Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Colombia. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING AND LEAVING COLOMBIA: US and UK citizens must present a valid passport; no visa is required for US or UK citizens visiting Colombia for 60 days or less. Travelers leaving Colombia by plane must pay an exit tax in cash; the amount varies with the exchange rate, but is usually between $50 and $70 (some airlines include all or a portion of this tax in the cost of your ticket).
SAFETY: After years of instability, Colombia is once again becoming a safe destination for sensible international travelers. The Colombian government has made impressive progress in strengthening its democratic institutions, promoting respect for human rights and the rule of law, intensifying counter-narcotics efforts, fostering socioeconomic development, addressing immediate humanitarian needs, and ending the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism. While security has improved significantly and violence has decreased markedly in many areas in recent years, violence by narco-terrorists continues to affect some rural areas and cities. The latest safety information from the US State Department is available here.
Our guide is an experienced traveler in Colombia, and the group will be accompanied at all times by a Colombian driver and a professional Colombian travel coordinator. We stay at reserves purchased and protected by the NGO ProAves.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control recommend that you visit your physician or a health care professional specializing in travel medicine at least 4-6 weeks before your trip. Make sure that your routine vaccinations, including influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) are current. The CDC also recommends vaccination against yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies; consult with your physician about these and other vaccinations.
The CDC also recommends taking one of the following antimalarial drugs: atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine (primaquine in special circumstances and only after G6PD testing). Chloroquine is not an effective antimalarial drug in Colombia. The CDC recommends that you not use halofantrine because of serious heart-related side effects, including deaths. You should purchase your antimalarial drugs before travel, as drugs purchased overseas may not be manufactured according to United States standards and may not be effective; they may even be dangerous, contain counterfeit medications or contaminants, or be combinations of drugs that are not safe.
Chiggers are present at Santa Marta but not a significant problem; in some areas there are a few mosquitoes. In general, biting insects are not a serious problem, and one bottle of repellent will be enough.
Water supplies in Colombia are excellent, but bottled water is readily available in all the areas we visit; we also carry drinking water in the van.
ALTITUDE: The sites we visit range from around 1,000 to nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Some participants may experience headaches or other symptoms at very high elevations; drinking plenty of water, walking slowly, or sitting quietly is usually enough to alleviate those symptoms.
CLIMATE: Bogota ranges in temperature from 50 to 75° F. The highlands will be quite dry, and little rain is to be expected. In the lowlands of the Paujil reserve and in the Caribbean lowlands around Santa Marta it will be hot and sticky; rain is possible, though this is the driest time of year. It will be chilly in the Santa Marta Mountains and cold at El Mirador; dress for conditions ranging from tropical to cold.
PACE OF THE TOUR: This is a rigorous trip. We’ll walk slowly on the trails, but we will be birding for hours at a stretch on most mornings; be aware that you will not be able to return to the lodge or vehicle on your own if you grow tired. Participants should be able to walk at a slow to moderate pace for five or six hours at a time. That said, there will be opportunities for siestas on five days of the tour, and on six days there will be the chance for participants to stay behind at our lodging if they choose not to go afield that day. Our mornings will begin between 5:00 and 6:00 am, except for the long travel day to Santa Marta, when we may start as early as 3:30 am to reach our hotel in time for lunch. There will be at least three long drives—from five to twelve hours each—between some of our birding sites. Some breakfasts will be eaten at our lodges and hotels, others in the field. Lunches will be in the field except at the Paujil Reserve, where we will lunch in the lodge, and on travel days, when we will stop at very good-quality restaurants. As we expect to return to our accommodation each day between 5:00 and 7:00 pm, dinners will generally start between 7:00 and 8:00 pm at our hotels and lodges.
ACCOMMODATIONS: All of our lodges and hotels have electricity and hot water. In Bogota, Riohacha, Ocana, Ibague, Jardin, Rodadero, Medellin, Reinita Cielo Azul Reserve, and Arrierito Anioqueño, our accommodations are modern and comfortable, with private bathrooms. No singles are available at El Paujil, where the rooms are comfortable but basic, with private bathrooms. Note that many of our lodgings are very birdy, with some exciting birding right from the balconies.
FOOD: Some breakfasts and lunches will be eaten in the field. Drinking water is kept in the vehicles for use during the day.
DRESS: Informal dress is acceptable throughout. See the printed General Information sheets for more details on field clothing.
TRANSPORTATION: Our land transportation will be by van and jeep. The extension begins with a flight from Santa Marta to Medellin.
SMOKING: Please do not smoke in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any lodge, accommodation, or location where the group is staying or is gathered has a more restrictive smoking policy than the WINGS policy, the more restrictive policy will prevail.
GENERAL INFORMATION AND CONDITIONS: Please take a moment to read the WINGS General Information and Conditions. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Colombia will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Updated: October 2008