Insects

By Oren:

One of the foods we didn’t try during our trip was a delicacy that they eat in some parts of Colombia that we only found out about when we got back. The dish is fat bottomed ants! We didn’t try this but when I read about it today it reminded me that we spent lots of time looking at live ants in Parque Tayrona and other places in Colombia. In Tayrona there were loads of enormous termite nests and ant colonies around the place we were staying and there were millions of red ants in each one! Brae and I spent a long time watching them and we saw where they went to get food, how they cut up the leaves and where they lived. They had cleared little pathways in the undergrowth in between their food source and their nest and we spent time following their paths. We made a film of their activities (and at the end you can see a glimpse of the amazing Blue Morpho butterfly we saw, but they were very difficult to film).

When we were in Tayrona we walked for hours every day to see the wildlife and we watched the birds and mammals mostly, but when we couldn’t see any we were happy to watch the bugs. One example is that when we went to get our breakfast one day we saw a praying mantis! Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 22.26.10It was really cool because I didn’t think we were going to see one and I have read a lot about them. They are the predators of the insect world, so I guess that makes them the insect equivalent of a lion or a shark! We also saw, on our morning walk, a dung beetle rolling dung to its house, but it kept on going round in circles!

Lots of people don’t like bugs so they probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the insects, spiders and lizards that filled our cabin at night! We tried to tell ourselves that we had to get used to it because we were in the middle of a jungle and the insects lived there and we were their guests.

 

 

Valle de Cocora

By Oren:

One of the things my mum and dad had been reading about when they were first planning our trip to Colombia was a walk in a place called the ‘valle de cocora’. They really wanted to do it but they didn’t know because they had read about gap year students who hadn’t been able to do it because the last bit is up a mountain, and it is a really long walk. Despite this they wanted to do it so much so Brae and I rose up to the challenge…

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Milk delivery, passing us as we waited for our guide

About half way through the walk there is a humming bird place called Acaime so we were looking forward to it. We had booked a guide but when we arrived he wasn’t there so we asked some people where he was and they said that he was drunk so he was very late. After we heard that we decided that it would be best to go on without him.

After we set off the view changed a lot and we were enjoying it because it was beautiful. We also passed over lots of rickety broken bridges along the path.

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After we had been walking for about two hours we reached Acaime and my feet were hurting a bit so that was a relief. We thought it would be an enclosed area where there were a few humming birds quite a long way away, but it was way better than that. The sanctuary was in an open space in the middle of the jungle where they had some feeders with nectar in. The nectar made so many different birds from the jungle come down to feed and you could stand just about a metre away from them! There were literally loads of shimmering humming birds flitting around like lightning on the feeders and on all the branches and flowers around us!!!

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After we had stayed for nearly an hour and a half we decided we should probably go but our minds were still full of colour and light.

After Acaime we had to re-trace our steps a little bit and we came to a mountain path which was the next part of the route. It was an extremely steep bit and we struggled. Brae didn’t though because he went as fast as a mountain goat, but because of my altitude sickness I went slowly. When we reached the top it was a relief because we were all tired by that point. We looked at the view over the valley but we couldn’t see much at first because of the clouds (we were so high we were right inside them). We had a big rest up there and then we set off again on the downhill part of the journey.

My dad had told us that on the walk down there were palm trees that were sixty metres tall, but we didn’t believe him. Sixty metres is about 30 tall men standing on top of each other! When we got to the bit where the palms were supposed to be we saw some that were thirty metres tall so we said to him: “Told you that they weren’t sixty metres tall”, but then we turned a corner and saw palms that really were around sixty metres tall! It was hard to see the tops of some of them because they were so high.

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You can see how small the cows look!

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I felt amazing that I did it and I felt that I could do anything now I have completed the walk, but I was exhausted. My mum and dad were really happy and proud of us.

Colombian animals update : MONKEYS!!!

By Oren:

A few weeks ago we went to “Parque Tayrona”, one of Colombia’s national parks, so we could see some extraordinary landscapes and wildlife. They don’t allow cars in the park so we had to walk to where we were staying. It was an hour and a half’s walk but we got a horse to carry our heavy bag so we were able to really enjoy the hike.

We walked for about an hour up some steep slopes through the jungle without seeing hardly another person. We were quite lucky because it was early morning and a bit misty and cool for the first time in months. Suddenly, we turned a corner and my Mum spotted a little monkey clambering around in a tree! tayrona-7

If you know me, you will know that I LOVE monkeys and have been dreaming about seeing them in the wild for my whole life. I managed to get a glimpse of it and I thought: ‘it’s going to go now but at least I saw it!’, but instead, it stayed right where it was! It was sitting in a tree and picking and eating berries when I spotted another one near it, then another, and another, until there were twenty monkeys hopping around in the trees above our heads!! I felt so overwhelmed I basically couldn’t speak. I felt so happy right then and I will never forget that moment when I first saw them. We stayed there for ages and the monkeys seemed really calm and they came very near us and carried on picking and eating the berries. After about half an hour of watching them, a few more visitors caught up with us and saw us watching the monkeys, but when they arrived the monkeys started jumping up and down and running off to hide. When the people left, the monkeys became more relaxed again and carried on eating and came back close to us! I think that the monkeys didn’t mind us which made me feel very special. tayrona

We spent three more days in the park keeping a look out for more but we didn’t see any. We asked people working in the park and they said we were really lucky to see so many and maybe it was because it had rained the day before for the first time in months. The monkeys we saw were capuchin monkeys but there is also a kind of monkey in Tayrona called the ‘mico Titi’ and they only exist in that jungle in the whole world! Because they don’t live anywhere else in the world they are critically endangered. The third kind of monkey in Tayrona is a howler monkey.

After seeing the capuchin monkeys I thought things couldn’t get any better and I knew that I would leave Colombia knowing I’d completed a dream. But during our last week staying on the coast we decided to go to a place called “Don Diego” because we wanted to go down the river on a tyre again, because we enjoyed it so much the first time on a different river. The other reason that we went was because we had been told that going to Don Diego river was the best chance to see some howler monkeys. Even though I had seen monkeys in “Parque Tayrona” I still wanted to see some more (obviously!).

We had been floating down the river for a while and we were just getting over seeing about ten kingfishers when we went under a bridge and the guide pointed out some shadowy shapes sitting in a tree. As we got closer we saw that they were monkeys!!!!!!!!! We stopped the tyre and got out on the bank just underneath them so we could get some photos, without disturbing them.
don diego-10don diego-13 Howler monkeys are completely different to capuchins. They are much bigger, dark red and they were just hanging around quite lazily, instead of rushing around like the capuchins. We got a great view because they were on a bare branch without leaves hiding them. We carried on down the river and found out that it wasn’t just that tree that had monkeys in it, and it wasn’t just one more, it was that nearly every tree we passed had monkeys in! Around the next corner, we spotted a huge group sitting in a tree (there must have been about 15 or 20) and the guide, who had been doing this for years said that he hadn’t seen that many monkeys in one tree ever before!!!don diego-16

Of all the nature experiences I have had in my life these two will be the most memorable, and no one can guess how happy I was to see them.

You can find more Colombian animals here.

More Colombian animals update

By Brae:

As you can remember in Minca we saw an amazing lizard that ran on water. But in parque Tayrona we saw even more amazing lizards.tayrona-3

For example we saw a lizard that was black with yellow stripes! We also saw a lizard with a blue head yellow body and green tail and we saw one that was black with a bright blue tail!

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We did not manage to get pictures of all of them but here are the ones that we could. We promise we have not changed the colour lizards were! Me and Oren spent hours watching them and seeing where they went.

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You can see more Colombian animals here.

Another Colombian animal update

By Oren:

One of my favourite things about Colombia is the wildlife and some of my most amazing nature memories were made in a town called Minca. Last weekend we went back to Minca so we could see our good friend Niall and meet his girlfriend, RyAnn, and also to see the wildlife. Because last time was so awesome I thought that we might not manage to see as much new nature, but I shouldn’t have worried.

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Brown basilisk just after it ran on water!

While we were in Minca we saw a lizard when we were out swimming one day, basking on a rock by the edge of the water. We must have startled it because suddenly it shot away from us into the water right next to a waterfall and Brae and I thought it was going to drown! But amazingly it didn’t because it actually ran along the surface of the water like lightning and scampered out the other side!!!!! If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it. When we got home we searched online and found out that it was a brown basilisk, which is sometimes known as a Jesus Lizard. I have read about these lizards but I never thought I’d actually see one doing it. It was insane.

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Chicharra

The other new wildlife experience that I will never forget (but not in a good way!) was the sound of a very annoying bug in the jungle in Minca. On Saturday, we tried to go out for a peaceful evening walk to see the sunset but it turned out to be torture! It was all thanks to a bug that a Kogui tribesman told us was called a ‘chicharra’. We were walking down a path and we were deafened by a horrible buzzy drone, which seemed to be coming from the trees around us. It was so loud that it seemed like someone was drilling the road and we had to cover our ears! These nasty cicadas were all over the mountainside and the noise got carried on the wind so you could hear it wherever you went. If you don’t believe how loud it was play this video on full volume and it still won’t be as loud as it was in real life.

minca2-17 When we got home to our apartment the next day, a chicharra flew right into our lounge through the door to our balcony. It flew around the room bashing into the walls and making a big racket. This one was green and you can see how big it is by comparing it to my dad’s phone.

In my previous post about animals, I mentioned that the last time we went to Minca we saw a massive Iguana. We were hoping to see it again but this time we saw a different one! We were making a video to send to Emerald class and as we were filming Brae spotted a baby Iguana. We had to stop the video so we could get a good look and some proper photos of it (sorry Emerald class!). It was a baby one and it was bright green and we had never seen a baby before.minca2-2minca2-4

 

Everything is so awesome in Colombia and I am so lucky to have seen so many incredible things, but I still have one dream – to see a monkey in the wild. Next weekend I really hope to see one when we go to the national park “Parque Tyrona”, so wish me luck!

You can find the previous Colombian animals post here.

And in case you don’t already know, we’re now trying to do something amazing and really help children in Colombia. Check out our fundraising page: EverettsInColombiaFundraising

Colombian birds update

By Brae:

This weekend we went to Minca again and we saw even more amazing birds than the last visit.

Last time we were walking for hours but we only saw a toucan from far far away. So we went back to Minca and this time we did see a toucan and it was the best view of a toucan ever!!! It landed on a tree really near us and did not fly away for ages so we could get really good photos of it and focus on it with our binoculars! The toucan was so many different colours and it was amazing.

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To see a toucan was a thing that we had been wanting to do for ages so when we saw it we were so so happy! It was like a wish come true.

We also saw three different fabulous blue birds. One pale blue, one really dark blue and a blue headed parrot (but we could only see its head because it was in a tree).

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Blue-grey Tanager
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Blue-headed parrot
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Red-legged Honeycreeper

One thing I can tell you is if you want to see birds, go to Minca!

minca2-16As well as seeing amazing tropical birds we also saw some birds that you will probably recognise!

 

The first Colombian birds post can be found here.

Free diving

By Brae and Oren:

In our last few posts we told you about statistics and school, but now we want to remind you how many really, really fun things we’re doing in Colombia…in case you forgot!

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Our friend Maryline, who is my mum and dad’s Spanish teacher, helped us go on an incredible diving lesson on Sunday. Her boyfriend Camilo, and his cousin José are both diving teachers. And because we are friends with Maryline, we had an extra special experience!

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dive1-13We went to a beach called Playa Blanca (white beach) and the only way to get there is by boat. When we arrived, no one was there and so we had the whole beach to ourselves, apart from a little dog and its owner, who has a restaurant on the beach.

dive1-8First we climbed up a hill so we could see the view. From the top we could see black smudges in the water. José told us that they were schools of sardines.

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For our lesson, José took us into the water and gave us our masks and snorkels and told us important things you need to know if you want to go free diving. Free diving is when you can dive right down underwater with your snorkel, not just staying on the top. We practiced all the tips he gave us and he said we were doing really well so we set off to the other side of the beach, got our flippers and he told us how to use them.

dive-17We went diving near a rocky cliff and there was amazing coral and all kinds of incredible fish and sea anemones. We were amazed about all the different colours of the fish. It felt like being in an aquarium.

About half way along the cove José spotted a puffer fish swimming around among the coral. He dived down and gently urged it up towards the surface by putting his hand near its nose but not actually touching it. We were lucky enough to touch it, extremely gently, and it felt like silk because it wasn’t frightened or puffed up. When they’re puffed up they have spikes that point out so they’re like a balloon with spikes on. We would have liked to see it puff up but we didn’t want to make it frightened. While we were diving we didn’t touch the coral as we didn’t want to damage it and also José told us that the orange parts of the coral would really sting if you even put one finger on it.

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We feel really lucky to have this great experience and to have friends like Maryline, Camilo and José to help us do something so extraordinary that we will never forget.

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Colombian birds

By Brae:

When we went to Minca we saw lots of birds, as we mentioned in our last post. But we didn’t explain it very well so I am going to explain it to you now. Minca is famous for its amazing birds of all different kinds. Even though Minca is only a very small town, you can see 162 different species of bird just in this small place! And when you explore the mountains around Minca, you can find 320 species of bird! Altogether, there are almost 2000 species of birds in Colombia – more than any other country in the world. So now you know what I mean when I say we saw lots of birds in Minca!

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To see toucans and parrots and other fascinating birds, you need to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning or even earlier. We got up early to go bird watching two mornings in a row. The toucan is a bird that everyone minca birds-6wants to see and we were lucky enough to see one, but if a toucan hears or sees you they fly away so that’s why we couldn’t take a picture of one in the real wild.

I did get some good photos (on my own camera) of some other of my favorites, like wonderful macaws, hummingbirds which flap their wings at an unbelievable speed, and an amazing black and yellow bird called a crested oropendola that makes a nest in the shape of a bag hanging from a tree.minca birds-2
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The blue headed parrot is a incredible bird of all different colors. But it is given its name by its amazing blue head. The males don’t even have blue heads. The reason it is given its name is because of the females amazing blue stipe down the center of its head. We also saw woodpeckers and parakeets and lots of other birds that you won’t have heard of.

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Colombian animals update

By Oren:

My favourite group of animals is primates but my second is definitely reptiles, and in Minca I saw the most amazing reptile I have ever seen! It was a three-foot long green iguana (that is its species’ name but they have different colors as well) climbing slowly up the tree outside our window in Minca. When I spotted it I thought it was a dream at first but then I got back to my senses and called my family. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

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I have one other small animal update (in both senses of the word). When we were doing one of Niall’s tours we saw some amazing luminous colored bugs, one on our bag and one crawling on the path we were walking along. Here are some pictures:

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The first Colombian animals post can be found here

Colombian animals

By Oren:

In Colombia there is a huge range of animal species ranging from exotic birds to monkeys. Colombia holds the biggest range of butterflies and the second most of birds in the whole world! The national park ‘Parque Tayrona’, near where we live, is home to hundreds of species of animals. Today my family and I went on a trek up a mountain and then floated down the river on a tyre. As we peered into the jungle canopy I was amazed to see a huge king fisher sitting on a branch acting still, staring down at us. It was the first one my mum and dad had seen in forty-one years, and I spotted it!

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In Colombia everyone wakes up really early. In Palomino (where we stayed this week) at about six in the morning you can see little red squirrels scurrying in the trees. They are adorable! edit-2You can also see lots of interesting birds and hear their calls. There is a bird that looks like a black bird with a really long tail, which has an amazing amount of calls – it is squawking at me right now.

My dream is to see a monkey in the wild and I might be able to see one in ‘parque Tayrona’. We also saw a Portuguese man-of-war (it looks like a jellyfish but it’s actually something called a siphonophore!). For humans their sting is excruciatingly painful but rarely deadly, even dead ones can sting you. On the way back from Palomino we saw two massive green iguanas basking in the sun but they ran away before we could take a photo.

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This is a good time to tell you that I’ve always felt passionate about animals, so having this opportunity to see so many new ones is unbelievably awesome!