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Colombia - Manizales: What to do? (1 Viewer)

Thibaut

Active member
United Kingdom
Hi all,

A few questions if you don't mind :)

I am planning a trip for two people (myself included, Thibaut, Hi I am new around here) for 3 days in Manizales. The first day is chill: arriving, city and ecoparque. But what to do with the 2 following full days? We are keen birdwatchers, although not obsessed with ticking all the bird boxes. I have read Gallardy's report but I have doubts about Rio Blanco. I have read reviews and it doesn't sound "fun". I like to walk in a space at my own pace and observe whatever bird comes in my way. I don't play back recordings for example or take pics. I do some research before I go to a place and try to know all the potential birds I might encounter but don't fight it if they don't show (missing the male Quetzal last year in Costa Rica was almost drama free though I still speak about it ;)). I like to give myself a chance to see cool stuff and usually, I get to see 3/4 of them. Based on that, what would be your recommendations for me? I have done some research and, yes, the antpittas of Rio Blanco sound appealing, so do the golden collared manakins of the Hotel Tinamu and the incredible list of hummingbirds at the Termales de Ruiz. But which of these places will deliver the most fun walks and beautiful sceneries as well as given us the chance to see plenty of cool birds?

My partner and I are also obsessed with the landscape and the vegetation on the paramo and would love to discover it and the birds living up there. Would you happen to know a good guide that could take us there on a private tour and guide us through the landscape and show us some cool birds?
Thanks a lot.

Thibaut

PS: I am currently re-reading Antpitta'd thread "General advice for an independent Colombia trip, and the blue bearded helmetcrest" (General advice for an independent Colombia trip, and blue bearded helmetcrest). Great read ! :)
 
Hi all,

A few questions if you don't mind :)

I am planning a trip for two people (myself included, Thibaut, Hi I am new around here) for 3 days in Manizales. The first day is chill: arriving, city and ecoparque. But what to do with the 2 following full days? We are keen birdwatchers, although not obsessed with ticking all the bird boxes. I have read Gallardy's report but I have doubts about Rio Blanco. I have read reviews and it doesn't sound "fun". I like to walk in a space at my own pace and observe whatever bird comes in my way. I don't play back recordings for example or take pics. I do some research before I go to a place and try to know all the potential birds I might encounter but don't fight it if they don't show (missing the male Quetzal last year in Costa Rica was almost drama free though I still speak about it ;)). I like to give myself a chance to see cool stuff and usually, I get to see 3/4 of them. Based on that, what would be your recommendations for me? I have done some research and, yes, the antpittas of Rio Blanco sound appealing, so do the golden collared manakins of the Hotel Tinamu and the incredible list of hummingbirds at the Termales de Ruiz. But which of these places will deliver the most fun walks and beautiful sceneries as well as given us the chance to see plenty of cool birds?

My partner and I are also obsessed with the landscape and the vegetation on the paramo and would love to discover it and the birds living up there. Would you happen to know a good guide that could take us there on a private tour and guide us through the landscape and show us some cool birds?
Thanks a lot.

Thibaut

PS: I am currently re-reading Antpitta'd thread "General advice for an independent Colombia trip, and the blue bearded helmetcrest" (General advice for an independent Colombia trip, and blue bearded helmetcrest). Great read ! :)
Rio Blanco is excellent, especially if you get guide Daniel. You are allowed to walk round yourself in breaks and they no longer have set birding times. I'd suggest one day there and one day Hacienda El Bosque for the first couple of hours and then up Nevados del Ruiz. You will need a car or driver for second day. I've never been to Tinamou but I think most the birds there are pretty widespread.
 
Rio Blanco is excellent, especially if you get guide Daniel. You are allowed to walk round yourself in breaks and they no longer have set birding times. I'd suggest one day there and one day Hacienda El Bosque for the first couple of hours and then up Nevados del Ruiz. You will need a car or driver for second day. I've never been to Tinamou but I think most the birds there are pretty widespread.
For guides for Nevados, try Luz Osorio Arias or Daniel Munoz. Both very good. They will take you to Termales as part of a Nevados tour.
 
Rio Blanco is excellent, especially if you get guide Daniel. You are allowed to walk round yourself in breaks and they no longer have set birding times. I'd suggest one day there and one day Hacienda El Bosque for the first couple of hours and then up Nevados del Ruiz. You will need a car or driver for second day. I've never been to Tinamou but I think most the birds there are pretty widespread.
Haaa very nice. Thanks. Do you know his last name? Are these tours with a groups or private? Also is it all day or just the morning ?
 
Haaa very nice. Thanks. Do you know his last name? Are these tours with a groups or private? Also is it all day or just the morning ?
Daniel Munoz. Perhaps request him. It's full day but is not expensive. I think there are different prices for private or group. We were joined by one other birder one day. You get the choice of half or full day.
 
Thanks that sounds great. I will probably end up doing what you suggested: one day at Rio blanco and one day for el bosque + termales del Ruiz + Nevados. Where you would recommend to stay? I wonder if staying at hotel thermales del Ruiz isn’t the best of all worlds? Or is it too far in your opinion for Rio blanco?

I am also concerned that we have a bus earlier to catch on the following morning for Medellin and not sure there are drivers from hotel sternales de Ruiz at all hours… what do you think?

I am loving the logistical puzzle this trip is haha
 
Rio Blanco is excellent, especially if you get guide Daniel. You are allowed to walk round yourself in breaks and they no longer have set birding times. I'd suggest one day there and one day Hacienda El Bosque for the first couple of hours and then up Nevados del Ruiz. You will need a car or driver for second day. I've never been to Tinamou but I think most the birds there are pretty widespread.
I agree with this. Rio Blanco is wonderful for mixed species flocks and there are good trails to walk and the entrance road is good as well. Most birders who go there want the antpittas first and foremost, so the other birding can get a bit forgotten in write ups. Some of the antpittas are often very quick to repsond when fed so you could spend a bit of time with them but the majority "birding proper".

You could stay at Hacienda del bosque/Termales de Ruiz (would suggest the former) or do one night there and another night somewhere like
ESTELAR Recinto Del Pensamiento Hotel (or both nights here) which is not far from the turnoff to Rio Blanco on the outskirts of Manizales.
 
I agree with this. Rio Blanco is wonderful for mixed species flocks and there are good trails to walk and the entrance road is good as well. Most birders who go there want the antpittas first and foremost, so the other birding can get a bit forgotten in write ups. Some of the antpittas are often very quick to repsond when fed so you could spend a bit of time with them but the majority "birding proper".

You could stay at Hacienda del bosque/Termales de Ruiz (would suggest the former) or do one night there and another night somewhere like
ESTELAR Recinto Del Pensamiento Hotel (or both nights here) which is not far from the turnoff to Rio Blanco on the outskirts of Manizales.
Thanks I will have a proper look at all these suggestions. I am very tempted by Termalez del Ruiz because of the access to the pools which would be nice after long days out. All these hotels have currently no availability for next year. They seem to wait before releasing availabilities. Strange!
 
I think Termales to Rio Blanco is too far to go early morning (maybe 90 minutes). I couldn't work out how to book Termales so stayed at El Bosque two nights. It's very nice even if we had problems with a leaky roof which made all my friend's clothes wet and destroyed his book. They did move us lodges in the end.

I'd recommend staying at least one night at Rio Blanco. We did two. It's not luxury and the food's bland but it is more than passable and the night birding is superb. You can pay $10 to visit Termales which you will do anyway for the hummingbird feeders so could have a lunchtime dip. But up to you. Any option would be good. I think taxis can be arranged through El Bosque or Termales but probably early morning Termales to Rio Blanco or Manizales bus station will not come cheap.
 
Thanks. Yes it sounds like we will explode our budget on Termales. So perhaps el bosque is better. How is the food at el bosque? Do they offer take away breakfast the night before?

I suppose if we go with el bosque, we will need dinner there as back and forth to the city in taxi will be exhausting, expansive and time consuming.
 
Thanks. Yes it sounds like we will explode our budget on Termales. So perhaps el bosque is better. How is the food at el bosque? Do they offer take away breakfast the night before?

I suppose if we go with el bosque, we will need dinner there as back and forth to the city in taxi will be exhausting, expansive and time consuming.
The food is great tho relatively pricey at El Bosque. They don't offer breakfast to takeaway but you don't need it one day there because Crescent-faced Antpitta feeding is like 8am. On the other day, you can get it at Rio Blanco. The owner of El Bosque speaks English and can arrange guides / taxis. He arranged Luz Osorio Arias for Nevados for us.

Some pics from El Bosque.
 

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The food is great tho relatively pricey at El Bosque. They don't offer breakfast to takeaway but you don't need it one day there because Crescent-faced Antpitta feeding is like 8am. On the other day, you can get it at Rio Blanco. The owner of El Bosque speaks English and can arrange guides / taxis. He arranged Luz Osorio Arias for Nevados for us.

Some pics from El Bosque.
Amazing. Thanks for the info. That antpitta looks like a bird drawn by a child. First time I see it. Some birds are so awkward looking, like the bearded tit is in the UK.
 
Maybe it is a stretch but I am thinking:
DAY 1: arrival at Rio Blanco late afternoon + birdwatching at night there
Day 2: birdwatching at Rio Blanco during the day + direction El Bosque for the late afternoon, dinner and spend the night
Day 3: El Bosque birdwatching + Nevados with a guide, Termales del Ruiz late afternoon and night.
Day 4: departure for Medellin super early.

I have got 2 questions:
Can we birdwatch until 2 or 3 pm at Rio Blanco?
Do you think if we do this planning, we will see the hummingbirds at Termales or it might be too late? Am I trying to pack too much in a short time ;) ?
 
I think your plan is fine but I would highly recommend just driving back down to Manizales for the evening of Day 3...or staying back at El Bosque. Not really any reason to stay at Termales (other than the pools) and leaves you at the furthest point from your early departure the next morning. On day 3 you should be able to fit in El Bosque until ~9am, then up to Nevados for Helmetcrest, then to Termales for lunch/pool/hummingbird feeders until ~3 or 4pm...this won't be too late for the hummers). Then you can spend the latter afternoon making a couple birding stops (there are some good areas along the road, or you could go back to El Bosque) en route back down to Manizales or just stay longer at Termales if you feel like it/weather is poor. I wouldn't trust a super early pick up somewhere pretty remote like Termales.
 
I think your plan is fine but I would highly recommend just driving back down to Manizales for the evening of Day 3...or staying back at El Bosque. Not really any reason to stay at Termales (other than the pools) and leaves you at the furthest point from your early departure the next morning. On day 3 you should be able to fit in El Bosque until ~9am, then up to Nevados for Helmetcrest, then to Termales for lunch/pool/hummingbird feeders until ~3 or 4pm...this won't be too late for the hummers). Then you can spend the latter afternoon making a couple birding stops (there are some good areas along the road, or you could go back to El Bosque) en route back down to Manizales or just stay longer at Termales if you feel like it/weather is poor. I wouldn't trust a super early pick up somewhere pretty remote like Termales.
You are right. I will do that. Thanks. I think I am failing to imagine the distance and the time everything takes.
 
Do I need a guide for Los Nevados? I have contacted one of the guide but
A) it is expense to hire a guide and a driver (maybe not all guides require a driver as well though?)
B) isn’t it a bit weird to have a guide if a chunk of the day would be spent relaxing and enjoying the pools at Termales del Ruiz?

basically if I could just hire a guide, I would happily discover los Nevados on my own but how accessible is it ? Any idea on where it is best to see cool species around this location?
 
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First of all,
the schedule (with latest suggested revision by Avery and Oliver) is very solid and if you ever needed a 3rd opinion, I would recommend doing it like this.

Second, you don't technically need a guide for Los Nevados. A driver alone would be fine but preferably one with some understanding / experience driving around birdwatchers. If you are doing it without a guide you'll have to do your homework though, e.g. determining the places you want to stop and look for birds: many patches of vegetation look good on the way up, but you'll have to have a plan as the weather can change so spending too much time lower down could result in misty weather once high up and e.g. much reduced chances for certain species.
You have to approach it either giving priority to doing things on your own and taking more risks in terms of planning / experience with the area / experience with finding certain birds, vs. going for the relative comfort of hiring a guide, in general reducing the risks and relieving you from time necessary to plan the birding yourself. Ofcourse, you're paying a bit more for your trip but you're also spending it locally. Your choice.

Up until this point: Centro De Inducción A Visitantes "Brisas" · Herveo, Tolima, Colombia the road is freely accessible. I found the Helmetcrest just there at the marker and didn't bother waiting for the gate of the national park to open and go higher. The location you linked to, isn't where I would spend a whole lot of time as the interesting species (except for the Helmetcrest) are mainly lower down. As you can see from your location link in streetview, it can be very foggy.
 
First of all,
the schedule (with latest suggested revision by Avery and Oliver) is very solid and if you ever needed a 3rd opinion, I would recommend doing it like this.

Second, you don't technically need a guide for Los Nevados. A driver alone would be fine but preferably one with some understanding / experience driving around birdwatchers. If you are doing it without a guide you'll have to do your homework though, e.g. determining the places you want to stop and look for birds: many patches of vegetation look good on the way up, but you'll have to have a plan as the weather can change so spending too much time lower down could result in misty weather once high up and e.g. much reduced chances for certain species.
You have to approach it either giving priority to doing things on your own and taking more risks in terms of planning / experience with the area / experience with finding certain birds, vs. going for the relative comfort of hiring a guide, in general reducing the risks and relieving you from time necessary to plan the birding yourself. Ofcourse, you're paying a bit more for your trip but you're also spending it locally. Your choice.

Up until this point: Centro De Inducción A Visitantes "Brisas" · Herveo, Tolima, Colombia the road is freely accessible. I found the Helmetcrest just there at the marker and didn't bother waiting for the gate of the national park to open and go higher. The location you linked to, isn't where I would spend a whole lot of time as the interesting species (except for the Helmetcrest) are mainly lower down. As you can see from your location link in streetview, it can be very foggy.
Thanks for the info.
I will try to get my hands on places of interests thanks. I suspect the Laguna negra to be one of them.
 
OK, let me be more specific and don't suspect that Laguna is great for birding because it isn't that 'great' (*):

the interesting locations on this route are:
  1. 5°00'09.8"N 75°19'34.9"W · Vía al Parque Nacional Los Nevados, Villamaría, Caldas, Colombia (birds of subtropical scrub / trees, area of some 100ths of meters of good vegetation);
  2. 4°58'07.1"N 75°21'06.0"W · Vía al Parque Nacional Los Nevados, Villamaría, Caldas, Colombia (the view from here in the valley for Rufous-fronted Parakeet + e.g. Stout-billed Cinclodes and some other birds of more open landscape, also quite some overlap with Laguna Negra);
  3. The aforementioned Paramo near the park gates for the Helmetcrest;
  4. The Termales for hummers (which can all be seen 'in the wild' in the surrounding area, e.g. on the first location I mentioned above, but some are tricky to ID and much easier / better views at the feeders);
  5. Optionally, the lower areas of road down from the Termales for birds that have an overlap with Rio Blanco: 4°59'00.9"N 75°23'18.7"W · Vía Nevado del Ruiz, Villamaría, Caldas, Colombia
  6. (roughly here but up and down from the marker are as good --> Crescent-faced Antpitta does occur here but takes luck and skill to find.

(*) it's ofcourse a nice, scenic place and if it's your first time birding high-altitude in the Andes, it can connect you with a nice set of species, but I stated the above in the context of target / specialty birding.
 

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