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.
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.
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.
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.