Cueva de los Guácharos National Park (English: Cave of the Oilbirds) is the oldest national park in Colombia. Located in the western face of the Colombian Eastern Andean Range in the departments of Huila and Caquetá.

When you visit Cave of the Oilbirds National Natural Park, you must remember that you are entering an area of such great importance for eco-tourism and for its flora and fauna that it was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1979. You must therefore refrain from touching the calcareous formations in the Park’s and/or from defacing natural elements of the landscape. Just relax and respectfully enjoy this unique environment so that we may hand its riches down to future generations.

NATURAL CHARACTERISTICS

The relief is rugged, represented by canyons, hills, caves, escarpments, gently sloping mountains and eroded valleys. Some of the rock formations are over 100 million years old and correspond to seabed sediments in the cave sector and to volcanic rock in the north-eastern part.

There are four small wetlands, of less than one hectare: one on the left bank of the Suaza River opposite El Lapiaz, also known as La Cascada; the second on the right side of the Cascajosa-Cedros trail, at the place called La Hacienda; the third in the north of the Park on the road that passes through Acevedo; and the fourth in the centre-south sector of La Argelia. However, the Park is characterised by four main ecosystems: the oak forest, the Sub-Andean forest, the Andean forest and the paramo.

Suaza River - The Guacharos Cave National Natural Park





Hydrographies

The Park´s hydrographical network comprises two large basins; tha of El Magdalena, represented by the Suaza River, which rises on the westerm slope of the Cordillera Oriental, and that of El Caqueta, which is constituted mainly by the Cano Agachado and the Quebrada La Fraguosa, the sources of the Fragua Grande River.

FLORA

The Park area is noteworthy for the presence of a substantial number of specimens of species practically on the verge of extinction in their natural environments, such as the cedar, the cumin, The cobre, the laurel, the Colombian walnut, the walnut, the white oak and the black oak, this latter first reported in the Park in 1979, on the site known as El Robledal, on the Cascajosa-Cedros trail.

Araña Pocok - The Guacharos Cave National Natural Park





FAUNA

The most prominent species is the one from which this national natural park takes its name: the guacharo or oilbird (Steatomis caripensis). It was discovered in 1799 by the German traveller and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in Caripe (Venezuela). It is a bird that inhabits deep, dark caves during the day, because its habits are nocturnal. It comes out at night to search for food, guided by an echolocation system similar to that of bats, which allows it to find its way around in the darkness. Thanks to the tactile bristles, near the bill, it feeds on the fruit of over 70 species of laurels and palms. Its body is reddish brown with bronze and copper tones and white patches. It measures up to 50 centimetres, although it has a wingspan of one metre. Besides the oilbird, the Park area is home to some 300 species of birds, among them the cock-of-the-rock and the yellow-eared parrot.

Another noteworthy aspect of the Park fauna is the fact that it includes several endemic species on the verge of extinction, like the most primitive weasel hitherto discovered, the great tinamou (the largest of it kind in Colombia) and the marsupial frog. Lastly, there are over 60 species of mammals, among them the spectacled bear, the puma, the northern pudu and five species of primates; and 50 species of butterfly.

POPULATION

There has been no human population in the Park since 1980, when the State acquired the estates bequeathed by the last 13 colonists who had settled in the area. In the XIX century, after the War of Independence, the south-east sector of Huila Department, where the Park is located, began to be settled by indigenous peoples from northern Narifio and southern Cauca. At the beginning of the 1940s, people from northern Boyaca and southern Toli-ma populated the banks of the Quebrada La Cascajosa and the River Suaza, which are now contained in the Park area.

GENERAL INFORMATION

  • Established: 1960
  • Area: 9,000 hectares
  • Altitude: : Between 1,610 metres (confluence of the Quebrada La Cascajosa and Suaza River) and 2,840 metres above sea level (Cerro Punta).
  • Climate: Temperate-cold
  • Average temperature: 16°C

Suaza River - The Guacharos Cave National Natural Park

PLANNING YOUR VISIT

  • LOCATION: The Park lies in the south-east of Huila Department (in the jurisdiction of the municipality of Acevedo) and in the south-west of Caqueta Department (in the jurisdiction of the municipality of San Jose del Fragua).
  • HOW TO GET THERE: There are two overland access routes to the Park. The main one is called the Via Pitalito and the journey lasts between 5 and 6 hours. Then branching off from this is the road from Pitalito to Palestina. As from this point, you have to take an unmade road to the Vereda La Mensura. From here you proceed to the Centro de Visitantes. Access on foot involves a certain degree of difficulty, so we suggest you hire mules in the Park vicinity,
    The other route is known as the Via Acevedo, because it covers the stretch between Neiva and Acevedo. Access is gained from the Cedros sector, in the north-east of the Park.
  • WHERE TO EAT: There is a restaurant where you may eat if you tell them in advance, Another option is to cook in the camping area, if you have brought the necessary equipment, provisions and utensils with you.
  • WHERE TO STAY: The Park offers two comfortable overnight stay options: the Andaqui visitors centre, with a capacity for 40 people, and the camping area, with room for ten tents. There is a cabin for special visitors, with room for 8 people.
  • WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: : There is no hospital in the Park area. The nearest health centre is in Palestina, approximately 5 hours away.
  • HOW LONG TO STAY: Four days and three nights should be enough.
  • WHEN TO GO:
  • HOW LONG TO STAY: Four days and three nights should be enough.

waterfall Lindosa Quebrada La Negra - The Guacharos Cave National Natural Park

WHAT TO VISIT IN THE PARK

By hiking you can gain access to and explore many of the most representative and interesting places in the area. But there are other places of eco-touristic interest such as El Robledal, the Pesebre epiphyte forest, the Punta hill, the Cristales.

Gemelas and Lindosa falls, the confluence between the Quebrada La Casca-josa and the Suaza River, the Lapiaz on the Suaza River, the Los Guacharos, Indio and El Cuadro or Chiquita caves, and the natural bridges, natural vantage points and paths.

Trail to The Guacharos Cave National Natural Park

WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK

The Park has infrastructures that foster scientific research, environmental education and eco-tourism and providescope for other activities such as potholing, photography and video filming, However, the main activity is hiking, which allows you to enjoy one of the Park’s main attractions: contact with the cultural heritage and observation of the flora and fauna, mostly birds, There are up to six inner circuits:

Cascajosa – Sector Cedros:

  • Length: 3.5 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty; Moderate
  • Main attractions: A view of much of the Park area and observation of the Sub-Andean and Andean forest (white and black oak) fauna and flora.

Sector Cedros – Cuevas del Indio and Guacharos:

  • Length: 1.2 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Main attractions: observation of fauna (the baboon spider and oilbirds in their natural habitat) and calcareous stalactite, stalagmite and stalagnate (column) formations.

Sector Cedros – Quebrada Cristales:

  • Length: 1.2 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Main attractions: Observation of the fauna and flora representative of the Andean forest; visiting the El Hoyo and El Cuadro caves, therapeutic bathing in the Cristales falls and potholing.

Sector Cedros – Cascada Lindosa:

  • Length: 23 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Main attractions: Walking on the beaches of the Suaza River, therapeutic bathing in the waterfalls and, above all, observation of the Andean forest with species like the laurel and the Spanish cedar.

Sector Cedros – Cerro Punta:

  • Length: 8 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Main attractions: hiking, photography, observing the fauna and flora characteristic of the sub-paramo and views of the Amazonian foothills.

Sector Cedros – Quebrada Negra:

  • Length: 3 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Main attractions: The Quebrada Negra falls and the El Pesebre plant community.

Sector Cedros – Cascada Las Gemelas:

  • Length: 4.5 kilometres
  • Degree of difficulty: High
  • Main attractions: Observing the Andean forest fauna and the Las Gemelas waterfall.



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