Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare

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On a previous trip to Colombia, we were lucky enough to go on an “Wildlife Safari” in Casanare, a department east of Bogotá, the region of the Colombian llanos.

During this three-day stay in the heart of the llanera culture, we visited the Hato Las Gaviotas, a rather unique place where we were lucky enough to discover a heronry from the inside. In this post, we tell you all about it.

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.

Hato Las Gaviotas

Visiting the Casanare

Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare

On the second day of our wildlife safari in the Casanare, after meeting the incredible Seudiel, the “llanerazo“, we set off to discover the Hato Las Gaviotas.

Once again, we really don’t know what to expect. The Casanare has so many surprises in store for us that it’s best to let ourselves be carried along by the discoveries and enjoy every minute.

On the agenda is our first horseback ride to discover a “Garcero”, a heronry, home to all the herons in the area.

The horse is the king of the llanos, the faithful companion of the llanero, the Colombian cowboy. It is said that llaneros spend more time on their horses than on their own legs… The llanero’s job is identical to the epinal image we have of the cowboy. His role is to care for the cattle, and to accompany them (on horseback) from pasture to pasture.

What’s special about the Colombian llanos is that the Hatos, the cattle-breeding farms, are simply vast tracts of land, the size of which is hard to imagine. To give you an idea, it is said that some llaneros had to spend several days on horseback to fetch the cattle from the bottom of the property. Some hatos would build several houses at various points on the property to enable the llaneros to stop off and rest…

We’ve been looking forward to this moment because for us, the Casanare is linked to certain images that are ingrained in the collective unconscious, and one of them is horseback riding!

Contact Heiler, our local Partner to visit Hato las Gaviotas in Casanare

Horseback riding at Hato Las Gaviotas

Living the llanero life in Casanare

Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare

This is Angélica’s first time on horseback. As for me, I’ve already done one or two rides in my life, nothing crazy. The small difference here in Casanare, compared to more touristy destinations where horseback riding is offered to tourists, is that here the horses are not trained for it. They are horses ridden by the llaneros for their work. They are well cared for and looked after.

That said, as you may know, each horse has its own character. The owners know their horses, and they’ve prepared the calmest, easiest-to-ride horses for us. For Angélica, who was a little scared, our guide Heiler held the reins in his hand throughout the ride to avoid any lurching.

For us, as beginners, it’s really a leisurely walk. But we know that Heiler adapts his rides according to the riders’ knowledge. I think the Casanare really is a rider’s paradise. If you’re an amateur rider, don’t hesitate for a second, you’re in for a treat.

We set off across the fields to a flooded undergrowth. September is an intermediate season in Casanare, between the dry and wet seasons. The plains are not totally flooded as they are in the wet season (April – July), but some parts are, and the rivers and lakes are not dry as they are in the dry season (December – March).

Contact Heiler, our local Partner to visit Hato las Gaviotas in Casanare

Discover a heronry from the inside at Hato Las Gaviotas

An unforgettable experience in the Casanare

Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare

We enter the undergrowth following a stream bed, and what we don’t know is that we’re also entering the very interior of a heronry!

We advance in silence, surrounded by the sounds of hundreds (thousands?) of herons. It’s as if we’re in a tunnel of vegetation, surrounded by hundreds of nests built in the shelter of the undergrowth. There are nests all around us, it’s crazy! With little herons inside, more or less newborn with their down, they watch us go by.

We hear the cries of herons overhead, but can’t really make them out. Then we come to a clearing, and all around us a surreal vision explodes in our faces: a veritable swarm of herons of many species, white, grey, black, pink, perched on the treetops of the coppice, passing over our heads again and again. The sight is surreal – there are so many of them! It’s unbelievable.

Contact Heiler, our local Partner to visit Hato las Gaviotas in Casanare

Sunset on Hato Las Gaviotas

A llanero atardecer

Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare

Recovering from our emotions, we set off on the return journey, once again enjoying the start of a blazing sunset.

The Casanare is famous for its sunsets; indeed, the “llanos” in general are famous for their sunsets. A well-known llanera song even sings an ode to the “atadecer llanero”, the llanero sunset. We discovered this song thanks to Heiler, our great guide. He sang it for us during the walk! An emotional moment and a beautiful memory for us 🙂

“A llanero sunset adds a touch to the landscape, it makes the path more beautiful for the eye to focus on”.

Comfortably installed on our horses, like little cowboys, we ride our valiant steeds at two to the hour, the sky over the plain ablaze in the distance, the tones changing from blue to red in all shades, nature offering us the most beautiful spectacle that only our planet can offer.

Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare
Visit Hato Las Gaviotas travel guide: Natural reserve in Casanare

Contact heiler to visit Hato las Gaviotas

Tour Casanare (#56)

To contact Heiler, our local partner in Casanare, you can use the form below. You won’t pay more, but it will let him know you’re coming from us.

IMPORTANT: Heiler is a real local guide, a true llanero, who is often lost in the depths of the Casanare to discover new lands or to accompany visitors. He and his wife are the only people who handle bookings, so you may need to be a little patient to get a reply.

Where to stay in Yopal

Yopal, the best hotels

Villa Lisseth

Hotel

Villa Lisseth

Double room : $150.000 to $200.000 COP

A hotel where we stayed in Yopal at the end of our return from Safari Llanero. A nice place in a quiet area of town, in a pretty garden with a swimming pool, large, clean and modern rooms, and a very warm welcome from the staff!

How to get to Hato Las Gaviotas

Hato Las Gaviotas is located in San Luis de Palenque, but you can’t get there on your own. Why not?

  • Because it’s privately owned
  • Because it’s first and foremost a working farm
  • Because only local guides have the contacts to enter and be welcomed on site.

Having said that, you can get closer to the villages of Trinidad and San Luis de Palenque on your own, but we recommend you to contacf Heiler in advance to prepare your stay in Casanare.

Getting to Yopal by bus

It’s very easy to get to Yopal by bus.

BUS | Bogota – Yopal (8h)

  • Fare: approx. $70.000 COP
  • Companies: Concorde, Flota Libertadores (Sugamuxi), Copetran
  • Departures: all day, with night buses also available.

BUS | Villavicencio – Yopal (5h if no construction work)

  • Fare: approx. $50.000 COP
  • Companies: Flota Libertadores (Flota Sugamuxi)
  • Departures: all day

Getting to Trinidad or San Luis de Palenque by bus/taxi

From Yopal, you can take a bus to San Luis de Palenque or Trinidad, the only paved road in the area. Alternatively, most local guides will offer to pick you up at the airport. We did just that.

BUS | Yopal – Trinidad or San Luis de Palenque (2h)

  • Fare: approx. $35.000 COP
  • Company: Flota Sugamuxi
  • Departures: all day

Getting to Yopal by plane

PLANE | Bogota – Yopal (1h)

  • Fare: $150.000 COP one way
  • Airlines : Avianca, Latam, Clicair

When to visit Casanare

The seasons in the Casanare region are very marked, bringing changes to the landscape and the way you visit it.

Dry season

Between January and March, the whole plain is completely dry, the rivers diminish, the lakes diminish and the wildlife concentrates around the few existing water points. The “Moriche” or “Morichal” palms are one of the key elements in the preservation of the “flooded savannah” ecosystems that retain water during the dry season.

During this period, Hatos can be explored on foot or by 4×4. Please note, however, that some activities are not possible due to the lack of water.

Rainy season

From May to October is the rainy season, when the rivers swell and some parts of the plains are flooded. This is when the abundance of wildlife is at its most spectacular. There’s a peak in June and July, when the rains are heaviest and the plains are almost completely flooded.

During this period, the Hatos are best explored on horseback or by boat.

We went to the Casanare in September 2019 and that year we were in the intermediate period when part of the plains were flooded, but not totally.

Transitional season

April, November and December are transitional months.

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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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