Amazing Animals You Can Spot in Colombia’s Tayrona National Park Uncover Colombia
Colombia Tayrona Park


August 7, 2019, 10:52 am

Tayrona National Natural Park, or Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona in Spanish, is easily one of the most visited places in the whole of Colombia. About 350,000 people visited the park in 2016 and that number is only on the rise. However, that doesn’t mean that a visit to Tayrona is any less magical or exciting – the area is still a national park full of biodiversity and unique animal species. Here are the most amazing animals found in the park:

Cotton-top Tamarin

These charismatic little endemic monkeys are probably the most iconic species in Tayrona National Park and a strong symbol of conservation as well. They aren’t actually native to Tayrona, but a group were introduced after conservation efforts in their native Magdalena Medio failed. They thrived in the protected jungles of Tayrona, and can often be seen peeking curiously at visitors from the tops of trees, whistling and chattering away to each other.

The Basilisk

That’s right Harry Potter fans, basilisks are a real thing! I mean, they can’t kill you with a stare or anything, but the real basilisks can do something just as amazing: run on water! This unique ability gave rise to their nickname: the Jesus Christ Lizard. They can often be seen alongside creeks and freshwater pools in Tayrona – get too close and off they go, sprinting across the surface of the water.


Yep, there are still living, breathing jaguars in Tayrona National Park! The chances of actually encountering one are rare, but people often find paw prints in muddy clearings. Guests do occasionally see one of the mighty cats in the flesh though: one visitor even captured incredible footage of a jaguar crossing underneath a beachside boardwalk in broad daylight.


The giant iguanas that live around Tayrona National Park are one of the most well-known and iconic species that reside there – while they may look a bit intimidating, the lizards don’t generally bother people and can often be observed sunning themselves on the smooth, warm surfaces of the giant rounded boulders that are such a feature of the park.


Another fearsome resident of Tayrona is the caiman – these alligator-like reptiles live in the rivers and bays of the park and sometimes even venture out to sea. Seeing one is quite rare, but keep your eyes peeled, particularly in the waters of the river behind the beach at Arrecifes.

Poison-dart Frogs

There are hundreds of species of these colourful little toxic frogs throughout Colombia, and Tayrona has an endemic species of its very own – the ones in the park are bright yellow and jet black, and can often be found hopping along the sides of trails, particularly after a rainy night.

Blue-knobbed Curassow

These large, turkey-like birds are endemic to Colombia and extremely endangered. In fact, they are one of the rarest birds in the entire country! Tayrona boasts a decent sized population however, and dedicated birders can sometimes spot them crossing trails and roads at dawn and dusk.

So there are some of the most amazing animals you can encounter in Tayrona National Park, but in order to see many of them you’ll need to follow these tips:

  • Get up really early and go hiking on the jungle trails, or take a stroll in the forest at dusk
  • Walk quietly and keep chatter to a minimum: most of these species are shy
  • If you do encounter any of the more dangerous species, keep your distance
  • Keep to the marked trails, Tayrona is a protected space after all

You should also keep in mind Tayrona is always closed in February. If you wish to visit Tayrona during a vacation to Colombia, consider taking a Tayrona and Santa Marta Tour.


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Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Chris Bell is a British travel journalist who has been exploring Colombia for four years as the editor of the award-winning Colombia Travel Blog. He has visited 30 of Colombia's 32 departments (those last two are just around the corner), and was named by El Espectador newspaper as "the Englishman who teaches you to travel in Colombia." His main passion, aside from exploring Colombia, is birding - his Colombia list is already approaching 800 species. Chris' 2017 goals: 32 departments and 1,000 species! 

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