One of the most enjoyable aspects of cruising is the discovery of just how much beauty exists on our planet. I have spent the last several years cruising the northern coastline of South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, and delight in the beauty and non commercialism of our travels. When we arrived on the Colombian coastline, having just visited the outer islands of Venezuela, Bonaire and Curacao, we expected great beauty but nothing prepared us for the spectacular mountain ridges that line Bahia de Tres, one of five consecutive bays that make up the northern coastline of Colombia, at the northern tip of the Andes, just before you reach the resort town of Santa Maria.
With hurricane season over, we were itchy to begin cruising again, discovering new anchorages, vistas and towns. Our good friend, Peter Ratcliff, joined us for several months to assist in watches and give us the great benefit of his amiable company. Having captained charters in the Caribbean for over a decade, he equally enjoyed exploring this new territory.
Approaching Colombia from the east the first thing we noticed was the continuation of what I call “feminine” mountain ranges as, although high in height, they are soft and rolly with no sharp juts like you find in the Rockies or Alps. Mountains cover a vast amount of terrain in the countries that comprise South America and, although we think of the Andes as being on the western side of the continent, they actually extend some 4,700 miles, thus constituting the longest mountain chain in the world—across to the east, as one can see in Venezuela, and then north so that they are a highly visible part of the northern Colombian coastline.
Bahia de Tres is just one area of the excellent system of national parks that belong to Colombia, the only country in South America to border on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and one of the most biologically and culturally diverse areas in the world. This diversity is well represented by the 54 natural areas belonging to the Natural Parks System that comprise Colombia with ten more areas being added to the list by 2012. Bahia de Tres (Bay of Three) and the other four bays that make up this gorgeous coastline are all a part of the system. We were met by the courteous and official National Park Guardia who patrols the area for added safety and security.
Locals enjoy the bays and beaches on Colombia’s coastline. On weekends entire families gather at the beach with umbrellas, BBQ grills, chairs, tables and lots of children to spend an entire day, or they bring tents and spend the weekend. Add this to the large number of international cruisers now covering the area and you have quite a group.
During our stay in Bahia de Tres, we were joined by 20 other vessels from all corners of the earth. As is usual for cruisers, we got to know most of them before we left and even formed a tandem sail to Cartagena, which was fun and added to our overall feeling of safety.
Because so many of Colombia’s parks contain water and are well maintained, visiting yachtsmen and numerous fishermen and fishing villages are a common sight. As more cruisers circle the Caribbean, many will discover the beauty of these bays and parks left in their natural state.
In addition to national parks, Colombia has developed wildlife sanctuaries such as the Sanctuary of Flora & Fauna and the Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary, where pink flamingos wade in shallow waters dotting the coastal areas.
Nearby Cartagena is a lovely city with good facilities for cruisers, and all of these are things to remember when planning for hurricane destinations in 2009.
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 22 years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, headed for the Panama Canal.