Caño Sabana, the river of 5 colors in Guaviare (the small caño cristales)

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Everyone knows Caño Cristales, the river of seven colors in the Serrania de la Macarena. It’s one of Colombia’s natural wonders and one of the most talked-about destinations on the international scene.

But few people know that there are other regions in Colombia where you can admire the same incredibly beautiful, colorful rivers as Caño Cristales!

These include Caño Sabana, one of the most visited sites around San Jose del Guaviare, and other colorful rivers in the region considered to be Caño Cristales’ little sisters.

If you’ve read our posts on the Guaviare region, you’ll know that it’s a place full of surprises. So here’s another fine example, all the more reason to discover this off-the-beaten-path corner of Colombia.

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

Colored rivers in Guaviare

Rincon de los toros and Caño Sabana Guaviare

Caño Sabana, the river of 5 colors in Guaviare (the small caño cristales)
Caño Sabana Guaviare

There are two rivers in Guaviare where you can easily observe the exceptional colors similar to those of Caño Cristales. There are certainly others, but as far as tourist access is concerned, we’ll settle for these two examples.

Caño Sabana (Finca Trankilandia)

Caño Sabana (where we went) is the story of a finca called “Trankilandia”, which for a long time was a place for “paseo de olla” (the Colombian tradition of Sunday barbecues in the middle of nature), and which was jeopardizing the conservation of this river with its fragile ecosystem.

However, thanks to the educational efforts of local guides and the prospect of tourism development, the owners soon realized that it was in their interest to participate in the conservation of the area, where barbecues and swimming are now prohibited.

Easily accessible and open to all, Caño Sabana and finca Trankilandia are the most popular spot with locals and tourists alike, especially at weekends.

Rincon de los Toros

The Rincon de los Toros is another much less-frequented site where you can observe an even more unspoilt river of seven colors.

You can only visit this site if accompanied by a guide from our local partner’s agency in Guaviare. This is the only agency authorized by the owners to visit Rincon de los Toros.

All this to enable visitors to fully appreciate, with their eyes, the spectacle offered by this magical algae that transforms water into an explosion of colors.

Let’s talk about Macarenia Calvigera.

Contact Marcel to visit the Guaviare rivers of color

La Macarenia Clavigera

Caño Sabana Guaviare

Caño Sabana, the river of 5 colors in Guaviare (the small caño cristales)

If the rivers of the Serrania de la Macarena in the Meta (Caño Cristales) and the Serrania de la Lindosa in the Guaviare (Caño Sabana, Rincon de los Toros) are adorned with impressive colors, it’s not by some mysterious miracle or unlikely optical effect. It’s not! It’s an algae endemic to this region that gives the rivers this color.

It’s an alga called “Macarenia clavigera”, which has the property of changing color in much the same way as tree leaves are born, change color and die each year according to the season.

In this case, it’s the amount of water in the river that causes the algae to go from “hibernation” when the river is dry, to awakening when the water reappears, to developing increasingly red hues as the water provides it with nutrients.

The differences between Caño Cristales and Caño Sabana in Guaviare

The Guaviare river of seven colors

Caño Sabana, the river of 5 colors in Guaviare (the small caño cristales)
Caño Sabana Guaviare

You may wonder why Caño Cristales is so well known if other identical rivers exist in Colombia .

Firstly, because Colombia is a young tourist destination and there is still a lot that is not well known .

Secondly, because Guaviare was for a long time a territory of conflict where it was difficult to travel safely.

Finally, because the rivers of Guaviare are perhaps less extensive than the sites of Caño Cristales. That’s why we talk about Caño Cristales’ “little brother”.

Indeed, Caño Cristales offers a different panorama of color than Guaviare. The profusion and concentration of algae is greater around the Macarena in the Meta.

But Caño Sabana in Guaviare offers a more than interesting alternative to Caño Cristales.

Quite simply, because San José del Guaviare is more easily accessible than La Macarena, and the area offers many other possibilities for excursions, as discussed in our other posts on the region.

We haven’t yet been to Caño Cristales, and we imagine that when we do, we’ll be in for a real treat! In the meantime, we were delighted by our discovery of Caño Sabana, and can assure you that this river of the seven colors of the Guaviare is truly a thing of beauty.

Contact Marcel to visit the coloured rivers of Guaviare

Season to visit Caño Sabana in Guaviare

the colors of Caño Cristales’ little brother

Caño Sabana, the river of 5 colors in Guaviare (the small caño cristales)
Caño Sabana Guaviare

As with Caño Cristales, there is of course a season for admiring the colors of Caño Sabana in Guaviare.

This natural phenomenon is akin to the flowering of a perennial aquatic plant, which returns every year at the same time: from June to November.

In the case of Macarenia Clavigera, it’s not until June that flowering begins and the first colors appear in the Guaviare’s colorful rivers.

It’s from late July onwards that the seaweed has its most intense and deep colors, but when we were there in September, the river colors were still beautiful and majestic.

The observation season for Caño Sabana, Guaviare’s river of seven colors, lasts until the end of November.

If you want to see this exceptional natural phenomenon, you’ll need to visit the Guaviare between June and November. But in any case, Guaviare has a lot to offer and many activities and discoveries to enjoy in all seasons!

Today, it’s impossible not to mention the risks associated with climate change and its effects on the weather seasons in Colombia. That’s why there’s no guarantee of the rainfall necessary for the survival of the algae that give the river its color. If there is no rain for several weeks during the season, water levels will drop and the algae may wither until the rains return.

Contact Marcel to visit the Guaviare coloured rivers

Our experience at Caño Sabana

Caño Cristales’ little brother in Guaviare

Caño Sabana, the river of 5 colors in Guaviare (the small caño cristales)

We’ve experienced so much in San José del Guaviare, and it’s all gone by so quickly! On our last day here, we’ll be visiting the Caño Sabana river, considered the little brother of Caño Cristales, the river of seven colors!

Franklin will be guiding us all day. Franklin, another young man from San José del Guaviare with a passion for his region, has trained himself to be a guide largely by reading books and spending time with visiting scientists. Like Marcos, he’s a veritable wellspring of knowledge, particularly about the flora of the Guaviare, with which he is literally enamored.

Arriving at the Trankilandia finca site, we set off in the sweltering sun to discover the Caño Cabana, the Guaviare’s river of seven colors. On the way, Franklin tells us a little about the local flora, the formation of the river and, finally, why the river takes on these shades of color.

It’s wonderful to discover, as we approach the surface of the water, the small algae that produce this splendid masterpiece. The hues range from yellow to deep red, orange to pink, and contrast with the green of the surrounding vegetation.

Today, it is forbidden to swim or enter the water in the entire area where the algae is present. It’s another fine initiative to protect this exceptional site, especially as a bathing area has been set up at the entrance, and this is where our morning at Caño Sabana will end!

A small waterfall upstream from the first pool is also open to bathers, a perfect moment to recharge your batteries after a few hours spent in the sun contemplating one of the Guaviare’s most beautiful spectacles!

Contact your local guide to visit Caño Sabana Guaviare

Ecoturismo Guaviare (#45)

To contact Marcel, our local partner in San José del Guaviare, you can use the form below. You won’t pay any more, but it will let him know you’ve come from us.

IMPORTANT: If you don’t hear from our partner within 72 hours, please check your SPAMS first before contacting us.

Opening hours and prices

Finca Trankilandia is open to the public from June to December.

  • Opening hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (last admissions, closes at 5:00 p.m.)
  • Rates :

Where to stay in San José del Guaviare

During our stay in Guaviare, we spent three nights at Playa Güio, located in the heart of nature 20 minutes by cab from San José, perfect for disconnecting, and one night at Casa Miriku in the center of San Jose del Guaviare.

San José del Guaviare, the best hotels

Hotel El Aeropuerto

Hotel

Hotel El Aeropuerto

Double room : $300.000 to $350.000 COP

Hotel El Aeropuerto is, as its name suggests, located right next to San José del Guaviare airport. With its swimming pool, nice common areas and all the services of a classic hotel.

San José del Guaviare, the best hotels

Hotel Quinto Nivel

Hotel

Hotel Quinto Nivel

Double room : $300.000 to $350.000 COP

The Hotel Quinto Nivel is one of San José del Guaviare’s best-known hotels. Most local agencies lodge their clients in this hotel.

San José del Guaviare, the best hotels

Visit San José del Guaviare travel guide: the gateway to Amazonia

Eco Lodge

Playa Guio

Dormitory : $25.000 to $50.000/Double room : $0 to $100.000 COP

Playa Guio is a haven of peace in the middle of nature, a 20-minute cab ride from the center of San José del Guaviare. On site, you’ll find the warmth of the Melo family, a large common room where you can eat and have a good time, a large hut for those who want to sleep cheaply in a hammock, and two private cabins for those who want privacy.

How to get to Guaviare

San José del Guaviare is the safest and most accessible tourist destination.

Getting to San José del Guaviare by bus

BUS | Bogota <> San José del Guaviare (8h)

  • Fare: approx. $70.000 COP
  • Companies: Flota La Macarena
  • Departures: all day, with night buses also available.

BUS | Bogota <> Villavicencio (3h)

  • Fare: approx. $30.000 COP
  • Companies: Flota La Macarena, Expreso Bolivariano, Copetran
  • Departures: approx. every 30 minutes

BUS | Villavicencio <> San Jose del Guaviarel (5h)

  • Fare: approx. $50.000 COP
  • Companies: Flota La Macarena
  • Departures: approximately every hour

Getting to San José del Guaviare by plane

Only the regional airlines Satena and EasyFly offer flights to San Jose del Guaviare from Bogotá.

PLANE | Bogota <> San José del Guaviare (1h15)

  • Fare: from $400.000 COP round trip
  • Companies: Satena, EasyFly
  • Departures: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

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Authors

Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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