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Caño Cristales: Colombia’s spectacular ‘liquid rainbow’

(CNN) — Take a look at Caño Cristales during the moist or dry seasons in Colombia, and you would be forgiven for questioning what all the fuss is about.

On the other hand, journey there from July to October, the reasonable months concerning the extremes of the moist and dry seasons, and you’ll witness a person of Mom Nature’s crowning glories.

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

This “liquid rainbow” — as it is also known as — is one of the South American country’s most magnificent organic wonders, many thanks to its vivid colors.

The mattress of the river athletics dazzling pink, yellow, environmentally friendly, blue and black for the handful of months that circumstances are ideal. Although the hues can be viewed from as early as mid-May well and from time to time into December, they are brightest during June and November.

The hues are manufactured through the reproductive method of the aquatic plants in the river, which are named Macarenia clavigera, a species of the riverweed household Podostemaceae.

Throughout the moist season, the river operates quick and substantial, meaning the sunshine can not strike the riverbed’s plants. For the duration of the dry season, there is not sufficient h2o to guidance the vegetation. The seasons not often range, so visitors wanting to catch sight of the spectacle have to head to the countrywide park through individuals months that the bloom is most visible.

The phenomenon transpires nowhere else in the globe. The area itself is a hotspot for biodiversity, exactly where the Andes mountains and the Amazon and Orinoco basins converge — and is house to quite a few endemic species.

Preserving the river

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

Thomas O’Neill/NurPhoto/Getty Illustrations or photos

Prior to the pandemic, thousands of vacationers flocked to see the spectacle each individual calendar year, which had lifted worries amongst scientists that the river may possibly be threatened by overtourism.

Flavia Santoro, head of ProColombia, the country’s tourism board, suggests that measures experienced to be taken to secure the area — so large was the influx of guests. The agency “severely limited progress” of tourism infrastructure in La Macarena, the nearest small city to the national park, as nicely as capping the number of holidaymakers authorized in at 200 per working day.

There have been so lots of holidaymakers traveling to the location that in spite of the cap environmental authorities closed the spot in December 2019 to shield the river. The closure was then extended owing to the pandemic.

For 18 months, till its reopening in June this yr, Caño Cristales did not receive a single single customer.

The impact, biologists say, has been been effective for the region.

Faber Ramos, a park ranger and eco-tourism coordinator in the Colombian countrywide park system’s Orinoco region, states the pandemic has experienced a “good influence” on the river’s well being and that there was now a better presence of fauna.

At its peak, all around 15,000 travelers had been browsing Caño Cristales per year, and the tourism board was projecting the amount to go on escalating.

Colombia had been suffering from a solid yearly growth in travelers going to the place, following the signing of the peace arrangement with FARC guerrillas in 2016, which officially ended much more than 50 years of civil war.

The signing noticed hundreds of thousands of global travelers flocking to examine the nation, as very well as Colombians them selves traveling to parts that experienced formerly been inaccessible owing to the war — such as Serranía de la Macarena nationwide park. Concerning 2017 and 2018 alone, the region saw visitor figures increase by 38%.

Balancing site visitors and the fragile atmosphere

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

A very long closure to travelers during the pandemic has been valuable to Caño Cristales.

Thomas O’Neill/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The growth was vastly advantageous for the tourism sector and tiny cities that suddenly discovered by themselves catering to tourists’ requires for neighborhood guides, lodging and food items, but proved problematic for environments that had lain virtually untouched for 50 percent a century.

For many years, holidaymakers — even Colombian kinds — stayed away from Caño Cristales as it was in a area managed by FARC guerrillas.

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

“It is where biologic aspects of the Andes, Amazon and Orinoco basins converge. There are numerous endemic species and species of restricted distribution. The area of the Serranía de la Macarena has been a area of war for several several years…[but now] deforestation in the area is advancing at an alarming charge.”

Deforestation is a person of Colombia’s most urgent complications, with much more than 40 soccer fields value of trees logged each and every day, and the region of La Macarena is no exception.

Deforestation has an effect on the designs of rainfall, and the region has found a lot less rain, this means the drinking water of Caño Cristales can convert from apparent to a murky brown, which could at some point eliminate off the Macarenia clavigera.

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

“It is a challenging location to safeguard,” Lasso said, “as it is so considerably from any town.”

“Though the authorities is executing effectively, there is constantly space for advancement,” he reported, adding that extra park officers have been necessary to shield and monitor the location.

New alternatives

The pandemic has furnished an possibility to scale back the range of people, and prioritize the area’s well being.

Lasso is pragmatic the river provides in significantly essential money to the region and locals have suffered a substantial decline of income.

The current reopening of Caño Cristales also incorporates 10 new ecotourism trails, with demanding functioning periods of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are designated swimming regions in the river. However, visitors are not authorized to swim wearing solar lotion or bug spray, as the vegetation are delicate to the products’ substances.

The entry of solitary-use plastics, these as bags, bottles, straws, containers, plates and cutlery is also prohibited.

Tourism officers boost environmentally targeted lodging, these kinds of as the Wayabero Lodge, which champions conservation of the ecosystems and the growth of sustainability programs for local communities.

Not only do travellers vacation to see the river, but the abundance of wildlife is a attract for the crowds. Turtles, iguanas and aguilas — Colombia’s national bird — are just some of the neighborhood species that can be spotted in the Serranía de la Macarena national park, property to much more than 400 chook species.

In spite of the problems, Lasso is hopeful. “A lot more young Colombians are understanding about the setting, and how to protect it.”

If you go

While it is achievable to take a look at the river without having booking by way of an agency, you are unable to stop by with out a govt-certified tour guideline. Permits to pay a visit to the park can be applied for in advance via the Nationwide Parks Business. There is a cap on the amount of people permitted for every working day, and the greater part of the permits are allocated to tour businesses.

Even though the cap is still much lower than it was pre-pandemic, the national park is letting a handful of visitors in every working day, so make certain to book excursions in progress.

It really is a lot a lot easier to ebook through an agency. The Colombian Way is an in-place tour guideline with great area expertise and starts off at $658 for a few times. One more company, Amazon Adventures, supply a river tour which begins at $709 for a few days.

Most excursions variety from two to 4 days and will get you to other regions of the park, which are perfectly well worth viewing. The closest city to Caño Cristales is La Macarena. It really is not achievable to camp in the park, so visitors have to “commute” from the town, which has fundamental lodging.

Make sure you bring a great deal of dollars — ATMs in the city are confined, and do not generally function. You’ll require your yellow fever vaccination, as occasionally website visitors are requested to demonstrate their certificate at La Macarena airport, and you can expect to also want to acquire anti-malaria tablets.

There are advisories for Us citizens on traveling to specified departments in the country because of to latest civil unrest as perfectly as guidance related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

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