Located in the remote, little visited Cordillera Occidental (Western Mountains), the Tatamá Massif contains one of the world’s few remaining pristine páramos (highland moors). The topography of the mountain range is very broken, especially the jagged Cerro Tatamá (4,250 meters/13,945 feet), which is the highest point in the Cordillera Occidental. The range is highly biodiverse, with an estimated 564 species of orchids and 402 species of birds. It is also home to pumas, jaguars, and osos anteojos, the only breed of bear in Colombia. The central part of the massif is protected by the 15,900-hectare (39,300-acre) Parque Natural Nacional Tatamá.
The range is highly biodiverse, with an estimated 564 species of orchids and 402 species of birds.Access to Tatamá is through the Parque Municipal Natural Planes de San Rafael, which acts as a buffer zone on the eastern side of Tatamá near the town of Santuario, but which is an attraction in itself.
The Parque Municipal Natural Planes de San Rafael (10 km from Santuario, cell tel 311/719-1717) covers an area of 11,796 hectares (29,149 acres) of cloud forest between the altitudes of 2,000 and 2,600 meters, with significant patches of primary growth. The main activities are nature walks conducted by friendly and knowledgeable guides of a local community organization, the Asociación de Guías e Interpretes Ambientales (GAIA), many of whom got their start through participation in groups of youth bird-watchers.
Within the park there are four main paths. The shortest, called the Lluvia de Semillas (Rainfall of Seeds), allows visitors to see a forest in recuperation. It is a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) loop through land that was once used for cattle grazing and, over the past 15 years, has been slowly returning to a forest. The 9.6-kilometer (6-mile) round-trip Cascadas trail is a strenuous path to the border of the Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá at an elevation of 2,600 meters. It crisscrosses the Río San Rafael and culminates at a group of waterfalls. Along the way you can see a great variety of birds and large patches of primary forest. The hike takes 3.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down. The 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) Quebrada Risaralda hike takes six hours and can be combined into a loop with the Cascadas hike. Finally, the Laguna Encantada path is a nine-kilometer (5.5-mile) circuit that takes five hours and is especially good for bird-watching, with the possibility of viewing many hummingbirds. The best time for these hikes is early in the morning. Costs for these excursions are COP$25,000-35,000 per group of any size.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Colombia.