So be prepared for an acoustic rather than a visual birding tour.

However, there are some trails within the reserve, and one of them, the one that takes you to the accommodations, is the territory of the Club-winged Manakin. So this bird is sure to be heard and even seen and photographed. There is also a viewpoint, the only place where you will have a mobile signal, in fact… and where you can observe the Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, and hear some wrens, along with a spectacular view of the reserve.

The other option is to watch birds along the road that leads from the village to the reserve. It is a winding road that ascends to the reserve with very good observation balconies and a drop in the terrain that allows you to see the birds of the canopy on one side and the birds of the understory on the other side.

Although the community has its own guides, we recommend you to be accompanied by a specialized birdwatching guide . If you want to know more, do not hesitate to contact us.

Recommendations

To have the best experience in Nariño, we recommend you to prepare your trip to La Planada Natural Reserve. Take with you:

  • Medical Insurance
  • Repellent – anti-mosquitoes
  • Camera and accessories
  • First aid kit
  • Binoculars
  • Mountain boots
  • Sunblock
  • Raincoat
  • To do camping it is recommended that you bring adequate equipment to have a pleasant time in the natural conditions of climate and vegetation of the reserve.

References

  • BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: La Planada Natural Reserve. http://www.birdlife.org 2020.
  • Tourist information system of the department of Nariño, SITUR Nariño Website.
  • Agustín Codazzi Geographic Institute (IGAC) Website.
  • World Wildlife Foundation Website.
  • La Planada Nature Reserve Blog.
  • Alexander von Humboldt Research Institute Repository

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.

Best Set to Photography Tropical Rainforest Birds at Upper Anchicayá

The Anchicayá is a Colombian river, in the department of Valle del Cauca, which originates west of Cali and flows into the Pacific Ocean, in the Buenaventura Bay. Like all rivers on the Pacific side, it has a high biodiversity. The Anchicayá basin is one of the richest places in Colombia for birding, and is considered the first in the world. This area is composed by a tropical rainforest that contains countless rivers and waterfalls of crystalline water and has a great variety of fauna and flora typical of the Pacific region and the Biogeographic Chocó. It is an area rich in primary forests that are characterized by their biodiversity in flora and fauna. The region is the third place with the highest rainfall in the world and the first in bird diversity. This is a very special area for birdwatching, with around 500 species recorded in several locations along the road, such as Agua Clara, the Danubio, Lower Anchicayá and Upper Anchicayá.

Since 1955, the company CELSIA, from the ARGOS Group, owns two hydroelectric power stations: The Alto Anchicayá hydroelectric plant, located 85 km west of Cali, and the Bajo Anchicayá plant located within the perimeter of the Los Farallones Natural Park. The reservoirs are located along the Anchicayá River. When you go birding on this road, the observation points are distributed and referenced around these two reservoirs, and they are known as Low Anchicayá and Upper Anchicayá. The upper Anchicayá is the nearest point from Cali.

Birding at Upper Anchicayá: El Descanso

El Descanso is a must for those who like bird photography. It is a unique place thanks to its location on the road that leads from Cali to Buenaventura through the Anchicayá River basin, in the Valle del Cauca department. As I mentioned before, it is one of the most important hotspots for bird watching, where the western mountain range of the Colombian Andes merges with the tropical rainforests of the biogeographic Chocó. On this road you will find a gradient that goes from the Andean cloud forest to the seashore in the Pacific sea.

In the area known as Alto Anchicayá, or upper Anchicayá, Dora Londoño offers tourist services for bird watching, together with her children, her grandchildren and her husband. She was a victim of the war in Colombia, who had to leave her place of origin to save her life. In Anchicayá she found refuge for her family, and has lived there for more than 20 years.  Initially, Doña Dora had a small cafeteria on her farm called El Descanso, next to the old road that leads from Cali to Buenaventura, at kilometer 55. In her cafeteria she offered lunches, cheese empanadas, coffee and her famous puff pastries. Her clients were the engineers and workers of the local reservoirs, who constantly went by. Doña Dora feels immense gratitude for that time, and for her first clients, who made it easier for her to settle in this place.

Doña Dora making her famous puff pastries at El Descanso

Over time, other types of customers began to arrive at their cafeteria. This family did not know that there were people willing to paid trips to come to Colombia to watch birds. They would never have thought of such a thing! For them, birds were part of their daily lives, and they did not pay much attention to them.

The Bird Photographers

Groups of people with very large cameras and binoculars, dressed in camouflage clothes began to arrive. Doña Dora asked the guides who were with them about who they were or what they were doing. She found out that they were birders. They used to sit and have a coffee at Doña Dora’s while they rested from their long journey along this road. One day, next to the house, one of the trees was bearing fruit, and a large number of birds began to arrive to eat from the tree. And it was that just at that moment there was a group of bird watchers in the cafeteria. They quickly got up from their chairs, leaving the coffee and the flakes, to follow and photograph these birds in the tree. And so the story began.

El Descanso farm is on the edge of a mountain covered by a dense cloud forest, in the tropical rainforest of the Biogeographic Choco. There is nothing but the mountain bordering the road and the house. One day, one of the guides suggested to Doña Dora that she give the birds food to attract them. Despite her incredulity, she began by putting bananas on a board, then papaya and sugary water. With this, not only did the birds arrive, but more tourists! In time, and by applying visitor’s recommendations, she set up a garden behind her house, with sticks and logs, drinking troughs and feeders, and began to make improvements with the money that tourism left her.

Attracting the Birds

She remembers that the first birds to arrive were the Mal-casados, or the badly married, common name of the White-lined tanagers. Then the Primaveras ones (Clay-colored Thrush), the Clarineros del Pacífico (Blue-winged Mountain Tanager), and the last one, the most difficult to attract, the Compás (Toucan Barbet) because it is a bird that usually do not exposes easily.

Malcasados – White-lined Tanager – Tachyphonus rufus

Clarinero del Pacífico – Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus somptuosus

Compas – Toucan Barbet – Semnornis ramphastinus

Sustainable Destination

Family unity and constant commitment have brought this tourism project to fruition. Thanks to the support of her husband and sons, and with the help of several bank loans, she has managed to finish building her house, support her family and keep the birds. She build a third floor with an observation tower, which is more as a terrace, which gives direct view to the canopy, and where she has installed some drinking troughs to attract hummingbirds. His plans in the future are to offer a basic rural accommodation service, with hot water bathrooms. One of the attractions of the place is also the beautiful murals with birds painted by one of Dora’s sons, Erbert Sanchez. His aim is to fill the house with these murals, and to highlight the beauty of the rainforest birds that visit the gardens.

Gardens at El Descanso Farm, Doña Dora, especially disposed for bird photography.

Terrace, at El Descanso Farm, Doña Dora, especially disposed to attract hummingbirds.

Murals, at El Descanso Farm, Doña Dora.

All this has been paid for by the money left over from the birders’ visits. She knows that developing a tourist destination is a process that requires love and a lot of commitment. It has only been four years since she has positioned herself as a destination with a constant flow of birdwatching tourists, before that, it was all effort, patience and dedication, for almost two years.  Today they have been affected by the pandemic crisis, and any economic assistance is very important to them. If you are interested in helping you can contact them through their Facebook page.

Find a checklist of the birds you can observe in and around El Descanso, in Upper Anchicayá. This checklist is generated with data from eBird (ebird.org), a global database of bird sightings from birders like you. If you enjoy this checklist, please consider contributing your sightings to eBird. It is 100% free to take part, and your observations will help support birders, researchers, and conservationists worldwide. Go to ebird.org to learn more!

 

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.