The Colombian Red Howler Monkey Sanctuary Los Colorados, just 90 km from Cartagena

Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary is the largest and most conserved area of dry tropical forest in the department of Bolivar, in the region of Montes de María, or Serranía de San Jacinto.

The sanctuary’s name alludes to the presence of the Colombian Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus), which live along with tamarin monkeys, deer, ocelots, sloths, and other mammals.

This is not a very well known destination among tourists, but it has all the necessary natural attractions to be a very good natural destination, and only 90 km from Cartagena!

Discovering Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Los Colorados FFS is located in the Colombian Caribbean, in the department of Bolivar, in the municipality of San Juan Nepomuceno. The sanctuary has an area of 10 km².

It contains a representative area of the largest tropical dry forest of the Montes de María or Serranía de San Jacinto, a geological formation isolated between the coastal plain of Bolívar and the savannas of Corozal and Sincelejo.

You will find a small mountain system, with several peaks such as La Cañada, El Escondido, San José, El Yayal, La Gervedera and Tamarindo de Mico.

The sanctuary is also an important provider of water to the region, and there are several mini reservoir built in the surroundings. Los Cacaos and Salvador are two small rivers which flow around the park, there are are also countless creeks that flow into these streams.

A Sanctuary for the Conservation of Tropical Dry Forest and Monkeys

It contains one of the best preserved relicts of dry forest in the region and is an important refuge for the organisms of this habitat, such as some primate and mammal populations.

Los Colorados FFS as an Important Bird Area

The Galeras FFS is an Important Bird Area (IBA/AICA) recognized by BirdLife International, since Globally threatened species and Restricted-range species are present in the area. It is also a feeding station for migratory birds and it has more than 280 reported bird species, 46 of which are migratory.

Archeological Importance

Within the sanctuary’s facilities you can visit places of great cultural importance such as ceremonial sites of local indigenous communities.

The Malibú Mokaná or Malibú Serraneros ethnic group inhabited this area in the past XVI century. You can see some archaeological vestiges found in the area of influence of the Sanctuary, such as ocarinas and petroglyphs, and also the well-known “centellas” stones.

The inhabitants of the region have established an important relationship with Los Colorados hill, impregnated with beliefs and cultural practices evident, for example, in the treatment given to medicinal plants.

How to get to Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Bogotá – Cartagena – San Juan Nepomuceno

Take a 45- minutes flight from El Dorado Bogotá (BOG) to Rafael Nuñez International Airport (CTG) at Cartagena city.

From Cartagena take the road to Sincelejo passing through the towns of Turbaco, Arjona, Sincerin, El Viso, Malagana, San Cayetano and Carreto until you reach the municipality of San Juan Nepomuceno, 90 kilometers from Cartagena.

From there you can access the entrance road to the eastern side of the Sanctuary by motorcycle or vehicle (5 minutes) or walking (20 minutes) to the operational headquarters.

What to do in Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The Sanctuary and surrounding area is an ideal destination for photography, bird watching, and enjoying the natural beauty and culture of the region.


As a visitor you can tour the mountain from east to west, through trails such as ‘El Yayal’ or ‘Planeta Bosque’, along the banks of Los Cacaos stream, paths to bring out the wild soul and become environmentally conscious.

You can visit the following tourist attractions within the sanctuary: Los Chivos waterfall, El Mirador, Los Cacaos stream, Escondido gully, Tigre’s cave, Piedra del Toro and Tinamú.

Planeta Bosque Trail

Planeta Bosque is an interpretative trail, which has a duration of 3 to 5 hours with a low degree of difficulty. It is ideal for bird watching.


The number of bird species recorded in the sanctuary is 152 species divided into 40 families. Among the species that you can see are:

  • Macaws (Ara macao, Ara chloropterus, Ara severus, Ara ararauna)
  • Guans (Penelope purpurascens)
  • Chachalacas (Ortalis ruficauda)
  • Red-throated caracara (Ibycter americanus)
  • Toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus).
  • Black-crested antshrike (Sakesphorus canadensis)

Wildlife Tours

Los Colorados FFS is considered a great refuge for species characteristic of the local dry forests, there are records of more than 40 mammals. Among the species of mammals that can be seen are:

  • Alouatta seniculus
  • Saguinus oedipus
  • Bradypus variegatus
  • Choloepus hoffmanni
  • Pecari tajacu
  • Dasyprocta punctata
  • Leopardus pardalis
  • Leopardus wiedii
  • Potos flavus

The sanctuary is also the transitory habitat of the Jaguar (Pantera onca).

Los Colorados FFS has records of 29 amphibian species, 20 genera and 10 families, and 21 families of reptiles.

Where to stay in Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary?

Los Colorados FFS does not currently offer lodging services for visitors. But it is very close to the towns of San Juan Nepomuceno and San Jacinto where you can stay. Our recommendations for you are:

  • San Juan Nepomuceno: Hotel Malibu
  • San Jacinto: Bello Horizonte and Hostal las Palmas

Best time to visit Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

It is recommended to visit the park during the 2 dry seasons, between the months of December and April, and between July and August.

Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary Entrance fees

These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Los Colorados FFS has a single entrance fee of COP 6,500.
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free admission upon presentation of their identity documents.

What to consider before visiting Los Colorados Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

  • You should wear long pants, t-shirt or long sleeve shirt and comfortable shoes. In the rainy season, we recommend marsh boots.
  • 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.

  • Colparques
  • Parques Nacionales
About the authors

Luisa Martin

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

Visit the Mana Dulce Reserve, 50 years Conserving a Humid Enclave in the Tropical Dry Forest

The Tropical dry forest represents 22% of the forests in South America. In Colombia, the tropical dry forest was originally distributed in the regions of the Caribbean plain and the inter-Andean valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers between 0 and 1000 m of altitude. Today it only remains 8% of its original extension.

The Inter Andean Valleys Dry Forest of Colombia

Inter Andean Tropical Dry Forest from ana Dulce Reserve

In the region of the inter-Andean valleys, the tropical dry forest is distributed in the departments of Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Huila, Cundinamarca, and Antioquia, covering approximately 1’650.000 hectares.

The dry forests of the inter-Andean valleys have similar vegetation to the dry forest of the Caribbean plain, suggesting that in a remote past these regions were connected, constituting a corridor to the dry coastal areas of Ecuador and Peru.

There are several woody plant species restricted to the dry forests of inter-Andean valleys. There are also some bird species restricted to this habitat. For the arid zones and tropical dry forest of the inter-Andean valleys of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers the following birds are registered as endemic: Red-legged Tinamou (Crypturellus erythropus), Chestnut-winged Chachalaca (Ortalis garrula), and Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna), which are associated with the tropical dry forest.

Mana Dulce Civil Society Nature Reserve

The Mana Dulce Civil Society Nature Reserve is located in the Inter-Andean valley of the Magdalena River, in the department of Cundinamarca. Its distinct avifauna of tropical dry, deciduous forest, only about 3 hours away from Bogota, immediately caught our interest. Its dry climate is appealing and it is the total opposite to the lush and wet forests of Amazonia.

Fifty years ago, Mr. Helio Mendoza saw in the relics of the tropical dry forest of the Alto Magdalena an opportunity to reconnect with nature. He first bought 20 hectares, where he built a colonial house for his family.

Little by little, he completed about 90 hectares full of trees from the tropical dry forest, an almost extinct ecosystem in the country.

Mana Dulce Reserve House

In 2002 the family managed to convert this land into a civil society natural reserve where today an ecotourism project is being carried out. In this place, there are natural caves with bats, viewpoints, trails opened by animals, and a water source in the middle of the tropical dry forest, hence the name of the reserve.

There are trails decorated with native trees such as ceibas and palms more than 150 years old and 30 meters high; a natural spring with 200 years of life; an old stone bridge, which is said to be the third natural stone bridge built in Colombia; the Chimbilacera cave, four meters high and 20 meters deep, where 19 species of bats live; and the viewpoint “Mirador del Indio Malachí”, which offers a panoramic view of the dry forest of the Alto Magdalena.

Birding at Mana Dulce Nature Reserve

As you may have guessed, the avifauna of Mana Dulce Reserve is intriguingly similar to the drier forests of the Caribbean CoastAlthough species diversity is smaller in dry forests than in humid forests, it is a highly interesting ecosystem.

It might not appear at first glance, but this ecosystem is equally threatened by habitat destruction (clearing for cattle pasture, frequent fires) as most other forest types in Latin America. 

We hopped on public transport in Bogota and settled for a 4 days stay. Accommodation is available within the property of the private reserve. Get more information via Facebook. Three meals were included in the modest price.  

The two main birding areas are several easy Loop-tails through the forest of the property, starting just next to the farm, and along the access road to the reserve. There are accessible trails outside the reserve that can be explored. They have much of the same species as the trails within Mana Dulce Reserve. 

A Colombian endemic confined to dry forests of the Magdalena valley: Velvet-fronted Euphonia – Euphonia concinna.

Birding early hours is key, as it gets very hot after 10 o’clockOne of the star attractions is easily seen: The endemic Velvet-fronted EuphoniaIt frequently visits and even nests right next to the main building. 

Colombian Chachalacas (endemic), are easily located by their loud calls. Apical Flycatcher (yes, another endemic) can be found at several sites close to the building. Another main targets are Pheasant Cuckoo which likes to sing at night. Listen for its simple plaintive song here.

Barred Puffbird, Dwarf CuckooRed-billed Scythebill, Greenish ElaeniaCinereous Becard, Lance-tailed Manakin, White-eared Conebill are among the many quality birds to be looked for. 

White-fringed Antwren – Formicivora grisea

White-fringed Antwren, Barred-, Black-crowned AntshrikeJet– and White-bellied Antbirds represent the Thamnophilds.  The drab Tyrannids, Southern Beardless-, Mouse-colored TyrannuletPearly-vented Tody-TyrantPale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant & Euler’s Flycatcher blend perfectly in the barren surrounding. 

Rufous-tailed JacamarRufous-capped Warbler & Orange-crowned Oriole for sure, add some color! 

There are several more common & and widespread species like Whooping MotmotRufous-browed PeppershrikeScrub GreenletBlack-chested Jay & Black-faced Grassquit to keep one entertained. 

White-bellied Antbird – Myrmeciza longipes
Pale-eyed Pygmy-tyrant – Atalotriccus pilaris
Fuscous Flycatcher – Cnemotriccus fuscatus

This reserve is not often visited by tour groups and even individual birders. But its easy access, quality birding, and tranquility make it a prime destination for those who wish to visit a reserve of the well-established birding routes in Colombia. 

  • Tropical Dry Forest of Colombia. Biological Resources Research Institute Alexander von Humboldt.
  • The Tropical Dry Forest in Colombia (Bs-T). Alexander von Humboldt Institute. Biodiversity Inventory Program. Group of Explorations and Environmental Monitoring GEMA. 1998.
  • Semana Rural On-line Journal
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. 

Jérôme Fischer

Professional bird guide, swiss native, with more than 32 years of experience guiding hardcore birders and birdwatching tours. Jérôme has been focused on bird identification. He also traveled to many countries,  starting in Switzerland. Then he traveled exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.