The Colombian Amazon: A Guide To Having An Off-the-Beaten Experience
photo by Kelley Louise
Hidden in the depths of the Amazon is an off-the-beaten-path escape, filled with beautiful landscapes, intense biodiversity and the warmth and hospitality of a welcoming group of locals. The southern tip of the Colombian Amazon – in the area closest to the Leticia airport, but only accessible by boat – is a treasure chest full of bucket list experiences. From spotting the pink Amazon river dolphin to connecting with indigenous communities, Las Amazonas is not to be missed.
BEFORE YOU GO
Before you go off the grid in the Amazon, there are a couple of things you should know to ensure that your trip runs as smoothly as possible. When booking your trip, United States citizens will be pleased to find that they don’t need a visa for travel to Colombia, but if you’re from another country, check your requirements.
Understand that when you book your flight into Leticia (the closest hub city), the timing will dictate when you can get a boat toward Puerto Nariño, so plan accordingly with your accommodation. Once you leave Leticia, you’ll have virtually no WiFi or cell phone reception, but for your best bet at finding a signal, pick up a local SIM card in Leticia.
There are also some packing tips we recommend abiding by:
- Pack in a backpack – many of the local hotels have a traditional walk-up, which makes for more difficult transportation with a rolling suitcase.
- Remember the essentials – such as bug spray and a day pack with a refillable water bottle.
- Pack for the rainforest – We recommend renting rainboots in Leticia, as well as bringing clothes that cover your body (to protect from mosquitos) and are also breathable (such as cotton). You’ll also appreciate items like a dry bag for camera gear and a small fan to stay cool.
Tanimboca Canopy Tour
Start your adventure with a birds-eye view of the area – take a day to rappel up and into, as well as above, the rainforest canopies. Tanimboca Canopy Tour offers day-long excursions to zipline, climb and balance their way through a jungle gym in the trees. The experience is not only invigorating, but also offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe the rainforest from different perspectives.
Your best bet for a base camp that’s centrally located, has (minimal) WiFi service and a selection of restaurants, Puerto Nariño is a charming town that will easily sweep you up into its laid-back rhythm. If you’re looking to explore various areas around the Amazon, Puerto Nariño is a solid bet for a destination that’s still off-the-grid, but offers the ease and accessibility of visiting several surrounding areas for day trips.
Throughout the Colombian Amazon, you’ll notice a consistent trend of respect and synergy between nature and culture – a trait which is heavily evident in Puerto Nariño. In Puerto Nariño, be sure to stop by the Natutama Foundation, a local wildlife education center, for a thoughtful overview of nature, as well as the community’s commitment to preserving it.
The foundation has a central focus on youth education – which takes shape as an immersive art exhibit of life-size animal models from the underwater world of the Amazon – and museum-goers will leave with both a deeper respect of nature, as well as an understanding of how an investment in youth is an investment in the entire community.
For the animal lovers, Maikuchiga Foundation is not to be missed. Founded in 2004 by primate biologist Sara Bennet, the foundation is a research and rehabilitation center for primates. The first and only rehabilitation center for monkeys in Colombia, the foundation has worked with the local communities, who have voluntarily agreed to stop hunting and keeping primate species as pets.
The team rescues monkeys and works to reintegrate them back into wildlife. Specifically not a selfie-center for animal tourism, the foundation is strongly invested in the long-term wellbeing of the animals, as well as educating visitors. Stop by to learn about their conservation efforts, and for the lucky visitors, meet a monkey or two that swings through.
Nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers will add the Amazon to their bucket list for the breathtaking views and biodiversity – the Taropotos Lakes are quite the draw to spot the infamous pink dolphins around in the area – but there’s another central component that makes Colombia a must-visit. The warmth and hospitality of the local indigenous communities are memories travelers will hold close to their hearts.
To explore the Amazon, the only way to do so is by boat, moving from hub to hub, sometimes stopping in destinations with communities of as little as 50-100 people. Travelers can book immersive experiences to learn about local traditions and medicines, as well as the techniques behind artisanal crafts and cooking. We recommend visiting the Moruap and Mocagua communities near Amacayacu Park. For cultural immersion experiences, we recommend the tours with EcoDestinos.
A trip to the rainforest would not be complete without a stay in an Instagram-worthy treehouse, and Calanoa Lodge is a worthy candidate for the perfect shot. Located in a remote area, visitors will find only the in-house restaurant and surrounding nature – but will likely never want to leave. Worries from your 9-5 will drift away, and you’ll quickly forget whichever email was bothering you before your escape.
Visit The Colombian Amazon
With a strong focus on sustainability, conservation and cultural preservation, the Colombian Amazon is a must-visit experience. Whether you’re connecting with locals over home cooked meals or lucky enough to capture the perfect shot of a dolphin in the Amazon, your adventures in the Amazon are sure to make for the trip of a lifetime.
Kelley Louise is a travel and lifestyle journalist who is passionate about making a difference in the world. She writes about local and sustainable travel, and has a focus on the best ways to find off-the-beaten-path adventures. Visit her blog at the-culture.co or follow her on social @kelleytravels.