The river that ran away from paradise

Believe it or not, Liquid Rainbow exits. At least for some time every year. Visit Cano Cristales, or ‘ the river of five colour’ located in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park in Columbia’s Meta department. It stretches to some 62 miles.

For six months of the year, the tributary looks just ordinary: a bed of rocks covered in dull green mosses visible below a cool, clear current. Between the months of June and November, the river gets a new identity. There emerges a riot of colours like yellow, blue, green, red and black hues.

During Columbia’s wet season, the water flows too fast and deep, obscuring the bottom of the river. This denies Macarenia clavigera, a species of plant that lines the river floor, the sun that it needs to turn red. During the dry season there is not enough water to support the dazzling array of life in the river. But when the water level is just right, Macarenia clavigera turns a brilliant red. There emerge splotches of yellow and green sand, blue water, and a thousand shades in between. Now the river is a veritable liquid rainbow.

Caño Cristales is a fast river with many rapids and waterfalls. In the bed there are small circular pits called the giant’s kettles, formed from pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. The location is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country with dry forest, rainforest, shrub land and savannah. The area also has a large variety of flora and fauna with over 2, 000 plants, 550 bird species, 1, 200 insects, 100 reptiles, 50 orchads, 8 monkey species, anteaters, jaguars, cougars and deer.

Caño Cristales is not easily accessible by road. Only adventurous tourists flock there. You can visit the river site on horseback and by foot as part of a guided tour. Visitors are not permitted to stay overnight or cook.