Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Islas San Andres and Providencia

Location: Islas San Andres and Providencia, off the coast of Nicaragua.

Rundown: For semana santa jumped a plane out to a set of islands in the Caribbean. Hiked, ate, slept, snorkeled, and went diving. Rough trip.

Here's a little video to start it out!

The archipelago is off the coast of Nicaragua, but just an hour hop from Cartagena.

Isla Providencia:

Flew to San Andres, a tiny, tropical island off of Nicaragua from Cartagena. The dark blue water turned light, then green, then white in the surf on the reefs surrounding the islands. Stayed only a night in San Andres, then flew via prop-job aircraft with cabin signs in Russian to Isla Providencia, a smaller island, some 18km in circumference just North of San Andres.

After a riveting flight low over the water, we landed on the mountainous island of Providencia. Apparently, landing between mountain peaks is a difficult maneuver...

Our tiny hotel was up the rocky hillside from the most brilliant aquamarine water I've ever seen.

We settled into our little pad, complete with chirping geckoes with the moon coming up over Isla Congrejo, a tiny islet 3/4 mile off shore from our place.

In the morning we took to the highway, i.e. the abused road that circles the island on a mighty motor scooter we named the Blue Beast. We of course wore all the required protective clothing one might expect is essential to riding on trails and beaches: flip-flops and sunglasses.

We chased down some hidden beaches around the island and dried the salt off our skin in a hurry with the rushing wind.

Met up with the locals and had a taste of their catch. These boys were pulling in needlefish as long as they were!

The next day we took a hike into the mountainous interior of the island. There were more colorful lizards than you could count! Every few steps they would skitter out of our way. Trying to catch them was fun, but fruitless. Fast little buggers!

The unmarked trail would up and up through rocky forest, then out into plateau, then peak.

The reef surrounding the island, the third longest in the world, lit up the water like a iridescent ribbon. Great 360 views of the reef system and the isolation of the little island.

We spent some time again on the beach, no hurry of any sort. The kind of time on one's hands where one can try to catch a coconut falling from a tree. Hours of patience...

We soaked up the sun as if we hadn't seen it in months. The only thing that would've made the trip better is if we had arrived from a northern Michigan winter.

At night on the beaches, big white crabs roamed in the moonlight. We had ourselves a wrestling match or two, but running sideways isn't a great defense.

The next day we took the plunge, snorkeling the 3/4 mile out to Isla Congrejo, a rocky spit with a few trees and a dock, wrapped with reefs.

A passing set of ugly clouds left the little island deserted, and Miranda and I hoarded the little piece of heaven greedily. Snorkeled around the entire island, saw rays and lots of fish. Laid on the dock and soaked up the last rays of sun before snorkeling back right before twilight.

Took a jellyfish to the face while snorkeling. Got a tentacle wrapped around the side of my head, down my neck and onto my back. Left me with a really sweet treasure map in raised redness.

Not much to do on a tiny island, which is exactly what we were aiming for. So we spent some more time on the beach hanging out.

Lots of hanging out.

Spent a day hiking around Santa Catalina, another island off of Providencia, connected by a colorful, if faded and in disrepair, that connected the two islands over a shallow passage.

The islands were supposed to have been a regular haunt of Captain Morgan, and many things on the island are named after him, including a submerged cave where he hid some treasure.

San Andres:

Flew back to San Andres and spent much of the rest of the time there underwater. The diving was fantastic! We saw rays and squid, as well as great corals and fish. Snorkeling just off of our hotel was amazing as well!

Spent some time topside and got to know the locals. Culture on the island is even slower than in Cartagena, much more relaxed. Check out how chill this lizard on the bus was! You'd see lots of people carrying live lizards around. We got a quick shot of this one before he got off the bus.

So there you have it, San Andres and Providencia. Fun in the sun. More to come...

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