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Wildlife watching in Colombia – Touring the Amazon Jungle

Ecotourism

Colombia

Last time, Elena’s post was about La Guajira: Where Desert and the Caribbean Sea Meet. We got an insight look on the lifestyle in such unusual environmental conditions. Today we travel with Elena to one of the most magnificent places on earth: the Amazon rainforest. Her main focus was wildlife watching in Colombia, and this is the perfect location for this activity. On her own words:

The Amazon is possibly one of the best (if not the most) known destinations of this Andean country. Famous for being “the lungs of the world”, the rainforest boasts wildlife, landscapes and vegetation, as few other places in the world do.

My visit to the Colombian section of the jungle began in the city of Leticia, on the banks of the Amazon River, where my 2-hour flight from Bogota landed. Here Colombia borders both with Brazil and Peru, and the many tours on offer will take you across the borders several times. While the Brazilians invited us to their Saturday night party, the Peruvians, aware of the richness of the wildlife, showed us native species, in many cases saved or rescued from illegal trafficking.

Discovering Leticia, the capital of the Colombian Amazon

At first it may seem like there is little to do in Leticia, when compared to the amazing nature of the Amazon that surrounds the town, but I personally loved standing around at the local market, whilst deciding what to do that day. The coming and going of boats, and watching people unload kilos of fruit, fish and vegetables, many of them unknown to me, is an experience I would recommend to anyone wanting to experience the Colombian Amazon culture.

In Leticia I chatted to a taxi driver (who was to become a friend) who recommended that we go to Tabatinga, in Brazil, and come back to Leticia at sunset. It felt strange to cross the border so easily, and reach the point where you can see the three countries at the same time. I also had the chance to see the local fishermen pull their nets repeatedly whilst trying to catch something – I’d always wanted to see this but never before had the opportunity.

It was special to return to Leticia at sunset: thousands of birds arrive to spend the night in the trees of the main park every evening. The spectacle lasts only few minutes, but is worth every second. Later, our friend the taxi driver generously invited us to his house to eat his favourite dishes – the Mojojoy (suitable for the daring!) and cassava. As you can see, there are many activities that you can enjoy in the Amazon, before even stepping into the forest.

Jungle adventures in the Amazon rainforest

As in nearly every place travellers visit, there are a number of highlights that have to be seen. In the Colombian Amazon these include Monkey Island, Puerto Nariño, and the Victoria Regia Reserve, as well as the many other nature reserves and small towns.

As my travel companions were travelling in Colombia for the first time, we pointed out every new animal we saw, so that they could get an idea of the rich diversity of wildlife. A few hours after we started the walking tour through the jungle, one of my travel buddies said: “It is true that there are many animals, but what surprises me most is that you do not emphasise the trees and plants. Don’t you realise the size and luxuriance they have?” This remark has made me look at the Amazon differently ever since. Certainly I was not giving it the importance it deserves – so since then I try to expand my vision when I travel.

It is hardly necessary to mention the Victoria Regia, the Rubber trees, the huge Ceiba trees and all different kinds of plants that travellers can appreciate in the reserves. You can also enjoy wildlife watching – and some up close and personal encounters with the animals – as they are accustomed to people and are thankful to those who rescued them. This is especially true on the Monkey Island.

Anywhere you travel or during any tour you take, there is always at least one moment when every traveller is looking at exactly the same spot, usually because the guide or a fellow traveller has pointed it out. On this occasion, it happened on the Amazon River, when all heads turned to one side simultaneously, trying to spot the fins (and hopefully even the whole body) of the famous pink dolphins.

Going to the Amazon is, in short, an incredible experience, full of learning, enjoying and especially wildlife watching. Few countries boast such rich culture, diverse landscapes, and incredible flora and fauna.

All pictures by Elena Muñoz López Viejo. You can see more on her blog El Encuadre Torcido. Keep an eye on our future blog posts for more adventures to other amazing destinations. To enquire about this and other adventures in Colombia, you can visit our Colombia Holidays page.

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