The “El mono Hernández” Cork Forest Flora and Fauna Sanctuary (Spanish: Santuario de Fauna y Flora El Corchal “El mono Hernández”) is a natural monument located in the Sucre and Bolívar Departments on the coast of the Caribbean Region of Colombia.
The El Corchal ‘El Mono Hernandez’ Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Spanish: Santuario de Fauna y Flora El Corchal “El mono Hernández”) is named, as a token of homage, after Jorge Ignacio Hernandez Camacho (1935-2001), a Colombian naturalist known as ‘El Sabio’ (The Wise Man) or, simply, ‘El Mono Hernandez’ (Hernandez the Monkey).
The main ecosystems of El Corchal consist of fern and marsh vegetation and, above all, of great extensions of mangrove forest and cork marsh forests, which occupy an area of 401 hectares. The Park is of great biological importance by virtue of the fact that in its interior around 1,961 hectares of mangrove forest are protected in the east and north of the Sanctuary, where they have colonised the coastline and areas close to river banks and swamps, which constitute one of the Sanctuary’s most captivating landscapes.
The Sanctuary is also a privileged place in that it preserves one of the only representative samples of cork tree forest in the Colombian Caribbean.
The hydric system is the backbone of the ecosystems present in the protected area. This system functions in the opposite way to a conventional hydro-graphical basin in that it lies on a delta system in which tributaries do not flow into a larger river but flow out of the delta itself. In this way they give rise to a series of rivulets that together constitute a drainage network that helps distribute the water throughout the delta. This system has moulded two kinds of landscape: those likely to be flooded when the rivers and rivulets burst their banks and those which are generated by water exchange.
The hydric system is supplemented by 312 hectares of coastal lagoons, mangrove and river swamps distributed throughout the length and breadth of the Sanctuary, and 211 hectares of mangrove and freshwater rivulets.
We may observe five species of mangrove registered for the Colombian Caribbean: the white mangrove, the red mangrove, the tea mangrove, the black mangrove and the button mangrove. Also noteworthy is the cork tree and a wide variety of water and floating plants.
The Sanctuary is practically the only well preserved forest reserve in the entire Canal del Dique territory. By virtue of this, as well as of strict control, wild fauna populations and their habitats are safe here. It is an area that requires protection, because for many years several species of reptiles were intensively hunted for human consumption -like some species of turtle and iguanas, for their eggs- or for their skin, as in the case of the American crocodile, which is one of the most heavily exploited local species in this sense.
The cotton top tamarin is the most important monkey species in the Sanctuary, since it is catalogued as being on the verge of extinction, mainly due to destruction of its habitat. Lastly, the area serves as both the permanent residence and stopover for a great number of wildfowl species (153 have so far been registered) associated with wetlands.
In the Sanctuary area there are three groups of peasant-farming communities located in the corregimientos of Boca-cerrada, Labarce and San Antonio.
- Established: 2002
- Area: 3,850 hectares
- Altitude: Between 0 and 2 metres above sea level
- Climate: Warm tropical
- Average temperature: 27.6°C
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
- LOCATION: The protected area is in north-east Colombia, on the Caribbean coast, specifically at the end of the alluvial plain on the artificial stretch of the Magdalena River, known as the Canal del Dique. It lies in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Arjona (Bolivar) and San Onofre (Sucre). Be- I fore going there, you would be advised to consult the National Natural Parks Office as to requirements for visiting the protected area.
The river route: There are no serious navigation problems at any time of year.
- Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes, on an outboard motor launch.
- Departure point: The port of Gambote (Bolivar).
- Itinerary: You take the Canal del Dique as far as Santa Helena. There you follow the Co- I rrea River to the port of San Antonio (Sucre), Continuing along the same river and ente-ring the Cano Negro mouth, you reach Labarce (Sucre), where you gain access to the protected area.
The river-sea route:
- Duration: Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes on outboard motor launch.
- Departure point: Cartagena (the La Bodeguita jetty or private marinas).
- Itinerary: Travel east until you come to the mouth of the Canal del Dique, which you enter until you come to the bay of Barbacoas. From here you continue south-east, crossing the cay as- far as Punta de Barbacoas and Bocacerrada (Sucre), where there is an entrance to the protected area.
The sea route:
- Duration: Approximately 2 hours, 15 minutes on outboard motor launch.
- Departure point: Cartagena (the La Bodeguita wharf or private marinas), Bocagrande or Bocachica.
- Itinerary: Travel south-west until you reach the village of Barbacoas, where you veer southeast until you come to the corregimiento of Bocacerrada (Sucre), north-west of the Sanctuary, where you enter the protected area.
Overland route 1:
- Duration: Approximately 2 hours in 4×4
- Departure point: Cartagena.
- Itinerary: Take the main Caribbean paved highway to Sincelejo until you reach La Curva de Viso, then Florido and finally Labarce on the unmade road that leads to Retiro Nuevo. The unmade road stretch presents serious problems during the rainy seasons.
Overland route 2:
- Duration: Approximately 2 hours in 4×4.
- Departure point: San Onofre (Sucre).
- Itinerary: Take the unmade north road to Libertad until you reach Labarce.
- WHERETO EAT: Typical dishes are served in the corregimiento of Bocacerrada (Sucre).
- WHERE TO STAY: There is no accommodation available in the Sanctuary area.
- WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest hospital is in Cartagena
- HOW LONG TO STAY: Due to the lack of accommodation, it is advisable to arrive first thing in the morning in order to have enough time to complete the visit in a single day. In this way, it will be possible to perfectly enjoy the Sanctuary experience and return at around 3 pm on the same day. WHEN TO GO: To avoid the rains, it is advisable to visit the Sanctuary between mid-December and mid-April. Rains are abundant during the rest of the year, except for the period known as the ‘Vera-nillo de San Juan’, in June and July, when rainfall decreases significantly.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK
The Sanctuary provides scope for the following main activities:
- Hiking: There are inner signposted trails that allow you to explore the mangrove swamps. These routes are ideal for photography and video enthusiasts or bird-watchers. You may also hike in the marshy areas that characterise the mangrove and cork forests, although this activity is restricted to the summer months, For hiking in the swampy areas, we recommend that you wear waders.
- Canoeing: You may observe the flora and fauna associated with the ecosystems present in the area, especially wildfowl, which is particularly abundant.
- Fishing: You may manage to get the local people to let you accompany them as they fish. This is an ideal way to make direct contact with this practice, characteristic of the region’s inhabitants.
- Environmental research and education activities.
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