Visit the Smallest Protected Area in Colombia: Isla de la Corota Flora Sanctuary

The Isla de la Corota Flora Sanctuary, which from a distance looks like the shell of a large turtle about to emerge from the water, is located in the north of Lake Guamués or Laguna de la Cocha, in the department of Nariño in southwestern Colombia. It is a beautiful island full of orchids as nowhere in the whole in the country.

In this publication you will find the information and recommendations you need for your visit to the smallest protected area in Colombia.

Discovering Isla de la Corota Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

La Cocha Lagoon, where is placed Isla de la Corota, is a wetland of international importance declared by the Ramsar Convention, for more information about RAMSAR sites in Colombia click here. The lagoon was formed by tectonic movements and later filled with water from the paramos and surrounding areas. Placed in the middle is Isla de la Corota island, formed million of years ago by volcanic activity, standing out as an immense tortoise shell.

La Cocha Lagoon is the second largest in Colombia and one of the largest in the Andes. Learn more about the lagoons and lakes of Colombia in our entry Top 11 Lakes of Colombia: From the Andes to the Amazon.

Isla de la Corota has a total area of just 0.16 km² and is part of the jurisdiction of the municipality of Pasto, the capital city of Nariño, located in the town El Encano, where El Puerto is located, a picturesque pier surrounded by lodgings and restaurants whose specialty is the preparation of rainbow trout.

The sanctuary is part of the Andean insular lacustrine forest ecosystem, which leads to the formation of a very humid forest and its thermal floor is also very cold, which is why there is constant rainfall in this sector. The oval island is surrounded by a fringe of reeds (Schoenoplectus californicus) and although it is the smallest protected area in the country, it is part of the important and complex environmental system of the Cocha Lagoon.

Cultural Importance of Isla de la Corota

Isla de la Corota is the smallest protected area in the country, for being a wetland of great importance, it is part of the complex environmental system of the Laguna de la Cocha. Its recognition is not only due to its natural value, but also to its cultural and historical value for the indigenous people and traditional doctors.

The island is a source of energy recognized by Putumayo’s indigenous people and traditional doctors. It also has a chapel that is an important pilgrimage site for Catholics, especially during the Feast of the Virgin of Lourdes.

How to get to Isla de la Corota Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Bogotá – Pasto

Take a 1,5-hours flight from Bogotá to Antonio Nariño Airport (PSO) at Pasto city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 2-hours ride to El Encano Town. At El Encano take an extra 20- minutes boat ride to Isla de la Corota Flora Sanctuary.

What to do in Isla de la Corota Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

You can take a boat tour through the waters of La Cocha, and enjoy hiking and birdwatching activities. Enjoy the nature that embellishes this place. Once there, you will find the Sanctuary has a 500-meter long trail that crosses it from side to side through the dense forest. You will find typical trees of the Andean forest, as well as orchids and ferns that complete a beautiful natural picture.

Hiking

For hiking lovers, this Sanctuary has the El Quiche Trail (550 m, medium difficulty) that crosses the island from north to south through a dense forest of cold thermal floor, and the La Torota Trail (200 m, low difficulty), which allows observing the aquatic ecosystem with its diverse species.

El Quiche trail

It has a distance of 500 meters of medium intensity, where you can tour the island from north to south and visit the beautiful viewpoint where you can appreciate the beauty and immensity of the Laguna La Cocha along with the sounds of birds.

La Totora Trail

This trail has 200 meters of low intensity, where you can appreciate the aquatic ecosystem as well as visit the sanctuary’s resident and migratory bird sanctuary. Totora refers to the reeds (Schoenoplectus californicus) that surround Isla de la Corota Sanctuary

Fringe of reeds (Schoenoplectus californicus) around Isla de la Corota Sanctuary
Fringe of reeds (Schoenoplectus californicus) around Isla de la Corota Sanctuary

Sanctuary of the Virgin of Lourdes

On the island there is also a Sanctuary of the Virgin of Lourdes, where devotees go to pray and serves as gathering for thousands of believers that annually come to pay their respect to the Virgin.

Birdwatching and Wildlife Observation

Despite the sanctuary’s size, it has an important presence of birds. There is a variety of species that live there, such as sparrows, cockatoos, and blackbirds, among others. There also inhabit three species of bats and one species of wild mice. The sanctuary has a record of 77 bird species, 22 of which are aquatic species and the remaining 55 are terrestrial.

Slate-colored Coot – Fulica ardesiaca at La Cocha Lagoon

Also, depending on the season in which you visit the sanctuary, you will be able to see migratory birds.

You will also find a great variety of butterflies and 8 species of amphibians belonging to the Pristimantis genus.

Orchids Tour

Moreover, the sanctuary has 341 species of flora belonging to 87 families, including bromeliads, anthuriums, ferns, mosses, lichens, and orchids. In the case of orchids there are 36 species that can be seen on your tour.

Where to stay in Isla de la Corota Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Around La Cocha lagoon it is possible to stay according to your preferences. Available accommodation options include the  Sindamanoy Hotel, In Vereda El Puerto, 370 meters from the sanctuary’s shore, with a Swiss architecture offering single and multiple accommodations.

Best time to visit Isla de la Corota Flora Sanctuary

The sanctuary can be visited all year round, but since it is a cold climate it can rain almost every month. July to September is when it rains the least, with an average temperature of 14º C (57 ºF).

Isla de la Corota Flora Sanctuary Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. The transportation service from El Puerto has a cost of $35.000 round trip in handmade boats.

These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permits and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 5,500.
  • Colombians, foreigners holding valid residence permits and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 5,500.
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 10,500.
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider before visiting Isla de la Corota Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

  • Wear warm clothes, gloves and scarf, comfortable shoes, preferably closed, tennis shoes or boots without high heels for the El Quiche trail.
  • Avoid consuming food or beverages of any kind during the tour on the trail.
  • The use of electronic devices that produce noise and disturb the tranquility of the place is prohibited.
  • Since the La Totora trail also serves as a dock for visitors to disembark, it is very important to be careful with children during the tour since there are only handrails on the inner side of the trail.
  • Be careful with personal objects (bags, clothes, cell phones, cameras, etc.); the administration is not responsible for objects left in the protected area.
  • Only walk along the marked trails; going into the forest causes impacts that go against the conservation objectives.
  • The entrance of pets or domestic animals (dogs, cats, etc.) is prohibited because of their natural behavior, they create impacts on the little fauna in the forest, we recommend looking for alternatives to not include them in your visit.

Some prohibitions

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

References
  • Castro J, Jojoa R, Delgado D, Villarreal M F (2020). Avistamiento de aves en el Santuario de Flora Isla de la Corota. Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15472/xyzi2q accessed via GBIF.org on 2021-06-30.
  • Parque Nacionales Website
  • SITUR Nariño
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.

The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail of Colombia

The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail of Colombia is probably the most diverse with nearly 1,400 bird species between the departments of Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño.

In this region, you have contact with the Western Andes mountain range, the Choco Region, and the Pacific ocean.

The most relevant birding hotspots of this route are the Choco Forest and the Andean Cloud forests of the western cordillera.

The diversity of this route is explained because it covers many different habitats such as paramos, wetlands, Andean cloud forests, tropical rainforest, coastal areas, dry forest and very nice bird-lodges and farms dedicated to bird photography.

The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail

The National Audubon Society of the United States was involved in the design of this route along with the government of Colombia and Calidris NGO to help the country reach its goal of becoming the world’s top birding destination.

The training of stakeholders linked to the birding offer in the region was the main activity, including local guides, owners of lodges, farms and nature reserves, and community-based tourism associations.

Among the places to be visited are included national parks, civil society nature reserves, and private reserves.

Birding Spots of The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail

You should know that in the past, this region was not a safe place. Nowadays, birding tourism and related stakeholders are becoming:

active drivers in conservation, economic development, and peace-building”

For that reason, there are still some destinations with difficult access, and poor hotel infrastructure, especially towards the Pacific region in Valle del Cauca and Nariño.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is just an example of the route you can take. However, if you want to see more options, visit the itinerary designed by us.

Remember that you can customize your trip with us. Don’t miss the opportunity to add other activities such as whale watching; a city tour in Cali, the city of salsa music; an urban birding day also in Cali; a stop in the beautiful city of Popayan in the department of Cauca; or visit the paramos and volcanic lakes of Nariño, among many other activities, either alone or with your family.

Given the wide offer of destinations on this route, here are the main stops in each department. If you want to know more about each destination, I recommend you to visit the entries we prepared for you about them.

You can also visit our Youtube channel ColombiaFrank, where you will find first hand information about many of these destinations.

Valle del Cauca

Western Andes Cloud Forests

Wetlands – Sonso Lagoon

  • Laguna Sonso
  • Gota de Leche

Choco region – Anchicaya

  • El Descanso km 55
  • Upper Anchicaya
  • Aguasclaras
  • Lower Anchicaya
  • Buenaventura*

Following the path of the Anchicaya River as it descends through the western Andes to meet the Pacific Ocean, the old road from Buenaventura, mostly abandoned, offers incredible birding.

One of the most famous places in this point is the restaurant El descanso km 55, read our entry about this place Best Set to Photography Tropical Rainforest Birds at Upper Anchicayá.

Among the more than 500 species that have been recorded along the road are about 50 species endemic to the region.

The Pacific lowlands of the San Cipriano Reserve

  • San Cipriano Reserve
  • La Delfina
  • Buenaventura*

The Pacific rainforest of San Cipriano is incredibly humid, very lush and home to Chocó endemics, including the Five-colored Barbet, Chocó Toucan, Chocó Woodpecker, Rose-faced Parrot, Stub-tailed Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, and Black-tipped Cotinga.

*From here you can continue to Buenaventura for seabird watching on the Pacific coast. This point was not included in the official route, but if you have time, you can visit it in a day trip.

Cauca

Paramos in Puracé National Park and the Central Andes

From Valle, the route goes into the south of the department of Cauca to observe the Central Andes and the páramo where you can see the Andean condor.

At the end of the day you can enjoy a bath in the volcanic springs of Coconuco, where the thermal waters have been diverted to a series of pools, each at a different temperature.

Dry Forest in the Patía Valley

Descending from the páramo, the itinerary concludes in the dry forest of the Patía Valley, located only 600 meters above sea level. The dry forest is a very different habitat where you can find Blue Ground-Dove, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Apical Flycatcher (endemic), and the Scarlet-backed Woodpecker.

Nariño Extension (Optional)

Birders with extra time and a thirst for adventure should continue south to the department of Nariño, a former conflict zone that is newly accessible to visitors.

Nariño is rather more rustic than Valle or Cauca, but features fantastic birding, especially in the rainforests of the Pacific slope.

Among the highlights is La Planada Reserve, which offers some of the best birding in Colombia. You can also continue on to the Rio ñambi Reserve and the Bangsias Reserve.

Another place that has emerged as an interesting birding destination in Nariño is Tumaco. However, the law and order situation still keeps it on the back foot for tourism development. We do not recommend traveling to this place alone.

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

Recommendations

  • Take waterproof clothing, waterproof boots, and waterproof backpacks to protect your equipment in case of rain.
  • Remember that this whole region has a high relative humidity, so be prepared to keep your equipment safe from excess humidity. In our entry How to Prepare for a Birding Tour in the Neotropics? you will find useful information on this subject.
  • Be always accompanied by a local guide.

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours contact us and plan your trip with us.

References
  • Birdwatching in Colombia – Procolombia
  • Audubon Society Website
  • The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail
About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

Know One of the Most Pristine Nature Destinations in Colombia: Rio Ñambi

The Río Ñambí Nature Reserve is a natural paradise the tropical forest inserted in the colombian biogeographic Chocó of Nariño. It has a great variety of birds, animals and species that invite you to connect with nature and enjoy the fresh air of this tropical rainforests.

Sustainable Destination

Rio Ñambi is owned by the “Los Colibríes de Altaquer” Ecological Foundation (FELCA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of nature. FELCA arised in 1991 as a community initiative by a group of students and teachers of the school Santa Teresita de Altaquer, who, concerned about the growing deterioration of natural resources, undertake the task of conserving important areas of forest and teaching others the importance of assuming a responsible attitude towards nature.

FELCA protects the Río Ñambí Nature Reserve since 1992, being one of the first community conservation experiences in South America. Since then, FELCA has been working together with local, national and international institutions, through strategic alliances, to fulfill the objectives of the FELCA Foundation.

Today, the Rio Ñambi Nature Reserve is recognized as a good place for scientific research and ecotourism. It is one of the best destinations for academic practices for institutions of higher, primary and vocational education of the country and around the world.

Characteristics of Río Ñambi Nature Reserve

Rio Ñambi is located in Altaquer, department of Nariño, in the Pacific Region of colombia, Vereda el Barro municipality. It has an extension of
1,400 hectares, distributed along 1100 to 1900 meters above sea level. Temperature ranges between 18ºC and 24ºC.

It is located on the Pacific slope of the Nudo de los Pastos in the Andes mountain range, in the central area of the Biogeographic Chocó. It rains a lot in this region, with an average annual rainfall is between 7000 and 8000 mm, being September to June the wet season, and July to August the dry season. However, do not think is not going to rain, this is an annual cycle when it rains almost every day after 12 noon.

Pristine premontane rainforest at Rio Ñambi Nature Reserve

The reserve protects pristine premontane rain forest, and in succession, concentrating a large number of endemic and endangered species of Fauna and Flora. The Flora of Rio Ñambí presents a high diversity in comparison with others at a similar height on the eastern slope of the Andes. The canopy is between 25 to 30 m high with some emergent species up to 40 m such as Sapium glandulosum (Cebo); The undergrowth is very dense, consisting mainly of high density of orchids, bromeliads, and anthuriums and a great variety of palms. It is an area where several new plant records have been described for Colombia.

Regarding fauna, 25 species of reptiles have been found, and two have been recently described: the Carchi Andes toad (Rhaebo colomai) endangered, and the Campbell’s toadheaded viper (Bothrocophias campbelli) vulnerable. You can also find up to 160 species of Butterflies, and a new one of the genus Hesperocharis.

Thus, Rio Ñambi is home to an extraordinary biological diversity in plant and animal species, many of them considered endemic (species unique to a particular area), or at risk of extinction. Among them we can mention: Chocó vireo (Vireo masteri), a new species of bird for science, Clusia nambiensis a plant with showy and colorful flowers frequently visited by birds, the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the jaguar (Pantera onca) and the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), among others.

Rio Ñambi as an Area of High Ornithological Interest

According to BirdLife International, Río Ñambí and in general the whole surrounding area is very important for the research and conservation of birds worldwide. The Rio Ñambi nature reserve is an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it houses globally threatened species, at least two restricted-range species, and hold species largelly or wholly confined to one biome-realm, i.e., biome-restricted species. Of the 351 registered species 46 are within the Endemism Area (EBA 041), 23 have some degree of threat being one of the areas that harbors the largest number of globally threatened species in Colombia. From this set of species, 31 are hummingbirds being the most complex and diverse community of hymmingbirds in the world (Flórez 2004, Gutiérrez et al 2004).

Location

This beautiful reserve is located in the southwest of Colombia, in the village of El Barro, Altaquer district, Barbacoas municipality, department of Nariño. It is placed at km 155 on the San Juan de Pasto – Tumaco road.

What to do at Rio Ñambi Nature Reserve

This is a place intended primarily for bird watching. However, you can enjoy both of its rivers and waterfalls, walking along its paths and spend a night na alojamineto very basic, being attended by people from the community. It is an ideal place to simply enjoy and appreciate nature, be calm, or to take a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters of the Ñambí River.

There is a cabin located 2.5 km far from the road which provides basic facilities for conducting scientific research, workshops and meetings in the middle of the primary forest. It also has a lodging capacity for 40 people, wich includes food and sanitary services. As many reserves in Colombia, services for tourism are not developed, so do not expect to find any luxury.

Rio Ñambi Nature Reserve Cabin

Hiking and Adventure

The reserve has interpretive trails of the numerous natural events and outstanding ecological processes of the tropical rain forests. You can follow the trails starting from the main cabin: the Regugio trail and the Sonoro trail, around the house and near to the river, and the main trail, which is the only access to the main house from the road.

Among them you can visit the forest, enjoy local flora and fauna and take a bath at several waterfalls and pools along the Ñambi river. The Río Ñambí Nature Reserve has waterfalls and natural pools named as “Las Calaveras”, “El Charco”, “La Paila” and “La Piedra del Río Peje ” where you can enjoy a refreshing bath or practice torrentism. You will be able to rappel down the waterfalls, with all the security measures, using ropes, harnesses, gloves and helmets, and with the help of a professional guide.

The forest also has many lianas, typical of these habitats, which are very resistant. You can hang from them like Tarzan or George de la Selva in the middle of this rain forest, or as the locals say make the Howler monkey jump. This activity is done with all the necessary security measures and is one of the main attractions for young and old.

Birding at Rio Ñambí Nature Reserve

After La Planada Nature Reserve, Rio Ñambí is one of the most appreciated places in Nariño to watch birds. It is also an important hotspot in the world to observe birds thanks to the fact that it concentrates a great diversity of bird species in only 1,400 ha, being home to 44 endemic species and 31 species of hummingbirds (Find a complete guide of the Rio Ñambi hummingbirds here).

The forests of Rio Ñambi are characterized by being largely constituted by a primary forest forming a canopy between 25 and 30 m high. Fortunately, the slope of the terrain allows you, in some moments, to be at the height of the canopy or at least half of the height of the forest. And so, you will be able to observe species that would otherwise be no less than gray spots under a white background.

The reserve also has several facilities for birders along the way, such as drinkers and feeders, photography sets, feedlots, and observation balconies.

Among the 350 bird species you can find in the Rio Ñambi reserve, BirdLife international recognizes 60 which gave the IBA criteria for the reserve, which makes them, in turn, of great ornithological interest for birders and scientists. Significantly, including the endangered Baudo Guan (Penelope ortoni), Banded Ground-cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus), Great-billed Seed-finch (Sporophila maximiliani) and the vulnerable Dark-backed Wood-quail (Odontophorus melanonotus), Little Woodstar (Chaetocercus bombus), Cloudforest Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nubicola), Plumbeous Forest-falcon (Micrastur plumbeus), Bicolored Antvireo (Dysithamnus occidentalis), Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger), Scarlet-breasted Dacnis (Dacnis berlepschi), and the Yellow-green Tanager (Bangsia flavovirens).

Among the restricted distribution species you can find: Purple-bibbed Whitetip (Urosticte benjamini), Choco Trogon (Trogon comptus), Choco Tapaculo (Scytalopus chocoensis), Nariño Tapaculo (Scytalopus vicinior), Choco Tyrannulet (Zimmerius albigularis), Choco Vireo (Vireo masteri), Choco Poorwill (Nyctiphrynus rosenbergi), Choco Daggerbill (Schistes albogularis), Choco Toucan (Ramphastos brevis), and Choco Woodpecker (Dryobates chocoensis).

Nocturnal Treks

Night trips are made in order to find frogs, fluorescent fungi, nocturnal birds and some insects and spiders. The main attraction is the possibility of meeting a beautiful Crystal Frog (Espadarana prosoblepon).

Crystal Frog (Espadarana prosoblepon) © Creative Commons Licence

Orchids Tour

The reserve has an orquidiarium for scientific reserach. There are around 130 species of Orchids registered at Rio Ñambi nature reserve.

Travel recommendations

To give you the best in Reserva Natural Rio Ñambí experience must bring:

  • Light luggage. Access makes it difficult to carry very large or heavy luggage.
  • Health insurance.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Cellular 100% charged.
  • Batteries for charging equipment, electricity in the place is minimal.
  • Bring your own medicine cabinet since there isn’t one there.
  • Cash.
  • Camera and accessories.
  • Waterproof hiking boots.
  • Raincoat.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Binoculars.

References

  • Fundación Ecológica Los Colibríes de Altaquer FELCA Website
  • BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Reserva Natural Río Ñambí. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org 
  • Tourist information system of the department of Nariño, SITUR Nariño Website.
  • Kahuari Travel
  • Voces de Nariño Blog
  • Colparques Organization Website

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.