By Gijs Jansen
From Coveñas, a small town south of Cartagena with very nice beaches and mainly South American tourists, my girlfriend and I head back to Cartagena to visit the Rosario Islands. This small archipelago is located southwest of the colonial city and consists out of around 30 small islands, of which Isla Grande (it´s all in the name…) is the biggest. After visiting Cartagena, with its charming but busy center, the Rosario Islands are a good way to escape the crowds of the city and enjoy the peace of a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea.
The most beautiful images pop up when you Google the Rosario Islands: white beaches, palm trees, clear blue water, colorful coral, and tropical fish. The only way to reach these islands is by boat. Once arrived, you encounter a totally different world that invites you to simply enjoy the tropical beauty and relax in the laid-back atmosphere. On top of enjoying on the stunning beaches, Rosario is a great place to snorkel, visit other islands, and – its highlight – swim at night while the plankton light up the water in an incredible way. This night tour was definitely the favorite part of our visit to Isla Grande.
While our guide maneuvers our small, non-motorized boat through the narrow streams of the mangrove forest, we enjoy the silence. After crossing the mangrove, we arrive at an open lake from where we can see the impressive sky with many stars. The guide explains us that the plankton absorbs the energy of the sun during the day and when it moves at night, this energy is relieved in the most beautiful way. However we just see dark water from the boat, the moment we enter the lake, our movements make the plankton light up with a cracking sound. Since we were so lucky to visit this magical place during a very dark night, with new moon, it was truly spectacular.
Another highlight of the Rosario Islands is snorkeling; around the islands you can find a lot of sites with beautiful coral and a large amount of tropical fish with fantastic colors. The water has a very good temperature that is not too cold, but cold enough to escape from the heat of the sun. Since our hotel was located right at the beach, we just walked into the water to snorkel in front of the beach. However we had a great snorkel experience, boat tours bring you to even better snorkel spots where tropical fish swim in between colorful coral.
Isla Grande, being the largest of the archipelago, offers more than water activities. The island has a small village, which actually is more a collection of houses, where basic meals, snacks, and drinks can be purchased. The roads on the island are unpaved and form a network of paths leading past the backyards of the locals to different parts of the small island. In case you get lost, just ask the friendly locals the way back to your hotel or boat. When wandering around the island, you notice another side of tourism: some locals have found their homes in buildings that before served as a hotel. In the weekends, the people of the islands like to party and play loud music. Therefore, if travelers are looking for a tranquil experience, it might be better for them to stay in a hotel not too close to the village. Concerning hotels, there is a variety of choice, from basic to luxury.
Staying on the western side of the island, one of the best experiences is enjoying a cold “cerveza” while seeing the sky turning into an impressive mix of colors during sunset, knowing that a fresh sea meal is waiting for us.
Gijs Jansen is a geographer specialized in the environment. Since December, he supports Pure! Travel Group in our sustainability and social responsibility strategy, especially with our TourCert certification.
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