I lay on the seabed staring up at the beams of sunlight in the ocean’s roof. Brightly coloured fish tickled my goggles as they spun past, adding to the scuba experience. But for me, they weren’t the main event. I got a real kick out of listening to the sound of my own breath 10 metres below the waves. Even dolphins can’t breathe underwater. I could have lied there forever but my instructor urged us on. I suppose he was wary of our oxygen tank levels, something dolphins don’t have to worry about. I’d still rather be me.
I’d arrived in Colombia with my pals Ricky and Michael for a six-week trip around the country before making a semi-permanent move to Medellin. After a few weeks messing about in Bogota, Cali and Popayan, we took a flight to Cartagena on the Caribbean Coast. We stayed there for a week before heading to Santa Marta and eventually Taganga, a tiny fishing village that had recently exploded into a traveller’s bubble. It has a couple of flashy American/European bars playing horrible music. But there are also one or two Colombian bars for a more authentic experience, away from the terrors of Rihanna and Daft Punk.
There is a nice beach and plenty of restaurants, cafés and shops along the shore. We kept bumping into other gringos we’d met at various pit stops along the way – some we were happy to see again, and some from whom we hid. That happens a lot on Colombia’s north coast because there are so many tourist hotspots. The expression ‘small world’ must be said there more than anywhere else. Taganga is based right by the natural wonder of Tayrona National Park, which is full of tropical forests, cliffs and panoramic ocean views. You can spot iguanas, rare birds and even a jaguar if you’re lucky (or extremely unlucky).
Many tour operators in Taganga offer trips to the park due to its proximity. We met a blonde Australian man called Fish (yes, really) in the pool of one of the hostels. He worked as a scuba instructor for Calipso Dive Center – and no, they’re not paying me for advertising! We put our names down and agreed to meet the following morning at 7am sharp – which was unthinkable during that boozy era. Fish sized us up for suits and masks and shoved us into a red jeep. Accompanying us were a middle-aged Frenchman who had moved to Colombia for a lady – and his elderly mother who was visiting for the wedding. On the way, we picked up a wandering Israeli, who told stories about his disdain for fellow travellers from his nation.
We drove into the tropical forests of Tayrona National Park and pulled up at an enchanting cove. A local man then took us in his small motorboat to a private beach with perfect, white sand. These crazy seagull type things kept circling around in the sky before crashing down at breakneck speeds into the ocean. It was really something.
My American pal Michael found the prospect of scuba diving a bit daunting. So a man took him out separately for snorkelling. He seemed pretty happy and reported back that he saw some amazing fish. My British mate Ricky was a bit of a show off and went out with the Israeli in the expert group. The balding French newlywed and myself went out in a small boat with a Colombian instructor called Camilo, who briefed us on safety.
Once below the surface, Camilo took our hands to guide us around. After all, we were first-timers. The Frenchman declined the hand so he could roam freely. We saw those crazy puffer fish and some crazy things. The fish were amazing, but I had seen them all on TV. As I said, I was just blown away by the fact I was breathing so deep under the water. When we resurfaced, we felt pretty dizzy. The Frenchman threw up all over the boat. Like many gallant heroes before him, he had succumbed to his own hubris. We got back to the beach via the vomit-filled boat and had some much-needed lunch. We headed out once again for another scuba tour before getting back to the red jeep and Taganga by sunset.
About the author:
Andrew is a freelance journalist who lives in Medellin. He holds an NCTJ qualification and worked as an online reporter for The Sun and several other publications before moving abroad. His passions are travel, football and languages – he speaks French and Spanish. He is constantly astounded at how much Colombia – and Medellin in particular – have to offer.
- 5 Places You Shouldn’t Miss on the Colombian Caribbean Coast (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Tayrona Park and Santa Marta: A great blend of nature and history (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Colombia: Land of Adventure (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Scuba Diving in Taganga (christinandave.wordpress.com)