#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.

Piedemonte Llanero: Birdwatching, Wellness and Horseback Experiences

The piedmont plains (also known as Piedemonte llanero) is one of the most interesting regions to visit in Colombia. The Piedemonte llanero is a geographic strip that limits the Andean mountain ranges and the Llanos Orientales. It covers a wide range of biomes along the eastern edge of the eastern mountain range of Colombia.

It comprises an ecological transition zone between the mountain forests and the highland savannas. For that reason, the soils are very fertile in this area. Soil fertility is important in ecological and agricultural aspects. Paradoxically, this ecosystem is threatened by soils being heavily exploited for crops and livestock.

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

Piedemonte Llanero Route

If you want to know the factories of “Pan de Arroz” (rice bread, yes!), the “a la llanera” steakhouses, take a bath in hot springs, ride in one of the best horse stables in Colombia, watch incredible birds and rest in serene places, this is the route for you!

Location

The piedmont plains include part of the departments of Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Meta and Caquetá.

The “piedemonte llanero” of the Meta department is located between the municipalities of Restrepo, Cumaral and Barranca de Upía to the east of Villavicencio.

Piedemonte Llanero Route – Google Maps

Weather

The piedemonte llanero has two periods of rainfall that reach their maximum in April and September. It has an average annual temperature of 26 °C. It is a region with high relative humidity, ~ 80%, so you must be careful with pieces of equipments such as cameras, microphones, phones, etc.

Also, if you leave your room for more than a week without ventilation, you will probably find a fungus film covering everything when you are back. Be careful with this, and always ask for extra clean bed clothes and well-ventilated rooms. The fungus can create allergies or even settle in your ears.

What to do in the Piedemonte Llanero Route

The starting point is the city of Villavicencio, taking the bridge Mi Llanura over the river Guatiquía, in the Troncal del llano road.

Visit Bioparque Los Ocarros

The first point of this route is the Bioparque Los Ocarros. This park is a sanctuary of fauna and flora of the Eastern Plains. It has an extension of 5.7 hectares which are divided into seven sectors around a central lake.

The bio park recreates the natural environment of almost 600 animals that live there. There are mammals, reptiles, and birds. There is also an aquarium with more than 50 species of freshwater fish, the largest in the country.

Additionally, you will find a butterfly farm, a large collection of turtles, and a serpentarium with species such as rattlesnakes, boas, anacondas and rainbow boas. It is an excellent place for children, and to visit as a family plan.

Ocarro – Priodontes maximus picture Bioparque Los Ocarros Website

Birdwatching, horse riding, and organic products at Restrepo

Then, continuing the route, you will find the municipality of Restrepo. Restrepo is known as the salt capital of the department of Meta, because of the artisanal exploitation of salt.

Salt was first exploited by the Guayupe indigenous community. You can visit the Upin Salt Mines, and the salt water springs. There you can observe the process of watering, collecting and transforming this precious mineral.

Restrepo is also known as the “Green Municipality” of Meta because of its natural wealth and landscapes. Also, it is the “World Capital of Rice Bread” (Pan de Arroz).

Pan de Arroz – Rice Bread ©https://www.noticiasdelmeta.com.co/aprenda-a-elaborar-pan-de-arroz-gratis/

At Restrepo you can visit the hills of the Caney Alto tourist corridor and watch the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, visit the Rancho Camaná Natural Reserve for birdwatching, visit the La Cosmopolitana farm which offers 100% organic products, as well as Campo Ecológico Gramalote for horseback riding.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus, male at Altos del Caney, Restrepo, Meta

At Campo Ecológico Gramalote there are three routes to ride in natural settings and live the experience of the Llanos. These rides can last between one and two and a half hours.

The participants receive basic lessons in a barouche, are attended by the guides of the field, and have the possibility, at the end of the tour, to attend an equestrian show.

Horse riding at Campo Ecológico Gramalote, Restrepo, Meta

Work of the Llanos, Dairy, and Mamona at Cumaral

On the way to Cumaral, at km 21, you can enjoy one of the best factories of dairy products in the region: Lácteos La Catira. There you can learn how to make cheese, and also try the best yogurts and cheese bread you can imagine.

Continuing the route you will find the municipality of Cumaral, a typical llanero town where you can experience the work of the llanos, visit the Manga de Coleo, and enjoy the meat “a la llanera”, popularly known as “Mamona”, a typical dish of the eastern plains.

“Mamona”, is meat from a calf less than 9 months old. This meat has a tender texture that is very pleasant for the palate. Its preparation is relatively simple, the meat is marinated with beer, salt and other seasonings.

Once it is ready, it is threaded into large wooden sticks, which are placed around a fire to guarantee its uniform cooking. The meat is accompanied with yucca, potato and plantain, and with beer or the popular Refajo (Colombian soda with barley beer).

Mamona picture by Cumaral City Hall

The World Meeting of Vaquería (Cowboys) is held in Cumaral. It takes place in the “Manga de Coleo” Hernán Braidy Braidy. Coleo is the main sport of the Llanero man. It is made up of a trilogy of rider, horse, and bull. The rider’s objective is to knock down the bull by pulling its tail.

This sport is practiced in a track called Manga de Coleo. Many animal lovers are against this tradition. But it is part of the daily tasks of a cowboy in the Llanos when he has to handle the cattle in the great plains.

When leaving Cumaral, you take the road that leads to the Cundinamarca municipalities of Paratebueno and Maya, on the route to reach the municipality of Barranca de Upía in Meta. In Barranca de Upía you can try famous dishes such as: “carne a la perra”, “sancocho”, “carne asada”, “muchacho relleno”, “carne de marisca”, among others.

Also, in Barranca de Upia you can visit the Cerro Mirador, the Guaicaramo Hot Springs, and Aguas Calientes. There are natural water pools which, according to the locals, help to improve different illnesses due to the minerals they carry.

The water heats up on the surface due to a geological rift in the foothills of the Eastern mountain range, between the municipalities of Villavicencio and Barranca de Upía. This natural phenomenon has become a tourist destination known as Termales de Aguas Calientes, a private nature reserve located 102 kilometers from Villavicencio.

There you can enjoy Turkish baths made of wood that collect the steam from the high temperatures. Also, you will find cold springs, hot springs, a hot pool, a mud therapy area and a waterfall. All these attractions are natural formations. You will also be able to know how small oil springs emerge from the ground and water streams.

Where to Stay when you Visit the Piedemonte Llanero

During the entire trip there is a permanent offer of hotels, including a five-star hotel. I will recommend three places that offer completely different but equally fulfilling experiences.

Hacienda Las Mercedes

This is a private accommodation, with a swimming pool and access to the Campo Ecológico Gramalote. It is a Spanish style house with a central patio and ample rooms with private bathrooms.

There you can relax, take walks around the hacienda, go horseback riding, enjoy the pool, and be in an environment just for you and your family or friends.

Hacienda Las Mercedes

Ecolodge Cosmogénesis

The Ecolodge Cosmogenesis is an agro-eco-touristic, therapeutic, and formative center that will provide you with moments of harmony with nature and will contribute to your optimal spiritual, mental, and physical state.

This is a place that has for you an exquisite healing energy and that will provide you with everything you need to live a unique stay.

Ecolodge Cosmogénesis

Rancho Camaná Nature Reserve

Camaná means Carlos, Martha, and Nathalia. Since 1993 they have transformed a livestock area into a small civil society nature reserve.

Rancho Camaná offers lodging services, all under strict sustainability protocols. It is the number one place in the region, and one of the most recognized in the country, for its commitment to the environment through conservation, education, and waste treatment.

Rancho Camaná Nature Reserve

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours or want to visit the Piedemonte llanero route in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References

  • Briceño Vanegas G. Evolución de la integridad estructural de ecosistemas lóticos del piedemonte llanero frente a la intervención antrópica. Acta biol. Colomb. 2015; 20(2):133-144. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15446/abc.v20n2.42307
  • http://www.turismometa.gov.co/
  • http://www.cumaral-meta.gov.co/

About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.