In a recent announcement, the Colombian National Parks System confirmed its plans to unshroud the mystery of this illustrious region by working with 19 approved tour operators to conduct an allotted 40 flights in 2019, offering few lucky passengers the chance to glimpse the largest tropical rainforest national park in the world from the air.
Declared Colombia’s 38th national park in 1989 and a UNESCO world heritage site in 2018, Chiribiquete covers over 15,000 square miles of wilderness, a monumental landmass akin to the size of Switzerland. Located in the northwestern stretches of the Colombian Amazon and situated in the western region of the Guiana Shield—one the world’s oldest rock formations at 1.7 billion years—Colombia’s largest protected area plays host to the confluence of four biogeographical provinces, providing a haven for some of the rarest and most biodiverse flora and fauna on Earth.
One of the park’s most impressive features includes its abundance of tepuis (or table-top mountains), sheer-sided sandstone plateaus rising abruptly from the jungle floor. Wildly unexplored due to its rugged landscape and remote location, scientists are just beginning to uncover the perplexities of the area. Recent expeditions have resulted in the cataloging of over 2,000 species of plants, of which 67 are endemic to Colombia and 16 are exclusive to Chiribiquete, and 32 new animal species, including the endemic Chiribiquete emerald hummingbird, adding to an animal kingdom inclusive of jaguar, howler monkey, puma, and giant otter.
The park is also believed to contain 75,000 indigenous paintings—depicting hunting scenes, battles, dances, ceremonies, and sacred animals like the jaguar, a symbol of power and fertility—covering the walls of 60 rock shelters, with the earliest artworks originating in 20,000 BC. The paintings form sacred spaces and continue to gain in numbers, as four remaining indigenous communities who have never encountered modern civilization proceed to add to the park’s living history.
“Colombia is a megadiverse country, and Chiribiquete is a pristine gem we’re still discovering,” ProColombia’s Vice President of Tourism Julián Guerrero Orozco said. “Aside from the indigenous groups who call the park home, passengers afforded the chance to fly over the park will be amongst the first in history to see this place outside of scientific expeditions.”
To preserve the pristine environment and retain the lifestyle integrity of the park’s indigenous communities, the Colombian Air Force and the Ministry of Transport’s Civil Aeronautics agency will monitor scheduled departures by GPS satellite tracking.
“Chiribiquete is one of the last frontiers of the world, and few people even know it exists,” Marcelo Jaramillo Ramirez said, Colombia operations manager for Flashpacker Connect, a US-based tour operator with access to book passengers on flights within the park. “It’s our hope to awe travelers with the beauty of this place, reinforcing why it’s worthy of being protected.”
Departing from Bogotá and stopping first at the national park office in San José del Guaviare, flights operated by Flashpacker Connect will have 10 seats and include a one-hour experience, shortening a journey, that if legal, would take roughly 15 days by boat. Departures begin at $2,000 per person per flight.