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Baseline Information and Review 

Scientific information has been accumulated to help determine the carrying capacity of the Tayrona National Park, and to establish different zones within the park for management purposes, including zones where tourism of particular types is most suitable, and other zones which should be free from tourism. However the park does not have sufficient detailed information for the assessment of ecological and sociocultural impacts. 
Strengths The existence of a wide frame of regulations and political guidelines for ecotourism which give general direction for the practice of ecotourism activities. 
Politically this is seen as a priority. The Tayrona National Park has good information about marine-coastal ecosystems, taxonomic lists on endemic, exclusive, migrating and endangered species for the park as a whole. This information has already been used in zoning the park, and for the classification of the coastal ecotourism sites. It could also be applied to develop management criteria for avoidance or prevention of damage that can result from tourism, and for education and publishing purposes to raise awareness of tourists about the sensitivity and ecological importance of the places they visit. 
The UAESPNN has some information about the evolution of the ecotourism market, opening up the possibility of setting up projects to develop ecotourism for which there would be a demand in the market. However, studies about ecotourism markets are insufficient. Challenges to be addressed There is no adequate framework to allow the exchange of information between traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific-technical knowledge, and this prevents the integration of such knowledge in assessments of plans for tourism development, and in evaluations of the effects of existing tourism. 
There is an absence of indicators to assess and monitor the social and cultural impact of ecotourism, and more information is needed on the scale of its economic contribution to communities. 
There is no assessment of flora and fauna species which can be used as indicators of the impact of the ecotourism activities - such information is necessary to assist in management actions to counteract any damage to biodiversity that may occur through tourism, and to adjust and plan tourism activities.  More information is needed for all the planning levels and decision making. 
The UAESPNN regards ecotourism in national parks as a tool for raising public awareness on the goods and services provided by protected areas, going beyond the traditional functions of conserving wild flora and fauna, which are commonly associated with national parks by society. 
Strengths The public and private sectors are working together to include all parties affected by tourism. Regional bodies have good access to local and national government and there has been a clear political willingness to acknowledge the roles and authority of the various institutions involved in environmental protection and in tourism activities, and to open up communication channels amongst them. An important function of the Regional Government is to promote development of consensus amongst the different institutions of the region, by creating appropriate processes for interaction. A process of environmental awareness has also begun at the top levels, and is benefiting planning and strategy. 
A national tourism policy exists which aims to improve the competitiveness of the tourist destinations throughout Colombia, and which is put into practice through agreements with regional “clusters”. This avoids duplication of initiatives in each region and is bringing together all stakeholders involved in tourism development. 
Challenges to be addressed The current agreements on the management of the park and tourism activities within it, are vulnerable to future political changes in both local and national governments. 
There are also problems with putting the land use plan of the tourist district of Santa Marta into practice. It is a document which demonstrates, but does not resolve, a clash of interests between the conservation of the biological diversity of the area, tourism and economic development. In its final draft, this document did not consider the conservation objectives of the park although the technical advice was made available by the park administration to form this policy.  Insufficient work has been done to develop the feeling of involvement with the park and its conservation objectives, among the people of Santa Marta. 
Traditionally there has been political and educational emphasis on mountain and terrestrial areas in the Andean region, and relatively far less attention has been given to the dynamics of the coastal and marine areas. 

Biodiversity and Tourism 

Analysis of Institutions Several institutions at the national, regional, and local level are influential in the development of tourism in the Tayrona National Park. It is administered by the Special Administrative Unit UAESPNN of the Ministry of Environment, and operates within a legally defined mandate. The Park is situated in the Municipality of Santa Marta, which is part of the Magdalena Region. 
The following institutions have responsibilities and operate within and around the park: the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Magdalena (CORPAMAG), which is responsible for the management of natural resources in the buffer zone: the DIMAR which is responsible for the management of the marine-coast area and the rural DAS which supports policing and law enforcement. 
The Tayrona National Park is part also of the ancestral territory of the indigenous groups of the complex of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, although the park itself does not overlap with any of the four reservations which form this complex. 
The General Tourism Law of Colombia sets out that the Ministry of Environment together with the Ministry for Economic Development decide the tourism policies for the national parks. Regional organisations working in the area of tourism development include the Santa Marta Tourism Company, ETURSA and the Chamber of Commerce of Santa Marta. APRESTAYRONA, ASOPLAN, ARRITAYRONA, and ECOTUR all provide services within the park through agreements with the UAESPNN. 
Several projects involving international cooperation, are also in progress in parks throughout the Magdalena Region: a sustainable development project for the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta (European Union) a GEF project for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta executed by the Pro Sierra Nevada Foundation 
a learning and innovation project developed by the Pro Sierra Nevada Foundation, with French economic support an alternative energy project for the ecotourism infrastructure of the Tayrona National Park, with the support of India a “Ricercae Cooperazioni” Project in the basin of the Palomino and Camarones Rivers (Italy) a “ Consolidation of the Public Use in the Tayrona Nature National Park through Communal Participation” Project with the Spanish International Cooperation Agency Cienega Grande de Santa Marta project with the GTZ (Germany) The country has laws and regulations for the protection of wild areas and for the development of tourism, and there is a general political consensus in the fields of nature protection and tourism development. There is political willingness to develop ecotourism especially in the national parks. Ongoing projects in these areas are looking at these issues, but there is a need for the ideas of ecotourism to be incorporated into ecotourism plans that are applied at the regional and local levels.

The ecotourism offer of the park

Santa Marta has a tourism tradition because of its landscape beauty and its 
geographical location (the Atlantic coast). In the department of Magdalena, there are some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, some of which are situated within the Tayrona National Park. Because of this, tourism is an important source of income for the people of Santa Marta. Tour operators in the area have mainly focused their activities around the marine areas of the park where public use is permitted. 
Due to the proximity of the park to the city of Santa Marta, the tourist activities planned for the visitors to the city are heavily focused on the park and its attractive landscape and beaches. As a result, the people of the region and the Regional Government have an interest in promoting ecotourism developments within the area, for both economic reasons and for the benefits that the park can provide to the local and regional community as a source of income and an area for leisure and recreation. Based on the cultural and biological diversity of the park, there are three basic options for development of ecotourism: 

Terrestrial zone

In the terrestrial sector, there are interpretative trails through tropical wet forests, dry forests and cloud forests. Lodging facilities are available around the Arrecifes area, where there are areas for camping, accommodation in hammocks, a potable water supply, a restaurant and toilets. In Cañaveral, there are the eco-lodgings called “ecohabs” with a restaurant, camping area, an Indigenous Archaeology Museum, called “Charaima”. There is also a trail that leads to a view point. An eco-shop will open soon to sell local handicrafts, books, etc, and two information centres are also due to be opened, one in Cañaveral and the other in Palangana. 
The road “Troncal del Caribe” which leads from Santa Marta to Riohacha connects both areas, with an entry into the park through the “Zaino” sector. From this point, there is a local transport service to Cañaveral, 5 km away, and from there there is a track to Arrecifes, which is 5 km from Cañaveral. Horses are available for hire between Cañaveral and Arrecifes.

Cultural sites

A path leads to the archaeological site “Pueblito” which belongs to the Tayrona culture and which can be reached in approximately three hours from the settlement of Calabazo, situated on the road “Troncal del Caribe”. The path is of moderate difficulty, and passes through wet forests and cloud forests to a series of architectonic structures that date from the 6th and 7th
Centuries. Another path along an indigenous stone road to the north-east of the site goes to the Cabo de San Juan de Guia beach on the coast, which can be reached in about one and a half hours of walking. 

Marine zone

The marine zone of the park covers 3000 hectares. The Neguanje and the Cristal beaches are the most visited sites within this protected area, and are reached through the Palangana sector, either via a 20 minute walk or via a boat service that is provided to both beaches by local fishermen. The Cristal beach is good for snorkelling or diving, and has several local restaurants which serve typical Caribbean food. 

There are good sites for scuba diving in the area of Granate and Punta Aguja. 
The Arrecifes area, which can be reached from Calabazo, or via the Pueblito Path, or from Cañaveral (the shortest and most used way, and which is also served by horse treks), is located near several beaches, including the Piscina, the Cabo de San Juan de Guia and the Boca del Saco beaches. 
Finally the beach which is most visited by local tourists is Bahia Concha because of its proximity to the city of Santa Marta, and its landscape beauty.


During the pre-Columbian time, a large indigenous population was present within the area of the park, as evidenced through various archaeological sites. Many of these have not yet been studied: however, it is evident that the archaeological zones of the protected area were associated with ceremonial practices. This human occupation lasted until the mid-16 th Century. Apart from great architectonic constructions like “Pueblito”, there are semi permanent or seasonal places for living, cemeteries and ceremonial sites in different places within the boundaries of the park. Due to its easy access, its location and the beauty of its landscape with a system of bays or protected creeks and large beaches, the Tayrona National Park is one of the most visited areas of the National Park System, and attracts both national and international visitors. In spite of the public order problems of the country, which have caused a considerable decline in the general levels of tourism in Colombia, the park, as is demonstrated in the following numbers, receives a significant number of visitors annually. The income that this tourism generates is very valuable not only for the maintenance of the area, but also for local people living around the park who gain a living from tourism activities, and generally for the district and for tourism organisations in Santa Marta. 

General Characteristics of the Tayrona National Park 

The Tayrona National Park, located in the Atlantic coast of North Colombia, is part of the eco-region called the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta. It was declared protected area by law in 1964, and covers an area of 15,000 hectares, of which 3000 hectares are in marine areas. Although the Tayrona National Park does not contain indigenous reservations, it is part of the ancestral territory of the indigenous groups who live in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta. 
In 1982, as part of its MAB Programme, the UNESCO declared the combined area of Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Park as a Biosphere Reserve, demonstrating the importance of the region in relation to conservation and regional development. 
The coastal area of the Tayrona National Park, although small in extent, is one of the sectors in the Caribbean which contains the greatest biological diversity of the American littoral. The nearby Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, which with peaks of up to 5720m in altitude, is the highest coastal mountain range of the world, influences the landscape and life zones of the region. Within the tropical latitudes, the environments of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta range from permanent snow and down to considerable depths in the marine area. The region is recognised as a biogeographic enclave in which some species that are common in adjacent regions are scarce or absent, while others that are rare elsewhere are frequently found, and in which there is a concentration of endemic species.


There are four terrestrial ecosystems (thorn forest, dry forest, wet forest, cloud forest) and seven coastal marine ecosystems (beaches, reef formations, 
sedimentary planes, mixed sea bottoms, rocky littoral, mangroves, coastal pools). Their distribution, establishment, development and composition vary considerably from creek to creek, so that each of these ecosystems within the park is heterogeneous, a factor which further contributes to the biodiversity of the region. 

Background information to the Case Study 


There are about 400 protected areas in Colombia, including 46 which make up the National Parks System. The National Parks System comprises of 33 national parks, 9 flora and fauna sanctuaries, 2 natural national reserves, one park way and one strictly protected area, which totals to approximately 9 million hectares. 
The National Parks System administers about 8 % of the national continental 
territory, with a high representation of the different marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Colombia. These areas have administrative and jurisdictional overlaps with indigenous reservations, communal councils from afro-Colombian areas, municipalities, regional autonomous corporations, organisations of sustainable development for the management of natural resources, and research institutes attached to the National Environment System. Some of the areas administered by the National Parks System are private properties whereby the owners belong to different economic levels. 
The UAESPNN, which is part of the Ministry of Environment and therefore a public office with an operative, technical and executive character, is charged by legal mandate with the coordination of the National System of Protected Areas; with advising the social entities and organisations which are part of this system; and specifically with the management of the National Park System. 
The UAESPNN comprises the Head Office with three sections (administrative, 
technical and management) and six regional offices (Atlantic, North-Occidental, South-Occidental, North-Andean, South-Andean and Amazon-Orinoco), and has a staff of more than 700 employees who are specialised in conservation. At the moment, the UAESPNN has to coordinate its actions with many social and institutional groups which contest directly or indirectly to the natural conservation in the country.