British-owned Amakuna, based in Medellin, capital of Colombia’s Antioquia province, offers ninenight holidays, including three nights with full board at Gitana del Mar at the foothills of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, three nights at Deep Blue on Isla de Providencia and three nights at Casa San Agustin in Cartagena (both stays with breakfasts), plus internal transfers and domestic flights. More: amakuna.com. enced, and which is experienced worldwide, is weakening Mother Earth and will cause the demise of the human race.”
On the Rio Don Diego, near Santa Marta, we go tubing downriver in the company of monkeys, kingfishers and pelicans flying overhead. At the river’s mouth, cold fresh water from the mountains meets the sun-soaked sea, mingling to make a foggy shade of brown, which is a far cry from the crystal-clear waters of Providencia, but we nevertheless jump in to cool off.
Our next port of call is Cartagena, departure city for trips to the Rosario Islands about 95km offshore. Far out to sea, skipping over the velvety waves on a speedboat, we see yellow butterflies fighting the wind and flying fish hurling themselves in front of the boat, skimming the water on their scaly wings.
The Rosario archipelago appears on the horizon after about an hour; it’s a collection of 30 islands, some with abandoned palaces once owned by the drugs cartel. Like the palm-covered houses surrounding them, they have no electricity or water supply. Built upon layers of coral, the crumbling buildings nevertheless possess an eerie splendour and a satisfying time-warp feel. It is this unique atmosphere, together with excellent snorkelling and diving, that makes the islands a popular holiday spot for people from Cartagena.
Despite the shadow cast by Escobar’s reign, Colombia is very much a country in recovery. The neglected houses of these bewitching islands will be redistributed and the Kogi of Tayrona will be left in peace. As I sit looking at the dappled waters of the Rosarios, it’s hard to imagine a more tranquil scene. Granted, there are perhaps five shades of blue, compared to Providencia’s seven, but I can live with that. And I reflect on the start of my journey back in Providencia, fondly remembering Roland’s bar, a rustic beach shack serving roasted crab claws and Club Colombia beer well into the night; the single road that runs all the way round the island, with golf buggies and mopeds tearing round its corners; and travellers and locals alike having entire beaches to themselves. Thinking about everything the island has to offer, I realise that, of the seven colours of Providencia, perhaps I have seen only one, albeit in many shades. With six more to explore, it’s tempting to go back.
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