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Discover Colombia’s Top 9 Jaguar Hotspots

Orinoquia Jaguar in Ocarros Biopark Villavicencio Meta Colombia

Updated on 06/04/2024

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I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

Did you know that the jaguar is officially the largest feline in the Americas and the third largest in the world, only surpassed by the tiger and the lion? This feline inhabits a large part of Colombia and in this blog you will learn about the places where it is protected and you will be able to see it face to face.

Where to Watch Jaguars in Colombia

The jaguar inhabits nearly all Colombian territory, from the northern Caribbean coasts through the Pacific coast and the Eastern Plains, to the forests in the southernmost part of the country, the Amazon.

If you want to see the jaguar in its natural habitat, it’s no easy task. It’s a very elusive and solitary animal, living in dense and humid jungle areas. Additionally, its population has decreased due to deforestation and illegal hunting by humans.

However, don’t lose hope, because there are some places in Colombia where you can have the opportunity to spot this feline, or at least follow its trail.

Below, I present to you some natural reserves where conservation efforts for the jaguar are carried out.

Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park

Location: Within the jurisdictions of La Macarena, Mesetas, Vistahermosa, and San Juan de Arama, in the department of Meta, about 136 miles from Bogotá.

Access: There is an entrance fee to the park.

Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park is an isolated mountain range and a meeting point for the Andean, Amazonian, and Orinoco natural ecosystems, giving it a unique richness in flora and fauna.

In fact, it is the favorite scenic destination for tourists in the Meta region.

Here you will find some spots where you may be lucky enough to spot the jaguar, usually near the rivers of the area such as the Duda River, Lozada River, or Guaviare River.

Services and activities

  • Camping area.
  • Petroglyphs.
  • Hiking.
  • Photography and videos.
  • Wildlife observation.
  • Geological observation.

How to get there?

From Bogotá, take the Bogotá-Villavicencio-Granada road, where the park’s administrative headquarters is. Once in Granada, continue to the municipality of San Juan de Arama.

When you reach the traffic signal “Y” you must take the detour to the municipality of Mesetas (about 4,3 miles approx.), to take the Curia trail and finally turn off onto the path that leads to the Cerrillo sector, about 1,8 miles away, where you will find the administrative headquarters.

If you have any doubts, we invite you to visit the Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park for more information.

Farallones de Cali National Natural Park

Location: Valle del Cauca department, approximately 7,4 miles from Cali, near the municipalities of Dagua, Jamundí, and Buenaventura.

Access: There is an entrance fee to the park.

Farallones de Cali National Natural Park is the largest protected area in Valle del Cauca. It consists of the youngest rock formations in the entire Andes mountain range.

It is home to over 100 species of trees and exotic plants. It is a crucial ecological point, as it feeds 30 rivers on which several communities depend and generates hydroelectric energy for the country.

But the most exciting part is jaguar sighting. This feline plays a crucial role in the ecosystem balance of this park.

You can mainly find this feline in the low and humid areas of the park, so we advise you to go accompanied by a local guide to increase the chances of seeing the jaguar.

Services and activities

  • Local guides with interpretation services.
  • Flora and fauna observation.
  • Environmental education research.
  • Hiking.

How to get there?

  • To reach Pico de Loro in the Park, if you are using public transportation, you should take a bus from the company “Recreativos” from the Cali terminal to Pance, and from there, walk to El Topacio.
  • If you prefer to go by your own car, from San Buenaventura University, follow the Cali-Pance road until La Vorágine and then take the dirt road to El Topacio.

If you need more information, you can contact directly with Farallones de Cali Natural Park.

Amacayacu National Natural Park

Location: Within the Colombian Amazon region near the Amazon River in the so-called “Amazonian Trapezoid” between the border with Brazil and Peru, 37,2 miles from Leticia, the capital and nearest city.

Access: There is an entrance fee.

Amacayacu National Natural Park is a protected park aimed at preserving all species that inhabit the Amazon rainforest. It is one of the oldest and most biodiverse treasures in Colombia.

Its name in Quechua “river of hammocks,” already welcomes you to a special place. If you want to find jaguars, I recommend visiting the tropical humid forest, which is located between 100 and 300 meters above sea level.

In this area of the Amazon, you can find this feline in greater numbers. There are more chances of encountering one easily, much more than in other places in the country, alongside the titi leoncito, the smallest primate in the world! You will also enjoy night walks.

Services and activities

  • Hammock accommodation.
  • Food.
  • Transport.
  • Guided tours and environmental interpretation.
  • Tours on land and water trails.
  • Craft workshops.
  • Cultural demonstrations (dances, songs, games, etc.).

How to get there?

  • You must arrive in Leticia, which has an international airport, then from the port, take the Amazon River to the Matamatá creek, approximately a two-hour boat trip. It is the only available route.
  • You can also arrive by seaplane over the Cotuché River.

If you wish to contact the park, visit Amacayacu National Natural Park and request more information.

La Cordillera de los Picachos National Natural Park

Location: Between the departments of Caquetá, Huila, and Meta, about 124 miles from Neiva and 95 miles from Florencia.

Access: Admission to this park is free. However, you must hire the services of a tourist guide to access the trails in the protected area.

Contact: [email protected].

La Cordillera de los Picachos National Natural Park is a paradise with numerous ecosystems, from moors, forests, humid jungles, among others. Additionally, due to its location, it is crucial in the transition between the Andean, Amazonian, and Orinoco ecosystems.

Although the journey is long, discovering this natural wonder is worth the effort. You can track jaguar footprints and spot them on the protected ecotourism trails in the western sector, in the Pato River basin.

Services and activities

  • Accommodation.
  • Transportation and luggage porting.
  • Hiking.
  • Wildlife watching.
  • Landscaping.
  • Photography and non-commercial video creation.

How to get there?

  • By air: From Bogotá, SATENA takes you directly to San Vicente del Caguán airport on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Then, 65 miles by vehicle to Guayabal, the gateway to the 3 tourist attractions of the National Park, where certified guides await you.
  • By land: Depart from Neiva in Huila and in 5 hours cross 58 miles of road until you reach Guayabal (San Vicente del Caguán). From there, follow the marked routes to the 3 tourist attractions of the park, always with the support of an environmental guide.

For more information, visit Cordillera de Los Picachos Natural Park.

El Hato la Aurora – Llanero Safari

Location: Between the municipalities of Paz de Ariporo and Hato Corozal in the department of Casanare, about 80.7 miles from Yopal.

Access: Admission is charged.

Hato la Aurora is the most biodiverse spot in the Orinoquia region of Colombia. This is possibly the only place in Colombia where you can go on a safari where you will be able to spot a jaguar. It is the habitat of this feline and the idea is to look for it in the Colombian plains.

The idea is to look for it in the Colombian plains, as it is the habitat of this feline. You can choose to do the tour by bicycle or in a jeep accompanied by a guide and other tourists. The landscape will be accompanied by other wild species such as the puma, the ocelot, the capybara, and more species from the region.

We recommend that you make this journey in summer, as otherwise, there may be floods or puddles that hinder access to these places.

Services and activities

  • Wildlife observation.
  • Getting to know and participating in the lives of Eastern Plains farmers.
  • Exploration in remote territories.
  • Interacting with local cultures.
  • River navigation.
  • Transportation in 4×4 vehicles and by boat within Hato.
  • Accommodation for 3 days, 2 nights in Ecolodge Juan Solito in Hato La Aurora for 1, 2, 3, or more people.
  • Food.
  • Specialized local guides.
  • Guidance orientation from Bogotá (only for groups of 10 people or more).
  • Horses for horseback riding.

How to get there?

From Yopal, the capital of Casanare, you must go by land, take a taxi or a vehicle from the transport terminal to the El Hato la Aurora reserve, approximately 5 and a half hours of travel along a dirt road.

For more information, visit the official page of the natural reserve.

ProAves El Jaguar Reserve

Location: On the Guaviare River, 20 minutes from the town of Mapiripán, in the Meta Department, about 330 kilometers from Villavicencio.

Access: Admission is charged.

ProAves Reserve is a protected reserve that conserves the biodiversity of Meta and much of the Colombian Orinoco region.

The Jaguar is one of the key species in this place, being one of the few places where it can be observed in its natural environment thanks to the monitoring with camera traps carried out by the foundation.

In 2019, the image of a male jaguar was captured in the reserve, which went viral on the internet.

This demonstrates the importance of conserving this species in this place. Since then, tourism to this reserve has increased significantly due to the sighting of this feline.

Services and activities

  • Observation of endemic birds, mammals, and wildlife.
  • Trails and rest areas.
  • Comfortable room accommodation.
  • Water, coffee, and tea station.

How to get there?

  • By river route: Board a boat in San José del Guaviare at 6 a.m. on Fridays. In 2 hours, you will arrive directly at the ProAves El Jaguar Reserve. Ask the driver to leave you there!
  • By land route: If you prefer land, take a bus from Flota la Macarena from Villavicencio at the transport terminal to Mapiripán. They depart every day at 6 a.m. An 8-hour journey awaits you, while you enjoy the llanos landscapes!

You can take a look at what the Jaguar ProAves Reserve has to offer.

Macuira National Natural Park

Location: Northeast of the peninsula in La Guajira department, in the municipality of Uribia, about 155 miles from Riohacha.

Access: Entry to this park is free, although within the additional services offered by this park, they will provide you with local interpreter guides. They have an additional cost.

Macuira National Natural Park is a protected natural reserve by native Wayuu indigenous communities, a mountainous ecosystem characterized by its flora and fauna adapted to arid conditions, where you will find caves and rock formations.

Of course, jaguars have adapted to this environment, so it is possible to see them, as they surround much of the Macuira mountain range in the dry forests and savannas.

Services and activities

  • Camping areas.
  • Accommodation areas with Wayuu hammocks.
  • Food services.
  • Wildlife observation.
  • Ecological walks and hiking.
  • Environmental education.

How to get there?

From the city of Riohacha, take a vehicle to Uribia, the journey takes approximately an hour and a half. Then, take another vehicle that takes you directly to the park, the journey takes between 8 and 9 hours by road. Get ready because on the way there are incredible views!

If you need more information to carry out ecotourism, you can consult the official page.

Tuparro National Natural Park

Location: In the Eastern Plains of the Vichada department, within the jurisdiction of Puerto Carreño.

Access: Admission is charged.

Tuparro National Natural Park is an immense savannah surrounded by mighty rivers, crystalline streams, huge rocks, and golden beaches, in other words, you will find a reserve with the authentic natural beauty of the Colombian Orinoco.

You can spot jaguars in the forests, in the flooded savannas, and on the banks of the Orinoco, Tomo, and Tuparro rivers that border the park.

Services and activities

  • Accommodation.
  • Transportation service.
  • Restaurant.
  • Interpretation.
  • Hiking.
  • Wildlife observation.
  • Recreational and passive baths in natural wells in the area.
  • Canoeing or Kayaking.

The aforementioned services are offered by the tourist operator, but not by the park itself.

How to get there?

From January to April (summer season): Bogotá- Yopal- Paz de Ariporo – La Hermosa route. From La Hermosa, take a plank or ferry to the La Primavera municipality, then continue to Puerto Carreño.

From May to November (rainy season): From Bogotá to Puerto Carreño, you can take the Bogotá – Villavicencio- Puerto Gaitán route (1-day trip), from there you have the option of continuing the journey via river to Puerto Carreño through the Meta River, about 12 hours of travel.

And once you arrive in Puerto Carreño?

Take a vehicle to the municipality of Causarito, where you will take a boat across the Orinoco River in Venezuela to Puerto Ayacucho. There you will find boats that will take you to the mouth of the Tomo River. From there it is only a few minutes walk to the administrative center, which serves as the entrance to the park.

Visit the official page for more information.

Tatamá National Natural Park

Location: The entrance to the protected area is only enabled through the Montebello sector, in the municipality of Pueblo Rico, in the Risaralda department, 43 miles from Pereira and 56 miles from Manizales.

Access: Entry to the park is free. To visit this park, you must make a reservation at least 5 days before going, writing an email to: [email protected]

Tatamá National Natural Park is a practically virgin park, and if today it is considered the best-preserved natural park in the country, it is because it remains unknown to the public.

Some say that the name of the park means “the highest land,” but others say it means “the grandparents of the rivers,” and it currently has a high level of scientific interest. Jaguars in this place inhabit most of the forests in this park. Walks are usually done on a bike route or on foot.

Services and activities

  • Bird watching.
  • Activities on a bike path along the trail.
  • It does not have infrastructure for lodging, still, you can camp in predetermined ecological areas.

How to get there?

  • From Pereira and Manizales, which are the nearest cities, you must take a vehicle along the road that leads to the sanctuary or to the Los Planes de San Rafael settlement.
  • Once there, head along a road that passes by the Ministry of the Environment cabin, between 1 and 2 hours approx.
  • Then drive to the paramo region approximately 7 hours.

You can visit the official page for more information.

9 Fascinating Facts About Jaguars

  • They’re the kings of the American jungle. On average, they weigh between 65 and 140 kilograms, with some males reaching up to 148 kilograms. They live for 12 to 15 years in the wild.
  • The jaguar boasts the most powerful jaws of all felines and can pierce a turtle’s shell with its fangs.
  • The spots on a jaguar function like human fingerprints—they’re unique. Within each spot lies a smaller one, distinguishing it from the leopard.
  • Jaguars can inhabit various ecosystems and easily adapt to forests, arid areas, and savannas, but they prefer tropical jungles where water and prey are abundant.
  • As an umbrella species, protecting jaguars preserves the habitat of other species that share its home. They’re the top predators in the chain and regulate the populations of other animals.
  • These felines are particularly cunning; they always attack from behind and, like many predators, aim to incapacitate their prey with a single bite to the neck.
  • Jaguar cubs are born blind and take up to 2 years to become independent from their mothers. They are carnivores, with a diet ranging from rodents to sea turtles.
  • Jaguars don’t chase their prey; instead, they stealthily stalk them before attacking. They can leap up to five meters and swim quite adeptly.
  • They need to consume over 30 kilograms of meat per day, meaning they have to hunt daily.

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About Author

Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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