Colombia has the highest rate of animal species by unit area in the entire world. The possibilities for wildlife spotting in Colombia are endless.
Tourists are able to spot a wide variety of animal species without doing much effort and without having to deviate from the highlights that are usually included in most Colombia Vacation Package. In this post, I am going to give you the 10 most amazing animals to spot in Colombia.
Colombia is a true paradise for nature lovers. The Andes mountains, the jungles of the Amazon region and the Pacific Ocean, the tropical forests and the wetlands, they all create particular habitats resulting in a biodiversity that is unique in the world.
Colombia hosts the most bird species in the world and has plenty of endemic birds that can only be found here. A dream paradise for birdwatchers.
Moreover, Colombia is also home to the largest number of amphibians in the world and it ranks second in most species of mammals worldwide.
Reptile fanatics won´t be disappointed either because Colombia has more than 588 species of reptiles, including turtles, snakes, crocodile and lizards. This makes it the 6th richest country for reptiles.
I could keep giving you more data and statistics, but I guess you already got the point: Colombia’s wildlife is truly amazing.
The best of all, is that you can easily spot plenty of this wildlife without doing much effort or paying fortunes.
Additionally, you won’t really have to spend days inside a jungle or have to deviate from the main tourist attractions in Colombia to be able to spot amazing animals.
With so many species of animals in Colombia, making a selection of the most amazing ones is not easy. In the following list, you will find the most special animals that are relatively easy to spot during your holidays in Colombia.
I know, you must be thinking that you can spot humpback whales in many places in the world, and that is true. However, in pacific coast of Colombia you will have perhaps the best chances in the world of spotting these amazing creatures from up close while doing one of the most unforgettable shows you can ever imagine.
Every year, from July to October, hundreds of these whales come all the way from the south of Chile to the warm and calm waters of the Natural Park Ensenada de Utría in the Colombian department of Chocó.
They arrive there to give birth to their calves and spend a few months teaching them everything they are going to need to be able to survive in the wild waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Tourists who come to this area during those months, have unrivalled chances of doing some of the most amazing whale watching tours in the world.
Sitting on a small boat, you will be able to witness from up close how a mother whale teaches its recently born calve how to jump out of the water and land making a huge water splash. They use this technique to leave big groups of fish unconscious and then easily eat them.
Other techniques the mothers teach their calves, include hitting the water with their tails and fins.
These training sessions sometimes last for hours, and in some places, you can even witness them from the shore while sitting at the beach.
There a quite a few places in Colombia where you can do whale watching such as Gorgona Island, Buenaventura or Nuqui. However, my favorite place, and the place where you will have the best chances of spotting these amazing shows, is Bahía Solano (from where you can easily go to the Natural Park Ensenada de Utría).
This is one of my favorite animals in Colombia. The Giant Anteater, sometimes also called the Ant Bear, is a large mammal native to Central and South America.
Its length is usually between 182 to 217 cm (5.96 to 7.12 ft) and its weight is between 33 to 41 kg (73 to 90 lb).
This amazing creature is recognized by its elongated snout, bushy tail and long fore claws. It feeds primarily on ants and termites, using its fore claws to dig them up and its long, sticky tongue to collect them.
The best place in Colombia, and maybe even in the world, to spot these animals is the region of Casanare.
Casanare is not just amazing for spotting anteaters but also to spot otters, caimans, deer, wild pigs, capybaras, snakes and hundreds of bird species. Its flat grasslands are ideal for doing jeep safaris or go horseback riding.
Click here for more information on Casanare and the different options to visit this area and spot the amazing Giant Anteater.
Colombia is the #1 country in the world for birdwatching. It doesn’t just have the biggest variety of bird species worldwide, but some of the most amazing species are very easy to spot.
This is the case of the Band-tailed Oropendola. This cute bird mainly lives close to forests. They are around 30 centimeters long, mainly of black color with 3 long yellow tail-feathers. Usually forages alone or in small flocks, looking for invertebrates and fruits.
I know, this sounds like a normal boring black bird. However, this bird is quite special for 2 reasons:
My favorite monkey is the Cotton-top Tamarin, not just because is an endemic specie you can only find in Colombia, but because they are super cute.
They are one of the smallest primates in the world, weighing less than 0,5 kg (1,1 lb) and can live up to 24 years old. It is easily recognized by the long, white sagittal crest extending from its forehead to its shoulders. It’s like if a lion decided to become a small monkey.
They are found in tropical forest in north-western Colombia. They eat insects and some plant exudates and it is considered a very important dispersal of seeds.
Besides being cute, these monkeys are believed to be one of the most advanced species. They display a wide variety of social behaviors and have been extensively studied for their high level of cooperative care and altruistic behaviors. Their communication is sophisticated and shows evidence of grammatical structure.
Unfortunately, the Cotton-top Tamarin is in risk of extinction due to the reduction of their habitat. It is actually classified as critically endangered and is one of the rarest primates in the world, with only around 6000 individuals left in the wild.
The best place to spot these amazing monkeys is the Tayrona Natural Park. When you are walking the paths through the tropical forest to get to some of the gorgeous beaches of this park, keep your eyes opened and look for them in the branches of the surrounding trees. There are usually groups of them hanging around there.
The pink dolphins, also known as the Amazon River Dolphin, is a species of toothed whale classified in the family Iniidae. It is the largest species of river dolphins in the world. An adult male can weight up to 185 kg (408 lb) and can be of up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) long.
Adults get a pinkish color which is more visible in males than in females. Younger dolphins are of greyish colors.
They feed on up to 53 different species of fish, such as croakers, catfish, tetras and piranhas. They also eat other animals such as river turtles and freshwater crabs.
Even though they are not as playful as the sea dolphins, seeing one of these gorgeous creatures in the wild is an unforgettable experience.
There are several places in Colombia to have encounters with these dolphins. If you are interested in watching these dolphins, don’t hesitate to include places like the Amazon jungle or the Cerros de Mavecure to your Colombia Vacation Package.
In these places, you can easily spot them by taking a boat tour or just by sitting next to the river banks. It is usually easier to find them around sunset when they are out looking for food.
On top to those 2 places, there is an amazing place not just to see them, but also to be able to play with them. This place is called the Laguna de Nare in the department Guaviare.
In this little lake, there is a group of these pink dolphins who are incredible playful in comparison to other places. You can jump into the water, wait for a few minutes and most likely, a curious dolphin will come to check you out. They usually like to softly hit your legs with their fins and tails in a playful way.
The old mighty anaconda. The biggest of all snakes by weight and the second largest by length.
Anacondas are muscular snakes that are thicker than other boas. They have thick necks and narrow but large heads. All anacondas have nostrils and eyes on the tops of their heads. This allows them to see above the water while remaining mostly submerged.
Some of the longest anacondas ever found, are around 8 meters long. They are most active in the early evening and at night. Their large size makes them bulky on land but they can move quickly in the water.
They are solitary snakes and like all boas, are non-venomous. Anacondas are powerful constrictors and young snakes can eat rodents, lizards and fish, while adult snakes can eat caimans, capybaras or even jaguars.
The best place in Colombia, and maybe even in the world, to spot an Anaconda is Casanare. Here, there are a few places where locals have built some specific paths where they know the chances of encountering an anaconda are higher. It is easier to spot them during the dry months of December to march.
Also known as the Green Basilisk Lizard, this amazing reptile is famous for being able to run on water. That is why they call it the Jesus Christ Lizard.
They spend much of their time in the trees and are never far from a body of water. When threatened, they can drop from a tree into the water and sprint, upright, about 5 feet per second across the surface.
To achieve this, they have long toes on their back feet with borders of skin that expand in the water, increasing the surface area.
As they quickly shake their legs, they slap their splayed feet hard against the water, creating a tiny air pocket that keeps them from sinking, as long as they keep running.
They can move along the surface like this for 4 to 5 meters (15 feet). When gravity finally takes over, these amazing lizards rely on their excellent swimming skills.
The best place in Colombia to spot this funny and cute animals is the Pacific Coast. They are easy to find in places like Bahía Solano and surroundings.
8.The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)
Watching a Condor fly from close by is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. I have already seen a few of them and every time I see one, I can’t avoid to get goosebumps.
The condor is a vulture bird (feeds from dead animals). It is the largest flying bird in the world and calls the Colombian mountains its home.
Its wingspan ranges from 274 to 310 cm (8.99 to 10.17 ft) and weights around 11 to 15 kg (24 to 33 lb). They may live for 50 years or more, and mate for life. The world’s oldest condor died at the age of 100.
Wild condors inhabit huge territories, often traveling 250 km (160 mi) a day in search of carrion. They prefer large carcasses such as cattle.
In the wild they are sporadic eaters, often going for a few days without eating, then gorging themselves on several kilograms at once.
You can spot condors in many places of the Americas, but in Colombia there is a place where you can watch them from close by and enjoy their flying over gorgeous mountains and valleys.
This place is located in the vicinity of the Purace Natural Park in the south west of the country, about 2.5 hours away from the city of Popayan.
In this area, there are 3 wild condors. Some indigenous people feed them almost every day by putting carrion on top of a rock, while tourists stand just a couple of meters away.
Watching this huge bird standing still on a rock just a couple of meters away from you and then see it flying above you is an unforgettable experience.
9.The Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis)
This one is a bit more difficult to spot than the others on this list, but it is a really amazing animal.
The Golden Poison Frog, endemic to the Pacific coast of Colombia, is considered as the most poisonous animal in the world.
In the wild, it is a social animal, living in groups of up to six individuals. However, captive ones can live in much larger groups. These frogs are sometimes seen as harmless due to their small size and bright colours, but these frogs are lethally toxic.
The Golden Poison Frog is the largest specie of poison dart frog, as it can reach a size of 55 mm. The adults are brightly coloured, but they lack the dark spots present in many others frog species.
The frog’s skin is densely covered in an alkaloid toxin. When in contact with this poison, it can cause heart failure resulting in death. These frogs, only use their poison as a self-defence mechanism and not for killing prey.
The average dose of poison per frog is usually estimated to be of around one milligram, enough to kill about 10,000 mice or between 10 to 20 humans.
The golden poison frog, stores its poison in skin glands. Local indigenous tribes, used to hunt them and collect their poison from their skin to put it in the edge of their arrows. They will then use those arrows to hunt big animals to eat in a more effective way.
In the jungles surrounding Bahía Solano, you could spot one of these gorgeous frogs. It is recommended to go with a local guide on the jungle expeditions so you can find them easier. The local guides will also know how to approach the frogs and will make sure the expedition is safe.
10.Andean Motmot (Momotus aequatorialis)
If the previous was the most difficult animal to spot, this is the easiest one. The Andean Motmot is a gorgeous bird that can easily be seen in the areas around the coffee zone.
They are large birds with a stout, black bill, and a long tail with a “racquet” tip. The body plumage is green, with a portion of the upper tail blue. The centre of the crown is black with a broad blue line bordering it. Motmots nest in tunnels in banks, laying about three or four white eggs.
They live mainly in humid mountain forest, often near streams. These gorgeous birds often sit still, but due to its big size, they are easy to spot.
Even though you can find them in many places of Colombia, the Tinamu Birding Reserve, near the city of Manizales, is the best place to see them. In this amazing reserve, you will also be able to spot many other astonishing bird species.
Colombia is a real wonderland for wildlife lovers. It is the country with the highest rate of animal species by unit area in the world.
Animal encounters are common in every corner of this country. Most tourists get to see plenty of amazing animals without doing any effort.
Along the traditional tourist paths and destinations, you should be able to spot many amazing species of animals. If you decide to go a bit off the beaten path, you will certainly see a lot more.
Among the most amazing animals that tourists can easily spot in their trips to Colombia, there are 10 animals that sand out. They are:
Even though spotting all ten of them in one trip might be quite challenging, I am sure you can get to spot half of them in a well-designed Colombia Vacation Package as the ones we create in Lulo Colombia Travel.
If you are an animal lover and would like to spot some of these (and more) amazing animals during your trip to Colombia, don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can create a detailed Colombia Travel Itinerary that will increase your chances of spotting some of these species.