Three of the best wildlife experiences in Colombia
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse destinations on Earth due to its incredible variety of habitats, which range from rainforests and savannahs to deserts and wetlands. It harbours the largest number of amphibians and terrestrial mammals in the world, including jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, spectacled bears and sloths. It is also fantastic for birdwatching, with more than 1,900 bird species, 70 of which are endemic. Whatever your interest, we can help you to have the best wildlife encounters in this underrated South American country. Here are three of our favourite places to go:
The Llanos is an extension of the Amazon’s rich tropical grasslands and wildlife – an ecoregion of flooded grasslands that is home to a vast and varied amount of wildlife, with 600 bird species, 200 mammals and 65 reptiles, including anacondas, pumas, anteaters and pink river dolphins.
We work with a wonderful African safari-style tented camp here, called Corocora, where biologists will take you to see and participate in their wildlife projects. It has a developing feline conservation programme to protect ocelots, pumas and jaguars, involving camera traps, local education and hopefully, in the future, a habituation scheme, similar to those that have proved so successful in places such as the Pantanal in Brazil.
We suggest exploring the area on horseback, as you move faster than on foot but are quieter than a vehicle so more likely to spot wildlife. This is a phenomenal experience, and everywhere you go you will see capybaras – a beaver-like, semi-aquatic mammal endemic to South and Central America. Giant anteaters are also quite easy to find and there is an incredible plethora of birdlife.
Tayrona National Park
Tayrona is about four hours’ drive north-east of Cartagena, nestled between white-sand beaches and the foothills of the majestic Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world. This park, created in 1964, is a perfect example of Colombia’s impressive biodiversity, with lush vegetation lining pristine beaches.
Wildlife spotting in this area is phenomenal, particularly for the three species of monkey, wide variety of reptiles and elusive jaguars. There are extensive jungle trails to be hiked and a knowledgeable guide will help you spot whatever it is you seek.
Isla de Providencia
It may not be a destination for land-based wildlife, but Providencia has the clearest water I have ever seen. Vibrant coral, big and small fish of all shapes and sizes, and rays and turtles to boot, this is a world-class place to snorkel or scuba-dive.
A short boat ride from the main island is a tiny islet called Crab Cay. I jumped into the completely crystal-clear water and there were a good handful of turtles in the vicinity. I followed them for a while, watching them go up to breathe and then flow underneath me in the shallow water. I left them to snorkel all the way around the little island. It was encircled by beautiful, healthy coral covered in colourful little fish, with huge ones occasionally passing by.
Back on dry land, a very short hike takes you to the highest point of the island, from where you have an amazing view back to Providencia and the surrounding Sea of Seven Colours.
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