Wildlife Safari on the Plains of Colombia
Located between the Andes and the northern reaches of the Amazon rainforest, the Llanos Orientales, or Eastern Plains in the province of Casanare are one of Colombia’s best kept secrets. It’s an oasis of cowboy culture and natural diversity, and one of the best places to see wildlife in Colombia. Learn all about Casanare and how you can go wildlife spotting on a safari there in this post.
Safari in Colombia?
When you hear of safari, you probably think of lions, elephants, and hippos in Africa. Well, there are not any lions, elephants, or hippos native to Colombia, but you can go on a safari. Between the arm of the Andes Mountains that stretches east of Bogotá and the northern edges of the Amazon Rainforest, you will find a vast stretch of rolling savannah known as the llanos.
This area is known for its cowboy culture and unique natural diversity. The plains flood during the rainy season, creating a rich and lush landscape that draws the vast number of animals that venture here from the jungles farther south. More than 100 species of mammals and over 700 species of birds call this area home.
Despite the fact that this area makes up around a quarter of all of Colombia’s territory, it remains relatively unknown as a major international tourist destination. However, it is the best place to go for wildlife spotting in Colombia! Below are some of the animals you might encounter on safari in Casanare:
- Chiguiros or capybaras (very common)
- White tailed deer (very common)
- Small caiman alligators (very common)
- Turtles (very common)
- Herons (very common)
- Wild horses (very common)
- Field Owls (common)
- Foxes (common)
- Monkeys (a bit rarer but visible)
- Anaconda (rare but can be seen)
- Giant Anteater (rare but can be seen)
- Pumas (very rare)
- Jaguar (very rare)
- Giant Orinoco Crocodile (very rare and endangered)
All of these animals live in their natural habitats, so there are no guarantees on seeing them, but with some luck even the rarer animals like the giant anteater and anacondas can be seen. The jaguar is notoriously difficult to spot not only due to their limited numbers but to how effective they are at hiding from humans, but it’s not unheard of for a visitor to spot one either.
While Casanare may be the best place to see animals in their natural habitat in Colombia, places like Leticia, part of our 11-Day Nature of Colombia Tour and 23-Day Ultimate Colombia Tour. and the Guaviare also make for great nature destinations in Colombia!
The Hato and Cowboy Culture
Casanare is best enjoyed by heading outside the capital and only major city of Yopal. Out on the savannah, you’ll find hatos or cattle ranches. Many still practice very traditionally, rustic forms of cattle ranching and their ranches double as nature preserves. It’s from a hato that you can begin a proper safari on the llanos.
You can also get a taste of the cowboy culture. Of course, you could opt to do your safari by horseback rather than truck (or one of each!). You will also likely get a chance to learn more about the farmhands’ work and maybe even participate. Be sure to try some of the signature dish of mamona, a tender piece of juicy veal. If you’re lucky you will even get a chance to learn a few moves to the traditional dance of the joropo.
And of course, you will love relaxing on the ranch, surrounded by nature and disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the city. Life moves a little slower out here and the area has as stunning of sunset and sunrise as you will find anywhere in the world.
Wet or Dry Season?
A common question is when is the best time to travel to Casanare. The rainy season runs roughly through March to November with a short break in July and August when it dries out a bit. Meanwhile, the dry season in earnest runs from December to February.
To be clear, both seasons are excellent times to visit, however, depending on what you want to see, you may prefer one over the other. The “winter” months of the rainy season when the plains flood have a more lush, green appearance and there are many more species of birds present. It’s also possible to take canoe rides in this period.
Meanwhile, the dry season offers a harsher environment. However, due to the scarcity of water, some of the more difficult-to-see animals can be more easily spotted. For example, the anaconda is confined to smaller rivers and creeks and with fewer watering holes you’re more likely to catch a glimpse of the giant anteater or even a jaguar. So, the dry season may be the best choice for those who want to see these animals, but the truth is you can’t go wrong on the time of year you go to Casanare, Colombia.
Some Tips for Visiting Casanare
The climate is hot year-round with it being more humid in the rainy season. You will want clothes you don’t mind sweating in and getting dirty. During the rainy season, you will want rain gear, and sunscreen is a must year-round.
It is worth keeping in mind as well that the accommodations in hatos are usually nice, bed and breakfast style accommodations but you should not expect a luxury hotel. Internet and cell phone service is often sparse or unavailable. Finally, most are working cattle farms, so there may be work going on while you are there as well. Use this trip as a time to disconnect and experience a different way of life.
If you would like to go on a Colombian safari and visit Casanare yourself, contact us to create the perfect adventure enjoying the wildlife and nature on the plains of the llanos orientales!
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