The Tayrona National Park located in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta has reopened to the public after closing at the beginning of this year for a month of environmental ‘healing’.

Bordering the Caribbean coastline, Tayrona is Colombia’s most important national park attracting thousands of tourists annually.

The decision to shut it down was made by the country’s largest indigenous community, the Arhuacos, in an attempt to ‘purify mother nature’. The tribe believed that bringing in such a vast quantity of people to visit the park on a daily basis was drastically harming the local ecosystem and it consequently needed time to recover.

Despite the impact this would have on the government’s revenue, it still went ahead, drawing attention to the incredible amount of power these people have as guardians of their environment.

In a surprising turn of events, the ‘resting period’ was of such success that the director of the park, John Jairo Restrepo and the state’s national parks entity Parques Nacionales de Colombia have confirmed that this will now take place every year, for one month, between January and February.

To make the most of the situation, seven hidden cameras were placed in various areas around the park to discover whether the animals would behave differently without any human presence. As a result, not only did this initiative give the place a chance to recuperate, but allowed for the usually impossible observation of over 50 endangered species. “It was amazing seeing the images of the jaguar in Parque Tayrona, a specie that is already extinct in so many countries,” Restrepo told The City Paper. In addition, a puma was captured roaming through the trees and is the second largest mammal residing in the park. According to Parques Nacionales de Colombia, these two felines are at the top of the food chain and therefore demonstrate the area’s biodiversity.

However, it was not just predators that were spotted. A variety of exotic birds could also be seen perching on the leaves of the palms, one of which being the “paujil”, a blue-beaked creature in danger of going extinct.

The park is made up of almost 20,000 hectares, 4,500 of which include sea. From January 28 to February 28, turtles, fish and coral were provided with an opportunity to enjoy their surroundings without the threat of contamination. With water being a main resource for the communities that live there, as well as essential for the preservation and development of the environment, the break was a necessary form of sustainability.

The reopening of Tayrona has brought with it many positive changes, specifically within the tourism sector. Every day, educational talks are given to visitors about the arranged improvements and there is a strong anti-litter movement in place that prohibits the use of plastic bags within the park.“If Colombia wants to be a leader in tourism and maintain its amazing natural wonders, it must be with responsibility and compromise,” said Restrepo.

If you would like to pay a visit to this truly breathtaking location, the park is open every day from 8 a.m to 5 p.m and is a very short bus ride from Santa Marta. When planning your trip, remember to avoid going at the beginning of the year as you will not be able to enter while the eco-motivated restorations are taking place.

  • Dems2012

    Unfortunately, this only addresses a part of the problem. The park is poorly managed and not exactly well organized. In addition to the tourists, there seems to be an inordinate number of people living and working in the park (non-indigenous) Their horses tear up the trails and they don’t seem to be too interested in taking care of the environment. Instead of just focusing on tourists, the park’s management should also do something about the number of informal people “working” and living in the park.