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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Colombia: The Santa Marta Mountains

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space. The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING COLOMBIA: US citizens must have a passport, valid for at least six months after your date of departure from Colombia. A the present time, no visa is required for US citizens visiting Colombia for 90 days or less.

Visitors from other countries may need a visa; please contact your nearest Colombian embassy or consulate for further information.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at 

PACE OF TOUR: This is a fairly easy trip, with only a few long drives or walks. Our days will begin between 5:00 and 6:00 am. One one day we will have an earlier start, departing at 4:30 am to reach our birding destination by dawn. Some breakfasts will be taken in the field, others will be eaten at our hotels and lodges. On some days we may take a picnic lunch in the field and on others we will stop at roadside restaurants. Participants should be able to walk at a slow to moderate pace for around four hours at a time; we may walk in the sun on some roads, though most of our trails will be in the shade. Trekking shoes or boots are necessary as the dirt road in the Sierra Nevada is rocky and might be muddy and slippery, and a walking stick may be helpful at times. On some days however, it will be possible to stay behind and bird the lodge grounds; there is time for a siesta on those days.We will typically return to our lodgings around 5:00 pm, with dinner generally starting around 7:00. The leader will call a list of the birds recorded during the day either just before or just after dinner.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Please contacting your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at

Malaria: A very small part of the tour is conducted in areas where there is a low risk of malaria, the remainder is at altitudes where it does not occur. Please consult your physician.

Dengue Fever and Chikungunya: Dengue Fever and Chikungunya occur in parts of Colombia and seem to be becoming commoner in many parts of South America. There is as yet no inoculation available for either disease, so no protection can be made in advance of travel. They are transmitted by diurnal mosquitoes mostly in heavily populated areas. It is important therefore cover up and use repellent wherever mosquitoes might be encountered.

Yellow Fever: We spend one night in the town of Riohacha considered to be in the Yellow Fever risk area.  Otherwise we’ll be in areas considered to be free of the disease. Please consult your physician.

Zika Virus: This virus is expanding into South America including Colombia, and health authorities are still trying to gauge its full impact. Couples who expect/hope to become pregnant should consult their physician.

Water: Bottled water is readily available throughout the areas visited. Drinking water is provided at reserves, in the van when we are on the road, and with meals.

Insects: There are few problems with insects on this tour. Chiggers are present off the roads in Santa Marta, but are not a real problem. Ticks can be a problem some years at Tayrona NP. There are a few mosquitoes in some areas. Bring a good insect repellent for mosquitoes and other insects that we will occasionally encounter. We recommend using insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET. 

Altitude: We’ll visit sites up to around 9,000 feet above sea level.

Smoking: Smoking and vaping are prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

CLIMATE: Temperatures in the Santa Marta area range from lows of around 55 F to highs in the 90s F; the San Lorenzo Ridge in the Santa Marta Mountains can be cool in th eearly morning and a fleece, scarf and gloves are recommended here. The Santa Marta coast and the Guajira Peninsula regions tend to be very hot and dry.

ACCOMMODATION: All of our lodges are comfortable and have electricity, private bathroom, and free wi-fi. Hot water is available only in Barranquilla and at Mountain House Lodge; (it is hot enough in the lowlands the few hotels are offering hot water.) Outside of the cities, many of our accommodations are in very birdy settings, and some exciting birding can be had right from the balconies.

FOOD: We will have our dinners and some of our lunches at restaurants. On one day we may have a picnic lunch of typical make-your-own sandwich fare. We will also have several simple field breakfasts (fruits, bread, jam, peanut butter, ham and cheese, fruit juice and coffee). 

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

TRANSPORTATION: Travel will mostly be by minibus, with 4WD SUVs used in the Santa Marta Mountains, where the road is rough. The leader will arrange a seating rotation. Participants must be willing to take their turn to ride in any seat in our tour vehicles.

Updated: 25 January 2024