4 days 3 nights
Hato La Aurora is an important natural reserve in the vast Eastern Plains, or the Colombian llanos. A visit to this magical reserve is a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
During this trip you will learn about the diverse birdlife and wildlife of the plains. The Llanos Birding Adventure, is a chance to experience a unique way of life in an off-the-beaten-track corner of Colombia.
Birds and animals of La Aurora are remarkably relaxed around humans. This is the result of a strict ban on hunting over the last few decades. Photographic opportunities here are second-to-none.
An authentic Colombian safari in the heart of the great plains!
You will take an early morning flight from Bogota to Yopal, the capital city of Casanare department. We will be met by our private vehicle for the transfer to Hato La Aurora. The drive is a long one, but we will take the chance to stop along the route for some birding. Once we turn off the main highway we will be driving through the heart of the plains. There we will likely pass plenty of wetland areas sheltering herons, ibis, ducks, and egrets. And, of course - there are always raptors perched on telephone poles and treetops, scanning the wide-open spaces for prey.
We will arrive at Juan Solito Ecolodge on the banks of the Ariporo River around lunchtime. After checking in we will enjoy a hearty traditional llanos lunch overlooking the river, before heading out on a walk around the gallery forest bordering the lodge for some afternoon birding. Species often seen on the trails around the reserve include the near-endemic Llanos specialities Pale-headed Jacamar and White-bearded Flycatcher, as well as Horned Screamer, Sunbittern, and a variety of parrots, raptors, antbirds, and waterbirds. A pair of Great-horned Owls live in the palm trees alongside the lodge, so we will have a look for them too. Large herds of Capybaras laze around on the lodge lawn, and there are always White-tailed Deer and Howler Monkeys to be seen as well.
In the evening we will enjoy some live traditional Colombian cowboy music and a welcome talk from one of the reserve’s owners.
Over the next couple of days, we will explore the incredible variety and biodiversity of Hato La Aurora. We will go birding at dawn in the gallery forest, where we hope to encounter interesting plains species such as the enigmatic Crestless Curassow, the sparky little Wire-tailed Manakin, Cinnamon Attila, as well as Little, Cinereous, and Grey-legged Tinamou.
During the day, you will live the adventure by taking jeeps out onto the plains. There you will spend time visiting the wetlands and lakes dotted throughout the reserve. Aquatic species we are likely to spot include Orinoco Goose, Jabiru, Maguiri Stork, Scarlet, White, Green, Glossy, Buff-necked, Bare-faced and Sharp-tailed Ibis, Pied Lapwing, White-faced and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Azure Gallinule, Roseate Spoonbill, Brazilian Teal, and Capped, Yellow-crowned, Black-crowned, Striated, Cattle, Whistling, Cocoi and Little Blue Herons. On the plains themselves we will spend time observing the cute little Burrowing Owls, as well as species like Double-striped Thick-Knee, King Vulture, Savannah Hawk, Nacunda Nighthawk, South American Snipe, Aplomado Falcon, and many more. The birds here are remarkably relaxed around humans and it’s possible to get extremely close to many species and capture some great photographs.
Naturally, being out on the plains for all this time, we will also encounter some other amazing wildlife. The ubiquitous capybaras are everywhere. We will most certainly encounter caiman, white-tailed deer, and even wild pigs. Other species which we stand a good chance of observing are Giant Anteater, Anaconda, Southern Tamandua, and the Gray Fox. If we’re extremely lucky we may even come across a wild Puma!
There will also be some trips down the Ariporo River on small boats. We will explore narrow side creeks and have the chance to spot many species of kingfisher, heron, and other aquatic birds, including the rare and elusive Agami Heron, Sunbittern, Hoatzin, and Muscovy Duck. We may even come across a group of noisy Giant Otters sunning themselves on the river bank.
During the evenings we will enjoy the unique atmosphere of Hato La Aurora and the Colombian cowboy culture. They will regale you with live music performances, talks from the ranch’s charismatic owner Nelson Barrangan, and of course, a delicious llanos BBQ dinner.
On our final morning at Hato La Aurora, we will have time for one last walk around the forests alongside Juan Solito Lodge before packing up and heading back up the road to Yopal. Anyone interested can also participate in a cultural activity alongside the hotel, where local cowboys will explain their culture, and teach us to lasso and milk cattle.
Once we arrive back in Yopal, we will spend one night at a comfortable city hotel before flying back to Bogota the following morning.
Your unique Llanos birding experience ends here, but why not combine it with a week’s birding in the mountains surrounding the Colombian capital and onwards to the forests of the Magdalena Valley? There are plenty more species to see in Colombia!
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