Hato La Aurora nature reserve, Colombia
By Jose Miguel Gomez
I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years, but this was to be my first bird-watching safari so I took along a 70-300mm lens, thinking it would be enough. We also expected to do lots of hiking in heat, and it’s the lightest of my long lenses.
I traveled with my son and 18 other explorers of whom some were amateur photographers. We had four guides plus a well-known ecologist, but the real treat for me was master photographer-adventurer Andres Hurtado, who organized the trip. Andres was leading us to the Hato La Aurora nature reserve, in Casanare province.
It was one day decades earlier, in high school, when I first met Andres. He arrived to give a class titled “general culture” right after tumbling down the Naranjo de Bulnes mountain peak in Spain and losing all feeling on his left side. It was a miracle he had survived, and there he was giving classes to us.
A group of us began physical training with him, jogging daily around a mountain near Bogota, until one day he invited me to climb Tolima Mountain. That day he showed me my first camera, and my life was changed.
Now, years later, we began the visit to Hato La Aurora with a 9-km (5 miles) hike across the savanna in a temperature of 38C (100F). We began to see birds that were new to us, flying out of and back into nearby forests, but when we approached they became frightened. They were too fast for our cameras, but left us with the constant hope of finding one of their kind again.