Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
» View Photoset (60 Photos)
After 3 weeks on the road backpacking in Colombia I was excited to arrive in Manizales. I knew I wanted to do something special but I didn't know exactly what yet.
However, it didn't take long to work out what I would do, after some internet reading and research. Undoubtedly the best thing to do in Manizales is to get out of
the city and into the surrounding countryside to go walking, birdwatching and to enjoy nature. For me it was time on this trip to relax a little and have a serious
change of scenery (and peace and quiet). Manizales is located in the mountains several hours south of Medellin in the northern part of Colombia's famous coffee
region. I arrived in Manizales from Buga, southward, via Cartago and Periera, 3hrs 30mins in a co-op taxi-van.
Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve
The 'something special' I decided to do
in Manizales was to go to Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve just 21kms west of Manizales city center. It's a paradise for bird watching and a good place to relax.
The hotel is very nice, extremely posh compared to the budget hotels I am used to. I paid $452,000 pesos (around $150USD) for 2 nights and this included food. I was
picked up at my hotel in Manizales and dropped back into the city afterwards by a lady friend of Tinamu which cost $50,000 pesos (around $17USD) each way. When I
arrived at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve there was a group of serious birdwatching photographers from Costa Rica there with huge telephoto lenses and cameras on
tripods and who wore clothes to camouflage themselves in the forest - pretty scary. Luckily they didn't have guns, just cameras and binoculars! The meals at Tinamu
are good and quite healthy. Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, an arepa, bread rolls, cheese, butter, mango, hot chocolate, coffee and juice. Lunch consisted
of chicken with vegetables, soup and juice. Dinner consisted of meat, tomato pasta, platano, cucumber salad and juice.
Birdwatching At Tinamu
The list of birds you can see at Tinamu
Birding Nature Reserve is extensive with over 260 birds having been registered. Tinamu has a hummingbird garden right outside the rooms, these birds are definitely
fun to watch and quite a challenge to photograph. I have a 250mm zoom lens on my camera but really for serious birdwatching you need something like a 300-500mm lens.
I did see quite a few birds during my stay and got some reasonable photos of some including a bright red bird called the Crimson-backed Tanager, the Scrub Tanager
with blue feathers and orange head, the Green Honeycreeper which actually has blue feathers and a black head and the Thick-billed Euphonia - a small black and yellow
bird. I also enjoyed looking for insects and small flowers in the garden to make a few macro photos with my iPhone. Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve has over 3km of
private and safe trails for walking and exploring. The reserve was once a banana tree and coffee plantation (over 40 years ago) that was allowed and helped to
naturally become a forest which has attracted wildlife such as the armadillo, porcupine, fox, sloth, squirrel, opossum, monkey and an assortment of reptiles such as
iguanas. I had a great time at Tinamu, the birds and also for the tranquility, peace and quiet. I can absolutely recommend a stay here while you are in Manizales! (see Tinamu website
Plaza Bolivar / City Center
Manizales city center didn't hold so much interest for me apart from the fact that Plaza Bolivar looks pretty amazing at night with the lights of the cathedral
(Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary) and the breathtaking sculpture of a man-condor and mask-like face of independence leader Simon Bolivar. Around the
plaza are a few historic buildings such as the government building but not much. Plaza Bolivar also has some interesting cultural plaques and a very large sculpture
of Adam and Eve. In the streets around Plaza Bolivar are a couple of old churches - Basilica Inmaculada Concepcion (white and brown) and Parroquia Los Agustinos
(greyish blue). The Metro cable car makes it easy to get from the center of the city up in the hills down to the bus terminal.
Bus Manizales To Medellin
From Manizales I headed north to Medellin
the distance is not huge but the time it takes to travel the 200kms between the 2 cities is. 6hrs 15mins is what it took in total this time. I actually stopped in
La Pintada south of Medellin for the night. Manizales to La Pintada 4hrs and then 2hrs 15mins up to Medellin. The reason it takes so long is because this road is fraught with landslides. Enjoy the bus ride!