Caño Cristales, La Macarena, Meta, Colombia. Kike Calvo / Colombia Photo Expeditions
Itinerary:

Caño Cristales – Feria de las Flores in Medellin – Salsa in Cali – Birdwatching in Km 18 – Dolmetsch Arboretum – San Cipriano
Extension: Juanchaco and Ladrilleros and Uram ba – Bahia Malaga National Park

About this tour: This tour is designed to highlight Colombia’s astounding natural and cultural diversity, and we believe we have struck the perfect balance with this exhilarating itinerary: From exploring the Feria de Las Flores in Medellin in the Andes mountains, to swim- ming in a river that has been dubbed “the liquid rainbow”, to the Latin rhythms of the salsa capital of the world, to riding motorcycle-powered carts through the luscious rainforest, to visiting the beaches and mangroves of one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet in search of Humpback Whales. This trip is of epic proportions, complete with beaches, city life, owers, and incredible hospitality. Join us in a land where everyday life is very real but visitors can easily escape into a magical world as they explore the culture and natural richness the country has to offer.

Departure Date: August 2-13 2021 ( 12 Days )

Extension: August 13-17, 2021 ( 5 Days )

 

12 days / 11 nights total, including estimated travel time. Extension 5 Days / 4 Nights

Expedition type: Photographic Overland Adventure
Focus: Photography; Cultural Immersion, Natural history, and Birdwatching.
Max. Number of Guests: 8-14 Guests

From $5,950 USD per person, double occupancy, not including international airfare. Single Supplement: $800 USD
EXTENSION: $1,950 USD per person, double occupancy, Single Supplement: $250 USD

Airfare: Approximately $600 to and from Miami. Must arrive in Medellin on or before August 2 and depart on or after August 17 from Cali.

Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrive in Medellin

Guests will be greeted at the airport upon arrival with a private transfer from the airport to the hotel.

Lodging: Hotel Viaggio

Day 2: Medellin to La Macarena Flight. Llanero Sunset Afternoon Drive.

After check-out, the group travels to the airport to catch flights to La Macarena. After a 1.5-hour flight guests will check-in at the hotel in town and depart on a 30-minute drive to catch a magical Llanos Sunset. The Llanos, or Orinoco region, is one of Colombia’s five natural areas and is comprised of 16 million hectares of seasonally flooded grasslands. Covering 25% of Colombia’s total landmass, it is the region that is outed as containing some of the richest tropical grasslands in the world.

The sunset includes views of the imposing Serrania de La Macarena National Park, one of Colombia’s first protected areas and art of the Guianan Shield formation. What is so unique about this area biologically has to do with the geography, as it is found at the meeting point of 3 of Colombia’s main ecosystems: Orinoco, Amazon, and Andean. After a nice introduction to it is time to return to the hotel for dinner in preparation for the hikes of the following days.

Lodging: Hotel La Fuente

NOTE: YELLOW-FEVER VACCINATIONS REQUIRED FOR THIS FLIGHT

Day 3 and 4: Caño Cristales Trails and Pools

Our next to days begin with a 30-minute boat ride on the Guayabero River after breakfast at the hotel. The group then boards a 4X4 vehicle to one of the 4 available trailheads at El Cajuche.  The National Park is managed jointly by the Colombian National Parks Service and the state agency Cormacarena, and visits to the park are highly regulated. The agencies get together and decide which trails will be open on each specific day, so the specific trail the group will hike is assigned based on carrying capacity and fitness level.  Hikes range from easy, to moderate, to difficult, and will be chosen based on the specific fitness level of each participant. A different hike is done each day, and the hike will not be easy, but the reward of being able to visit such a unique site makes it worth the effort.

Also known as the river of five colors, Caño Cristales is considered one of the most attractive natural wonders to see in Colombia. And that is a tough competition to be in, as Colombia is known for the astounding beauty of its natural landscapes.  During this time of the year, the river turns shades of red, blue, yellow, orange, and green in a vibrant natural display that happens nowhere Liquid Rainbow is caused by a picky endemic aquatic plan– Macarenia clavigera – growing in the riverbed. The plant requires precise conditions, including just the right water level and just the right amount of sunlight, to take on its bright hues. Though shades of red are most common, the plant turns bright green in shaded areas. The river also features waterfalls, pools, and caverns, and swimming in its crystalline waters to beat the heat is both exhilarating and relaxing.

On each hike the group spends all day out and about, taking a packed lunch and plenty of water to be out all day before returning to the hotel for dinner and rest.

Lodging: Hotel La Fuente

Day 5: Sunrise and Macarena-Medellin Flights

A departure flight at 10 AM means that those who wish to partake in the Llanos Sunrise have to be up quite early to be able to catch the sun rising over the grasslands and return to the hotel for showers and check-out before the flight back to Medellin.

Medellin is a bustling metropolis that lies in the Aburra Valley, and has been dubbed the City of Eternal Spring due to its pleasant climate. Paisas, as people from Antioquia state are referred to, are known for their abundance of hospitality. The afternoon will be devoted to photographing the grounds of the Medellin Botanical Garden, where the Orchids, Flowers, and Crafts exposition takes place.  There is something to suit all tastes. From beautiful grounds to warm and friendly people, to more thousands of species of orchids and flowers. There are plenty of inspiring opportunities and of course, those who wish can do some craft shopping.

Lodging: Lodging: Hotel Viaggio

Day 6: Silletero Parade

The silletero parade is undoubtedly the most sought after event of the Feria de las Flores. Held since 1957, the festival is one of Medellin’s most important events and the parade is something that cannot be missed. In it, men and women carry large silletas on their backs, which are beautifully adorned flower arrangements. The parade represents the end of slavery, with participants replacing the weight of slavery on their backs with the weight of large flower arrangements. The first silleteros parade also took place with some 40 men, and this number has grown to more than 500 in the past few years.

Some of the days will be devoted to free time to download and organize photos.

Lodging: Hotel Viaggio

Day 7: Comuna 13 Tour

The morning will be spent on a tour through Comuna 13, once known as Colombia’s most dangerous barrio, we’ll explore how innovative urban regeneration projects and the use of street art have given the area a bright & colorful new future. We will explore the graffiti in the barrio by local urban artists, responsible for over 90% of the artwork in Comuna 13. After lunch, there is an optional visit to the classic car parade where more than 260 cars from the past century are exhibited along the streets of Medellin. Those who wish can spend the afternoon processing photos.

Lodging: Hotel Viaggio

Day 8:  Botero Plaza an afternoon flight to Cali. Drive to Araucana Lodge

Botero Plaza , also known as Plaza de las Esculturas, is a 2-acre park in front of the Antioquia Museum. Photographic subjects abound, including 23 works by famed figurative artist and sculpture Fernando Botero.  His signature style, also known as “Boterismo”, depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. He is considered the most recognized and quoted living artist from Latin America. The plaza also provides a great opportunity to photograph people and the surrounding architecture.

The afternoon is spent on a flight to Cali and a 90-minute drive to the Araucana Lodge.

Lodging: Araucana Lodge

Day 9: Cali City Tour

Founded in 1536, Cali is known as the Sucursal del Cielo, which loosely translates to “the branch office of heaven.” A whole day in this warm and friendly city nestled at the base of the western Andes, will surely provide great photo opportunities. Just a few blocks from the hotel are the Cat of the River and his Girlfriends, a collection of bronze cat sculptures that were designed by various Colombian artists. The rest of the morning will be spent visiting the Cristo Rey monument for panoramic views of the city. Lunch will be at the Galeria Alameda, a bustling market where the harvests from nearby farmlands and the Pacific Ocean are displayed.

Then we visit the historic center of town and many of the churches and colonial buildings along the Cali River. The boulevard along the river is only open to pedestrians and is quite enjoyable, with wide-open spaces, large trees, and locals enjoying the outdoors. After the sunsets and the breeze from the nearby Andes mountains begins to descend on the city, those who wish can enjoy a tour of the vibrant nightlife of Cali and its friendly people.

Lodging: Araucana Lodge

 

Day 10: San Cipriano

After a one hour drive to Zaragosa and a pleasant 20-minute ride on “brujitas” (motorcycle-powered wooden carts on rails), one arrives in the town of San Cipriano. The ride is exhilarating and will surely get the adrenaline pumping as the “brujitas” travel through luscious tropical rainforest, one of the most biologically diverse on the planet. The area is a protected reserve and is the source of drinking water for the nearby port city of Buenaventura. Located in the Choco Bioregion, it is known for being one of the wettest places on the planet.

Aside from the amazing diversity of birds and the very interesting local village, the reserve is home to one of the most pristine tropical rivers on the planet.  A nice trail borders the river with various side trails that provide access to serene riverscapes. A visit to the Waterfall of Love is also in order, with a chance to take a dip in the refreshing waters.

After an adventurous morning, the group will learn how to prepare a ­Sancocho soup from the local women.  This iconic regional dish consists of fish, coconut,, plantains, and manioc cooked into the soup in a specific order and with a calculated amount of local herbs and spices. After lunch, another Brujita ride is followed by a 1-hour drive back to the lodge.

Lodging:  Araucana Lodge

Day 11: Bird Photography at Hummingbird Paradise with Juan Jose Arango and Dolmetsch Arboretum

On this day the group will have the pleasure of learning from one of Colombia’s best bird photographers, Dr. Juan Jose Arango. You can view his complete collection of Colombian birds at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjarango/. The morning is spent at the world-renown Hummingbird Paradise, a small chalet with an impressive feeder set up that attracts hundreds of hummingbirds and colorful tanagers.

Juan Jose will offer up advice on bird photography during a full-day workshop at the site. The problem here is having too many subjects to choose from! The array of colors is awe-inspiring, with tanagers lining up to have a chance at the bananas and hundreds of hummingbirds visiting more than twenty feeders throughout the property.

The afternoon is spent at the Dolmetsch Arboretum with the director, Alvaro Calonje.  The Dolmetsch Arboretum houses more than 2,200 plants from around the world and is world-renown for its cycad collection, containing more than 60 species.  Cycads are an ancient group of seed plants that are much less abundant than they were during the Jurassic period, and their geographic ranges have contracted, resulting in cycads being one of the most threatened plant groups in the world.

The grounds of the arboretum provide ample photographic opportunities, as does the incredible diversity of plants that adorn the impeccably manicured gardens.

Lodging:  Araucana Lodge

Day 12: Depart Cali

ACCOMMODATIONS Lodging will consist of a mix of 3-4 star hotels in cities, a basic but comfortable and air-conditioned hotel in La Macarena, and the amazing Araucana Lodge in the outskirts of Cali. There is a river in San Cipriano, refreshing pools in Caño Cristales, a jacuzzi in the hotel in Medellin, and a pool at the hotel in Ladrilleros Extension), so pack your swimwear! We expect relative comfort, hot showers (except in Ladrilleros and La Macarena), and excellent local food and provide a nice variety of snacks and purified or bottled drinking water available throughout the trip.

TRIP INCLUDES

Kike Calvo and Christopher Calonje as Tour Leaders

All  Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 12. One glass of wine or beer with each meal.

Internal Flight: Medellin – Macarena – Medellin, Medellin – Cali

All Lodging (Double Occupancy)

Insurance

Entrances to Parks and Reserves

Regional and Local Guides

Bottled Water Throughout the Trip

Snacks Throughout the Trip

Internal Terrestrial Transport and Airport Transfers

 

DOES NOT INCLUDE

Gratuities

Alcoholic Beverages

Airfare to Colombia

Laundry Services

PACIFIC EXTENSION

Day 1: Cali – Buenaventura – Juanchaco

The morning starts with a 3-hour drive descending to the port city of to Buenaventura, on the Pacific coast. From Buenaventura the adventure continues by boat, first crossing the bay in order to wrap around the El Tigre peninsula towards the village of Juanchaco. The photographic opportunities begin as soon as you make landfall on the pier of this lazy village. After a short transfer to the hotel, there will be some time to relax and enjoy the stunning ocean views before an afternoon hike along the beach to La Barra, a nearby fishing village.

Apart from the incredible landscapes, La Barra offers a chance to photograph the locals, and experience how they live and work in this remote beach village. Chances for sunset photography will abound on the walk back to the hotel.

Lodging:  Hotel Agua Marina

Day 2: Visit to Uramba – Bahia Malaga National Park

Uramba Bahía Málaga National is one of the newest Colombian national parks, and was created in 2010 as Colombia’s 56th national park. Known as a hot spot for biodiversity, the park is explored by boat, visiting several remote fishing villages and the interminable mangroves and waterfalls that abound in the Malaga Bay.

The group will disembark at several sites within the bay to photograph the villages, waterfalls, and natural wonders the bay has to offer.  Lunch will be taken as a picnic in order to maximize field time in this amazingly diverse location.

After returning to the hotel there will be time for a photo review before and after dinner.

Lodging:  Hotel Agua Marina

Day 3: Whale Watching

Each year, hundreds of humpback whales make the 8,000 km journey from the frigid Antarctic Ocean off the coast of Chile to the warm waters of Colombia’s Pacific coastline, gathering in bays and coves by the dozens or even hundreds to mate and calve their babies before beginning the long trip back. This area has the largest concentration of breeding Humpback whales along the Colombian Pacific coast. This species of whales are known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making them ideal for photographers wanting to capture this majestic being.

The specific logistics of the boat ride in search of the whales will depend on the weather and tides, so the day will be split between time searching for whales and time at the hotel working on photographs.

Lodging:  Hotel Agua Marina

Day 4: Beach Time – Photo Review and Pacific Music

The morning will consist of free beach time! After lunch, a talk on the history of the Pacific coast of Colombia and the people that inhabit it.  At night the evening comes alive with a live dance and music concert on the cliffs overlooking the beach. Escaped African slaves from the sugar cane plantations of the nearby Cauca Valley settled in this region of Colombia, and African roots are deeply ingrained in the traditions, cuisine, and music and dance of the local people.

The traditional songs and dances and the sounds of the marimba instrument were declared by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. The marimba is basically a xylophone made of wood with keys that are made from specific palm trees that grow in the region.  The cultural expressions we will witness make up an important part of the social fiber, where men and women tell stories and recite poems as they dance rhythmically. The objective is to celebrate life and death, and in some cases, the events take a religious, ritualistic, or festive tone.

Lodging:  Hotel Agua Marina

Day 5: Ladrilleros to Buenaventura and drive to Araucana Lodge

The morning will be spent enjoying the beach or processing photos before lunch and an afternoon boat ride to Buenaventura.  A 2.5-hour drive will have at the Araucana Lodge, the evening will be spent on the Carnaval Terrace, where we will enjoy a farewell dinner and reminisce on the good times and the memories and photographs that were made in Colombia.

Lodging:  Araucana Lodge

EXTENSION TRIP INCLUDES

All  Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 16. One glass of wine or beer with each meal.

All Lodging (Double Occupancy)

Insurance

Entrances to Parks and Reserves

Regional and Local Guides

Internal Terrestrial Transport and airport transfers

Bottled Water Throughout the Trip

Snacks Throughout the Trip

 

DOES NOT INCLUDE

Gratuities

Alcoholic Beverages

Airfare to Colombia

Laundry Services

Email us for a detailed itinerary email: colombiaphotoexpeditions@gmail.com

Read about the experiences of our travelers during our last Colombian Photo Expedition.
See the Photo Gallery of our travelers during our last Colombian Photo Expedition.

Ballet Folkorico de Antioquia. Photo © Kike Calvo / Colombia Photo Expeditions

 

 

Caño Cristales, La Macarena, Meta, Colombia. Kike Calvo / Colombia Photo Expeditions

Photos © Kike Calvo

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