Volunteer in Colombia

Be amazed by Colombia’s dramatic landscape and rich marine biodiversity!

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Columbia’s tropical coastline.     Photo credit: Jess Kraft, Shutterstock

About Colombia

Colombia is situated in the north of South America, bordered by Panama, Brazil,Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.  Like most Latin American countries, Spanish is the language spoken here, with the Colombian peso being the nation’s currency.  Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, sits over 2, 600m above sea level, and is sometimes referred to as the Athens of South America, due to the large number of universities and libraries located there.  The country is also known for its production of top quality coffee and emeralds, as well as the myth of El Dorado!

Highlights

  • Explore the breathtaking marble canyon at the Reserva Natural Cañon de Río Claro.
  • Marvel at the historic craftsmanship on show at the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum).
  • Wander through the cobbled streets and soak up the ambience in Cartagena’s old town.

Climate and Geography

In general Colombia has a tropical type climate, although the highlands enjoy more temperate weather, with some of the highest areas experiencing alpine conditions.  The country also contains five main natural regions, each with their own unique characteristics, ie. the Andes Mountain Range,  the Pacific and Caribbean coastal regions, the Llanos Plains and the Amazon Rainforest.

Colombia is also situated in one of the most geologically active regions of the world, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.  As a result, the highlands are subject to volcanic eruptions and occasional earthquakes, as well as periodic droughts.  Galeras (elevation 4,276m) is one of Colombia’s most active volcanoes, having erupted in 2009 and 2010 causing major evacuations.  Nevado del Ruiz (elevation 5,321m), another volcano located 129 km west of Bogota, also erupted in 1985 producing lahars that killed 23,000 people.

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Map of South America depicting Columbia.     Image credit: d-maps.com

Culture and Religion

Colombia’s modern culture has been influenced by Native American, Spanish (who colonised the country), African (slave trade) and American cultures, as well as other Latin American influences.  These are all reflected in daily life through the country’s language, religion, architecture, arts, sport and cuisine.  This colourful culture is also expressed through the many fairs, festivals and carnivals which occur all over the country, with each region having its own unique traditions.  A number of international cultural events also take place in Colombia, including the Cartagena Film and Hay Festival, the Manizales Theater Festival, the Bogotá Book Fair and Jazz Festival and the International Poetry Festival in Medellín.

Wildlife and Environment

Colombia is recognised as one of the planet’s 17 mega-diverse countries on the basis of the number of plant and animal species occurring within its boundaries.  This may be related to the fact that part of the Amazon rainforest, considered to be the most biodiverse ecosystem on Earth, lies within its borders.  Colombia is also one of the countries with the highest marine biological diversity in South America, as well as one of the most biodiverse in the New World.  Vulnerable species in the country’s waters include the Amazonian and West Indian Manatees and numerous species of whales and dolphins.

Click here to see how you can work as a marine conservation volunteer in Colombia!