The Los Llanos region in Colombia is a vast area of open prairies, active cattle ranches, and meandering wetlands that link the Amazon to the Andes. They are some of the world’s richest tropical grasslands and are home to an incredible diversity of birds including jabiru storks, scarlet ibises, roseate spoonbills, and burrowing owls. They also support a huge range of animals including anaconda, jaguar, howler monkeys, giant anteater, capybara, caiman. Los Llanos are also only one of two places where you can find the critically endangered Orinoco crocodile. The most biodiverse area is the department of Casanare. This area is accessible via flight or bus from Bogota to the city of Yopal – the central hub for organising tours through the region. This is a new and exciting area for wildlife tourism as much of the region has previously been off limits due to violence and instability. People venturing out here can expect a true ‘off the beaten track’ adventure!
Average rating: 5.0 (very good)
Average spend per person: $490 ($490 – $490)
Number of reports: 1
Best time to visit: December – March
Typical activities: 4×4 safari, animal watching, bird watching, boat trip, horse riding, jungle trek
Wildlife in Los Llanos
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here are as follows:
Burrowing owl – 100% of visitors (1/1) reported sightings
The open landscapes of Los Llanos are a great place to spot burrowing owls. These distinctive birds nest and roost in burrows excavated by foxes and other animals. They can be found in grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts, and pretty much any other dry open area with low lying vegetation. Tours to Casanare can be organised from Yopal – the capital of the region. Most tours can pretty much guarantee close up sightings of these unusual yellow-eyed creatures! WildSide recommends Adventur EcoTours as a great outfit that can help to organise a trip in this area.
Caiman – 100% of visitors (1/1) reported sightings
Spectacled caimans are a common sight in the vast wetland areas of Los Llanos. Particularly in the more biodiverse department of Casanare. Tours arranged by Adventur EcoTours can pretty much guarantee plenty of caiman sightings. Some tours even include caiman feeding activities. A great way to spot them is to take a trip out on the river at night and shine a torch along the banks. When exposed to light caiman eyes gleam a shining red – creating an unforgettably eerie experience.
Capybara – 100% of visitors (1/1) reported sightings
Undoubtedly a highlight of any trip to Los Llanos are the sightings of hundreds of the world’s largest rodent! Capybaras roam the open prairies in groups of eight to forty – and sometimes much larger. They love water, wet savannas, and flooded prairies and are excellent swimmers. So Los Llanos provides the perfect habitat for them. Most tours pretty much guarantee sightings and will get you up in amongst the herds. WildSide recommends heading to Eco Lodge San Juanito located in the north-east area of Hato La Aurora. It is a great base for safaris into the plains by boat, horseback, on foot, or in a 4×4.
Giant anteater – 100% of visitors (1/1) reported sightings
Giant anteaters can be found in Los Llanos roaming across large open territories looking for termite nests. The best place to see giant anteaters is the Hato La Aurora Reserve in the north east of Casanare. They have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. So stay downwind and move quietly and you can get quite close to these giants. One of our most memorable encounters in the whole of South America was watching huge clouds of spoonbills and ibises starting to roost around a lake as dusk began to fall. When all of a sudden a huge anteater ambled past our jeep – completely unruffled by our excitement!
Green anaconda – 0% of visitors (0/1) reported sightings
Compared to the dense vegetation of the tropical rainforests, the open wetlands of Los Llanos are (in theory at least) a much easier place to spot these giant snakes. The best time to look for them is the dry season (December to March). During this time there is less water for the anadoncdas to hide in and move through. However, sightings are not by any means guaranteed. If you don’t manage to see one it’s still a distinctly memorable experience to be up at dawn wading through a swamp and nosing about with a stick to try and find the world’s largest snake!
Howler monkey – 100% of visitors (1/1) reported sightings
While Los Llanos is mostly characterised by open grasslands and wetlands, there are areas of tropical forest which are home to howler monkeys. There are good chances of seeing and even better chances of hearing them when staying in the area. Waking up to their booming calls as the dawn breaks is an unforgettable experience! They are less active than other monkeys so can easily be overlooked. Look out for reddish balls in the treetops when hiking through the forest.
Jaguar – 0% of visitors (0/1) reported sightings
Despite the widespread cattle ranching in Los Llanos, jaguars are present and populations are relatively healthy. Population densities are estimated at around 1.1 to 2.2 jaguars per 100 km2. This is less than in the more typical tropical rainforest habitat (see Madre de Dios) and the less human dominated wetland habitats of the Pantanal. The best place for spotting jaguars is the Hato La Aurora reserve in the northern area of Casanare. The population in this area is estimated at round 27 individuals. The global conservation charity Panthera is running a camera trapping project in this area as part of their Jaguar Corridor Initiative. Even if you don’t get to see one during your trip, tours run from Eco Lodge San Juanito include a talk from the researchers at Panthera about their work. As well as a look at some of the great shots of nearby jaguars taken by their camera traps.
Orinoco crocodile – 0% of visitors (0/1) reported sightings
Los Llanos in Colombia is one of only two areas in the world where these critically endangered reptiles can be seen in the wild. The other being the neighbouring area in Venezuela. The Hato La Aurora Reserve in Casanare is one of the best areas for supporting these animals – although sightings are rare. There is also a breeding and reintroduction centre for Orinico crocodiles – Wisirare Park – where you can see them up close. The Park lies roughly half-an-hour along a dirt road from the town of Orocue. Orocue can can be reached by bus from Yopal or by boat along the Meta River from Puerto Gaitan in Meta.