The Ensenada de Utria Natural National Park is located in the Choco region, on the Pacific Coast in Colombia
The Botanical Garden of the Pacific in Bahía Solano contains 420 acres where visitors can walk along trails to learn about the characteristic plants of Chocó.
Few places are simultaneously as mysterious and as beautiful as the Gulf of Utría. To the south, the visitor sees a series of mountain chains covered in exuberant tropical jungle, veiled in mist and cutting off the sea. The calm, warm waters make this an ideal place for the arrival of migratory species like birds and whales, and the perfect spot for fish like the Pacific needlefish to spawn.
Utria National Park (Parque Nacional Natural Utría) includes four of the world’s most productive, but also most fragile ecosystems: coral reefs, mangroves, tropical rainforest and marine. Other ecosystems present in the area include cliffs, estuaries and beaches. The tropical rainforest of the protected area is in good condition, which means that it offers a continuity of ecosystems and enjoys territorial integrity provided by the Reserve and the National Natural Park.
The Park forms part of the bio-geographical province of El Choco, a world high-priority conservation area due to its biodiversity and endemism, and for this reason it is considered a National Heritage area.
The Park contains the sources of the rivers Boroboro, Jurubida, Baudo, Chor and Bojaya, which drains into the Baudo basin and includes the tributary rivers Condoto and Condotico. The Mundúquera creek also flows through the Park into the Pacific at its southern end.
The Park has seven of the mangrove species found in the Colombian Pacific, the majority of which are adapted to natural stresses but have also suffered serious impacts and damage at the hands of man. The mangrove tree may grow to a height of 15 metres.
The trees found at Utría also in timber species like mahogany (a tree which is representative of the DePartment of Choco), nispero (Manilka-ra huberi) and aniba. The Utrfa forest is very dense, and visitors can easily find trees growing to over one metre in diameter and 45 or more in height. Fhlms also grow in the area.
Utría is a birthing place where Pacific whales come to have their calves in the calm waters of the Gulf. Humpback whales are sighted annually in the area, arriving punctually each year. An enormous variety and abundance of fish and turtles is also found in the Gulf, like the Pacific ridley sea turtle, the Galapagos sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle.
The Utría National Natural Park is home to ding marmosets, white-headed capuchin, common opossum, pacaranas, oncillas, deer, wild pigs, foxes and sloths. There are also many reptiles, including venomous and nonvenomous snakes and other endemic species like poison frogs. A notable crustacean is the red ghost crab, which makes small pellets of sand filled with water. Visitors to the Park will find these as they stroll on the beaches.
80% of the protected area is overlap ped by three recognised indigenous reserves of the Embera people. In it hinterland there are Afro-Colombian communities of farmers and fishermen who inhabit the municipalities of Bahfa Solano and Nuquí.
- Established: 1987
- 54,300 hectares including sea and mainland
- Altitude: between 0 and 1,400 metres above sea level
- Climate: Warm and wet
- Average temperature: Between 23°C and 30°C
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
- LOCATION: The Utria National Natural Park is located in Choco Department on the north Pacific coast of Colombia in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Alto Baudo, Bojaya, Nuquí and Bahia Solano.
- HOWTO GET THERE: There are three different routes:
- 1.- By air: Visitors can fly to Bahia Solano or Nuquf from Bogota and Cali (with stopover in Medellin)
- 2.- By sea: Visitors can take a boat from Buenaventura to Bahia Solano (26 hours) and from there go on to the Park by launch (50 minutes). There is also a boat from Buenaventura to Nuquí (approximately 26 hours and a further 50 minutes to the Park by launch), The Park can also be reached by launch from El Valle (30 minutes). Passage should be arranged in advance with local tour operators. The cost will vary depending on the number of passengers.
- 3.- Overland route: The Park may be reached overland from Bahia Solano, first reaching the corregimiento of El Valle, on a tropical rainforest trail. The journey takes approximately 3 hours.
- WHERE TO STAY: The Park has a cabin-type visitors’ centre with rooms with private bath, with total room for 31 people, run by the local community, which provides accommodation and restaurant services and organises eco-tourism activities through the association Mano Cambiada. Bookings should be made through this association, Hotel and restaurant services are available in the district of El Valle and the municipality of Nuqui.
- WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The nearest hospitals are in Nuqui and Bahia Solano.
- WHERE TO EAT: A typical local dish is a kind of pie made of piangiia, a common mollusc found in the region, Fish like the sawfish make a flavoursome and economical meal in local towns like Nuquf and Bahia Solano. In the protected area you will also find a food service that offers visitors de-Sdous exotic dishes characteristic of the region.
- HOW LONG TO STAY: Four days and three nights.
- WHEN TO GO: Whales arrive in the second half of the year, Visitors should note that it rains on average 300 days each year in this area, February is the driest month and October the wettest.
WHAT TO VISIT IN THE SANCTUARY:
The main attractions of the Park include the Gulf of Utria, the mangrove swamps, the Chado and El Tigre waterfalls in the district of El Valle, Other places of interest may be visited by following the interpretation trails described in the next section.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK:
Eco-tourism is the Park’s raison d’etre given its numerous, exceptional natural attractions, including the coastal and marine environment and tropical rainforest, the conservation of its ecosystems and its cultural heritage. Among other activities, visitors may enjoy hiking, diving and snorkeling, whale watching, observation of wild flora and fauna, canoeing, photography and video filming, environmental research and education and the TatsiraTrua1 interpretation centre. There are two land-based interpretation trails in the Utria Park, one,sub-aquatic trail, two diving spots and two beaches.
- Land-based trails: On these trails, visitors will have the chance to see frogs, insects, birds, snakes and mammals like the black agouti and the otter, and to observe ecosystems like lagoons, mangrove swamps, beaches, estuaries and the imposing tropical rainforest. El Valle Utria: The trail is 9,46 kilometres long with a lovy-moderate degree of difficulty. Approximate duration: two hours. Cocalito: The trail is 990 metres long and moderately difficult. Approximate duration: 50 minutes
- Sub-aquatic trail: This trail allows visitors to observe coral reefs and the fauna associated with this ecosystem, including sea bream, darters, puffer fish, groupers, conger eels and turtles, among other species
- Estero Grande: A peaceful walk on an elevated bridge 1 1 km long, from which you may observe different species of mangrove among which, at specific times of the day, several kinds of coastal seabirds abound.
- Diving Spots: Diving programmes are offered at Bahia Solano and Nuqui for those who are interested, and the necessary equipment is available for hire. Diving can also be practised at Punta Diego and Punta Esperanza
- Beaches: Playa Cocalito, Playa Blanca: this is a white sand beach, which is rare in the Pacific Ocean.
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