The Tamá National Natural Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Natural Tamá) is a national park located in the Andean Region of Colombia, between the municipalities Toledo and Herrán, in the Norte de Santander Department
The Tama National Natural Park is characterised by a natural wealth whose countless breathtaking beauty spots overwhelm visitors: a wide variety of fauna, luxuriant flora, an abundance of rivers, waterfalls and lakes, and a variety of climates typical of the Andean mountains, with their mist-enshrouded trees.
One of the area’s greatest blessings is the fact that around 70% has never been touched or exploited by man, hence its wealth of both fauna and flora species. The Park is a binational conservation unit that comprises complete, complex ecosystems, thereby constituting an ecological continuum that fosters the protection of and interaction between all the natural resources present in both protected areas. Unification of criteria and the design of common strategies facilitate liaison in the management of these areas, thereby fomenting international agreements and strengthening bilateral links. The main ecosystems include the high Andean forest, the Andean forest, the pAramo and the warm rainforest.
One of the Park’s main attractions is its wealth of water resources. For example, it contains a great number of waterfalls, some of which figure among the highest in the world, of rivers and of rivulets. The Park’ hydro-graphical network, which drains off towards the Maracaibo Lake basin and the Orinoco basin watersheds, is fed by tributaries such as the La Con-quista and La Garganta rivulets and the Oeste, San Jose and Verde rivers. The western sector contains the sources of rivulets and major rivers like the Jordan, the San Lorenzo and the Talco, which correspond to the Orinoco basin and whose waters flow into the Margua River.
The Tama National Park hydric complex benefits agriculture and stock raising and feeds both district and municipal aqueducts, thereby meeting the water needs of over two million people in the states of Apure andTachira in Venezuela and in the Colombian departments of Arauca, Boyaca and Norte de Santander.
The Park’s most characteristic species is the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), a vulnerable animal in Colombia and South America. Indeed, it is the only surviving bear species native to South America and, to make matters worse, its numbers have decreased due to poaching and to the fact that the Andean forest is receding. Its range stretches along the Andean cordillera from Colombia and Venezuela to northern Argentina, where it inhabits paramos, rainforests and cloud forests. It is a nomadic species, which travels either alone or with its mate or cub (which becomes independent from its mother only after six or eight months) and may cover between 10 and 15 kilometres per day without exhausting its food supply. Its habits are diurnal and it is essentially a herbivore, feeding on a wide variety of fruit, brome-liad and palm hearts, wild honey and, occasionally, small mammals. Given its prowess as a climber, it may clamber up trees in search of fruit, to rest or to build its nest, despite its weight, which might reach up to 65 kilos in the females and 200 in the males. Its robust body is black or coffee-coloured. Its throat, chest, jaw and face are characterised by white patches, which on the face resemble a mask, hence its common name. These patches vary from individual to individual and stand out against the black, shiny fur.
For some indigenous peoples, the spectacled bear is a totem, representing the benevolent spirit of the forests. Some of their songs relate the legend of the bear that restored their freedom and was entrusted by the gods with the mission to guide them.
Besides the spectacled bear, other characteristic mammals include the otter, the sloth, the puma, the oncilla and the crab-eating fox. Prominent wildfowl species include the grey-throated warbler, the owl, the woodpecker, the hummingbird, the rusty-faced parrot, the mountain partridge, the cock-of-the-rock, the oil-bird, the Andean guan, the black guan, the Venezuelan wood quail, the yellow-winged parakeet, the toucan and the blue jay.
The southern sector of the Park is occupied almost entirely by indigenous U’was communities, who constitute one of the area’s greatest assets by virtue of everything their culture represents. Most of the inhabitants are peasant farmers who make a living from hunting, fishing, stock raising and agriculture. The predominant transitory crops are sugar cane, green onions, kidney beans, bananas, tech-nified and greenhouse tomatoes, manioc and garden vegetables such as the green bean and the paprika pepper. Toledo is important for its coffee, which is much in demand on international markets for its aroma. Indeed, it is regarded as being in a category of its own and is known as ‘special Toledo coffee’. Lastly, fruits are cultivated such as the peach, the strawberry, the passion fruit and the tamarillo or tree tomato.
- Established: 1977
- Area: 48,000 hectares
- Altitude: Between 350 and 3,450 metres above sea level
- Climate: Warm – paramo
- Average temperature: Between 5°C and and 25°C
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
- LOCATION: The Tama National Natural Park occupies the south-eastern end of Norte de Santander Department, in the Cordillera Oriental. It borders in the north with the municipality of Herran; in the south with the departments of Arauca and Boyaca; in the west with the municipality of Toledo and in die east with the Venezuelan park of the same name. Before travelling to the Park, inquire at the National Natural Parks Office about special requirements for visiting the protected area.
- HOW TO GET THERE: The place most visited in the Park is where the lookout cabins are situated, in the Orocue sector near Herran. The following routes lead there:
- 1.- From Cucuta: Approximate time: 3 hours, – Itinerary: Take the paved road to Chinacota, then take the unmade road to Herran, passing through Ragonvalia. Once there, you proceed through Venezuelan territory (a visa is needed), via the villages of Villa Paez and Betania, to Palma Sola. After a further 2 kilometres on foot, you reach the cabin.
- 2.- From Pamplona: Approximate time: 4 hours, itinerary: ronow ine loieao road tor 42 kilometres. Then take the road to Chindcota, passing through Tapata, Quebradagrande, the Mejue marsh, Iscala Sur and Iscala Norte.
- WHERE TO STAY: There is a campsite for five people, and huts with two rooms for four people each in the Orocue sector.
- WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest health centres are in Herran and Toledo.
- HOW LONG TO STAY: The time you are authorised to stay will depend on your research work plan or the specific activity you intend to engage in, with due permission from the National Natural Parks Office.
- WHEN TO GO: The best time to go is in January and February, which are the driest months. The wettest months are June and July.
WHAT TO VISIT IN THE PARK
The area is characterised by its spectacular varied landscapes and routes of special scientific, educational and recreational interest. These include the cloud forests (with their corresponding interpretive trails), the old royal roads, the Centro de Visitantes in the Orocue sector, the paramos of Banderas, Mejue, Tama and Santa Isabel, at the highest point in the Park, the Tapata thermal springs and the waterfalls of La Colorada and La Segueta, which are approximately 800 metres high.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK:
There are inner circuits that provide scbpe for the main activities, namely hiking, wild fauna and flora observation, photography and video filming and environmental research and education.
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