“The Best 4 Days of my Life”

A couple of days ago, I met an incredible human being who adventured to our most extreme expedition: the sardine expedition of the coast of Choco. Few times I have been surprised, but from the moment he arrived I felt his energy was intense, unique and powerful. We like to say that in the ocean you always see the unexpected, you never now what is going to bring, therefore the only thing you need to do is have a positive energy and wait if you can see and be in the right place at the right time. I have an image of the movie Avatar, when Jake Sully bonds with the avatar body, feels his new pair of legs, and his first reaction is just to run, feel the rush, and develop a contagious energy for everyone around. Well this was the case of the great Jake Hewlett, as soon as he landed in Choco, he became an extremely important person driving all the group with his emotion, passion and never ending energy. Once again, thank you for coming.

Here are his words after the expedition:

“Seriously, I really do think it was the best few days I´ve had in terms of non stop, pure enjoyment, happiness, excitement, adrenaline and total tranquility.

From the moment I stepped off the 20 seater plane in Nuqui, I knew I was in for something special.  Nuqui is based in the far western coast of Colombia and most Colombian´s have never been, let alone foreigners.  From there you take an hours´ boat ride to arrive at Punta Brava Eco Hotel.  You will never have a better journey to arrive at your destination.  I saw a dolphin and a sea turtle on route and the landscape is simply breathtaking

It´s totally wild, unspoilt, untouched and raw.  For that reason, it´s not for people who like the luxury holiday or don´t like being exposed to all the elements.  Punta Brava is in the Jungle, so it´s hot, humid, with 100% exposure to nature, all the creatures that live there and it can rain a lot there too.

But Dive Cue and the owners of the Punta Brava Eco Hotel have it all planned out.  So if you are a water lover, a fan of nature, love activities and revel in unique experiences then sign yourself up to the next trip NOW.

I went for the sardine expedition and my oh my was it something else! Huge balls of swirling sardines – just SO amazing to watch, with Pelicans plunging to eat them from above and all sorts of water predators striking at it from below.  I have never seen anything as beautiful and exciting as that in my life.  We had two incredible mornings of seeing this and the other day we went out deep in search of larger fellows and saw a Whale & a Whale shark – simply incredible.

But it´s not just about this – it´s far more – it´s the whole place and all the activities and people that surround it.  We woke up at 5am every morning to do a Yoga session together, whilst in the afternoon we played beach football or went surfing on one of two beaches you have completely to yourself.  If that isn´t your thing, you could go on a fishing trip, explore the jungle, or simply chill with a book in the comfortable hammocks.  The food is also DELICIOUS.

Andres, who leads the trip for Dive Cue, is infectious with his energy & enthusiasm.  Undoubtedly he makes the trip even more special and it was a pleasure getting to know him properly over the 4 days I was there.  So to the owner of Punta Brava Alejendro, who has built a labour of love so magical you can´t help but fall in love with it too.  Whilst you can pretty much rest assured that anyone else who is going to be there during your stay is going to be a fantastic person.

Of course I was disappointed to leave but it was with the knowledge that I had experienced something unique and still now I feel the benefit of the days I spent there.  I will 100% be returning for the same trip next year whilst I´m considering going back in September for Whale season too – I have a feeling I will get to know the place extremely well over the coming years!

Thank you Andres & Dive Cue for an unforgettable experience.  See you again soon! ”

Jake Hewlett, but for us “Jake Sully”, now a part of the CUE family.

Experience Colombia’s Oceans

Our collective imaginations often take us to the ocean’s edge, where we feel humbled by its mystery, its vastness, its beauty.  The ocean moves us and binds us, as each new wave lulls or crashes to the shore…before joining forces with the next.  In some places, our imaginations are heightened by reality as our toes touch the water’s edge; our faces feel the ocean’s breeze; our ears echo with the ocean’s rhythm; our lips savour the ocean’s salty spray; and our eyes reflect the ocean’s colours.  Colombia is one place where two oceans lap at its shores and where imaginations are doubly sparked.

 

Why should you experience Colombia’s oceans this year?  Because it’s worth it. Here are seven more reasons…

 

  • Colombia is the only country in South America with two oceans, offering variety in choice, location, and experience.

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  • The Caribbean Sea is laden with intense and diverse coral life, stunningly vivid on account of its high degree of visibility.  Moreover, it offers numerous wrecks to explore, as Colombia—particularly Cartagena—was the primary Spanish port during the colonial era.

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  • The Pacific Coast abounds with large animals: Not only do Humpback Whales travel from the South to reproduce in the warm waters of Colombia, but many species of sharks travel around the Pacific Coast as well.  A further treat: rays, grouper, tuna, dolphins, and many other species are very common in the Pacific waters.

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  • The North Atlantic desert of the Guajira region is a place with abundant shark populations.  Species such as the Thresher Shark, Tiger Shark, Grey Shark, Hammerhead Shark, Nurse Shark, White Tip Shark, Mako Shark, and Whale Shark, have been observed swimming in the waters of Punta Gallinas, the northern-most tip of South America.

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  • There is a shark sanctuary surrounding Malpelo Island on the Pacific side of Colombia—the most extreme dive of Colombia (Foto: malpelotours.com).

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  • Chocó, on the Pacific Ocean, is like Coast Rica…100 years ago.

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  • San Andrés and Providencia are two of the best places to dive in the Caribbean.  Vibrant and healthy coral walls, intense deep holes, indigenous as well as endemic wildlife, all contribute to this special and stunning place.

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A Life Encounter

Whale Shark

 

For many years I tried to fit into a life, a rhythm, a routine, that in the end was not for me.  After time spent soul searching, I found my North—my passion.  I have since dedicated time and energy to develop my dreams in ways that fulfill this passion.  Since making this choice, I have felt only satisfaction, autonomy, and personal growth. Through hard work and dedication, and despite uncertainty, I smile everyday.  I smile for peace of mind and independence.  I smile toward living the life I felt I needed to live; the life I was meant to live.

 

It is incredible to see that when your heart and your mind are on the same boat, special and unique moments full of positivity arise as a result of paddling in the same direction.  You learn how to persevere in the world, and how to appreciate that unexpected and challenging events need to happen in order to have great moments.  You learn that bad is not a lasting reality, but an indication that something great is yet to come, because there would not be greatness without failure, or positivity without negativity.  It is not a matter of good or evil, but rather a matter of resilience.  And with this balance, you begin to feel that you do fit into, and you are a part of, a life filled with passion; a life that reflects yourself.

 

For me, my passion is the ocean and the interconnections and experiences that lead me to its edge and remind me of how it shapes my balance.

 

 

CUE’s last expedition to the northern tip of South America, Punta Gallinas, was a test of passion and one of the most personally challenging and rewarding adventures of my life.  Punta Gallinas is a very special place where we are in a process of working with the local indigenous community, the Wayuú, toward sustainable ecotourism initiatives.  Through this partnership we have worked to show how a live shark can bring together a team of crazy guys like us, to promote a sustainable local economy from what was typically a dinner plate. 

 

During this expedition, we had several reminders of the adventure we were living: from broken cars, to misplaced rope, to many hours of driving through the elements of rain and mud, to endless times pushing cars through sand dunes.  Although the first day was exhausting, the group stayed positive, united, and energized despite the difficult terrain and journey.  Finally, we made it.  After a good night’s rest we arose in the morning hoping to greet the ocean, however a heavy rain ensued; a heavy rain in the desert.  This never happens…but as I said before, you need challenging events to happen in order to have great moments that shift the balance.  

 

As we changed our plans to forgo the ocean that day, out of nowhere a light appeared in the sky and the weather cleared. Typically, strong winds in the afternoon make it difficult to go to the ocean at that time of day, but after the rain the ocean was glassy, with more than 40 meters of visibility.  To the ocean we went!  And what a thrill it was: We saw many Dolphin Fish, Barracuda, Black Tip Sharks, and Silky Sharks. Needless to say, this left us feeling rejuvenated, happy, and smiling…but this was not the end.

 

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We were 20 minutes away from returning to shore, when we saw a massive shadow at the bottom of the ocean, slowly coming toward us.  As it drew closer and closer I started to feel anxious—you never know what wonders you might find in the ocean.  But then I saw the familiar patterns of white dots, organized in lines across the submerged body, and I felt humbled by the grace of the biggest fish in the ocean: the Whale Shark.  At 7 meters in length, she arose from the depths, not to swim past, not to cross, but to share a moment.  “Luz Mila,” as we named her, stayed with us for almost 40 minutes, circling in curiosity and slowly looking at each of us in turn, eye to eye.  

 

I have to say that nature always surprises, but this was a life encounter that truly changed my life, and most likely all in the boat who witnessed this magnificent creature.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I still smile when I think of it—I’m sure I will for the rest of the life.  Returning to shore, the experience was further shared as we showed the video to the Wayuú community, and watched as they smiled, looked on with surprise, and beamed expressions of pride in their ocean.  Tears came to my eyes when I overheard the small children immediately telling their parents that they wanted to swim with the sharks.  It could not have been more rewarding.

 

The trip ended with a (now expected) arduous return with long hours of driving, damaged cars, and more rain…but it simply didn’t matter.  Our minds, spirits, and conversations were brimming with memories of the Whale Shark and its infectious and affective impressions in the community, appeasing the challenges of the road.  It was a life encounter that changed us as individuals and as a team.  It was a gift of great positivity and energy, reminding us to keep our challenges and difficult moments in perspective; as we find a new balance.

 

And that for me, is life.  Stay calm and paddle harder in the worst moments, as there is always something better coming…but only if you think it will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colombia’s Pacific Coast is a Secret, “Untouched” Diving Paradise

 

The world forgot about Colombia as a common tourist destination for the last 50 years due to the Country’s internal conflict.  Interestingly, many natural regions benefited from this unrest, as can be seen today in the many “untouched” places where natural and cultural diversity abound.

 

Today, Colombia has recently witnessed a tremendous milestone as bilateral peace accords have been finalized, and new pathways forward are being envisioned and actualized.  Critically, these pathways provide the opportunity for Colombia to move in new directions that consciously promote the well-being and rights of both its people and places.   One such pathway invites YOU to help guide the country’s direction as you choose to share in its rich cultural and biological diversity in ways that support the communities you visit.  

 

Currently, Colombia is becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations due to the smiles and kindness of its people, its culinary delights, its terrific night life, as well as its various landscapes and diverse ecosystems that connect a range of altitudes.  Mostly, however, the secret lies in it being the only country in South America that spans not one, but two oceans.  As you will see in the passages below, a true gem of a place exists in the Pacific that welcomes you on your next CUE adventure–an adventure that invites you to experience Colombia’s incredible diversity by being involved in its conservation.  

 

As the Caribbean has long attracted visitors on account of its warm waters, vibrant colours, and accessible beaches, the Pacific Coast has remained a spectacular and secret place–especially the Chocó department. Lining the western side of Colombia, this department hosts a wild and mysterious coast;  one could say that is not even popular among Colombians.  Only a handful of people have stepped into this corner of the earth, and fewer still have submerged into the unexplored underwater world.

 

When you dive here, encounters with marine species will make you feel that you are the first diver they have ever seen, as their curiosity brings them close to see who you are in their watery environment.  This environment is unique for its seasonal variation, its established and migratory schools of fish, and its distinctive dive site topography that has resulted from Pacific tectonic movements.

 

 

Sardine Run

One of the most attractive features of this coast is the seasonal variation that invites different species to migrate across the course of a year.  During the months of April and May the sardines swim in massive schools, creating one of the Pacific’s largest natural events as many predators join the party.  Yellow Fin Tuna, Blue Fin Tuna, Dolphin Fish (dorado), Tiger Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, dolphins, and seabirds, are some of the most common species that participate in this magnificent event.  For divers lucky enough to witness it, it is a time of pure adrenaline and awe.

 

Instead of diving in a warm-water place full of coral reefs, small fish, and vibrant colours, you can choose to follow nature’s natural rhythms as big animals abound in their natural Pacific habitat to join the sardine run.  The feeling is incomparable.  Above the surface of the water you can see birds piercing the surface bills first, propelled by the momentum of folded wings.  Just under the surface different species congregate to eat as much as they can as they corral the sardine bait into a spinning orb.  And as for you, you are a mere spectator watching this fascinating frenzy.  

 

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Humpback Migration

In the following months there are no particular seasons or migrations until August, when big and impressive mammals arrive to give birth to their young. Humpback whales travel all the way from the Antartica to Colombia, specifically the Chocó department, where they stay until late October.  During this season, divers experience an additional perk as the classical Humpback music fills the water.  It’s surreal to dive while listening to the whales communicate, and to continue to watch them from ashore as they jump, play, and teach for hours on end.  You just don’t get tired of this.  The seascape becomes a non-stop circus of artistic breaching acts by these enormous, beautiful animals.

 

There is the possibility of seeing Humpbacks while scuba diving if you are very lucky, as they are timid animals. On the other hand, free diving with them is a delight, as you silently intersect the whale’s path to experience a panoramic view and eye contact that will make you shiver every time you remember that moment. Even though they are not aggressive, they are big and intimidating.  When you see them first hand you’ll appreciate how small and insignificant we humans can be compared to these wonderful and powerful animals, but also the role we must play in their continued survival.

 

 

Diving Across Seasons

Throughout the year, the Pacific offers unique and natural diving experiences.  Most spectacular are the distinct features and topographic variation within and across dive sites.  The Andes Mountain chain contours the Pacific Coast until it reaches Colombia in the North, where it breaks into three chains.  This causes the Pacific Ocean to have a steep drop unlike the Caribbean Sea on the Atlantic coast.  As a result, close to the Punta Brava Hotel just south of Arusi where this magnificent expedition takes place, there are at least 15 unique dive sites.  The most exquisite dive site for deep and Tec divers is where two continental plates meet.  The drop at this location begins at 40 meters below the surface to a depth that is difficult to calculate, but estimated to extend for kilometres.  Along this site it is possible to sight Hammerhead Sharks in the depths.  

 

There are other dive sites similarly influenced by tectonic movement.  As you dive, you can decipher the marks on the seafloor and find small octopus eyes staring from the cracks into the darkness.  Still other dive sites are covered in underwater pinnacles and team with schools of Jacks, Snappers, Nurse Sharks, Moray Eels, and 400-pound Groupers that swim curiously toward divers.  To add to the migrating species that navigate Chocó’s waters are the Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Leatherbacks and other turtles, and occasionally different species of whales. It’s a surreal feeling to experience a place where you can really become a part of the marine environment; to feel its connectivity and witness its unbridled life.

 

Getting There

In order to enjoy the dive experience in Chocó, Colombia Underwater Expeditions (CUE) will carefully plan and passionately provide a full and exquisite dive experience.  The Expeditions start in Medellín where you will be provided accommodation before the next day’s charter flight to Nuquí.  During that first night all adventure divers will meet for the first time as an Expedition team. The next day the flight leaves for Nuquí in the morning, where we will be greeted by the great Chucho–a native local captain, and our daily comrade for the trip–who will take us aboard the “Albacora,” which stands for Yellow Fin Tuna.  Chucho will expertly navigate one hour to Punta Brava, the jungle ecolodge and our home for the days ahead.  Although nearly impossible to describe this place in a few words, you might say, “hidden,” “mythical,” “beautiful,” “natural,” “comfortable,” “stunning,” and “rejuvenating.”  It’s strange not to be able to clearly describe this place, as it can evoke great emotions on account of its intimate setting with nature and wildlife.  You will be standing in a place looking at the wild blue expanse, while at the same time you are ever lulled by the jungle life that is chorusing at your back.  On the day of arrival the Expedition team will settle into this place and enjoy a day to digest the emotions of the journey thus far.

 

During the week you’ll have the opportunity to get to know both the jungle and the ocean.  Depending on how many dives you’d like to do (either 2 or 3 dives per day), you’ll have spare time in the afternoon to go hiking inside the jungle to search for hidden waterfalls, secret places, and native trails, or to relax with a good book, a journal, or a hammock—all while embracing the spectacular bird’s eye view.  There are also different types of hikes–all beautiful and magical–for experienced or amateur adventurers; and there are expansive and secluded beaches to explore.  To top it off, there’s great surfing two minutes away from the hotel, or if you are after something more adventurous the best left break in Colombia is just 15 minutes away by boat.  The opportunities are endless on the Pacific expeditions.  

 

 

What to Expect From the Expedition:

The main goal of this week is to offer you the chance to enjoy the most that the Pacific Coast has to offer: With opportunities to engage in exceptional ocean and jungle adventures alongside unique dives that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.  Furthermore, we want you to have the much-deserved time to relax into this place, to get to know the cultural and biological diversity of Chocó in a location that was designed just for that purpose.  After this week you will feel different, not only because you surrounded yourself in an environment that brings more peace to our bodies and minds: the ocean; but also because you will have a different connection with nature after being completely embraced by its wise trees and rejuvenating waters; being enthralled by the symphony of sounds you can hear in any given moment; being enchanted by enormous waterfalls in the middle of the jungle; and being more conscious of how the health of the oceans could, and can be everywhere else in the world.  Once you return home wishing that you had never left, you will understand why these memories will stay in your mind forever and pull you back time and again.