Beach time begins!
Islas del Rosario Travel Blog› entry 5 of 27 › view all entries
Woke up early today for the trip to Islas del Rosario. I gave myself enough time to grab some breakfast in the hotel before though. We made it to the Muelle Turistico before 8am, and got onboard the Alcatraz. The boat was listed for over 160 person capacity, but I am going to guess that there were only about 75 people onboard.
While signing in I noticed that there were no other Americans that had signed in as of yet. There were four or five Europeans, and the rest were either Colombian or from elsewhere in South America. The trip began and it took us quite a while to cruise our way through Cartagena’s harbor. We had very good views of the old town, a fort on a hill, a naval base, and the Bocagrande area.
While exiting the harbor itself there were two old Spanish forts guarding both sides of the inlet. This is the only exit from the large harbor after the Bocagrande was intentionally blocked off in the 1700’s, and the citizens needed protection from frequent pirate attacks. The sun was out, and the wind was blowing as we took our almost two hour trip to the Islas.
The Islas del Rosario are 27 coral islands off the north coast of Colombia. They are home to many vacation homes of the Colombian elite, and a fledgling tourist industry as well. As we got closer I could see that some of the islands were so small that only one house could fit on them. This fact did not stop the owners from doing just that.
We could see the biggest of the islands, Isla Grande, as we went by. It was pretty good sized, and I could see a tourist industry developing further there sometime soon. We pulled into the dock at tiny Isla de San Martin de Pajarales, the home of the Oceanario. The Oceanario is a fairly recent addition to the islands, and is an aquarium which utilizes the ocean itself with individual pens for each group of creatures.
Our guide Fredy took us from pen to pen with his trusty bucket of fish. He demonstrated how each of the hungry critters would go crazy over the tossed treats. We saw tuna, sharks, sea turtles, and some big fish that I think were grouper go absolutely insane for the fish.
I grabbed a fresh Langosta cocktail on the dock before leaving, and we were once again off. This time we were travelling with the wind, and the air was very stagnant. I moved around the boat before settling on a spot that had a bit of breeze. After about 50 minutes we caught sight of Playa Blanca de Baru. Playa Blanca is on the island of Baru about 15km southwest of Cartagena, and it is known as the best beach in the area.
We all jumped into a tender boat to be taken ashore, as there were no docks on this wild stretch of beach.
After eating I jumped into the water as quickly as possible. This was in part to get away from the touts on the beach, and partially because the lack of wind and heat of the day had started to take it’s effect. The sand was perfect, and the beach was unimproved and beautiful. Once in the water, there were a few small rock outcroppings to watch out for, but other then that it was idyllic. A perfect setting for that Caribbean experience.
We were given about two hours on the beach before tendering back to the Alcatraz. We picked up a few tourists that had been staying near the beach for the night for the ride back to Cartagena. I think we also dropped a few people off. The return trip was almost another hour of stagnant, with the wind travel. And by the time we got back I was longing for my air conditioned hotel room. After about 30minutes of cool down time the room had achieved icicle status and I was again in heaven.
I ventured out for some food later and stumbled upon a great Italian restaurant. I had a full meal with wine, a nice carpaccio, pasta and dessert. It was a bit pricey, but not much more then everything else in town. Cartagena seems to be tough to find a meal for under $10 with the dollar exchange as low as it is.
Tomorrow I plan on taking the bus to Santa Marta. It should be about a six hour bus ride, so I will have the Ipod ready to go.