Colombia is a country of wildlife. Ecologically, it is considered one of the world’s most megadiverse countries, and is the most megadiverse per square kilometre on the planet. It is likely that within the next two years Colombia will become the first country on earth to register 1,900 species of birds, and from the time of Alexander Von Humboldt, visitors to Colombia have been astounded by its diversity of habitat.
There is amazing wildlife to be seen all across Colombia, from the Andes to the Amazon, but what are the must-see wildlife spectacles Colombia has to offer? Colombia Travel Blog has selected 5 of the best.
1. Whale-watching in the Pacific
Not many people know that Colombia’s Pacific coast is one of the best places in the world to watch Humpback whales – other countries may have a better developed whale-watching infrastructure, but there is nowhere else where five people can sit undisturbed in a tiny lancha, as these majestic giants fling themselves out of the water. It’s a magical experience, made even better by the isolation of the region and the harsh beauty of the rain-battered Chocó coastline.
When to go: June-October. July to September are the best months for almost guaranteed sightings.
2. Turtle nesting in the Chocó
On Chocó department’s northern, Caribbean, coast an equally mysterious undersea giant arrives every year to give birth (well, lay eggs anyway). Leatherback sea turtles can be up to 2 metres long and live as long as a century and Colombia is privileged enough to host them annually on some of the regions most obscure beaches. The town of Acandí, near to Capurgana, is the best place to observe these animals as they drag themselves from the water every night to lay their eggs.
When to go: February-July.
3. Diving with sharks in Malpelo
There are excellent diving opportunities throughout Colombia, but nowhere quite compares to Malpelo. A tiny, almost entirely uninhabited rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, some 235 miles from the Colombian mainland, Malpelo doesn’t sound like an ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts. However, beneath its waters lives a unique population of sharks: nearly 500 hammerhead sharks, hundreds of silky sharks, and even the rarely seen Smalltooth sand tiger shark call Malpelo home. Divers have the one-in-a-lifetime chance to interact with these animals as they form gigantic ‘shark schools’, often hundreds strong. Malpelo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and very well-protected, so visiting is not easy.
When to go: All-year-round, however only one dive vessel is permitted to be at the island at a time and an Advanced Open Water diving qualification is needed.
4. Pink Dolphins in the Amazon
According to Amazon folklore, there is an incubus-like creature living in the waters of the great river that, when night comes, turns into a handsome man in order to seduce and impregnate local girls – this is the boto, or Amazon River Dolphin. Visitors to Colombia’s stretch of the Amazon around Leticia can expect to enjoy excellent sightings of these mythical creatures (if not a pregnancy!). Their bright pink colour makes them seem somewhat incongruous inhabitants of this almost-uniformly khaki environment, and many are shocked by their presence, but seeing the pink dolphins is the highlight of most people’s Amazon adventure.
When to go: Dolphins are present year round, but during the wet season the flooded forest extends their range making them harder to find. Go in the dry season (July and August) for the best sightings.
5. Crab migration on Providencia
Whilst the other animals on this list are the A-List film stars of the animal-kingdom (Whales, Dolphins, Sharks…um, turtles?), the final spot goes to the humble crab. Hundreds of thousands of humble crabs to be precise! For just two weeks every year a multitude of black crabs make the long journey down from the hills of Providencia to the beaches to lay their eggs, returning the same night. The next day thousands of penny-sized baby crabs can be seen scurrying in the opposite direction. This phenomenon is worth witnessing if only for the sight of an army of crabs receiving military protection! In order to prevent the inadvertent crushing of crabs the Colombian army are roped in to keep them safe, and visitors are treated to the remarkable sight of a sea of crabs, uncrushed and unhurried.
When to go: The migration begins in early-May and lasts for two weeks.