The Rio Blanco Reserve just outside Manizales is a highlight of any birding trip to Colombia. Although it sounds complicated to get there, it really isn’t but you do have to organize it in advance (details below).
We were dropped at the reserve by our guide from Jardin, Diego who communicated with the locals to get the directions here in Spanish. If you are starting in Manizales, the local taxis probably know how to get here. The gate will be locked and they only open it to people who are pre-booked. It’s a good idea to reconfirm by email a couple days ahead so they remember you are coming.
An attractive hostel is situated in rolling green countryside with spectacular views from the terrace.
This was our room which was a decent hostel style.
We arrived pretty late in the afternoon so just time enough to see a few hummers and watch the sunset. Excellent meals can be booked at the same time you make your overnight booking and you should do this as there are no other places to eat nearby.
We got an early start the next morning to bird the Rio Blanco trail. Ina was tired and stayed behind to relax and watch hummingbirds on the verandah.
The dining room has some nice informational posters and bird art (unfortunately not for sale). Take the time to learn about the amazing birds you will see here!
There is a spectacled bear in an enclosure just outside the hostel area.
HOW TO BOOK
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your names, dates and if you want a day visit or overnight accommodation. Specify if you want a guide who speaks English (costs a bit extra) or are happy with a Spanish speaker (probably Albeiro who knows the birds very well). Use Google Translate to translate into Spanish and paste this translation into the email but keep the English for your records. They will reply in Spanish and you can easily keep using Google Translate to communicate with them. You will pay on arrival in cash at the hostel.
Rates as of April 2016:
COP $ 70,000 per person (not including food). The food was reasonably priced, somewhere in the 20-30,000 COP range. Half day guided birding COP $ 30,000 for 2 people or full day $ 60,000 for two people.
We had already booked the next day in Manizales so we could have some spa time for R&R and I could organize a driver to go to the Paramo the next day. It turns out that Albeiro can organize this driver (who is familiar with the needs of birders) so we could have stayed an extra day.
Want to see the birds? Stay tuned!