Lulo Colombia discovering Casanare. An absolute birding and wildlife paradise in the flat lands of Colombia.
For months we had been dreaming about discovering some parts of Colombia that were impossible to visit before due to safety precautions. On top of our list we had the flat lands. First, because we didn´t know a thing about them and secondly, because we were under the impression nature was impressive and different than everything we have seen before. We were, and are, sure that foreigners visiting Colombia would love to discover a region as pure and untouched as the flat lands.
You can imagine the joy we fell when we found out we got a chance to explore the Casanare region. Laura from Cunaguara proposed to help us getting to know the area so we would be able to offer it to international travelers in the future. Together we made a gorgeous trip and our experience can be read below.
It all started with a flight to Casanare´s capital, Yopal, on a Friday evening. The airport is small and the drive to the city center is short which made it an efficient evening transport wise. After eating a burger in town, we made ourselves comfortable in our pleasant hotel ´Camaruco´ and went to bed early as our trip to the flat fields of Colombia would officially start at 5 A.M the next day.
That morning, we were picked up before sunrise and started the day with a drive of 3 hours to our first stop in San Luis de Palenque. To be honest, we were already impressed from the start because we had to drive through the many rice fields and cattle fields while the sun was rising in gorgeous reddish colors. Our breakfast was a typical one and consisted mostly out of meat and rice. We made the very smart decision of buying rubber boots in a local shop. The flat lands of Colombia have to endure a climate of rain for a continuous 6 months and then 6 months of almost no rain at all. We managed to be there in the middle between both seasons.
After leaving San Luis de Palenque the gravel road started and the deeper we were going into the plains the worse the road got. Meaning more and more nature was surrounding us and we managed to spot a huge amount of birds, some caimans and our first wild capybara. It took us more or less 5 hours to get to Hotel Buenaventura in Vereda Alta Gracia, a beautiful farm looking out over kilometers of open fields and surrounded by mango trees.
We noticed many cows were standing under the trees and apparently they were doing so because they felt a storm coming, meaning the ripe mangos would fall and they could feast on them. To get to the hotel we had to drive through a shallow part of the lake. Later that night we would find out that the lake is home to many caimans. We were not only welcomed by Victor, the really friendly and always happy owner of the hotel, but also by two wild macaws flying over the beautiful ranch/hotel.
The lunch we got was absolutely delicious. They served us “happy” pig. Called like this because these animals roam freely in the plains. After lunch, we set course to El Lagunzo, a gorgeous lake near the hotel, surrounded by the typical and endemic palm trees of the region.
We had never seen so many differently colored birds together at one spot: spoonbills, differently colored ibis and herons, different kind of geese, parrots, and ducks. And all of them living in harmony with the cows, horses, wild pigs, deer, caimans, and hundreds of capybaras. The sight was spectacular, especially because we were treated to an astonishing sunset over the lake as well. Check all animals that have offically been spotted in Casanare here.
After the sun had set it became impossible to see so we decided to pay a visit to Don Magdiel in a nearby farm. He told us more about the current situation and the needs of the people in the region which made us realize again that tourism can really help the people here. Before heading to bed we made a walk around the little lake of the hotel and with the help of some flashlight we spotted at least 12 caimans. Don Victor managed to get us one so we could observe them from close-by.
Sunday was a day of early rise as well because most animals are easier to spot early in the morning. Don Victor took us for a short canoe ride over the water in the hope of seeing wild otters and, with some luck, also an anaconda of which it is known that it lives in the area. We spotted many birds and turtles, and managed to see an otter but the anaconda will be for a next time.
We fastened the boat and started our walk through a forest. The trail is called the jaguar walk as there actually do live jaguars in Casanare. We didn´t spot a jaguar but again we did see many birds, of which a very rare curassow, some howler monkeys, and the trails of an anteater but we couldn´t track the animal itself. After two hours we arrived to El Lagunazo from the backside and again, were given spectacular views over the lake and saw many caimans, capybaras and deer.
Then, it was time for a very well deserved breakfast at the hotel. While eating we were entertained by the many little and colorful birds that could be found near the hotel and two woodpeckers in the hotel´s mango trees. After breakfast it was time to start driving to IBA Taparas, at 3 hours of Yopal.
On our way we helped a family on a motorcycle and took their children for them to a farm nearby. It turned out that they were having a very important meeting with all the people of the rural area and they invited us to that meeting when they found out we were a travel agency discovering the region. In that meeting they were trying to figure out ways to improve their public speaking skills and asked us for tips. Additionally, they asked us questions about possible tourism in the region and how community based tourism could be promoted in Casanare.
After this interesting intermezzo and some delicious yucca bread with hot chocolate, we continued our trip through the plains and stopped a couple of times because we spotted the incredibly awesome and cute burrowing owls that live in holes in the fields.
And, of course, we also saw great amounts of caimans, wild pigs, birds and capybaras.
Finally we arrived in Taparas and went for an interesting walk to explore the area.
At the end of our walk we felt tired but happy after such a rewarding day and we left Taparas to drive to our hotel for the night, Hotel El Diamante. We managed to see a fox but we have to admit that we fell asleep soon after leaving the reserve.
On Monday we woke up early again and had some of the best pineapple we have ever tried for breakfast. We took a walk in the surroundings of the hotel and were impressed with the beautiful exotic plants and flowers. The garden and nearby forest offer great bird watching options and we managed to see a mommy howler monkey with her baby.
After our walk and breakfast, we set course to Hato Matepalma with our guide: El Llanerazo. He actually won the reality TV show in which they search for the man who represents the most the spirit of a true llanero person. Typical challenges include wrestling an anaconda, horseback riding, managing big groups of cattle, play local instruments, and other activities that can be linked to being a llanero or Colombian cowboy.
He found us a little family of horned owls and guided us around on the fields of the reserve. On the way he showed us some gorgeous spots where the animals gather to drink and relax in the sun. Before we knew it was time to go back to Yopal because we couldn´t, although secretly wanted, to miss our evening flight back to Bogotá. We knew it by then already. Casanare was definely going to make it to our list of best Colombia vacation spots!
Before heading to the airport we finished our trip with a mango smoothie in Laura´s new bar at the shore of the river. We expressed our gratitude to her for having helped us exploring this amazing part of Colombia and agreed on definitely trying to help tourists get to know the true beauty of Casanare.
To be honest, we had no idea what could be seen or done in Casanare before leaving. However, it blew us away! It was so much more than expected. We can´t wait to start offering tours to this region to our tourists soon! Check our other top places and attractions to visit in Colombia as well.
Interested in traveling to the plains of Casanare with Lulo Colombia Travel? Find out more here