Imagine waking up in a bed under a mosquito net in the jungle. You can feel the wind all over your body, as there are no windows in the building. Instead you look to the right and see a steep lush green landscape, hear a wild flowing river and the orchestra of birds and insects. That is Rio Claro natural reserve.
Before you start booking: this ain’t a luxury cruise. There are no warm showers, no WiFi, limited mobile reception, and if you want to have sex you’d better be quiet as the rooms are of course open so anyone can hear anything. No, didn’t try it out myself 🙂
Off the grid
In Rio Claro natural reserve, privately owned for decades, the entire idea is to go off the grid and into nature. There is no music, but waterfalls with crystal clear water. And the river Claro itself which is, as the word says, clear as well. Unless it rains, then it becomes a muddy stream.
The reserve is located in a steep canyon almost halfway Medellin and Bogota. After a fifteen minute walk from the entrance (admission by previous reservation only) and crossing a small bridge, you first pass a building with normal hotel rooms. Which means: with windows. But no warm water, no WiFi.
The main building has accommodation as well, especially suited for families. On the ground floor the restaurant is in the open air, it’s a gorgeous wooden building. Sustainability is key here. This is also the place for your adrenaline rushes, more about that later.
The real treat is when you continue the trail through the canyon for ten minutes. Here are the cabanas XXX, three buildings with open rooms towards the jungle. This is the real nature experience. When you go here, you should at least stay for a night. It’s a different kind of waking up.
There are many natural things to do here. The trail continues for another 30-45 minutes, ever narrower and uncomfortable, until it gets too hard and the reserve ends as well.
In between the open cabanas and the end of the trail is a beach. The water temperature here is acceptable, just be careful as currents can be strong. In the weekends lifeguards are there as well.
The strange thing about Rio Claro for me personally is that it wants to go back to nature, but it also offers adrenaline adventures. Probably to finance the entire thing. But waking up to the sounds of birds and then thirty minutes later see a package of human meat fly by your room on a zipline is, to put it mildly, inconsistent.
There is also the opportunity to go rafting, it’s a relatively easy ride. And the closest to nature is the exploration of the caves, which ends by having to climb down into the river to swim to the other side.
Alive after dark
You can do all of the adrenaline stuff on a daytrip as well of course. But the sounds of nature only really come alive after dark. So do yourself a favour. Oh, and never mind the scary animals you might see left and right. This is nature, after all. (I freezed as well upon seeing a tarantula, but apparently they are not as dangerous as its reputation tells us)
Good to know
- you need previous reservations for visiting Rio Claro, both for the tours and the cabanas. The website is: http://rioclaroreservanatural.com/
- most of the buses traveling between Bogota and Medellin make a stop here, if you ask the driver. Make sure though before making a buying a bus ticket
- the nearest bigger place in the area is Doradal, fifteen minutes by car or bus to the east. You can also take a hotel here and take a taxi or collectivo to Rio Claro. There are several cheap lodging options along the noisy main road. One block away is the Parque Principal, which is already much quieter
- east of Doradal is the Hacienda Napoles. This used to be Pablo Escobar’s ranch during his reign as drug king. It’s now more an adventure park for kids, with water slides, pools, animals and more. See https://haciendanapoles.com/