Colombia is the number one destination on earth for bird diversity, and although the country’s ecotourism infrastructure may be lagging behind the likes of Ecuador and Peru after decades of civil conflict, Colombia is now waking up to the enormous possibilities of birding tourism, and there are many excellent birding lodges throughout the country. Here are the very best birding lodges to visit in Colombia.
El Dorado Lodge, the flagship reserve of ProAves – Colombia’s main bird conservation group – is located high in the endemic-rich coastal mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is justifiably touted as one of the best birding lodges in Colombia. The lodge itself is lovely, with cabins offering stirring views over the distant Caribbean Sea, and a wealth of amazing species visiting the garden feeders. Hardcore birders will relish the chance to bird the surrounding mountain trails and spot such rare endemics as the Santa Marta antpitta, the Santa Marta parakeet and the Santa Marta mountain-tanager.
Colombia’s most exciting up-and-coming birding lodge was opened a couple of years ago near the small southern town of Orito in Putumayo department (commonly known in Colombia as the most exciting region for birding). It’s a basic lodge located deep in ancient primary rainforest alongside a National Park, and the bird list for La Isla Escondida is a dream for Amazon birders. Two new observation canopy towers mean that budding bird photographers can get at eye level with such gems as the fiery-throated fruiteater and the spangled cotinga.
Another of ProAves’ best reserves, El Paujil Lodge is located in Santander region in the endemic species hotbed of the Magdalena River Valley. The extremely rare and threatened blue-knobbed curassow is the star bird here, with a pair of the critically endangered species regularly visiting the lodge gardens. Other top spots include the beautiful woodpecker, Antioquia bristle-tyrant and white-mantled barbet.
One of two excellent lodges located on the road between Pasto and Tumaco in the southern department of Narino, Río Ñambi Natural Reserve was closed for years due to the Colombian conflict but is making a comeback with an enviable bird list, a nice lodge and passionate local guides and staff. The reserve is home to such regional specialities as the long-wattled umbrellabird, moss-backed tanager and choco vireo, and there’s also an incredible variety of colourful poison dart frogs to spot at night. The lodge is a simple two-storey wooden affair, but it’s comfy, and some of the best birding can even be done from the covered veranda surrounding the second floor.
One of Colombia’s most widely known lodges is Montezuma Road Ecolodge, a simple little birding lodge located just below the Montezuma Road, one of Colombia’s best birding locations. Located in Tatama National Park in Risaralda department, Montezuma is a dream destination for any serious birder visiting Colombia – the bird list of the park is simply astounding, and up to 11 endemics can be spotted in a couple of hardcore birding days. The best-of-the-best include the gold-ringed tanager, crested ant-tanager and chestnut-bellied flowerpiercer. While not a luxury lodge, Montezuma is definitely an unmissable Colombia birding lodge.
The second of the two excellent Narino lodges, La Planada was the most famous of Colombia’s birding lodges in the 1990s, before the violence forced its closure. It’s safe now, though, and the facilities are of excellent quality for a Colombian birding lodge, with great cabins and a nice communal dining area. The views from the viewpoint over the jungle are breathtaking, while the list of species you can spot is quite astounding, and many of them are regional specialities that can be spotted only within this small geographical area.
While not strictly a birding lodge only, Hato La Aurora in Colombia’s vast Eastern Plains region is a birder’s dream destination, so it makes this list with ease! A basic but authentic lodge alongside the banks of the Ariporo River, with access to a vast protected ranch, Hato La Aurora is the perfect place to enjoy a Colombian safari, and a large range of mammals and amphibians can be observed here. However, birds still steal the show, with many species to be observed in the lodge gardens, and the highlight undoubtedly being the huge numbers of aquatic birds that gather around the ranch’s watering holes.