Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country on the planet, and number one most bio-diverse country by the square mile, even though it occupies a very small percentage of the Earth’s surface. Between the Andes mountains, Amazonian rain forests, balmy coastline and tropical islands, Colombia has a unique combination of ecosystems, making it home to a large number of indigenous animals that exist nowhere else. Here is a list of the Top 10 animals you must see on your trip to Colombia.
1. Humpback whale
Colombia is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales in the wild. They migrate to the warm waters off the Pacific coast of Colombia every year to mate and give birth. The best months to see these incredible beasts heave themselves out of the water and have fun playing in the rugged ocean are July, August, and September.
2. Giant Anteater
Probably the weirdest-looking animal you’ll spot in Colombia, the giant anteater is like something from a film, with its strange long nose and giant bushy tail. They are found roaming the wide-open plains of eastern Colombia, searching for termites and ants. They use their massive claws and long, sticky tongues to eat thousands of the insects each day. Locally known as ant bears, these anteaters can measure over 2 meters (7ft) in length and weigh approximately 45kg (100lbs).
3. Sea Turtles
Leatherback turtles can grow up to 2 meters (6.5ft) long and live for up to 100 years, laying their eggs annually on some of Colombia’s least known Caribbean beaches. Watching Colombia’s enormous sea turtles crawl onto the beach to lay their eggs is a sight you’ll never forget. The town of Acandí, near to Capurgana, is the best place to observe these animals lay their eggs every night, from February to July.
5. Cotton-Top Tamarin
These crazy looking small monkeys are native to Colombia and are not found in any other country of the world. They are extremely rare, but luckily for wildlife enthusiasts, a small population was introduced to the Tayrona National Park in a successful attempt to preserve the species. With their curious nature and tuft of white fur, cotton-top tamarins are a memorable part of a visit to Tayrona and are now relatively easy to spot on the forest trails of the park at dawn and dusk. However they are one of the smallest primates in the world, weighing less than half a kilo, so keep your eyes peeled!
5. Amazon River Dolphin
Also called pink river dolphins, these are the largest freshwater river dolphins in the world and can range up to 2.5 meters (8ft) in length and weigh up to 185kg (400lb). Although they are dark gray at birth, they become more and more pink as they grow into an adult, and males have a more intense pink color than the females. They have one of the widest ranging diets among dolphins, feeding on over 50 different species of fish, such as catfish and piranhas. To spot these dolphins, you’ll need to travel to the heart of the Colombian Amazon, to the Amazonia and Orinoquia regions of Colombia.
6. The 89’98 Butterfly
With over 1,500 known species, Colombia is one of the most butterfly-diverse countries in the world. On any hike through the jungles and forests of the country, you will undoubtedly be able to spot many different types of the brightly colored insect. The weirdest and most wonderful, though, is the Diaethria Phlogea, more commonly known as the 89’98 butterfly due to the distinct number patterns on its outer wings. The butterfly is native to Colombia and is found throughout the majority of the country.
7. Spectacled Bear
The spectacled bear is the last remaining short-faced bear in the world and the only bear in all of South America. They live in the high elevation forests in the Amazon jungle mainly in Peru but are also found through Colombia. It is a medium-sized bear, growing no more than 2 meters (80 inches) tall and weighing up to 200kg (440lb). Their fur is blackish in color and they have light colored rings around their eyes, giving them the name of the spectacled bear. They are becoming increasingly rare to see, and they are incredibly shy, but if you get the opportunity to see one, it will be a sight you won’t forget.
Colombia has two different types of manatees, the fresh-water Amazonian Manatee which lives in the Amazon Basin in the south of Colombia, and the West Indian salt-water manatee, found along the north coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Sea. The Amazonian manatee is the smallest species of manatee and doesn’t have nails on its flippers, setting it apart from other manatees. The West Indian manatee is the biggest type of manatee, growing up to 3.5 meters (11.5ft) long and weighing up to 600kg (1,320lb), and is the most common type of manatee found in the world.
The great spotted cat is native to South America and is one of the most iconic natural symbols of Colombia. Jaguars are the largest feline in the entire American continent and the third largest in the world. They like to live in places with an abundant supply of water, such as rainforests or swamps, and they are known to be great swimmers. They feed by stalking and hunting their prey and using their incredibly powerful bite to kill. They are threatened, and difficult to observe in the wild due to their nocturnal habits and shyness, so keep in mind that sightings are not guaranteed. However, they are surprisingly widespread in Colombia, even occurring in popular tourist spots like the Tayrona National Park.
10. Caiman Lizard
The caiman lizard is a medium sized species of lizard, found in the jungles of South America, in the countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The caiman lizard is powerfully built and is one of the largest lizard species on the American continent, which can grow up to 120cm (4ft) long. They like to live in rainforests, swamps or flooded areas as they are very aquatic creatures, with flattened tails that help them to steer while swimming.
If you’re an animal lover, South America is definitely the right place to be, as all of the countries boast incredible wildlife and an array of different animals. In Colombia especially, you’ll never run out of places to visit, sights to see and animal species to spot, so get booking and prepare to be blown away by the beauty of Colombia and it’s incredible animal kingdom.
You can book tours all over Colombia to get a chance of seeing some of these amazing animals on TheBesty app, including to Tayrona National Park and along the stunning coast. Download it on the AppStore or Google Play.