Colombia has some of the world’s most dangerous animals. Jaguars, poisonous frogs, spiders, and snakes are all endemic to this country. The fourth largest country in South America, Colombia has Atlantic and Pacific Coastlines, the Amazon, and the Andes mountains, so it’s no surprise its animals are diverse and plentiful. We’ve been to a few different parts of the country and seen a wide variety of animals of Colombia, many that were new to me, and some in strange places.
I love sloths and was so excited to see them in a public park in Cartagena. They aren’t always easy to spot but when they are I can watch them do nothing all day. Which is pretty much what they do. In addition to the local Parque Centenario, we also spotted sloths in the beautiful Cartagena botanical gardens outside of the city.
Colombia is home to many different kinds of monkeys. In the jungle, and in the botanical garden, you can hear the howler monkeys. Good news: they are much cuter than they sound!
In the park in Cartagena, we saw a different kind of monkey scampering through the trees. They were quiet compared to the howling at the botanical garden.
Cats of Colombia
They aren’t as exotic or wild, per se, but cats are plentiful in Colombia, and of course I take photos of most of them! Since landing in Santa Marta, and the cute marina cats there, I’ve spied cats across the country. Besides Domino, our favorite was the little kitten who greeted us most nights outside our hotel in Salento. Most of the cats we’ve seen have been well-fed and comfortable, so Colombians like their felines.
And don’t forget that Cali has an entire park devoted to cat sculptures!
This rodent similar to a capybara is common in South America, and we got to see a few of them at the Botanical Gardens in Quindio, near Salento. We had a two and half hour tour there with a really knowledgeable guide. The park is fabulous, especially the bird viewing area, which is also where we saw the chiguiros snuffling around feeding.
I am still on the lookout for a toucan but in the meantime, Colombia is home to lots of cool birds. And we’ve been fortunate to see some of them up close in their natural habitats.
Gallitos de roca
Take for example the native gallito de roca in Jardin, Antioquia, one of my favorite towns in Colombia. While exploring this beautiful town, we visited a sanctuary where we could get up close with these rare and beautiful birds who visit at the same time every day. The gallito de rocas is endemic to the Andes, and in English called “Cock of the Rock”. The national bird of Peru, you can also see them in this part of Colombia!
Our visit to the reserve one afternoon was an amazing experience with very few other people, many viewing spots, and all for a very low price of only a few dollars. We also saw hummingbirds while there, if you get bored of the gallitos, you can watch them too! I doubt you will get bored. They are vibrant, chatty, and they noticed us and played to us for sure.
Unless I write down the name of a bird the second I see it, or have someone repeat all the names for me later so I can write them down, which is what I did when we were bird watching in Botswana, I remember nothing. So, here are photos of other birds we saw, and where we saw them. If you happen to know what kind of bird it is, please share in the comments! I won’t feel stupid. A brain can only retain so much information.
Yes, tropical birds at a hotel don’t seem so strange, but then it gets odder. One weekend in Cartagena, we decided to check into a hotel with a pool. This hotel turned out to be really unusual in more ways than one! One of the things that made it weird was the herd of deer living on site. They grazed all over the grounds, mostly in between the building housing our room and the outdoor pool. They were very gentle and polite, even while walking around the dining room as we ate. It was actually really fun, because we didn’t know they would be there so it made our stay much more quirky and interesting.
The other interesting thing about the hotel we learned after we checked out: it was the site of a US secret service scandal involving prostitutes. When we were there, it was pretty quiet. Just families and deer. We didn’t hear that story until later on a podcast!
Not as common as in many Caribbean islands, we still see iguanas of all sizes here in Colombia. Frogs too, but I have to admit now that I know about poisonous tree frogs, I’m mostly keeping my distance!
This is not to say we haven’t seen any scary wildlife in Colombia. Don’t forget the scary spider on our trip to Palomino.
The botanical garden in Antioquia has a very cool butterfly space, so we stopped in to check it out. We also saw many butterflies while walking the grounds at this beautiful preserve.
Inside the butterfly tent was pretty remarkable. Some of them would willingly land on our hands!
One of the many things we loved about Jardin was the free show in the town square at night. Local caballeros would ride around on their horses, all dressed up and making the horses prance. It was a cool sight: we saw children, men, women, you name it, and they were very good riders.
We didn’t specifically visit farms in Cartagena, but still saw a lot of farm animals in towns and alongside roads. The cows here are very healthy, as are the pigs!
Apparently birds and other animals walk into the roads in Colombia all the time. I say this because when we were driving from Medellin to Salento, we didn’t see any of these exotic animals, but we did see the road warning signs. I don’t even know what some of these animals are and would have loved to spot the third one!
Where We Spotted The Animals of Colombia
We arrived in Colombia in April, and aside from a trip to the southern US and a month in Toronto, we stayed until late September. In addition to the places we sailed: Santa Marta, Cartagena, and her islands, we took two separate trips inland. The first, we flew to Bogota and drove north to Villa de Lleyva and Zipaqueria. The most recent trip was to Medellin and a drive south to Jardin, Riosucio, and Salento and the coffee triangle. The key places where we spotted animals in Colombia are detailed below.
- Parque Centenario, on the border of Cartagena’s walled city and Getsemani
- Jardin Botanico de Cartagena, located 30 minutes south of the city. You need a taxi or rental car
- Hotel Caribe in Bocagrande Cartagena
- Isla Grande in the Rosario Islands
South of medellin
- Jardin, Antioquia: Parque Natural Jardin de Rocas
- Armenia, Quindio: Jardin Botanico de Quindio
Colombia is a huge country and we loved touring it, but there’s still a lot that we didn’t see, of animals and scenery. We wished we could have explored even more, and hope to make it back one day. What are your favorite animals of Colombia? And what did I miss?
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13 thoughts on “Animals of Colombia”
Colombia has such a wide array of wildlife! Any where I travel I really enjoy bird watching and it seems like Colombia would be an excellent place for this too.
Chelsea, you would love Colombia. Besides the places I mention, Minca is also a good spot for birds! ????
OMG I adore sloths! I would give anything to see them… and would dedicate days just to find them and observe them doing nothing. Gorgeous pics of all the animals – the birds especially!
i love love love loved this post! …and i learned about some animals i’ve never heard of before, like the chiguiro. you really got to see some col critters in colombia… i hope to visit one day and see all these beautiful animals.
I’ve wanted to visit Columbia for ages and as a lover of animals this makes me even more excited. Thanks so much for sharing
I love your photos of all of the animals! There are so many of them to see – I’d love to get some of my own photos of them!
Colombia has some interesting beautiful animals and especially the birds! Such striking colours.
You’re right, Alma. Colombia is a bird watchers paradise!
I love that you have featured such a variety of animals here! They are so colorful. Seeing all the different animals is one of the best part of traveling. We always seem to make friends with the local cats and pups. In fact, a stray dog in Costa Rica inspired my master’s thesis!
Seeing sloths in there natural environment is one of my precious memories. Plus, I enjoyed seeing many other native South America birds and animals described in your post.
What an assortment of incredible animals and what a privilege for you to have seen them all. There were one or two I hadn’t even heard about so thanks for introducing me to a new animal! Lovely post.
Love the pic of the guy leading the horse while riding his bike. Awesome. My mother-in-law is an avid bird watcher. She would LOVE this.
What an incredible variety of animals to see–I had no idea! I love the deer wondering the grounds of the hotel. Also loved your video of the high stepping horses.