Colombian Mangroves In A Dugout Canoe

I’ve just got back from an amazing trip to South America. Thanks to a wonderful collection of local guides, all our plans went without a hitch (with the exception of Rich’s camera getting stolen just five days in, but we won’t dwell on that). Yet sometimes it’s the unplanned things that really make a day. So it was for us in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

When we contacted Martin of Cartagena Tour Guide, we naturally asked to see Cartagena’s historic old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the colossal fortress of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (blogs to follow). But a bit of local knowledge goes a long way, and Martin suggested we start our day in a way we’d never have considered on our own: a ride through a mangrove swamp in a traditional dugout canoe.

To the east of Cartagena is a lagoon and mangrove swamp called Ciénaga de la Virgen. It’s connected to the Caribbean Sea by a narrow opening named La Boquilla. The area around La Boquilla is what’s known as a Palanque, a settlement first founded by slaves who escaped from Cartagena during colonial times.

The road to La Boquilla was out, so we had to approach along the beach. Once there, our guide for the day, José, introduced us to Elias, our ‘captain’ for the morning.

View back along the beach towards Cartagena from La Boquilla

View back along the beach towards Cartagena from La Boquilla

Our brightly-painted canoe really was carved from a single trunk, with a little bit of wood added around the rim for extra depth. Elias propelled it through the shallow waters of the lagoon using a long pole, which reminded me of punting in Cambridge, England.

Elias and our trusty vessel

Elias and our trusty vessel

La Boquilla

La Boquilla

Local houses fringe the lagoon in places

Local houses fringe the lagoon in places

We crossed a stretch of open water at La Boquilla and entered a wide waterway that lazily wound its way between banks dense with mangrove trees.

Steaming morning for a gentle canoe ride

Steaming morning for a gentle canoe ride

The prow of our fine ship

The prow of our fine ship

All sorts of exotic birds lines the trees and waterways (which made Rich miss his real camera all the more)

All sorts of exotic birds lined the trees and waterways
(which made Rich miss his real camera all the more)

Before long, Elias turned the canoe straight at one of the banks. At first I though he had spotted something and was approaching to give us a closer look. Then I realised he was actually taking into a much narrower channel, hemmed in tightly by mangrove roots.

Entering the mangrove labyrinth

Entering the mangrove labyrinth

A termite nest in the trees

A termite nest in the trees

Thanks to Elias's skillful handling, we barely bumped a root

Thanks to Elias’s skillful handling, we barely bumped a root

After a while, the snake-like channel opened up into another part of the lagoon. There we were lucky enough to see local fishermen casting nets in the traditional manner from their own canoe.

Re-entering the lagoon

Re-entering the lagoon

A pair of fishermen in another dugout

A pair of fishermen in another dugout

Thrilled to have seen this!

Thrilled to have seen this!

Our watery journey through the mangrove trees really was a special experience. And all the more so because we hadn’t really known what to expect. A big ‘thank you’ to Martin, José and Elias!

Me with Sue, José and Elias... I think we're being tailed!

Me with Sue, José and Elias… I think we’re being tailed!

This post was inspired by the photo themes Motion from Jen of the Daily Post) and Trees from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?).

A pair of mangrove guardians

A pair of mangrove guardians

If you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy drifting through the mangroves of Colombia in a dugout canoe, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
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2 Responses to Colombian Mangroves In A Dugout Canoe

  1. Pingback: Travel Theme-Trees | WoollyMuses

  2. Pingback: Cartagena, Colombia: UNESCO World Heritage Site | Jaspa's Journal

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