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If you are due to travel shortly, we will be in touch to support and guide you in either postponing or cancelling your holiday, based on current Foreign Office advice and your insurance arrangements.
 
To ensure you can still enjoy a holiday this year, we have launched a new travel agency Auriel Holidays – to offer a range of holidays closer to home, in the UK and Europe. Working with long-established specialist tour operators, who know their destinations intimately, we can suggest the best way to explore these incredibly varied destinations, whether you’re looking to do a road trip, fly/drive, travel by rail, island hop or have a privately guided holiday. All our holidays can be tailor made to your needs.
 
After a few months of hibernation, we are more than ready to start dreaming again!

Warm regards

Claire Farley, Managing Director

Wildlife of Colombia: Los Llanos + Amazon + Cartagena

Wildlife of Colombia: Llanos + Amazon + Cartagena
GPD12B
12 NIGHTS
FROM £2,795
Per person sharing
International flights quoted separately
Wildlife Holiday Colombia Los Llanos Amazon Birding Dolphins Cartagena

This wildlife holiday to Colombia visits Hato La Aurora Reserve on the vast open plains of Los Llanos, where you can hope to see endemic wildlife such as the giant anteater, capybara & tapir & wonderful birdlife. Then fly to the Amazon Basin for neo-tropical birding, pink dolphins & so much more. Also visit the Salt Cathedral outside Bogota and historic Cartagena. All transfers, wildlife activities & sightseeing included.

Wildlife Holiday Colombia Los Llanos Amazon Birding Dolphins Cartagena
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Wildlife Holiday, Colombia
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Bogota & Salt Cathedral
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Los Llanos
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Hato La Aurora Reserve
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Giant Anteaters
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Amazon Birding
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Calanoa Reserve
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Tarapoto Lakes
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Pink Dolphins
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Cartagena
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Wildlife Holiday, Colombia
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Bogota & Salt Cathedral
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Los Llanos
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Hato La Aurora Reserve
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Giant Anteaters
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Amazon Birding
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Calanoa Reserve
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Tarapoto Lakes
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Pink Dolphins
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Cartagena
Day 1
You will be met at Bogotá Airport by your guide and transferred into this sprawling high altitude city, located in a valley between the eastern and central Andes mountain ranges at 8,660 ft (2,640 m).
 
On arrival enjoy a private tour of the city. We start with a visit to the Gold Museum, the most important gold museum in the world, with a splendid collection of over 36,000 pre-Colombian gold and emerald pieces. Galleries on three levels display exquisitely crafted pieces dating back nearly 2,500 years. Two large carved stones from the San Agustin archaeological site can also be seen here. Visit the vault-like room on the top floor where the most treasured pieces are displayed, including the famous miniature golden raft.
 
We then walk through the cobbled alleys of La Candelaria, the historic Old Town. Here you will see many beautifully preserved Spanish colonial houses and churches that date back centuries, such as the church of Santa Clara that today contains the Museum of Colonial Art and the 17th century Church of San Francisco, the oldest surviving church in the city. View the library of Luis Angel Arango as we head for the main square - Plaza Bolívar - where you can see a statue honouring Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan military leader who played a key role in the revolution against Spain. View the Metropolitan Cathedral, Colón Theatre, Casa del Nariño (the presidential residence, which has an observatory in its gardens), the Congress Palace, the Palace of Justice and the Cardinal's Palace.
 
Time permitting we can also visit the small Botero Museum. Housed in a beautiful colonial mansion, it showcases a collection of artwork donated to the city by Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous contemporary artist renowned for his proportionally exaggerated chubby figures. Around 120 pieces of his work are display here, including paintings, drawings and miniature sculptures. He also donated his personal collection of original artwork by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí, Degas, Chagall, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti which are also on display here.
 
Note: Let your guide know if you are suffering from jetlag and want a shorter tour. When visiting churches and monasteries, women must not wear shorts or miniskirts and men must not wear shorts. The Gold Museum is closed Mondays and Botero Museum is closed Tuesdays.
Day 2
This morning your guide will drive you 1.5-hours to the small town of Zipaquirá, which was founded in 1600 and still conserves its colonial heritage.
 
Here we visit the amazing underground Salt Cathedral, built in a cavernous series of tunnels in the worked-out section of a productive salt mine. In this darkened underground environment, you will walk past 14 small chapels, each representing one of the 'Stations of the Cross' that tells the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Once you reach the main Roman Catholic cathedral, you can marvel at the workmanship that went into creating this remarkable church.
 
Afterwards we walk through the charming main square of Zipaquirá, which is the home of Tour de France winner, Egan Bernal. Here you can enjoy lunch (own account) and spend time exploring the town, before we return to Bogotá.
 
At the end of the day we ascend Monserrate Hill by funicular or cable car, for panoramic views. The chapel atop this hill can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.
 
Note: Please be aware that the Salt Cathedral will be extremely busy with local visitors over weekends.
Day 3
Transfer to Bogota Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Yopal Airport and transferred 3 to 5-hours (depending on the location of your camp) to the wetland savanna of Los Llanos (meaning 'Flat Plains').
 
We travel on tarmac for the first 2-hours until we reach the small town of Paz de Ariporo, before continuing along a gravel road with the opportunity of seeing wildlife along the way.
 
The the vast seasonally-flooded lowland grasslands of the Los Llanos are situated to the east of the Andes mountains. Despite covering over 25% of Colombia's total landmass, they are largely uninhabited except for the cattle ranches of the 'llaneros' (plains people). These hardy gauchos (cowboys) wear distinctive ponchos, straw hats and rope-soled sandals. They have a provincial culture rich in music, food, folklore and legend.
 
Check into your lodge and relax in this vast wildlife reserve.
Days 4 To 5
Today is devoted to exploring the savanna and flooded grasslands of the Los Llanos region, with its lush forests and wild rivers that come from the vast Orinoco basin.
 
Cattle ranching by accomplished 'llaneros' (Colombian cowboys) co-exists here with local wildlife. The llaneros have a very distinctive culture and preserve their traditions, which include horseback riding barefoot, singing to call and ease their cattle, and playing the harp and cuatro guitar. Their work songs are sung in a cappella style on the themes of herding, horses, adventure and love.
 
From a wildlife perspective, in this 9,000 hectare private reserve you can hope to see over different 200 mammals, including the impressive giant anteater that visits up to 200 termite nests per day. You can also hope to see the lesser anteater, iguana, white-tailed deer, howler monkey, sloth, tortoise, tapir, collared peccary, nocturnal armadillo, jaguarundi, ocelot, capybara (the largest rodent in the world) and their predators - the black panther, puma and mighty jaguar, although these magnificent creatures are rarely seen.
 
In the freshwater rivers and lagoons you can hope to see giant otters, caimans, turtles, pink river dolphins, many different frogs and insects, and the critically endangered Orinoco crocodile. This is also a natural habitat of the anaconda, one of 65 reptile species in the area. It is the heaviest snake in the world and can reach up to 20 ft (6 m) in length.
 
These rich tropical grasslands also offer a diverse birding experience, with both mountain and Amazonian species present - as these open plains link the Andes with the Amazon. Up to 200 different species have been recorded inside the reserve (and over 600 in the whole region) including the Jabiru (the tallest flying bird in Latin America), the striking Scarlet ibis, Hoatzin ('stinkbird'), Great horned owl, Wire-tailed manakin, Rufous-tailed jacamer, Capped heron, Roseate spoonbill, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Black hawk-eagle, Rufous-vented chachalaca, Burrowing owl, Buff-necked ibis, Orinoco goose, Oriole Blackbird, Crested Oropendola, Crimson-crested woodpecker, Brown Jacamar, Blue-crowned motmot, Chestnut-eared aracari, Sunbittern, Yellow crowned parrot, Horned screamer, Crestless curassow, Nacunda night hawk, gabanes with their red collars, flamingos and many more. Two endemics are the Pale-headed jacamar and White-bearded flycatcher.
 
Activities vary by lodge but typically include early morning or late afternoon nature walks, bird watching, silently exploring the creeks by 'curiara' (a traditional canoe), horse riding, 4x4 jeep rides and artisanal fishing for 'caribes' (piranhas) which are a local delicacy. You can learn about conservation initiatives, such as visiting and maintaining camera traps and tracking systems used to study wildlife, and see real cowboys in action as they round up their cattle. In the evenings enjoy their live music, dancing and story-telling before bedtime, as well as star gazing in clear skies free from any light pollution.
 
Note: The best time to visit Los Llanos is from December to March (the dry season), when wildlife ventures out looking for water. Rubber boots and ponchos are provided, but wear a hat and light quick-drying trousers and use mosquito repellent.
Day 6
Day 7
Today is devoted to exploring the amazing Amazon Basin - a 2,7-million square mile (6.7 million sq. km) conservation area that is the largest in the world, spreading across nine countries - Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana.
 
In the morning we hike through the jungle to visit an indigenous Mocagua family, members of the Ticuna tribe, who live in colourful painted houses. You can view their handcrafts, which include pottery and baskets made from the Chambira Palm and learn about their medicinal plants. You will also see the Amazonian Lotus and have lunch with the community.
 
Afterwards we walk back through the jungle and return to Calanoa by motorised canoe, travelling through the Matamata Gorge - the natural boundary between the Calanoa Reserve and neighbouring Amacayacu Park. Here we may see hoatzin (stinkbirds), otters, macaws and other lakeside wildlife.
 
Note: Daily programme is subject to change, according to weather conditions.
 
A headlamp is essential in the Amazon. Please be aware there is no hot water, air conditioning or fans in the Amazon. Assume there will be no mobile phone coverage and weak (or non-existent) WiFi.
Day 8
This morning we visit the Maikuchiga Foundation, an animal sanctuary and rehabilitation centre dedicated to rescuing monkeys and other wildlife rescued from illegal trafficking.
 
Afterwards we transfer 30-minutes by motorosed canoe to the tiny Amazonian village of Puerto Narino. From here we follow a jungle trail to where you can see various Amazonian fish species including the Pirarucus, a giant fish that grows up to 10 ft (3 m), making it one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. We return to the village for a typical local lunch.
 
In the afternoon we visit the Tarapoto Lakes, where we hope to see pink or grey river dolphins. You can also try your hand at artisanal fishing, using traditional fishing techniques.
 
Other wildlife you may see today include caimans (related to alligators), turtles, woolly monkeys, tufted brown capuchin monkeys, a variety of frogs and many other forest reptiles and insects. You will also see some of the over 400 different species of colourful rainforest birds - such as the brilliant golden-headed quetzal, grey-breasted mountain toucan, blue-crowned motmot, umbrella bird, blue-banded toucanet, fruit-eating tanager, red-crested cotinga, banded-tail fruit-eater and a variety of flycatchers.

You will be met at Cartagena Airport and transferred to this tropical port city, situated on the Caribbean coast.
 
Check into your hotel in this colourful city, whose magnificent 16th century walled Old Town is a World Heritage Site.
Day 9
This morning enjoy a half day private tour of the city of Cartagena de Indias, starting with a visit to the 17th century La Popa Monastery situated outside the Old Town on a hill that marks the highest point in the city, with spectacular views over Cartagena Bay and the modern high-rise city, as well as the Old Town. Dedicated to Our Lady of La Candelaria, this charming Augustinian monastery has a beautiful chapel with an ornate gold altar.
 
We then visit San Felipe Castle located on San Lazaro Hill, the largest Spanish military building in the New World dating back to 1536. It was built to guard the city’s landward side from invasion and has a complex system of tunnels connected to the Old City, used to distribute provisions and for a possible evacuation. The tunnels were built so that any noise would echo along them, making internal communications easier and allowing the citizens to hear even the slightest sound of an enemy advance.
 
Afterwards we enter the old walled city and walk through Las Bóvedas, a series of 23 vaults built in the 18th century and considered the last major military colonial construction within the city walls. The vaults were used as storerooms for munitions and provisions by the Spaniards and later they became jail cells. Nowadays they are used as crafts markets where you can find handicrafts, antiques, galleries, jewellery, clothing and souvenirs.
 
Our last stop is the church and monastery of San Pedro Claver, built in the early 17th century by the Jesuits. Pedro Claver, a Jesuit priest, was a defender and protector of slaves and lived in this monastery until his death. The rest of your day is at leisure to explore the charming Old Town independently.
 
Note: Short skirts should not be worn when visiting churches, monasteries and religious shrines. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of emeralds, so let your guide know if you would like to buy one and he will take you to a reputable store.
Day 10
At leisure to explore the photogenic city of Cartagena independently.
 
We suggest walking through the old colonial streets of the historic centre, starting at the Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) that was once the main gateway into the walled city. Walk across the Plaza de la Aduana, the largest  and oldest square in the Old Town that was used as a parade ground and is now surrounded by important government building. Here you will see a statue of Christopher Colombus.
 
You can walk through the Plaza Santo Domingo, known for its nightlife and spectacular church. Enjoy the pleasant shade of Simon Bolívar Park or visit the Palace of the Inquisition - one of the finest buildings in the city but with a shameful past, as it was here that the church sought to stamp our heresy through torture. The Emerald Museum and the Gold Museum are both worth a visit.
 
Many optional activities are available in the Old Town such as a gastronomy tour, rum and chocolate tasting or a salsa tour. You can take an optional day tour to San Basilio de Palenque, the first freed slave settlement in the Americas, where you can learn more about Cartagena's iconic 'Palenqueras' (Afro-Colombian women who wear brightly coloured dresses and expertly balance heavy bowls of tropical fruit on their heads). Alternatively you can take a 1-hour boat ride to the spectacular Rosario Islands.
 
Whatever you do, ensure you soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city that inspired the novels of Noble prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Day 11
Transfer to Cartagena Airport for your flight home.

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