Back from Colombia

Dec 27th, 2017, 10:16 AM
  #1  
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Back from Colombia

Won't be doing a trip report because of issues with Fodor's website. I had to burn a credit with Road Scholar from when they messed me up on a Galapagos trip so signed up on their tour. It is a taster tour of Colombian nature reserves...but the itinerary is not very well thought out, too much time wasted in travel and one night stays which were unnecessary, probably to save a bit on lodging costs. They put us in an awful hotel in Bogota, also (Dann Norte). I nearly checked out and moved to my last night's lodging (B3 Virrey). I can't really recommend the RS tour, but can recommend Colombia and answer questions.

Itinerary..Medellin, RioClaro, Termales de Ruiz, Rio Blanco, Otun Quimbaya, El Dorado Reserve (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta), Guajira Peninsula, Tayrona NP/Santa Marta, Bogota with a day trip to Sumapaz.

I had a few independent nights..favorite hotel in Medellin was Poblado Alejandria. I had previously been in Bogota and been to the museums there. Weather was nearly always perfect (just one afternoon of rain near Manizales that affected outdoor activities). Apparently Dec-March is one of Colombia's two dry seasons. We saw many landslips from heavy rains which had ended a few weeks prior.

I took the Bogota Graffiti Tour which was excellent..lots of new works since the current mayor apparently doesn't like graffiti. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2...down-new-mayor

Of the reserves we visited the ones I liked best were Rio Blanco, Otun Quimbaya and El Dorado. I wish the tour had flown us straight to Santa Marta and put us up in Minca for a night (La Casona was recommended) instead of having us travel all the way from Manizales to Pereira to Bogota to Baranquilla to El Dorado in one day..needless to say we spent that entire day from dark to dark, with our bums in seats. Tayrona was probably my least favorite. Rio Claro was so-so.

The local company contracted with was Manakin Nature Tours..through Holbrook Travel and Road Scholar. I thought Manakin's guide and driver(s) excellent. It is possible to visit many of the reserves independently.. Guajira was the one that would be the most difficult to do solo, but was different and interesting.

Anyways, no trip report but can answer questions.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 9th, 2018, 12:02 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2007
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Thank you , and sorry about your troubles with the trip report. It can be very frustrating when that type of thing happens I know.
I am considering Columbia for next year. We are thinking Jan/Feb perhaps or even March. Trying to co ordinate with Peru. Did you feel safe in all areas? The graffiti tour sounds very interesting.
Santa Marta was an area I was looking at. I am in the early stages of research about Columbia
I was also thinking about Cartagena. You don't say that you went there so wondering your thoughts.
Thanks
live42day is offline  
Jan 9th, 2018, 01:12 PM
  #3  
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Didn't go to Cartagena on this trip..but had been for a day off of a cruise ship. I like the old city atmosphere, like Pirates of the Caribbean.

The big cities (Bogota and Medellin) in the Andes are fine.

I could see where you would need to be careful around Santa Marta city and along the Caribbean coast. Pick a proper hotel with good security. Note..we were not there for a winter escape beach vacation.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 9th, 2018, 01:59 PM
  #4  
 
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mlgb, too bad about your TR. I would have liked to have read it.

live42day - We spent jan/Feb in Colombia and really enjoyed our time there. It was 2 years ago.
You can read about our time there here:
https://www.fodors.com/community/sou...o-colombia.cfm
yestravel is offline  
Jan 9th, 2018, 03:26 PM
  #5  
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Our Santa Marta hotel (maybe it was a timeshare) was GHL Relax Costa Azul. We didn't get to enjoy the facilities or even the beach since we arrived and left at dark. (More brilliant scheduling by Road Scholar with possibly some additional bad ad hoc decisions by the young guide.) It seemed nice and the restaurant was good. I think RS randomly throws in these potentially nice hotels to make guests think they will have some comfortable free time.

To visit the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, it makes more sense to fly into Santa Marta and go to Minca before heading up to the El Dorado Lodge.

I didn't think much of Riohacha but it's the closest major city to the Los Flamencos Park (Tropical dry thorn forest)and the interesting Wayuu settlement of Camarones. I wouldn't stay in Riohacha otherwise.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 9th, 2018, 11:30 PM
  #6  
 
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Missed this non TR mlgb. What were your problems with this site?

That trip from Manizales to El Dorado sounds like a killer! What were they thinking?

Interesting that Tayrona was your least favourite. Any particular reason? We missed it out last time as for some reason, it just didn’t call to me, but were thinking of adding it in on a further trip.

Live42day - we found Colombia pretty safe despite the hype one reads. The only thing that caused major concern was the standard of driving. We saw several fatal and major accidents within days of arrival and got involved in a couple of minor ones ourselves. We quickly decided to fly the longer distances wherever we could.

I did start a TR but don’t think I ever finished it. However, I did finish our blog entries which are here https://accidentalnomads.com/category/colombia/

We really liked Cartagena and spend a week there with a side trip to Mompox. That was in July and it was VERY hot.
crellston is offline  
Jan 10th, 2018, 08:26 AM
  #7  
 
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Live42day — I love Cartegena and went for a girls trip last July for 4 nights. And yes it was hot! But lots of fun and interesting. We stayed in the old city which was great for walking and exploring. Took a day trip to the beach and a day trip to Palenque which was wonderful. It is the oldest town of former escaped slaves in the Americas. It was like being in West Africa. Facinating!

I am going back for President’s weekend with my kids for just 3 nights. My kids are foodies and will love the restaurants and street art. I have never been any where else in Columbia but looking forward to doing an extended trip someday.

Enjoy.
Lolazahra is offline  
Jan 10th, 2018, 09:20 AM
  #8  
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crellston, I had Day 1 typed out directly (without making a copy). When I tried to tag it as a Trip Report the whole thing disappeared.

Since it was a tour I decided it wasn't going to be helpful to very many people and decided not to recreate it.

Re Tayrona..the parts we visited seemed overrun with visitors and you cannot enter the park for hiking until 8 am. So already starting to heat up. We didn't explore it thoroughly..it's a big park. The habitat where we walked was degraded with a lot of horse poop on one of the trails. We took a short hike out to one of the beach coves..pretty but rough waters. I lived in the Caribbean and Florida growing up so don't get wowed by that environment. I like deserts and mountains better.

Perhaps if we had done other parts or had done it before visiting Guajira and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, I would have been more impressed.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 12th, 2018, 08:48 AM
  #9  
 
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Too bad about your Tour itin. Would have expected better from Road Scolar, thought they had a good rep. We first visited some of those reserves on a trip arranged by a Pro Aves group that manages the reserves. Fortunately the hooked us up with a small group of Brits to share transport expenses, otherwise getting to most of those places was going to be very expensive. We went back to El Dorado on our own next trip after some time in Minca. Also stayed at Otun Quimbaya.
would love to hear about your time there. Columbia - and Colombians- is wonderful. Glad you mentioned your problem with posting. Reminds me to compose elsewhere, save, and paste here. We’re at beginning of 2 month a Panama trip just now. C
glover is offline  
Jan 12th, 2018, 01:22 PM
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I too liked Otun Quimbaya and we had a full day of birding there. An exceptional look at a Grayish Piculet from the tower, and a small group of Golden-plumed Parakeets. There was a young Torrent Duck at the river which the group enjoyed watching shoot under the bridge. And of course the fruit crows. Unfortunately the next morning (pre dawn) we started our absurd transfer to El Dorado via Barranquilla and Bogota without even a stop for lunch (fortunately I had asked that leftover snacks be distributed among the participants).
Would have like more time at El Dorado..We were scheduled for two nights and the first night we arrived after dark. The next morning we managed to get up to the ridge before dawn. We were supposed to have both a field breakfast and field lunch up on the ridge. The guide decided we should go down to the lodge for lunch instead. We got good looks at the SM antpitta at the research station. There was very little time to enjoy the trails onsite (mostly people were watching the feeder and compost pit in between all of the time spent on sitdown meals. There was a walk along the road for a few hours after lunch. After dinner I asked why we weren't going to look for the SM owl, which we had heard outside the lodge when we arrive on night 1. The guide was rather grumpy but I went out with him (just me) and we did see it (eventually, back we had heard it on night 1). The next day we spent an hour after breakfast at the feeders (because I had commented about hoping for the chlorophonia). We birded along the road leading to Minca and had some good luck at the Ecotienda (with the SM Woodstar and more cholorophonia). But no birding in and around Minca.

Did you go to Rio Blanco? They have some good antipitta shows, we saw a flock of white-capped tanagers and a dusky piha right away. Some nice trails and good feeders (black-thighed puffleg). They have a group of 6 local guides who rotate. There were some independent birders who also spent a night there. It seems fairly easy to do on your own without being on a tour. The local community also cooks meals at Rio Blanco (as well as OQ).
mlgb is offline  
Jan 12th, 2018, 01:26 PM
  #11  
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I think Manakin is a good outfit (and Holbrook is the intermediary). I gather from some of the comments made by the guide that the problem is with Road Scholar. Probably trying to save a few $ here and there by putting us up in city hotels rather than at lodges. The $ per hour spent actually birding was not a good ratio. They are just as expensive as some of the proper birding tours.
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Jan 12th, 2018, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by glover View Post
Too bad about your Tour itin. Would have expected better from Road Scolar, thought they had a good rep. We first visited some of those reserves on a trip arranged by a Pro Aves . Reminds me to compose elsewhere, save, and paste here. We’re at beginning of 2 month a Panama trip just now. C
Hi glover! I had meant to connect with you and never did. I was wondering where this winter would take you. Enjoy Panama.
yestravel is offline  
Jan 13th, 2018, 05:05 AM
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We did go to Rio Blanco. Helpful guy at our hotel in Manizales helped us arrange. Back in 2012 at least you had to call and make a reservation even for just a day trip. Seemed like a great spot. We didn’t see all that much though because the young guide they gave us was very lackluster. He seemed to perk up later when pouring over books to identify what we had seen. Maybe not a morning person. We did find a quetzal on our own in trees near gate as we waited for the guide,
there was a least one other bird group there who had seen lots. We envied them their considerably better guide. We have found that a downside of independent birding can often be that a site’s best, most experienced guides are designated to birding groups... not surprising

Thanks for the great bird report. You saw some great ones!
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Jan 13th, 2018, 06:46 AM
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You are probably right about the groups getting the better guides. We had the number 1 guy at RB, I think. We also had an excellent local guide at Low Flamencos .
mlgb is offline  
Jan 14th, 2018, 11:11 AM
  #15  
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This is a a test of the "insert photo feature".
Attached Thumbnails Back from Colombia-pc092009.jpg  
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Jan 14th, 2018, 11:16 AM
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Nice!
yestravel is offline  
Mar 27th, 2018, 12:47 PM
  #17  
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Going back in May because I had Spirit Air miles to burn! Managed to get flights to and from Medellin. Hope it isn't too rainy.
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Mar 27th, 2018, 11:32 PM
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Lucky you! Anywhere in mind yet?
crellston is offline  
Mar 28th, 2018, 03:52 PM
  #19  
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I will head first to Jardin and then figure it out from there, weather depending! If it's too wet in the Andes I likely will fly somewhere on the coast.

Or if it's raining when I get there. vice versa!

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 28th, 2018 at 03:59 PM.
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Mar 28th, 2018, 05:28 PM
  #20  
 
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How much for a trip from Vietnam to Colombia?
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