Colombia shouldn’t be the primary nation most individuals consider in relation to ecotourism. That is uncommon as a result of it’s arguably probably the greatest international locations for it!
Actually, Colombia has the best biodiversity on Earth (second solely to Brazil). It’s additionally blessed with a geography that encompasses a variety of ecosystems.
You’ll discover in Colombia each a Caribbean and Pacific coast (which very totally different from one another), three in depth mountain ranges (together with the start of the Andes), and landscapes starting from dry deserts to lush jungles. Oh, to not point out a couple of third of its floor space is roofed by wild and untamed Amazon rainforest.
Within the absence of a concerted effort to advertise itself as an ecotourism vacation spot (not like what Costa Rica has accomplished), Colombia can as a complete nonetheless be thought of a hidden gem for eco- and nature tourism.
This small mountain city was barely on the vacationer map only a few years in the past, till a brand new street made it simpler to achieve. Now it’s the place the place you’ll discover all method of ecolodges and eco-hostels with panoramic views of the jungle cover of the Sierra Nevada Nationwide Park.
Of all locations in Colombia, Minca will get closest to a Bali or Costa Rica-like stage of eco lodging (simply not but as developed). Most are mid-budget hostels although there are a number of glamping choices and luxurious jungle lodges as nicely. Keep on the Sierra Alta Finca Boutique or think about the Trekker Glamping in Minca.
Minca is famend for its bird-watching. The perfect chicken recognizing tour is run by Jungle Joe’s — my information boasted of getting been an ecologist for 50 years. Despite the fact that I’m admittedly not a lot of a birder, my information’s infectious enthusiasm made it a extremely memorable expertise, in addition to the sheer variety of birds we noticed.
We noticed orange-chinned parakeets, blue-headed parrots, groove-billed anis, red-crowned woodpeckers, white-lined tanagers, goldfinches, quite a few flycatchers, and quite a few hummingbirds as nicely. (I do know these names will imply extra to some than they do to me!) The ultimate minutes of our stroll even rewarded us with an excellent sighting of a toucan (a primary for me).
In addition to the wonderful bird-watching, Minca provides many nice strolling trails, waterfalls, natural espresso farms, and different points of interest close by.
Being each simply accessible from town of Santa Marta and sufficiently distant, Minca is arguably the simplest and finest location for a jungle expertise in Colombia.
2. Utria Nationwide Park
Utria may simply be some of the underhyped locations in Colombia. It’s merely phenomenal but it feels virtually undiscovered.
Situated on the Pacific Coast, it does get extremely wet right here, which retains seashore crowds away. However if you happen to’re in search of uncooked and unspoiled nature, the Pacific Coast is an absolute must-visit, particularly throughout whale season (July till November).
On boat journeys alongside the coast, I noticed sea turtles, Mobula rays, and marlin fish poking up above the waters. On abandoned seashores, you may spot monkeys swinging from the bushes, hermit crabs scattering in your path, and iguanas crawling via the bushes.
The true stars of the present are the humpback whales that migrate right here for a part of the yr. I used to be shocked by simply what number of there have been, how simple it was to identify them, and the way a lot conduct they displayed (together with frequent breaching and leaping).
Bahia Solano and Nuqui are the 2 villages on the Pacific Coast finest arrange for ecotourism. Do be mindful these locations are distant and unreachable by street, so that you’ll should take a propeller airplane from Medellin.
Ecotourism continues to be in its infancy, so there may be little in the best way of luxurious right here; a lot of the lodging consists of hostels and easy ecolodges. If that’s alright with you, then you definately’ll little question be amazed by the unspoiled nature on this a part of Colombia.
The tour firm Madre Agua based mostly in Bahia Solano is run by a number of passionate Colombian marine biologists and are pioneers in ecotourism on this area. Their whale-watching excursions are provided in Spanish and English and I extremely advocate them.
3. Los Nevados Nationwide Park
Visiting Colombia provides an opportunity to expertise the páramo — a novel, high-altitude ecosystem positioned solely within the Andes of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.
There are a number of areas the place this ecosystem may be discovered, however I’ll spotlight right here the nationwide park of Los Nevados, which may be discovered within the heart of the nation near the favored vacationer vacation spot of Salento. Not solely are the páramo landscapes of curiosity right here, however you may go to a number of volcanoes, certainly one of which is energetic.
One of many attention-grabbing crops yow will discover on the misty slopes is the frailejones, unusual tree-like crops that develop as much as 3 meters in top and are distant cousins of the sunflower.
Trekking, biking, or jeep excursions of Los Nevados may be simply booked domestically. Attempt Paramotrek based mostly within the city of Salento, or Ecosystemas Journey within the metropolis of Manizales. I did a jeep tour with the latter firm and located their guides to be extraordinarily educated and passionate.
4. Rincon del Mar
About 3 hours south of the colonial outdated metropolis of Cartagena, this small seashore village on the northern coast is appreciated by in-the-know vacationers and locals for its pleasant environment. It’s a quiet place with Caribbean vibes and with out (but) any large-scale commercialism.
It’s additionally a really good spot for a nature expertise. Fishermen doing double responsibility as guides can take you out to sea for a go to to “chicken island”, the title of which will likely be apparent near sundown when you may witness spectacular shows of pelicans and frigatebirds arriving in flocks because the sky turns orange.
In a lagoon inside a mangrove close by, you may go for a nightly swim and see bioluminescent plankton sparkle round your fingers as you progress them via the water. I did this underneath a moonlit sky whereas a distant storm lit up the horizon occasionally, making it certainly one of my most memorable experiences in Colombia.
Two dive facilities manage snorkeling and scuba diving journeys to reefs the place you may see porcupine fish, moray eels, stingrays, and loads of different fascinating creatures.
5. Valle del Cocora
Colombia’s nationwide image is the wax palm tree. It may be seen in a number of areas, of which Valle del Cocora close to Salento is essentially the most well-known.
The bushes can develop as much as 60 meters or 200 ft tall. In Valle del Cocora, they are often seen dotted across the open fields, bursting up from the bottom like crusing masts. Cocora is a superb valley for a day of mountaineering, with a hummingbird and butterfly sanctuary being different points of interest alongside the path.
Since phrase has undoubtedly gotten out about Valle del Cocora, the close by city of Salento has seen an enormous tourism increase, so that you received’t be precisely alone right here. For a extra secluded expertise, there are two different valleys the place you may see the wax palm tree with none crowds.
They do take barely extra effort to get to, nevertheless it’s price it. For extra info, don’t miss my article about these alternate options to Salento.
6. Barbas Bremen Nature Reserve
This protected space is positioned close to the city of Filandia and in addition not too removed from the favored vacationer vacation spot of Salento. It provides distinctive alternatives to identify the Colombian purple howler monkey.
I booked a guided journey by way of my lodging in Filandia which departed from the El Palacio del Barbas ecolodge. The hike took about three hours, descending right into a jungled valley earlier than coming again up on one other aspect. Being on the valley’s slopes with open patches inside the jungle supplied good vantage factors all through the hike. Though it’s not assured, we have been fortunate to see a small group of howlers passing by.
Regardless of being so near Salento, the Barbas Bremen Nature Reserve shouldn’t be so well-known, so you may discover it with none crowds.
7. The Amazon Rainforest
Lastly, there may be after all the Amazon. I have to confess that regardless of touring in Colombia for 3 months, I missed out on visiting the Amazon, just because different locations have been vying for my consideration. I do plan to sort out it subsequent time I’m there.
The most typical entry level is Leticia, which is well reached by airplane from Bogota or Medellin and is on the border with Peru and Brazil. Leticia itself is sort of developed and industrial, however the ecotourism takes place largely in Puerto Nariño, which is about 90km or 55 miles upriver. The excursions are usually not solely attention-grabbing for the wildlife but additionally for the cultural aspect of seeing how folks dwell within the Amazon.
For the reason that peace accord with the FARC in 2016, new areas of the Amazon have been opening up for tourism. An rising vacation spot (although nonetheless on the frontier of tourism) is San José del Guaviare, which may be reached by air or overland from Bogota. From Guaviare, you may take journeys to hidden waterfalls or trek to historical cave work.
Different sights within the Amazon may be visited on organized excursions; for instance, the Cerros de Mavecure, a set of black rounded hills that pop up above the ever-stretching rainforest. You’ll be able to e book journeys to such distant locations with respected native tour operators, comparable to Sawa Journey or Colombia Oculta.
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Posted OCT 11, 2022 (Up to date Nov 11, 2022)