When I mentioned that I was going to Colombia again, several people seemed surprised and replied asking whether it was safe to do so. They were automatically associating Colombia with the drug trade, kidnapping and guerrilla groups such as FARC. Understandable maybe given the country’s troubled history but it’s definitely an out-dated view. Whilst it’s true that there are still some parts of the country that are best avoided and that these problems have not gone away entirely, the last ten years have seen the situation improve considerably.
The only risk is wanting to stay. This slogan currently being used to promote tourism in Colombia acknowledges the concerns that people still have about security and safety issues. For me, however, there is another risk: the risk that having been once to this wonderful country, you will want to return at every opportunity!
Colombia is located in the north of South America, straddling the Equator, and has borders with Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Panama and Brazil. It is dominated by the Andes mountain range and also includes parts of the Amazon and Orinoco River Basins. The scenery is stunning and diverse – snow-capped peaks, glaciers, tropical rainforest, 600 miles of coastline and more.
The people are friendly and hospitable, there is good quality accommodation and food.
And, of course, Colombia has more bird species than any other country in the world! The actual total is a regularly changing number as a result of taxonomic studies and the occasional new discovery, but it currently stands at around 1,880. For the travelling birder it really is the must-visit destination.
And so I had no hesitation in accepting an invitation from PROEXPORT COLOMBIA, the country's tourism agency, to travel to the capital city, Bogotá, for Colombia Travel Mart 2011. This is a business trip but then our business is birding so it has included several days before the main event when I have been able to see several reserve areas and lots of birds and to meet several of the country’s top birding guides.
My companions on this trip have been Byron Palacios, originally from Ecuador but now based in the UK, and Jim Wittenberger and Laura Fellows from Colorado, USA. Throughout we were accompanied by locally-based birding guide, Diana Balcázar.
I am still in Bogotá but more details of my trip will follow soon on my return to Europe...
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