HOTSPOT–Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

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Tonio, a chauffeur with EcoTours, picks me up from the airport in Santa Marta, and we begin ascending towards El Dorado Reserve up the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The views all the way up could not be more spectacular. These mountains, isolated from the Andes, are incredibly special ecologically. They represent the highest-elevation tropical rainforest in the world. El Dorado Reserve, a birder’s paradise, is home to 400 species of birds, 21 of which are endemics.

I arrive at the lodge, “Eco-Center of the Sierra Nevada”, in the pouring rain. The rain is not malignant—it is a warm, exhilarating rain, that makes one feel sociable and ready to cluster in doors and make new friends. Stepping into the lodge only enhances that welcoming feeling: it is new (2011), but its warm floor-to-ceiling wood and stone hearth are very home-like. It’s tall, wrap-around windows offer breathtaking views of the forest, mountains, and coastline; but in the rain all is embraced by a soft fog. Soup, fried plantains, rice, and fresh fruit juice arrive from the kitchen….  Yup, this is goooood.

My original plan was to stay in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta [SNSM] for just under three weeks… although I liked it so much that I ended up staying over a month. My activities at the loge included making a promotional video for, painting wildlife murals, cleaning trails, removing invasive and restoring native flora, blog entries, assisting in carpentry, repainting trail signs, talking to visiting groups of school children, helping to clean the reserve as needed, helping to create a new trail up at the lagoon…

El Dorado is an incredible place to live and work. The people here are so enthusiastic, dedicated, and knowledgeable. There is an incredible diversity of birds, amphibians and epiphytes particularly… and some spectacular hiking, with many mountain vistas and foamy waterfalls…

Click HERE to see all my photos from the SNSM.


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© Copyright Emma Steigerwald | Vanderbilt Traveling Fellow