Thursday, August 9, 2012

Las Islas Gorgona, Colombia

Last month, I went to Colombia, South America, on vacation with my family. We visited different places and cities such as Cartagena de Indias on the Caribbean coast, el Parque Tayrona, Bogotá, el Eje Cafetero, Cali and an island in the Pacific Ocean. The nature of Colombia is breathtaking and well-worth seeing. There are so many different types of landscape that you feel like you have crossed some border although you are still on the very warm soil of Colombia. Also, the fact this country is 37 times the size of Belgium helps spreading the borders. 

My favorite part of the trip might have been the 4 days spent on the Island of Gorgona in the Pacific Ocean. Getting to the island is the hardest part: you have to fly to Cali, then to Guapi (one of the poorest towns of Colombia) and then take a boat and cross the Ocean for an hour and a half to finally reach the Island. 

But once you get there, you are glad you made the trip. After being carried out of the boat like a princess (whether you are a woman or a man, you ARE being carried out of the boat… ask my father), you receive the first of many fresh fruit juices you will get while your stay there. And then, you eat. We ate so much on this island, it was unbelievable. The food was amazing, always fish, plantains, fruits, vegetables and rice, with fresh fruit juices at every meal. I admit I was a bit scared of where we were going to end up, but the place was great.

Shape of the main island
Las Islas Gorgona are two islands: Gorgona, the main one in the shape of a whale, and Gorgonilla, a smaller one next to it.The main island was once a prison for Colombian murderers (like Alcatraz, near San Francisco. Or Azkaban, it depends on what your brain thought of first). The prison closed its doors in 1984 and the island became a National Natural Reservation Park, where only one private family has established a hotel, which is more like a bunch of little houses on the eastern side of the island. It is very, very quiet, and cute and comfortable. You can still visit the prison now, it was demolished, but not entirely, and nature has regained control over everything. It is amazing to see all these buildings surrendered to the jungle.

Old prison
The island was named “Isla Gorgona” in the honor of the Gorgons, three sisters of the Greek mythology who had hair made of snakes, because of all the snakes on the island. You are required to wear boots at all times (except when going from your room to the restaurant, where it is safer, but you still have to be careful) and you cannot go walk alone in the jungle without a guide. When you arrive on the island, there is a briefing where you are told all the dangerous things not to do and all the dangerous animals not to meet, but once you’ve been there a couple days, you are used to it and it doesn’t seem so dreadful.

Every morning, we went hiking in the jungle. The hikes are not that hard, but the heat and humidity of the place tires you faster. The nature is beautiful, and we get to meet so many tiny animals and types of plants that you are always looking at something beautiful (except if you just focus on not falling, and you just look at your feet, but that’s your choice).

My favorite animals on this island were the ‘basilisco’ (“basiliscus basiliscus”) which is nothing like the one from Harry Potter and is hilarious (if you are curious, check out this video: hilariousness, I tell you), and the ‘monos cariblancos’ which are the cutest little monkeys and they come next to you every day while you are reading comfortably in your hammock. Both these animals are very nice (except when they are mad), but we also met some not-so-nice ones.
Mono cariblanco
Basiliscus basiliscus

I did meet 3 snakes on one of our walks around the island: 2 corrals (with black and white and red and black lines) which are venomous and 1 casadora (green) which is not. Even if I was wearing my boots, I was not that comfortable around them. On the island, you can also meet the “talla X”, the biggest and most venomous snake of the island. Alcohol is prohibited on the island: if you are bitten by the talla X and you have alcohol in your blood, the vaccine will not work.  

If you go between May and October, you will have the chance to see whales passing by in the Ocean! We first saw one while eating lunch on the day we arrived, we could not believe it. Then we saw a bunch while on a tiny boat or eating lunch, and they were surprisingly close to the shore. I didn’t expect to see them coming so close.
Also, while snorkeling in the “aquarium” of the island (on the eastern side of the island, but north), we heard a whale sing. And believe me, it is one of the most disturbing things to hear (especially if you don’t know what it is) but one of the most beautiful. There is something completely surreal in the fact of swimming with beautiful fishes and hearing a whale’s song.

Colombia is such a diverse country with so many different things to see that it is definitely worth it. When you get the amazing chance of going to South America, don't hesitate, just go.

Also, lots of cute crabs.
Yes, you do feel small.


  1. Interesting post, I want to go here again one day so I wanted to check more information.
    Quick question what happens if you try to go in the jungle on your own do the guides stop you?

    1. Hey, thank you for reading! I don't really know what the guides would do if you tried to go on your own in the jungle, but I DEFINITELY do not advise it, considering there are venomous snakes and other kinds of mean animals on the island. You get to really enjoy the nature while you're there by going on hikes with a guide, you have plenty of time to see everything. And it's not like the guides are telling you tourist-y things and annoying you while you're walking, but they are really nice and passionate about the nature of the island. Anyways, I hope you'll get to go there someday, because it is really amazing. Take care! X

  2. That is sad, I prefer walking on my own. Also I would like to go at night when I guess the guides might not be walking

    1. I don't think you realize the danger of walking in a jungle full of venomous snakes and other mean animals. You definitely won't want to go walking at night! I suppose there are other places where you can do that, safely, but it is not the case with this island, and that is in a way what makes it richer and more interesting. x