Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cano Cristales

I went to Cano Cristales after leaving Medellin.
Photos first.  Summary after.
Here is the green algae

Cano Cristales is famous for its colored algae that is in the river.  They say it has 5 different colors.  Yes it was pretty.  I love water and the water was nice, they have nice pools to swim in.  The tour was a bit disappointing for the money cause you spend a couple hours at one pool and then another couple hours swiming at another pool.  The pools are nice but nothing spectacular.  I have seen better for free.  I also maybe was a bit disappointed cause before I left I contacted the tourism information center at Cano Cristales to ask about the conditions since its October and every year is different as well as because I am travelling alone I often have trouble getting on a tour because there are no other tourists, as well as I asked about English speaking guides.  They said there are countless numbers of English speaking guides, tours leaving everyday so I would have no problem joining a tour and the conditions are absolutely amazing right now.   I really wanted to like this because I love going off the beaten path and exploring less touristy areas and especially natural settings.   Well I arrive and they tell me I have to wait around for one specific person to find out if there is a tour the next day.  I wait for an hour then they tell me to come back in an hour. I come back in an hour and wait 2 hours.  Finally someone comes to talk to me saying there are not tours to Cano Cristales there are other tours.  So I ask what tours. She says she doesnt know.  I ask her to find out cause I would be interested even though some other travellers had recommended I just do the Cano Cristales tour cause if you do the two day the second days is not worth it, its boring you just spend the day at a pool that isnt as nice as the first day and thats about it.  So she comes back after 20 minutes and tells me there are two tours one to a pool and the other is a bird watching tour.  I get very excited because I love nature and would be very interested in a birdwatching tour and ask about the details, when it leaves how much it costs as well as the other tour.  She answers she has no idea about the details of either tour and tells me to wait again.  After another 20 minutes she tells me the tours are private and I cant join and there are no tours till the weekend so I will have to pay for a private tour.  So I took the private tour and found it disappointing cause the conditions they said were not great. She said the water level has been decreasing every year so its better when there is more water but the locals are very worried cause the water levels keep going down.  So overall it was very disappointing.  Especially after the tourism office told me the conditions were so great, and there were nice.. there were different colors.. they were not spectacular.  I had to pay twice as much for a private tour, and the guides did not speak English which is not a problem for me but I wish they had just told me the truth from the beginning. 

How to get to Cano Cristales as of November 2013
From the main bus terminal in Bogata (teminal de transporte)
Take a bus to Villavicencio.  (3-4 hours, cost 20,000COP) La Macarena or Boliviano
Taxi to airport in Villavicencio is 14,000COP.  (The taxis have a list of fixed prices and its 11,200 for the fare and 2,800 for the toll for a total of 14,000COP, my taxi driver tried to charge me 15,000 COP initially then admited when we arrived that its only 14,000)
Flight - I took TIA air... I had heard its the cheapest.  It cost just under 400,000COP.
The 1 hour journey in a 5 seater plane is loud.  I recommend earplugs ; )
I stayed at the hotel across from the airport for 30,000 COP in an unfinished hotel cause I heard all the hotels were booked, but if you walk the 10minute walk into town there is a place called Hospedaje los Cristales that was charging I think 15,000.  The rooms were a bit dingy but if you are on a budget maybe a good alternative.
I was told group tours would cost about 130,000 COP a day but they didnt have any tours in the coming days so I paid 170,000 COP for a private tour.  I met some other people who said I should just do one day because the second day is really disappointing.  You go down the same path then end up at a different pool.. Its a nice pool but you pretty much spend the whole day there and its not as nice as the pool on the first day.  You are not allowed to enter the park without a guide.
In Villavicencio I heard mochileros hostel cost COP 24,000 but I arrived in the afternoon and was able to get on a flight immediately as well as leave in the morning so I didnt have to stay in Villavicencio.
Overall it isnt that hard to get there but I did not find it worth the money.  I went in October and they said in September its better but I still think even with more water and more color it wouldnt be worth it for the average traveller. I think the time and money it takes to get there you can see so many other amazing things.  Yes it was pretty.. at least when I was there it was not anything amazing. As a nature lover I was a bit disappointed, but maybe I am comparing it to the amazing colors you can see in the ocean. Overall I would recommend skipping Cano Cristales which I hate to say cause every area wants more tourists. There are so many great things to do in Colombia that dont have to be this expensive or out of the way such as just enjoying the wonderful people in Colombia.  The people really make Colombia special. 

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