Where did you stay when you were in the Llanos?
I stayed at Hato Mata de Palma, a traditional llanero homestead in the Reserva Natural El Encanto de Guanapalo. Rates are US$200 per person, including accommodation in a comfortable en-suite room, full-board, guided safaris and other activities, plus transfers to and from Yopal.
Is it easy to find accommodation in the Llanos?
Tourism is still in its early stages in the Llanos but there are increasing accommodation options. In Reserva Natural El Encanto de Guanapalo, for example, there are three different places to stay: Hato Mata de Palma (where I stayed), Hato Altamira (which offers rooms in a traditional homestead) and Hato Montana (which has luxury tents). All of these can be booked directly via the reserve’s website, through a local tour company like Wild Llanos or via an international operator such as Journey Latin America, who organised my research trip.
How can you arrange accommodation on Providencia? Do they have homestay type of lodgings for example?
The vast majority of the accommodation is in simple, locally owned and run guesthouses and B&Bs, though there are also a couple of smarter hotels. Many have websites and can be booked directly; almost everyone on the island speaks English. Alternatively, most can also be found on sites such as Booking.com (though booking this way is slightly more expensive). I didn’t come across any homestays per se, but many of the guesthouses and B&Bs are family run and often part of (or adjacent to) family homes, so they do provide a taste of local life.
How do you get from the capital to the Llanos via public transport?
LATAM has daily flights between Bogotá and Yopal, the regional capital of Casanare department, the part of the Llanos covered in the talk; the journey lasts roughly 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Bogotá to Yopal, generally changing in the city of Duitama; the whole journey takes seven to nine hours. Reserva Natural El Encanto de Guanapalo is a 110km drive from Yopal and you need to travel in a private vehicle. Although the quality of roads in Casanare is generally good, accessing reserves such as Guanapalo is challenging and best left to local drivers. Wild Llanos provided my transfers.
What sort of horses are used by cowboys? Do they cater for experienced riders? And in terms of safety is it best to take my own hat?
The cowboys at Hato Mata de Palma rode Colombian criollo (creole) horses. They do cater for experienced riders: rides are tailored to individual travellers, and staff at the hatos (ranches) are happy to organise longer rides, rides across more challenging terrain, or activities such as cattle round-ups. I’m a novice rider and felt safe on all the rides I went on; having said that, some of the terrain is rough and I was only given a soft, wide-brimmed cowboy-style hat, which provides shade but little protection in the event of a fall. If you prefer to wear a helmet, I’d recommend bringing one with you.