For those of you, who love to go for trekking in beautiful jungle sceneries, surrounded by a gorgeous flora and fauna, and in the same time have the possibility of visiting caribbean dream beaches, the TAYRONA National Park is a great option!
But never forget to travel with responsibility, and with high respect towards nature and indigenous customs.
The National Park is declared as highly protected area, and it is an autonomous area of some indigenous tribes, among others the Kogi people. It´s a big area of around 15.000 ha and it starts in the east of Santa Marta. 3.000 ha are directly connected with the Caribbean Sea. It´s named after the indigenous people Tayrona, who lived here until the 16th century, until the Spaniards came. The indigenous people of this area live deep in the Sierra Nevada, how the mountainous area is called, but sometimes they come to areas, where also foreigners and “normal” people are, in order to observe the situation, or to conduct some ceremonies or rituals.
You can go and visit the national park for only one day, or you make a whole trekking tour through the jungle, including camping on authorised camping grounds. We did both
First we visited the Playa del Muerto, also called Playa Cristal, because of it´s crystal clear turquoise water. It´s easy to get there. You can take a tour-van incl. boat from Santa Marta, or a local bus to the shore and then a boat to the beach. It takes around one hour to get there.
You will be impressed by the beautiful beach, with it´s clear water, and the coral reefs, that are still healthy! Especially while snorkelling in the allowed areas, you can enjoy the beautiful under-water world. Thousands of colourful fish, corals, see grass and sea anemones are awaiting you. One special protected area is not for entering, please respect these attempts of conserving nature here!
Also the non-maritime vegetation here is very special. It´s a dry forest on this place, and therefore shrubs, cactus, coniferous trees and small trees with thorns are dominating the area. But a bit further in eastern direction, a lush rain forest can be found! That´s what makes this national park so very special.
The main activities of people who live on this beach is fishing and then preparing the fish for visitors in their small restaurants. When you arrive, they ask you if you want to eat a fish for lunch, and then they prepare it very delicious with rice, patacones (fried green banana) and a salad.
It´s easy to lay back and relax here. There are luckily still not too many people, and it´s a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. No beach vendors, no motorboats in excess!
On the next day, we went by a local bus from the market station in Santa Marta until the last entrance of the park “El Zaino”. From there, we startet our jungle trekking tour
It was unbelievable hot, but we were very excited about the tour, and what will await us on the way! We just carried the most important things in our backpacks (tent, thin sleeping bag, blanket for sleeping on, hygiene set, some clothes, swim wear, sunblock, earplugs, repellent and water!!), because the more things you have, the more exhausting will the tour be, considering the hot climate, the humidity and the path, which sometimes leads you up very steeply.
But it was gorgeous to wander into this scenery. Very fast we realised, that there are a lot of colourful lizards around. Especially one with a intense blue tail was incredible beautiful. Actually, I never saw so many lizards at one single place before. But they were really fast, so no chance to take a photo 😉
After about two hours, we reached the sea, which was more and more visible through dense rainforest trees.
The beach was just more gorgeous than I imagined it! The colour of the water and the surrounding nature were standing in a great contrast. It was really beautiful, one of the most beautiful beaches of the world!
But here, you should not go for swimming! Many (experienced) swimmers were already drowning because of the incredible strong currents.
It´s better to swim in some lagoons, like natural pools, where the water is very calm and beautiful.
In the evening we reached a camping ground at “Arrecifes”, where we paid 5000 pesos (1,5 Euros) per person for building up our tent under coconut trees
There were also basic bathrooms and a little restaurant. Also some huts are ready for those, who didn´t bring a tent. It was a relaxed atmosphere and the owner was quite nice.
Walking around on the beach at dusk was really beautiful.
We slept more or less well in our tent under the coconut trees, but the heat, which was still notable, was challenging us a lot.
The next day, we continued wandering, but very soon we stopped at one very beautiful lagoon, where we decided to take a bath and to relax.
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In the evening we reached Cabo San Juan, where we were a bit shocked about the amount of backpackers, that camped and partied here. I prefer the smaller and more quiet places. What happened here, was just too much! But we stayed, because the next day, we had to start our tour from here, in order to reach El Pueblo and the exit of the park during day time. So we asked for a (much more expensive) place to build up our tent. Per person we paid here 15000 pesos, the triple price than on the camping ground at Arrecife. The food was also not really good, but we had to make the best out of the situation.
What we also realised is, that on the entrance of the park they don´t allow to take plastic things or instruments inside the park and smoking is strictly prohibited in the whole area. But here the beach was full of plastic, people played instruments and everybody smoked. When we complained later with one security guide, he told us that this situation is really sad, but camping grounds are private properties inside the natural park, and therefore cannot be controlled. But this should really not be! A national park should be a totally protected area, and also camping grounds and illegal activities there should be completely controlled. Otherwise it´s better to completely close a national park to the public, if people don´t know how to behave and how to show respect towards nature and the indigenous people.
The next day, a new challenge was awaiting us. Trekking to Pueblito and from there to the exit of the park. This takes more or less five hours. So you should start not later than 12 pm. Better earlier, you never know what will happen.
It was a great path through caves, climbing up rocks and again through the rain forest.
A very special situation occurred to us, when we saw many of the Kogi people crossing our way. Usually, they are very rarely seen, because they live deep in the national park of Sierra Nevada. Since they came in a group, we assumed, that they went to a special place for conducting a ceremony or a ritual. I was really impressed!
After some hours of walking uphill, we reached El Pueblito (Chairama), a place where former indigenous people between around 450 to 1600 A.D. lived. It´s not that impressive than ruins from Maya or Inca cultures; there are just some terraces and small ruins, but still: it´s a holy and very important place for the Kogi people, and should be respected in that way. And nevertheless, to visit a place like this in the middle of the jungle and with the spirit of times that existed long before us, is a very impressive experience, that should not be underestimated.
We continuet and on the last part of our way, we saw some very beautiful birds court shipping. Another very special spectacle
That was the last part, before we reached some fincas, and finally the main road, where the bus stops, that took us again to Santa Marta.
Another great adventure surrounded by flora and fauna came to an end! And another time again I have learned, how important it is to live in balance with the nature that surrounds us, and to put all our efforts to protect what we still have. If we all did our best, the world would be a better place!
The Kogi and many other indigenous people do it since ages. And these people are really my paragons, and should be paragons for all of us.
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