Located just 3 hours east of Medellin, Reserva Natural Cañon de Río Claro is a stunning area of protected tropical rainforest. Crystal clear turquoise water rushes through towering marble canyons, into stalagmite caves and past lush, emerald green jungle. But why visit Rio Claro? Well, because sloth spotting, canyon-jumping, cave-exploring, jungle-ziplining and rock-climbing await you.
Rio Claro is teeming with dark, riverside caves, making this the perfect hiding spot for bats, spiders and scorpions. However, there’s a little something that gives the scorpions away; these bioluminescent animals produce a bright blue-green glow that can be seen under an ultraviolet light. Ask your guide to help you spot one when you visit Caverna de los Guácharos.
With miles of lush, green vegetation, freshwater springs and a warm, tropical climate, Rio Claro is home to thousands of animals, many of which are unfortunately endangered. During your time here you’ll have the chance to spot White-Footed Tamarin monkeys,Red Howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, sloths, otters and agoutis, as well as hundreds of bird species and beautiful giant blue morpho butterflies.
Whilst most of the river is actually very calm, there are some sections which are fast-flowing, allowing adventure-seekers to explore Rio Claro by raft. You’ll be rafting through stunning jungle backed canyons and passing by staggering cave systems. Hard-core rafters should note: reaching only grade II, this is a relatively calm rafting experience. However, this means you’ll have a better chance to take in the spectacular views along the way.
Not only can you explore Rio Claro by water, but you can also see it from above! Find your inner Tarzan and swing high over the lush canopy, crisscrossing the river and spotting howler monkeys as you fly through the jungle. You can do this as a day trip through the Rio Claro Reserva Natural website, or, if you’re staying the night, ask your accommodation to help you make a reservation.
Many hotels call themselves “eco” lodges, but how many actually protect the environment in which they’re in, or let you get really close to nature? At the windowless, rustic-chich Rio Claro Ecolodge, you’ll be sleeping with panoramic views of the jungle and waking up to the sounds of howling monkeys and singing birds. Not only this, Rio Claro are genuine about protecting the area, donating 20-30% of all income to the future preservation of the reserve.
Rio Claro is full of land and underwater cave systems just waiting to be explored. The most famous is 600m (1,968 ft)-long Cueva de los Guacharos, located right alongside the river. Visitors have to trek through dense forest, wade through waist-deep water and even jump off 4m (13.12 ft) cliffs to get there. However, filled with stunning marble formations, and thousand-year-old stalagmites and stalactites, the journey is well worth it.
The Rio Claro reserve recently added the “Via Ferrata”, a protected climbing route ascending 150m (492ft) along the canyon’s limestone cliffs. Fully equipped with harness, carabiner, gloves and helmet, climbers scale the expertly mapped out steel cable route, which rewards those who dare with epic views and boundless wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Thanks to the rich minerals in the water and soil, Rio Claro is full of stunning rock formations. Hundreds of caves in the reserve are filled with a variety of stalactites and stalagmites, formed by tiny, mineral-rich water droplets over millennia. Make sure you check out what the reserve call the “Temple of Time”, an impressive fossil cave which, when the light is just right, looks like you’ve landed on another planet.
During weekends and public holidays, this place sees a big influx of Colombian families, however, Rio Claro is still relatively undiscovered by tourists. This means that if you visit in the middle of the week, chances are you’ll have this slice of paradise to yourself.
Much of the shallow water runs over smooth marble stone, however, there are several deep, crystal-clear pools perfect for swimming in or, if you’re really brave, jumping into from one of the towering cliffs.
There are several well-marked treks dotted around the reserve, each passing through caves, waterfalls and pristine water holes. Each eco-trail varies in distance and difficulty, ranging from 2-6 hour hikes. Make sure you check out Marble Beach: a spot where the river widens, creating a stunning marble rock “beach” with a deep natural pool perfect for swimming.