Trying to figure out what you might realistically be able to see during your visit to Chingaza? We've got the answer!
Chingaza was first declared a National Park in 1977 and today covers approximately 76,600 hectares (189,000 acres), with altitudes ranging from 800 to 4020 m.a.s.l (2,600-13,190 ft). If you look closely at a map of the park you will notice it's in the shape of a butterfly. Only the left wing is currently accessible to the public which is important when considering the types of animals you might expect to see on your visit. This left wing is located at much higher altitudes, so you will spend most of your time exploring high Andean cloud forests and páramo ecosystems.
Andes EcoTours first started taking visitors to Chingaza roughly 6 years ago and we can honestly say that the chance for wildlife viewing has improved significantly since then. According to the parks website, Chingaza has registered approximately 260 mammals, 400 birds, 44 amphibians and 29 reptiles.
Here's what to look out for on your next visit:
1. White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus goudotii)
Most of our visitors have seen a white-tailed deer at some point in their lives, but not all white-tailed deer are alike. This unique specie is only found at high elevations in the páramo, usually between 3500 and 4000 m.a.s.l. If you venture as far into Chingaza as the lodge your chances of seeing one of these is probably 99% (wildlife can never be guaranteed). Hikers visiting the Siecha Lagoons are less likely to encounter deer.
2. Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
The Andean (or Spectacled) Bear is probably the most sought after specie for visitors to the park these days. But is it actually possible to see it? We say YES - but it's by no means guaranteed. From 2013 through 2018 we had only seen the bear twice, and on both occasions we were staying in the park for 2+ nights. This year we have already seen it 6 times, with the majority of sitings being on our Chingaza Páramo Adventure day trip. The bear population is thriving and sitings are no longer uncommon.
3. Western Mountain Coati (Nasuella olivacea)
This small mammal is a Near Threatened specie found at higher altitudes in the Andes mountains. In Chingaza you can often catch a glimpse of one running across the road or digging for grubs in open areas during the early morning hours. They aren't easy to see, but they aren't impossible either and we have had a number of sitings on our wildlife trips.
4. Cuy (Cavia porcellus anolaimae)
These wild guinea pigs design elaborate tunnel systems in the shrubbery and can be quite entertaining to watch as they scurry through them. They are most often seen near lagoons and rivers but can be quite hard to photograph as they rarely sit still.
5. Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)
Chingaza is probably your only chance at catching a glimpse of the Near Threatened condor near Bogotá. These magnificent creatures are Colombia's national bird and give meaning to the name of our region, Cundinamarca (Kundurimarka means "land of the condor" in the native Chibcha language). The park is currently home to a single pair that can be seen flying overhead in areas surrounding the Chusa dam. Your best bet at a siting will be during the drier months (Dec-Jan) when skies are open.
6. Little Red Brocket (Mazama rufina bricenni)
The venado soche (or Little red brocket) is a small, Threatened deer found in the forests and páramos of the Andes mountains. It's a very shy creature that is difficult to see so if you happen to encounter one during your visit, consider yourself lucky. We have had 2 sitings in recent years. In both instances it was crossing the road.
7. Frogs & Lizards
It's not always easy to spot frogs and lizards, but we have come across some pretty impressive species over the years. With good luck you might spot a Green Dotted Tree Frog (Dendropsophus labialis), Bogota Anadia (Anadia bogotensis), Duméril´s Whortail Iguana (Stenocercus trachycephalus) or a Páramo Chameleon (Anolis heterodermus).
Chingaza is home to some unique and incredible birds. Look out for species such as the Andean guan (Penelope Montagnii), Black-chested buzzard-eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus), Andean Teal (Anas andium) and endemic Flame-winged Parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera). When the frailejones are flowering you might even catch a glimpse of the Green-bearded helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii). Keep your eye on the blog for more in-depth coverage on the birds of Chingaza (coming soon!).
9. Other species
As mentioned before, many other animals live in the park. These include Mountain Paca / Borugo (Cuniculus taczanowskii), Cougar / Puma (Puma concolor), Oncilla / Northern Tiger Cat / Tigrillo (Leopardus tigrinus) and Brown Woolly Monkey / Churuco (Lagothrix lagothicha). We have personally seen puma scat and both the prints and scat of tigrillo, but sitings of most of these animals are extremely rare and confined to camera traps.
Andes EcoTours currently offers 3 different routes through Chingaza National Park: