Colombia ~ Diving

Providencia

After two days in Bogota we were ready for the second part of our trip: a week of diving on Providencia Island.

Getting there isn´t easy and the in our opinion divers in Providencia really want to dive to take on this trip.

From Bógota we took an evening flight to the island of San Andres, 2 hours. San Andres is the larger of the two and a tax-free port that gets especially busy during holiday times in Colombia. For this reason it also wasn´t that easy to find a room. We ended up paying 150 USD for 4 hours sleep in a “boutique” hotel which was quite run down, about 20 minutes outside of town (20.000 COP taxi ride).

The catamaran that took us to Providencia was scheduled to leave at 7am, with 1 hour minimum check-in time….so there we were again at 6am out of bead and ready to board.

The journey over to Providencia is not for the sensitive souls. Travelers are warned several times before it leaves port: it will be rough. And it will be rough. Expect 4-5m high waves, and 4-5 hours of a heavy moving boat. Sleep was hard to get, forget about killing time by reading, and try to focus on the horizon. That is, if you get a chance to see it through the waves! We were relatively lucky, our sea sickness pills worked (take them, do not try to be a hero by refusing them…). The sandwich we had for breakfast stayed in our stomachs, and we even slept for probably 2 hours. Others weren´t that fortunate – the sailors who at the same time were emergency helpers didn´t stop giving out fresh throw-up bags and alcohol-soaked Kleenex.

Alternative to the catamaran: a 20min flight in a turboprop that is about 5 times as expensive and has a limit of 15kg per person for the luggage...

The infamous catamaran

 

Finally on land in Providencia we got in a cab, i.e. a car that was older than the two of us together and that moved with a record-breaking velocity of about 15 km/h.

Our hotel was approximately 6km from Santa Isabel (port), in Bahía Aguadulce: Hotel Pirata Morgan.

It seems that the island´s whole tourism marketing concept is woven around this pirate, who, so the legend tells, had lived there in the 17th century (Wikipedia article).

 

Providencia                                                 Tropical vegetation and colors

Anyway, so we checked in at the pirate´s place. Bahia Aguadulce, Freshwater Bay, consists of about 20 houses, of which 3 are Decameron resorts, another 5 are some kind of restaurant, and 3 more are moto rentals. The Pirata Morgan hotel also has a little supermarket, but remember, it´s an island, and until goods get on the shelves some days might go by so rather be prepared and bring what you need (Dominik can tell a story about mosquito repellant restocking promises).

We had chosen to stay in this area as the dive shop we had been in touch with before was located at one of the Decamerons there. Felipe Diving has with three boats probably the largest operation on the island and is a family business, run bz the razial local Felipe and probably a half dozen of his brothers. Our guide was Peejay (aka Ignacio), a fun guy with 15.000+ dives logged. He usually leads all advanced groups and also always has his GoPro handy to shoot.

 

 Peejay on the right, the captain with ski goggles in the back.... ... and this is why he had them on!

But be aware, advanced literally means advanced. OWs who just completed their advanced and are used to comfort-luxury dive resorts where the DM mounts the equipment and reminds you of buddy checks will not be happy here. Advanced means responsible for yourself, and that´s what it is here. It means use your computer and be comfortable putting on your gear while already in the (by the way very wavy) water .Dominik and I are used to diving together and with my experience and him being very diligent it was fine for us. And hell, why would we need to do a check-dive, if we were in the water only 11 months ago LOL. Although, I have to say I wouldn´t have wanted my dive number 100 to be a check dive anyway. And the number 100 was a great dive I have to say. Rather deep (for Egyptian standards with 35.2m too deep), a very narrow swim through on the way down, and, for the first time ever in my diving live, reef sharks! While first I was swearing as I had forgotten my camera, as from day two in the water I had plenty of opportunity to take pictures, so much that I finally got bored of shooting sharks. With exception of the second dive on day one (which was in a different area around the south tip of the island on sandy bottom) and the night dive, we saw shark on every single dive there. 

The guides here feed the shark the lionfish, which is a controversial subject among the different dive shops, guides and guests. We got the explanation, that the lionfish are not native from the caribbean there and need to be killed before the natural reef fish population decreases further (apparently they were swept into the Caribbean when a hurricane destroyed an acquarium in Florida). 

Dominik did a great job for being in his 20ies of dives, getting comfortable and managing buoyancy like a master.

Another outstanding experience was our dive where we saw three large eagle rays (two male, one female).

Not to forget that we also pushed limits once a bit too much and were forced to a 5´ decompression stop ~ also a first.

But look at some pics and enjoy:

 

Stingray                                                                         Hello!

 

Fan Coral                                                                      Flunder

 

Shark feeding                                                                 No, it's not Morgan's treasure... it's sponges

 

Still, Dominik is checking for hidden coins                           Hello! a trunkfish

 

Buoyancy training                                                          Crab

 

Grey Angelfish                                                                 Melanie

 

Eagle Rays

The island is 7km long, the one and only road around is about 20km… so if not diving, there is limited number of attractions to explore. We decided to take 1 day off diving and rented a moto. Our first stop was Santa Catalina, an auto-free island just off Santa Isabel and connected via a little wooden bridge. Here Captain Morgan comes to life: the “adventure path” leads the visitor to his fortress, his meditation rock (!) and his head: a rock formation on the north-eastern point apparently resemble a human head when seen from the water. Dominik took a dive from it: 

  

Over on the west side we stoppen in Maracaibo at the one and only luxury hotel, Deep Blue, where we also ran into our new friends, fellow swiss travelers Christine & René. Deep Blue restaurant has an amazing view….and equally amazing desserts and cocktails by the way.

A little further we stopped in….. where the annual “Chop Festival” was taking place. This apparently is a celebration of the chop fish, caught around the island and deliciously prepared by the local ladies (although didn´t try as we just had had lunch at Deep Blue).

  

 

Morgan's meditation rock                            Un coco loco para el hombre de mi vida

The next stop, on the southern end, was Playa …. A beautiful long and relatively deserted beach that could be the set for any island movie (although due to the difficulties in getting there it hopefully will be saved from that destiny!).

  

 

 

Located at the one end of the beach is Roland´s Place, probably the only late-night spot on the whole island. We´d been there a couple of days before for after-dinner drinks, but it seems that our after-dinner was still too early for Roland´s. It apparently gets busy after midnight until dawn and is the typical Reggea hang-out. This includes loaded “coco locos” and what else you would expect from a Rastabar.

Int the morning of our last day we opted for no diving as we´d catch a plane the day after. We rather hiked to the hightest point of Providencia ~ “the Peak”, 360m. Hotels and travel guides will tell you to hire a local to guide you in order to not get lost. Honestly, you don´t need to. The path is really obvious and it´s not a difficult trail.

However, when we reached the top we realized we were the only ones without guide…. Well, at least the other people helped to keep up the local economy! The view from above was quite nice:

   

 

 

And way too quickly our stay in Providencia came to an end. We had to board the catamaran back to San Andres. The ride was with the current, so not as rough as the way there, but still way from smooth. Unfortunately we had to overnight in San Andres….to us a horrible town with cheap tourism and due to the tax-free alcohol it attracts a crowd we would rather have avoided (mix Cancun at Spring Break with Magaluf and Arenal and multiply by 3). We missed the quietness of Providencia already!! 

  

Summarizing: we can recommend diving in Providencia to anybody interested in something less frequented, more remote, looking for sharks and good vibes. 

And that's how we remeber Providencia

  

Tips & Recommendations

Diving: Felipe Diving - http://www.felipediving.com/

Hotel: Pirata Morgan - www.elpiratamorganhotel.org 

Providencia: www.providenciaespasion.com 

Catamaran: http://www.catamaranelsensation.com/

 

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