Cave of the Guacharos

This National Park is located in the extreme south of the Huila region and the southwest of the Caqueta region, occupying an area of 9,000 Ha with the highest point being between 1,650 and 2,800 meters above sea level. Here you can see caves formed by carbonated calcite that are inhabited by “los guacharos,” the birds from which the park takes its name. These extraordinary birds, who spend the day in the dark caves and come out at night to gather fruit, use a system of echolocation similar to bats. All of this is accompanied by a beautiful forest, which is one of the last Andean rainforests that remain on our planet.



Cuevas de los Guacharos



ITINERARY:

Day 1: San Agustín

Arrival in San Agustín around noon and transfer to the designated hotel.
Option 1: Visit of the archeological park with the “mesitas" A, B, C, D, the ceremonial fountain "Lavapatas” and the archeological museum.
Option 2: Horseback riding, along coffee and sugar cane plantations, with visit of the archeological sites “El Tablón”, ”La Chaquira”, “La Pelota” and “El Purutal”.
Dinner and overnight stay at the designated hotel.

Day 2: Palestina – National park “Guácharo Cave”

After breakfast, ride along the Magdalena river to Palestina (2h). From here we start the 6h hike to the visitor center in the park where we stay for the night. The hike will lead us through a secondary forest with many birding possibilities

Day 3: National park “Guácharo Cave”

Breakfast and a two hour hike to the “Indios cave”, with different chalk formations and where a special endemic spider (Pocock – Pterinochilus) can be observed, which inhabits the dark, deep caves.
From there we continue to the Guácharo cave, where we observe the oilbird and the Suaza River, which passes through the inside cave. This visit takes about 30 minutes, afterwards we return to the visitor center for lunch.
In the afternoon hike to a waterfall, where we can relax and refresh ourselves in the crystal clear water.
Dinner and overnight stay at the visitor center.

Day 4: National park “Guácharo cave” – San Agustín

Breakfast and afterwards hike to the village Villa Fátima, from where we drive back to San Agustín. Overnight stay at the designated hotel.

Our services:
Private transport San Agustín-Palestina-Vereda Mesura-San Agustín. 2 nights in San Agustín at chosen hotel. 2 nights in the National park in dormitories. English speaking guide. Full board starting with lunch on day 1 to lunch on day 4 (lunch in the national park contains a lunchbox).
Visit of the archeological park or horseback riding. Entries

Not included:
Transport to San Agustin. Activities not mentioned in the program. Personal expenses



The eyes of Guacharo: pushing the limits of the senses

Martin G, Rojas LM, Ramírez Y, McNeil R., Escuela de Biosciences,Universidad de Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, g.r.martin@bham.ac.uk

The Guacharo is an example of a species that survives in complete darkness. These amazing creatures sleep deep in the caves, where not even the smallest bit of light can penetrate, and they come out only at night to eat.

Microscopic techniques have been used to research the retina of the guacharo to determine the parameters of the bird´s field of vision. It has been found that the retina is covered in receptors(diameter 1.3+/-.2 microm; and the length 18.6+/-.6 microm) which are arranged in a structure that is unique to terrestrial vertebrates. This arrangement within the retina allows for a density of photoreceptors that is, so far, the highest recorded (approximately 1,000,000 mm.). The Guacharo’s eye is relatively small (a longitudinal axis of 16.1+/-0.2 mm) and its pupil, when at its full size, has a diameter of 9.0 +/ -0.0 mm. These measurements indicate that the Guacharo can sense light better than any other recorded bird (approximately 1.07). The binocular field of the Guacharo has a maximum width of 38 degrees and extends vertically over 100 degrees.

It has also been found that the Guacharo’s eyes, in juxtaposition with their visual capacity, propose a contradiction between sensitivity and resolution. While visual sensitivity is near the best it could possibly be, the visual resolution is weak. This explains why the birds employ other sensory signals, including olfactory and echolocation when they are in dark environments.

In terms of their plumage the younger specimens are brown, with an especially dark pigmentation on their backs and underbelly. They also present the same white spots as the adult specimens and when the birds reach adulthood their brown pigmentation changes to a red hue. From head to tail they measure from 33cm. to 48 cm. and they have a wingspan between 91 cm. and 120 cm. In adulthood, they can weigh as much as 2kg. Equipped with powerful beaks, the Guacharo can easily grab food during flight.





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