Andean wax palms in Colombia

Wild Colombia

Nature & Wildlife
Land-Based Expeditions
Andean wax palms in Colombia

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Wild Colombia

On this Colombian adventure, discover incredible biodiversity and pristine habitats in the company of Expedition Leader and ornithologist Mark Brazil. You’ll search for rare endemic species in the high-Andes birding hotspots of Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados and Rio Blanco Nature Reserve, as well as the sub-tropical and sub-Andean forests of the famed El Dorado Nature Reserve. You’ll also enjoy tours of cosmopolitan Bogota, vibrant Medellin, and charming Cartagena, and meet with friendly locals as you visit coffee plantations, browse colorful markets, and stroll through historic city centers.

Astounding Biodiversity

Although perhaps known best for its vibrant culture and famed coffee, Colombia is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. Covering just 0.8% of the Earth, Colombia accounts for 10% of the world’s known endemic species and the greatest variety of bird species. That bird species list is still growing, with six new species of birds being discovered in the 21st century! Colombia is ranked third in South American in terms of endemic bird species, with a total of 70.

Expertly Guided Colombia Tours

Explore Colombia’s premier natural areas with seasoned Expedition Leader and renowned ornithologist Mark Brazil. Mark developed his fascination with the natural world, especially birds and mammals, during his boyhood in the landlocked English county of Worcestershire, and earned his Ph.D. from Stirling University, Scotland, for his work on avian behavioral-ecology in Iceland and Scotland. Ornithological research, natural history consultancy for TV companies, and guiding naturalists and wildlife photographers, have taken him to all continents. In addition to working as a field naturalist, Mark is a scientific editor and a prolific writer with seven books to his name. Mark loves South America and all its diversity—he has led several tours to Colombia and helped to design IE’s Colombia itinerary to feature the country’s best natural history hot spots, with a generous sprinkling of cultural encounters along the way.

Daily Itinerary

Wild Colombia

  • Day
    1

    Arrive Bogotá

    Board your independent flight to Colombia. Arrive in Bogotá this evening and transfer to Sofitel Bogotá Victoria Regia for dinner and overnight. (D)

  • Day
    2

    Bogotá

    Rise early for a morning of birding and breakfast at the Hummingbird Observatory in La Calera. Return to Bogotá around mid-morning and take a cable car ride to the summit of Cerro Monserrate for a tour of the Church of our Fallen Lord, an iconic symbol of Bogotá. Enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant that offers panoramic views over the city. In the afternoon, visit the Gold Museum, which houses an extraordinary collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts, then browse displays of paintings and sculptures in the Botero Museum. Admire beautiful colonial architecture during a walking tour of La Candelaria and Plaza de Bolivar, the city’s historic center. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

    Bogota
  • Day
    3

    Bogotá / Manizales

    After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for our flight to Manizales, part of the Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis, Eje Cafetero. After a traditional Colombian lunch, tour one of the many coffee plantations to learn about this important cultural and economic commodity—from cultivation to toasting to tasting. Check in to the Hotel Termales del Ruiz, nestled high in the mountains of Nevados del Ruiz Park, for an afternoon at leisure to stroll the grounds, observe the hummingbirds feeders, or take a dip in the natural thermal-spring pool. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    4

    Manizales

    Depart before dawn for your drive to the Rio Blanco Nature Reserve, located just above Manizales. Considered to be one of the top birding sites in the world, the area boasts over 330 species within a 15-square-mile radius. Here, is it possible to see up to five species of antpitta—slate-crowned, chestnut-naped, bicolored, brown-banded, and chestnut-capped—along with rare masked saltators, ocellated tapaculos, and beautiful buff-breasted mountain tanagers. Return to the hotel for lunch. Spend the afternoon searching for birds in the hotel’s extensive gardens and along the old road to Manizales. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    5

    Manizales / Pereira

    Spend the morning birding around the hotel and nearby Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. High-Andean specialties and endemics found here include Andean condors; black-chested buzzard-eagles; gray-breasted mountain toucans; rufous-fronted parakeets, buffy and rainbow-bearded helmetcrests; tawny antpittas; golden-breasted and black-thighed pufflegs; crested cotingas; sapphire-winged hummingbirds; shining sunbeams; buff-winged starfontlets; and various mountain tanagers. Return to the hotel for lunch, then depart overland for Pereira. Check in to the Hacienda San Jose and join an optional birding tour in the hotel gardens, or enjoy an afternoon at leisure. (B,L,D)

    Andean Condor
  • Day
    6

    Pereira / Bogotá / Leticia / Puerto Nariño

    Return to the airport this morning for your flight to Leticia, via Bogotá. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch before boarding a local boat for a scenic cruise along the Amazon to Puerto Nariño, Colombia’s first sustainable tourism destination. Check in to the Calanoa Jungle Lodge, and after a chance to settle in, embark on a spotlighting excursion to search for nocturnal species. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    7-8

    Puerto Nariño

    Spend two full days exploring the region by boat and on foot. Visit the inspirational Fundacion Maikuchiga, which rehabilitates rescued primates and prepares them for eventual release back into the wild. Squirrel monkeys, pygmy marmosets, yellow-handed titis, and Spix’s night monkeys are several species you may find here. A walk through the forest may reveal more primates, such as Humboldt’s wooly and red howler monkeys, and with luck, the bizarre, but beautiful monk saki. You will also have the opportunity to meet with the indigenous Tikuna community and learn about their traditions and local conservation initiatives. (B,L,D)

    The next day, take a cruise on Lake Tarapoto, one of Colombia’s largest ox-bow lakes, surrounded on all sides by rich, primary forest. Search for both pink and gray river dolphins, giant South American river turtles, and hundreds of bird species. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    Santa Marta / El Dorado Reserve

    Depart overland for the El Dorado Reserve, which protects one of the most fragile and important zones in Colombia, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home to a large number of unique plant and animal species. Check in to the El Dorado Lodge for lunch. Spend the afternoon exploring around the lodge, and in the late evening, you may choose to join an optional birding excursion to search for nocturnal species. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    10

    El Dorado Reserve

    This morning, head into the hills to the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo to look for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’s astonishing 21 endemic species, including Santa Marta bush-tyrant, Santa Marta parakeet, Santa Marta sabrewing, Santa Marta mountain-tanager, yellow-crowned whitestart, and sharp-shinned hawk. There will also be time to observe some endemic plant life and wax palms unique to this Andean forest. Return to the lodge for lunch. An afternoon exploring around the lodge may reveal Santa Marta bush-tyrant, Santa Marta parakeet, Santa Marta sabrewing, and black-cheeked mountain-tanager. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    11

    El Dorado Reserve / Cartagena

    This morning, depart overland for a lovely drive along the coast to Cartagena, with stops for wildlife viewing and lunch along the way. Check in to Casa San Agustin for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

    Cartagena
  • Day
    12

    Cartagena

    Today you will tour the architectural highlights of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Convent of La Popa, San Felipe’s Fort, and the Museum of the Spanish Inquisition. After lunch at a local restaurant, browse the colorful handicraft stores of Las Bovedas, where local artisans display their wares, stroll along the gorgeous white-sand beach, or simply wander the maze of cobbled streets and pretty plazas in the colonial center. Return to the hotel for a special farewell dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    13

    Arrive Home

    Transfer to the airport for your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day. (Meals Aloft)

Things to Know

What is included in the price of this Colombia tour?

The price of your trip includes the following.

Accommodations, excursions, meals and transportation as listed in the itinerary
Services of a private IE Expedition Leader as well as local guides in each destination
Arrival and departure transfers between the group hotel and airport no matter what day or time
One soft drink or local beer per person per included lunch and dinner
Bottled water on excursions, group transfers, at included lunches and dinners and in rooms daily
All park and entrance fees
All gratuities to group service staff except your IE Expedition Leader

What is the activity level for this trip to Colombia?

A trip to Colombia requires good health and mobility. While we have time scheduled for rest and recuperation, your itinerary in Colombia has a moderate to active pace, involving wildlife activities and transportation from place to place to ensure that you have maximized opportunity to interact with the wildlife and local culture.

You’ll enjoy a variety of activities on your trip.  Walking in the Amazon and in the Andes (Coffee Region) is always over uneven ground and requires guests to navigate roots, rocks, and other walking hazards.  All forest/wildlife excursions will involve walking and standing for up to three hours. Your excursions in the Andes are over hills and creaks so walking up and down is required. Los Nevados is done mostly by vehicle, as you climb thousands of feet into the Andes. Some walking will be done in the park to look for birds and other animals.  Walking here is moderate and short but the air is thin.  You do not have to partake in the walks to enjoy the magnificent scenery and beauty of this park. Exploration of the mangroves outside of Cartagena is done by boat.  The boats are not covered and do not have seat backs but the ride is not long (about 2 hours) and the water is calm.  This excursion is also done early in the morning for the best birding and to beat the heat of the day.  Visiting the fort requires guests to walk up an incline for about 20 minutes but, as always, we take our time and plan this excursion to be during a cooler hour of the day.  In all cases, Cartagena will be the hottest point of your trip. It is hot and sticky at any time of day although less in the early morning and late afternoon.

Travel in Colombia is by road, air and boat. The main highways are excellent but once you get into the small towns and parks the roads deteriorate rapidly, requiring slow driving and navigation of deeply pot-holed and bumpy roads. You will travel by motorcoach, mini-coach, and/or minivan, depending on the number of guests and terrain you will be crossing.  Air travel in Colombia is abundant and while flights can be delayed or cancelled like anywhere else, it is quite reliable and comfortable.  The boat to and from the Amazon is covered and comfortable but there is no WC onboard.  Boat transfers are around four hours.

While driving through the Andes, we will reach altitudes of over 12,000 feet.  We do not remain at these altitudes for long but guests with breathing problems may need to evaluate their participation if they feel this will be a problem for them.  Bottled oxygen is not provided at any point during this trip.  It is not kept at hotels or in the vehicles.

What is the weather like in Colombia?

Colombia’s location near the equator means weather varies more by altitude than it does by season.  The country also experiences rainy and dry seasons.  In general, April and May are the heaviest rain but no matter what the season, rain can fall at any time. Colombia is a mountainous country and you’ll be staying at some elevations significantly above sea level.  Weather here tends to be cool to cold (especially when cloudy and at night) but on the Caribbean coast days are much hotter and more humid.

Is this trip to Colombia a "birding" trip?

This is not a birding-only trip. Our expedition is designed to provide opportunities to view as many types of wildlife as possible, from amphibians and reptiles to mammals and insects.  However, birds are ubiquitous and prolific, as well as beautiful and interesting, in the places you will be visiting.  Other animals, especially mammals are shy and many are nocturnal.  As such, they are not easy to encounter. Birds are a highlight of this trip. All excursions involving wildlife will have a heavy focus on birds, while still trying to view other animals.

Accommodations

Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia

Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia

Located in one of the most prestigious areas of Bogota, this hotel surprises for its delicate design which combines classic inspiration and the character of the region. The name Victoria Regia refers to an elegant Colombian water lily that floats in the Amazon and is known for the strength of its leaves. Through the details of its decor, this boutique hotel reflects that beauty and strength. Discover, in the capital of Colombia, an exceptional atmosphere of elegance, comfort and French culture. By the time you enter the lobby, you will feel surrounded by a delicate environment, with the highest standards of a luxury hotel. Sofitel Bogota has welcoming and sophisticated spaces at your disposition. Meet at the library or in our Bistronomy Restaurant and Bar, or relax in the new wellness space that Relax by Germaine de Capuccini has created to delight your senses.

Calanoa Jungle Lodge

Calanoa Jungle Lodge

Calanoa Jungle Lodge offers a space for the traveler who is in search of a vital experience, who is in a journey of discovery. The Calanoa Natural Reserve is at the very heart of the Amazon forest, yet easy to access, and its surroundings are an endless source of marvel. It is a low-impact, small-scale settlement. The social pavilion has a central screen tent with a big dining table, and it is located in a way that makes the most of the view of the river. Around it there are hammock swings and seats for guests to relax. A wooden deck connects with the kitchen pavilion, a generous space open for the guests to visit and participate of the preparation of food. Calanoa's cuisine is a fusion of local Amazonian traditions with Brazilian, Colombian and Peruvian cuisine, put together by the owners’ creativity. Organic and fresh local produce, fire wood cooking and famous freshly baked bread contribute to a delightful experience. The buildings have been designed by Diego Samper combining traditional techniques with a contemporary approach, a sustainable architecture that uses local materials and resources. The woven palm roofs are beautiful and fresh, walls are minimal to improve air circulation, and the structures are built on stilts to elevate them from the ground, allowing for better views and increasing air circulation. The visitors’ cabins have a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor and a loft, with a capacity for 6 people each. The cabins are fully covered with mosquito screen, and each bed has its own mosquito net for extra protection from bugs. A board path connects the cabins with the dining/social pavilion, and has an observation platform ideal for birds and monkeys watching.

Casa San Agustin

Casa San Agustin

A luxurious small hotel lovingly restored and reimagined for a new generation of travelers, exquisite Casa San Agustín echoes Cartagena’s fresh contemporary style and colorful Caribbean sensibility. Refined yet relaxed, its trio of colonial era white-washed buildings exudes the warmth of a magnificently appointed private residence. From original frescoes in the library to centuries-old wood-beamed ceilings in the guest rooms, Casa San Agustín’s art and architecture evoke the city’s rich history as 17th century Spanish stronghold. Experience a luxuriously chic and relaxed atmosphere at this authentic boutique hotel, which was reimagined to maintain a colonial heritage intact within the houses that compose it. Its 20 guestrooms and 11 suites beautifully decorated preserves the authentic Colombian style, while seamlessly incorporates the modern services and amenities for travelers of today.

Field Leaders

Mark Brazil

Mark Brazil

Ornithologist - October 4, 2019

Dr. Mark Brazil developed his fascination with the natural world, especially birds and mammals, during his boyhood in the landlocked English county of Worcestershire. He pursued academic interests in biology during studies in England and Scotland, while exploring the coasts and mountains of Britain in search of birds. Mark earned his Ph.D. from Stirling University, Scotland, for his work on avian behavioral-ecology in Iceland and Scotland. Ornithological research, natural history consultancy for TV companies, and guiding naturalists and wildlife photographers, have taken him to all continents, but his particular passion is Asia in all its diversity. Fascinated by island biology, he is a leading authority on the natural history of Japan, where he worked as a professor of biodiversity and conservation at Rakuno Gakuen University. In addition to working as a field naturalist, Mark is a scientific editor and a prolific writer with seven books to his name. 

A Note About Field Staff

This is just a selection of the Expedition Leaders and Naturalists who may lead your ecotour.  A particular departure may be escorted by any one of them.  If you would like to find out which leaders are scheduled to lead each departure, please contact our office.

Wildlife

Sloth

Pink River Dolphin

Squirrel Monkey

Amazon Kingfisher

From: $9,980 per person
Duration
13 Days, 12 Nights
Guest Capacity
14 Guests
Trip Type
Land

Trip Highlights

  • Survey premier natural areas in four of Colombia's wildlife hotspots for the greatest diversity of wildlife sightings.
  • Stroll the avenues of modern Bogota & colonial Cartagena.
  • Sample Colombia's famed coffee during three days in the Coffee Region, where you also explore pristine parks.
  • Enjoy the expert leadership of a naturalist IE Expedition Leader in addition to local guides in each location
  • Sample regional dishes with our specially designed menus.
  • Tour a working coffee hacienda.