The Isla de la Corota Fauna and flora sanctuar an island that to this day floats in the middle of Laguna de la Cocha
The Isla de la Corota Fauna and flora sanctuary takes on a special air from the moment it is glimpsed from afar, in the first place because it is Colombia’s smallest protected area and secondly because it looks like the shell of a giant, half-submerged turtle. The island stands in the La Cocha lagoon, a place of special relevance that was declared a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.
Dark volcanic ash provides the soil for an Andean rain forest with a canopy twenty metres high, providing a very wet, cold forest ecosystem.
The La Cocha lagoon is a major hydro-graphic reserve receiving the waters of 26 streams and containing an estimated 1,554 million cubic metres of water. In turn, the lagoon feeds a hydrographic basin with an area of 22,590 hectares on the upper part of the Guamues river. The mirror of water extends 41.5 km2 and constitutes the source of the River Guamues, which flows into the River Putumayo which, in turn, flows into the Amazon.
The lagoon was created by tectonic shifts and later became filled with water from the nearby uplands. The island itself was also created by volcanic activity. The lagoon lies at an altitude of 2,760 metres, and the maximum height of the island is 2,830 metres.
The Sanctuary presents a transition ecosystem between the water and terra firma known as Totoral, which provides a habitat and refuge for waterfowl, amphibians and fish, while serving also to curb the erosion process caused by the lagoon waves. The forest is in a good state of preservation and in the process of recovery, despite human interference in the past. 382 species of flora belonging to 92 families and 204 genera have been recorded in the forest, whose successional state consists of dense secondary mature trees. The Orchidaceae and Rubiaceae families are the richest in different species, with 38 and 17 respectively.
Given the wetland conditions, wildlife is diverse. A great variety of birds inhabit the La Cocha lagoon both as residents and as migrants visiting the area.
Prominent species include the hummingbird, the yellow-billed pintail, the grey heron, the Andean gull and the lake duck. Amphibians include different species of the Pristi-mantis genus, while prominent among insects is the presence of a great number of multicoloured butterflies. Among the few mammals we find bats and field mice.
There are no human inhabitants in the area of the Sanctuary. However, a number of rural families live in its hinterland and more than 50 private reserves have been established, which provides some idea of the level of interest in the conservation of biodiversity in the region. The island is Very important to local Catholics, who make an annual pilgrimage to its small chapel to celebrate the festival of Our Lady of Lourdes.
- Established: 1977
- Area: 16 hectares (12 land hectares and 4 totoraleri)
- Altitude: Between 2,784 and 2,820 metres above sea level
- Climate: Cold
- Average temperature: 11 °C
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
- LOCATION: The Sanctuary is located in the La Cocha lagoon in the El Encano district in the municipality of Pasto.
- HOW TO GET THERE: The first part of the route, from Pasto, is by road on the Putumayo highway, turning off after 22 kilometres towards El Encano, a 40-minute drive. The river stage of the journey begins in El Encano, as far as El Puerto, from where a launch will reach the Sanctuary in around 10 minutes.
- WHERE TO STAY: Visitors can stay in one of the hotels on the banks of the La Cocha lagoon or in the hostels in El Cano, or they can reserve a private room
- WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest clinic is in El Encano and the nearest hospital in Pasto.
- WHERE TO EAT: There are restaurants offering excellent trout and salads, among other dishes, on the shores of the La Cocha lagoon and around the small harbour.
- HOW LONG TO STAY: The area can be visited in one day
- WHEN TO GO: The driest, and therefore the best, months to visit are January to March and October to December. On the other hand, the wettest period is between May and September.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK:
The Sanctuary has its own infrastructure that supports environmental education and research activities under an agreement with regional educational entities. The main activity is trekking, and the Sanctuary has established internal circuits to enhance enjoyment of the main activities of wildlife observation and birdwatching. The Sanctuary agent should be asked to provide an introductory talk on the trails, which are as follows:
El Quiche trail:
- Length: 500 metres
- Degree of difficulty: Moderate
- Description: The path crosses the island from north to south through dense forest as far as the viewpoint. Halfway along the El Quiche trail, there is a delightful stroll around El Dosel, where trees of different species grow concentrically so that the crowns form a kind of puzzle, According to the cognoscenti, the site constitutes a source of energy that has long been recognized by the indigenous people and traditional doctors of Putumayo. El Mirador, the viewpoint, lies at the end of the path, and from here the visitor may enjoy the exuberant natural environment of the La Cocha lagoon. The El Quiche trail is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
La Totora Trail:
- Length: 200 metres:
- Degree of difficulty: Low
- Description: the trail allows observation of an aquatic ecosystem and habitat for resident and migratory birds associated with lakeside and insular Andean forest. Care is needed all the way along the trail, especially with children, because the trail performs a dual function (path and landing) and on both stretches there is a handrail only on the landward side of the path, while visitors disembark on the lake side.
Sailing, photography and filming are all recommended activities, and the chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, which receives pilgrims on Sundays, is worth a visit, as is the biological station.
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