Just Back From… Los Llanos with KathrynKathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
What country/countries did you visit?
Colombia, though I primarily visited the Los Llanos region in the southeast.
How did you get there?
A direct Avianca flight from London Heathrow to Bogota.
Whereabouts did you go?
I started in Cartagena then spent a couple of nights in Bogota before flying to Yopal, the gateway to the Los Llanos. I spent about a week in this wilderness, then finished up with a couple of nights in Medellin.
Had you been before?
I'd been to Colombia but this was the first time in Los Llanos, which was the focus of this trip.
If so, any notable differences?
Colombia has really opened up to tourism in recent years, with areas that were previously off limits to locals and tourists alike now on the map. The ever popular cities of Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota are as vibrant as ever, and the people are just as friendly and welcoming.
Which was your favourite:
Place: Easily Los Llanos, specifically my hammock by the water from which I watched a family of capybara, the youngsters dashing around!
Hotel: Encanto de Guanapalo Reserve – a group of three hatos (essentially farmhouses) in the middle of this vast expanse of savannah and wetlands. The accommodation is basic but has everything you need to enjoy the outdoors and have an amazingly authentic experience, not only in terms of wildlife watching but also the local Llanero culture. The families who own and live on these working farms offer a very warm welcome into their homes. They've also got a fantastic vision for how tourism can benefit the local area by supporting wildlife and cultural conservation efforts.
Excursion: The 4x4 jeep safari was an afternoon of (slightly bone rattling) fun and amazing sightings of birds and wildlife. The scenery as the sun set over the water was just beautiful.
What was your most memorable moment?
During a quick spot of river fishing we turned around to see a giant male anteater casually strolling by about 20 metres from us. We downed our rods and quickly manoeuvred ourselves downwind from him so he wouldn’t pick up our scent and be scared off. Incredibly, he came within about 3 metres of our small group and seemed to be completely oblivious of us being there - they've got a great sense of smell but poor eyesight.
Were there any surprises along the way?
During one heavy rain storm our tractor (yes, tractor) got stuck in the mud so we continued on foot to the breeding area of dozens of roseate spoonbills. It had been glorious sunshine when we set out so it was a reminder to always wear the provided wellington boots and to keep your rain poncho with you!
What tips do you have for travellers wanting to visit the same destinations?
The best time for wildlife sightings is the dry season from December to April, though temperatures will soar into the 40s at that time of year.
How does Los Llanos compare overall to the BRAZILIAN Pantanal?
For one thing, Los Llanos' dry season is the inverse of the Pantanal's, making it a great place to visit if that's when you're travelling.
Even though I visited both in the shoulder season, I would say I preferred Los Llanos since it feels much more untouched and authentic - to be sure, accommodation is generally far more rustic, so it might not suit everyone. It might have been my luck, but I also saw more birds and mammals in Los Llanos than the Pantanal.
Is there anything indispensible to pack or prepare for?
In Los Llanos you should be prepared to be outside and pretty much at the mercy of the elements for the duration of your stay. The simple yet comfortable accommodation will of course offer shelter from the odd tropical rainstorm that rolls in, but affords little relief from the heat and humidity, even with the overhead fans whirring!
In the heat of the middle of the day, activities stop for a few hours so the best bet is just to find a hammock in the breeziest spot you can and enjoy an ice cold Gaurapo (sugar cane and lime juice) while watching the world go by.
Any local snacks, dishes or drinks that should be sampled?
Sun-dried beef jerky is a staple of Llanero cuisine, and is usually followed by a tasty bocadillo con queso (guava paste and cheese) for dessert.
Sum up your trip in a sentence?
One of the best wildlife experiences I’ve had and probably the best cultural experience in terms of its authenticity and lasting impact.
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Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
Millie Davies - Travel Expert
Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.
Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert
Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.