Caño Cristales: Colombia’s spectacular ‘liquid rainbow’

(CNN) — Take a look at Caño Cristales for the duration of the damp or dry seasons in Colombia, and you would be forgiven for asking yourself what all the fuss is about.

Even so, journey there from July to Oct, the reasonable months between the extremes of the soaked and dry seasons, and you may witness a person of Mother Nature’s crowning glories.

The 62.1-mile-prolonged river is in Colombia’s Serranía de la Macarena national park, in the province of Meta, and is recognised as the “River of Five Hues.”

This “liquid rainbow” — as it is also known as — is 1 of the South American country’s most magnificent all-natural miracles, many thanks to its vivid colours.

The mattress of the river athletics vivid purple, yellow, eco-friendly, blue and black for the handful of months that situations are correct. Even though the colors can be considered from as early as mid-Could and occasionally into December, they are brightest for the duration of June and November.

The colors are produced all through the reproductive system of the aquatic crops in the river, which are termed Macarenia clavigera, a species of the riverweed relatives Podostemaceae.

In the course of the wet period, the river runs speedy and significant, this means the solar can’t hit the riverbed’s plants. Through the dry season, there is not adequate water to help the plants. The seasons seldom range, so guests wanting to capture sight of the spectacle have to head to the national park during all those months that the bloom is most visible.

The phenomenon comes about nowhere else in the world. The area alone is a hotspot for biodiversity, exactly where the Andes mountains and the Amazon and Orinoco basins converge — and is house to numerous endemic species.

Preserving the river

The river seemingly runs red when the riverweed is in bloom.

Thomas O’Neill/NurPhoto/Getty Photos

Prior to the pandemic, thousands of travellers flocked to see the spectacle just about every calendar year, which had lifted concerns among experts that the river may be threatened by overtourism.

Flavia Santoro, head of ProColombia, the country’s tourism board, suggests that steps experienced to be taken to guard the space — so massive was the influx of readers. The agency “severely limited enhancement” of tourism infrastructure in La Macarena, the closest little city to the nationwide park, as nicely as capping the number of vacationers permitted in at 200 per day.

There had been so several vacationers going to the location that in spite of the cap environmental authorities shut the desired destination in December 2019 to guard the river. The closure was then extended owing to the pandemic.

For 18 months, right up until its reopening in June this 12 months, Caño Cristales did not acquire a person one visitor.

The result, biologists say, has been been beneficial for the area.

Faber Ramos, a park ranger and eco-tourism coordinator in the Colombian national park system’s Orinoco area, claims the pandemic has experienced a “optimistic effect” on the river’s wellbeing and that there was now a higher presence of fauna.

At its peak, all around 15,000 vacationers have been visiting Caño Cristales for each yr, and the tourism board was projecting the amount to continue on escalating.

Colombia had been going through a good yearly expansion in travellers checking out the region, following the signing of the peace agreement with FARC guerrillas in 2016, which officially finished additional than 50 many years of civil war.

The signing saw thousands and thousands of intercontinental travellers flocking to explore the state, as very well as Colombians themselves touring to spots that had beforehand been inaccessible owing to the war — this sort of as Serranía de la Macarena nationwide park. Between 2017 and 2018 by yourself, the place saw customer figures develop by 38%.

Balancing guests and the fragile setting

A long closure to tourists during the pandemic has been beneficial to Caño Cristales.

A long closure to tourists through the pandemic has been helpful to Caño Cristales.

Thomas O’Neill/NurPhoto/Getty Visuals

The progress was vastly beneficial for the tourism industry and small towns that quickly located them selves catering to tourists’ requires for community guides, accommodation and food stuff, but proved problematic for environments that experienced lain nearly untouched for half a century.

For a long time, tourists — even Colombian kinds — stayed absent from Caño Cristales as it was in a area managed by FARC guerrillas.

“The spot is a hotspot of biodiversity,” claims Carlos Lasso, senior researcher at the Humboldt Institute, a Colombian entire body in cost of the nation’s biodiversity.

“It is in which biologic features of the Andes, Amazon and Orinoco basins converge. There are a lot of endemic species and species of restricted distribution. The location of the Serranía de la Macarena has been a put of war for a lot of years…[but now] deforestation in the region is advancing at an alarming price.”

Deforestation is just one of Colombia’s most pressing troubles, with a lot more than 40 soccer fields worth of trees logged each and every day, and the region of La Macarena is no exception.

Deforestation has an effect on the styles of rainfall, and the region has seen fewer rain, indicating the water of Caño Cristales can turn from apparent to a murky brown, which could inevitably get rid of off the Macarenia clavigera.

And as the region reopens, the challenge for Caño Cristales will be to not exceed the ecosystem’s capacity for site visitors.

“It is a difficult space to safeguard,” Lasso stated, “as it is so significantly from any metropolis.”

“Whilst the govt is doing nicely, there is constantly area for advancement,” he mentioned, incorporating that a lot more park officials ended up necessary to shield and observe the region.

New prospects

The pandemic has delivered an opportunity to scale back again the selection of website visitors, and prioritize the area’s overall health.

Lasso is pragmatic the river provides in considerably wanted income to the location and locals have experienced a massive reduction of revenue.

The recent reopening of Caño Cristales also features 10 new ecotourism trails, with rigorous working instances of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are designated swimming parts in the river. However, readers are not permitted to swim sporting sunshine lotion or bug spray, as the crops are delicate to the products’ chemicals.

The entry of single-use plastics, this sort of as bags, bottles, straws, containers, plates and cutlery is also prohibited.

Tourism officers boost environmentally concentrated lodging, such as the Wayabero Lodge, which champions conservation of the ecosystems and the growth of sustainability courses for neighborhood communities.

Not only do tourists vacation to see the river, but the abundance of wildlife is a attract for the crowds. Turtles, iguanas and aguilas — Colombia’s national hen — are just some of the regional species that can be noticed in the Serranía de la Macarena national park, home to additional than 400 hen species.

Even with the difficulties, Lasso is hopeful. “A lot more young Colombians are understanding about the ecosystem, and how to maintain it.”

If you go

While it is probable to check out the river with out reserving as a result of an agency, you can’t check out devoid of a authorities-accredited tour guide. Permits to stop by the park can be used for in progress through the Nationwide Parks Place of work. There is a cap on the quantity of website visitors permitted per day, and the greater part of the permits are allocated to tour businesses.

While the cap is nevertheless much decreased than it was pre-pandemic, the nationwide park is allowing for a handful of readers in each working day, so make confident to e-book excursions in advance.

It can be substantially a lot easier to ebook via an agency. The Colombian Way is an in-nation tour guidebook with wonderful nearby information and starts at $658 for three times. A further company, Amazon Adventures, present a river tour which starts at $709 for three times.

Most tours selection from two to 4 times and will just take you to other places of the park, which are nicely well worth looking at. The closest city to Caño Cristales is La Macarena. It is not probable to camp within just the park, so guests have to “commute” from the town, which has standard lodging.

Make absolutely sure you carry a good deal of income — ATMs in the city are minimal, and never always get the job done. You can expect to will need your yellow fever vaccination, as often people are asked to demonstrate their certificate at La Macarena airport, and you will also have to have to acquire anti-malaria tablets.

There are advisories for Americans on touring to sure departments in the place thanks to new civil unrest as effectively as tips linked to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

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