National Parks
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Diving in Taganga - Colombia

It is a public holiday. Great. Did you know that in Colombia, September and February are the only months in 2015 without a festivo (= public holiday)? I travel by car from Barranquilla via the Ruta del Sol (Sun Road) to Taganga. I arrive after an easy-going trip of 2,5 hours.

The rainy season is coming to an end so the hills are green and extend thousands of cacti. Learn here about weather in Colombia.

The next day I sign up at the dive center Calipso. It is not difficult to find your way in this small coastal village but it is difficult to make a choice between the large amount of diving schools. On almost every corner you will find one.

I choose Calipso because they are the only dive center that offers tours (with possibility of accommodation) IN the Tayrona National Park and because I get good responses from other divers / tourists.

We are a small group of divers: Swiss, Frenchmen, Germans, Colombian, Brazilian and me, a Belgian. Alex (FR) is the dive master. We leave by boat from the beach in Taganga.

Roberto (the owner) tells us that the boat trip will take about 50min. He warns us that sometimes it will be a little rough on the boat (because of the waves), but assures us that this is nothing to worry about and it is a normal thing. And like he said, after about 30min it gets very wild. Really funny how the captain and Roberto are already soaking wet and need to put on their snorkeling goggles against the spray. The waves slam on the boat and we all are soaked.

As we arrive in Playa El Amor, the color of the water gets bluer. There is a small hut (which serves as a kitchen), a small toilet and a shed where the hammocks are.

As I tell Alex that Playa El Amor is lacking a little love, he says the problem is that there are too many rules and restrictions. Because it is a national park, it is forbidden to build, renovate or for example to paint the hut. There is a lot of driftwood and stuff on the beach. We are brainstorming how we can keep it cleaner. Our best idea is to start an artwork. Each diver takes something from the beach and adds it to the piece of art we will start to construct. This way each diver leaves a bit of his heart behind and soon enough, the beach will be full of “amor”.

Alex tells us that the sea is rougher here compared for example to Cartagena. For diving that means that descending can be difficult. The first 5m (16ft) you need to work hard your best to go down. And so it was.  Five of us were not able to descend. The rest of the group, who was already waiting for us at the bottom, returned to the surface. Suddenly the waves are too big and it is hard to stay together as a group. So the boat takes us back to Playa Amor.

I am wearing a thick 5mm wetsuit and 4 small weights on my belt. Roberto explains that the thicker the wetsuit the more buoyant you are. But I'm always freezing quickly while diving so I prefer staying warm to less buoyancy. Even while diving in San Andres I was wearing a wetsuit.

At Playa Amor we have lunch: white rice mixed with fish, a light salad and patacones (learn here “what are patacones?”). I eat as much as possible so I will be a little heavier for the next dive. Haha. Alex is briefing us detailedly.

In the afternoon we do our 2 dives in places like Barlovento (only 15min by boat from the beach); everything goes very well. I see 2 incredibly beautiful big crabs. Even one with a blue tail. I see amazing corals, many fans, a stonefish, transparent small insects (all with a fluorescent accent). I see fish like the Mariposas Amarillas, Mariposas con bandas, Mariposas Arrecifes, the Angel Reina Carajuelo Salmón, Lora Verde, Catalina, thousands of Salmonetes, Cirujano Azul, Lionfish, … lots of colors and corals.

The dive center arranges a car for those who return to Taganga. The rest of the group stays on the beach. Some even do a night dive. They sleep in hammocks, a few meters away from the beach. Idyllic.

That Taganga got a bad reputation in the recent years, is not a secret. Colombian newspaper El Tiempo (and others) has published articles about this topic, revealing an increase of narco tourism in the area. This might be true, but I don’t feel any bad vibe here so I leave it for what it is. The only annoying thing is the loud music in moments I like to sleep. Unfortunately the town can be very dirty as well.

I am always keen to stay in Taganga. It is not far from my hometown Barranquilla; I can find good food; meet nice people; enjoy chilling at the beach, and also the diving in Taganga was a top experience!

1. When you go diving, take a towel, sunglasses and sunscreen. Put everything in a plastic bag before you take off with the boat.
2. It takes about 2.5 hours from Barranquilla to Taganga by car. You pass 3 peajes (tolls). The 1st toll costs 4.100 cop; the 2nd and the 3rd cost 9.200 each. Be aware: there are lots of new speed cameras (for example @ km8 & @ km54).
3. You pass the National Park Isla de Salamanca @km 11 when you come from Barranquilla.
4. In town, loud Vallenato music (on public holidays) starts from 6:00 am.
5. I went for a short visit to my friends of Hostel La Tortuga and tour operator Magic Tour.

6. Read here: how to get to Taganga?
7. Another travel story about this town Taganga una 'ganga' – Colombia.
8. Hostels in Taganga? 9. Diving in Colombia? One country & two oceans: Diving in Colombia.

Written by Colombia Fácil - Inez - 2014