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Colombia Unplugged

Ecotourism in Colombia’s Parklands

Upon hearing the words Colombia and tourism in the same sentence, you may expect a punch line involving Escobar’s cocaine or the kidnapping of Western turistas. However, often overlooked are Colombia’s vast, unspoiled jungle coastline and natural beauty. There, “ecotourism,” nature-sensitive exploration in biologically diverse foreign ecosystems, is growing steadily.

 

Those hoping to commune with nature, or merely venture someplace so far “Out of the Office” even a Blackberry can’t interrupt, should consider Parque Tayrona. The park, 16 miles east of Santa Marta, affords an environmentally friendly experience of South America’s untrammeled coast.

 

For about 20,000 COP (US $10), you’ll have the run of Tayrona’s 15,000 hectares of coconut palm lined beaches and archeological ruins. True to the national motto, “Liberty and Order”, the Colombian government has made the park safe for Westerners after years of rebel activity. So while you don’t need to be Jack Ryan to make it out in one piece, be mindful of lesser perils, like roaming wild life and the occasional falling coconut.

 

Tayrona’s eastern sector features most of the park’s attractions and tourist facilities. The park’s main entrance, along with a staffed administrative center and Museo Arqueologico, is located at Canaveral. From there, you can make arrangements to visit our favourite destination within the park, Arrecifes. The trek is doable on foot in under an hour, but you should rent at least one horse (US $5 or less) to help carry your belongings.

 

At Arrecifes, in addition to a beach scene seemingly carved from the massive boulders along the shore, you’ll find two restaurants and low-cost accommodations. There are several unpretentious choices. Guests can pitch a tent, sleep in a hammock, rent a bungalow or, for a premium, stay in an “eco-hut.” The huts are environmentally sound cabanas built inconspicuously within the forest. They provide just enough shelter to let you focus on the wilds around you, and not dwell on whether your hammock is about to capsize. The eco-huts fetch an affordable 60000 pesos (US$ 30).

 

Before you set out on this adventure, you should know that the rainy periods occur from May to June and from September to November, with peak dry season from December to April. Also, the beaches, while pristine, are host to strong currents and are not safe for swimming.

 

For more information contact:

Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia.

Email: ecotoursimo@parquesnacionales.gov.co

Web: www.parquesnacionales.gov.co

Phone: +57 2431634

FAX +57 2434174