I was thrilled when my husband told me about our relocation to Colombia from Mexico, I could hardly contain my excitement, all the time wondering how cool would it be to set foot on a fourth continent. To tell the truth, I didn’t know ‘Colombia’ & ‘Columbia’ were different places (face palm) :-D. Those who binge watched Narcos must be already thinking- “Isn’t it a dangerous country to make your base?”
And to push it further, we were off to San Andrés, a teeny weeny coral island in the Caribbean sea via Medellin- Hell yeah! The city from where the infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar ruled the narcotic world. So, quite obviously, we had our worst fears hovering our minds. However, Colombia was nothing like what we imagined, it is to be quite frank, totally safe filled with good vibes, and we happened to cluster some of the coolest memories while we were here.
A vacation on the Caribbean islands is a dream come true for many. And, we considered ourselves amongst the lucky few. We were pinched to the pictures of ‘San Andrés’ island as were planning for our holidays to the Caribbean. So, without second thoughts, we booked our flights and accommodation instantly.
It would be hard for you to believe if I say a tiny oval shaped island, hundreds of miles far off the mainland belongs to Colombian province even though veritably, San Andrés physically lies closer to Nicaragua than Colombia. This beautiful coral island is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicity, essentially Colombian, Jamaican, Nicaraguan, African and English! (too many, yeah?)
San Andrés- Day 1
A 2 hour flight from Medellin took us to ‘San Andrés’. As the flight sank downwards towards our destination, I peeked below through the small oval window to an island concealed with iridescent waters. Despite being small in size with just 26 Kms, San Andrés has a lot to offer. We disembarked soon and immigration here was no fuss. We made on our way to our pre-booked hotel in a local taxi.
The hotel ‘Decameron’ was gorgeous! It had a massive pool, air conditioning in the rooms, with breakfast and lunch thankfully included, and cocktails available round the clock! It just added to our glorious stay and made our holidays absolutely idyllic. The moment we entered I believed that I could probably live here forever ;-). Our hotel was a perfect spot to go snorkeling and swim with the ocean queens- Manta Rays.
We were just so glad to be here that we could think nothing better to do on our very first day but just to unwind ourselves amidst the vast Caribbean. So, both me and my hubby picked our spots on one of the reclining chairs by the ocean and spent most of our day basking in the sound of waves.
You see, it’s not everyday that you wake up next to the Carribean. Magically, I found myself transformed into this morning person for the next five days; beholding the colours of water metamorphosing into blue and green as the rays of the dazzling sun continues to kiss the waters of San Andrés.
Day 2 & 3
After lazing around on the first day in San Andrés, we soon began to crave for some adrenaline. And, so we decided to scuba dive; you may be well aware that Caribbean is one of the world’s best dive sites with some amazing spots to explore and lavish marine life underneath the glitzy chameleon waters. As we headed to the ‘Blue Life’ dive shop, I felt myself to be on the edge and nerve wrecked to be completely honest. You see, swimming and me dates back to nothing! But, even then, I was all agog to experience the underwater planet.
An instructor accompanied us for our maiden dive; and to our utmost relief, we couldn’t have asked for more patient and encouraging mentors. So, after we were done with the swimming pool training, we headed out to the sea to try it for real. I was super stressed! We got into our scuba gear and jumped right off into the bright blue Caribbean Sea.
Travel tip: If you wish to explore the cultural side, head to La Loma and San Luis ( ideal short day trip)
I still can’t forget my first glimpse underwater, the memory was simply profound. Crystal clear waters with perfect visibility, rich marine life and virtually untouched coral reefs – just a recitation of what we did. No adjective can truly convey this experience of mine. When I was in there, I knew this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life to fill my heart.
I realised it would have been completely rude for us not to experience our first journey into the underwater world right here right now. San Andrés declared us as open-water certified divers now, and there’s no stopping us now…we are scubaholics already! 😀 )
As we trotted our way back to the shores of San Andrés, the weather began to smirk upon us; it got really windy and the strong currents made it a choppy ride even though it was a short one. We saw a picturesque isle in the distance, it was called ‘Johnny Cay’ a beautiful island ideal for day tours. We longed to go there, but we couldn’t during the time, so we simply gazed at it from a distance and appreciated it’s beauty. Our thirst for scuba continued for two more days. And, all that happened was- we dove, ate and slept! (:-D)
Travel tip: those afraid of the sea, can go on a boat cruise with live music and lotsa food! Though I’s strongly suggest, you gotta go scuba!
Finally, on day four, we decided to go around the island. We rented a bike for the whole day that costed us COP 50,000 (INR 1000 approx). The road we took on covers the entire perimeter of the island.
We halted at each of the attractions in the sequel. We paused at ‘La piscinita’, translated from Spanish as – ‘The swimming pool’. The guard at the entrance offered us a bread slice and I happily devoured every single bite as I was kind of hungry. Later, I realized, it was given to feed the fish! (* another face-palm moment*) jeez!
There was a restaurant next to the sea and by feeding the fish regularly, they make sure those tiny weenies never leave that place. We didn’t much like the idea of baiting the fish, just to keep the restaurant busy! Apart from that, we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours snorkelling amongst the tropical fish. Take a step down and you are off a 3m drop into a natural ‘swimming pool’ amidst the sea which is calm, extremely deep and full of vibrant marine life.
After soaking in the sun for long enough, we were beat. For lunch, we had a grilled fish & quenched our throats with some refreshing cocktails. Tummy full, we headed back to the hotel, as more cocktails were waiting for us! We planned to get all cocktailish for the rest of the day!
Despite the scorching sun granting us no mercy, we resolved to finish the ride around the island which had ended quite abruptly the previous day. So, today, heading out not so far at all, to the beautiful long beach of ‘San Luis’ with soft, white sands all to ourselves, miraculously calm and serene; we were only able to spot a few vendors selling ‘coco locos‘ (literally translated as ‘crazy coconuts’). The ubiquitous local delicacy of San Andrés- sweet, rum laced coconut-shell is a must try.
Travel tip: Mentioned above, adventure lovers can go have a full dose of exotic flora and fauna at Johny Cay
There are also a ton of iguanas and geckos- with a unique and florescent indigo hue, and some of them were as long as three feet or more.
We stopped at regular intervals at every shack- to sip on some cocktails and to savour the melt-in-mouth fresh fish & coconut rice lunch; whilst swaying to the laidback beats of reggae (a much adored genre here). Nothing felt better as we hogged on this crazy meal, as we realized we were exhausted by the time we returned to the hotel.
We don’t know whether it was the tiredness of circumventing the island or the thought of leaving the island, that made us sad. We spent the night on the pier tuning ourselves to the rhythm of the waves, which echoes forever in our hearts. San Andrés is one place that I can easily say, I will return to one day.