Colombia Nature & Culture Expedition
Colombia is an extraordinary country that offers unique opportunities to see wildlife, interact with communities, and support conservation efforts. The country is finally experiencing peace after decades of conflict and is quickly emerging as a new hotspot for nature travel. We’re excited to be offering the first sea turtle conservation tour to the country in partnership with Fundacion Tortugas del Mar, a Colombian sea turtle organization. This trip will be a true example of ecotourism, participating in sea turtle research and conservation, meeting and supporting efforts of local communities to protect their wildlife and improve their lives.
On this trip, you will work with researchers to study hawksbill and green turtles, stay at an eco-friendly resort on a beautiful island, and experience the unique culture, history, and natural beauty Cartagena and the surrounding area. Profits from this trip support sea turtle conservation programs and will help save at least 200 hatchlings per person.
Date/Price: Contact us on the form to be alerted for 2020 trip dates.
Includes: Guide, private transportation, accommodations, meals, activities, and a donation to turtle conservation.
Excludes: Airfare to Colombia, personal items, and tips for the guide.
Minimum recommended age is 12 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
Group size is limited to 15 people maximum.
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DAY 1 - ARRIVE TO CARTAGENA
Start your exploration of Colombia in Cartagena. Arrive to the Rafael Nuñez International Airport (CTG) in Cartagena and we will bring you to your hotel to check in and get settled. The city has an extraordinary history that we will learn about over the next couple of days. We will meet for dinner with our guide to get to know each other and then head out to enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife. Overnight at Casa de los Reyes (2 nights). (D)
DAY 2 - CARTAGENA
Colombia is said to have more species of birds than any other country. Our first activity will be to visit the National Aviary of Colombia, where we will stroll through 6 different environments, over seven hectares where you can spot more than 100 species of birds and nearly 1800 specimens, including the world’s largest raptor, the harpy eagle, as well as the Caribbean toucan, the pink flamingo, and the condor. The tour will take about 2 hours and it is a one hour boat ride each way to get there.
After a delicious Colombian lunch, we will do a walking tour of the historic walled city of Cartagena. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1533 and over the rest of the century, the city was regularly invaded by the French, British, and others, which led to the building the “Ciudad Amurallada” or Walled City around the year 1600, becoming the largest fortification of the Spanish in the Americas. We will visit the many beautiful plazas, walk on the walls and visit important churches such as the Cathedral San Pedro Claver and Santo Domingo. We will also keep an eye out for vendors selling products made from turtleshell, which we are working to stop with Fundacion Tortugas del Mar. (B, L, D)
DAY 3 - RINCON del MAR
Today we leave the city behind to visit Rincon del Mar, a small town on the Caribbean coast. On our way there (a 3 hour ride), we will stop in Palenque, a unique town with an incredible history, founded by runaway slaves in the early 1700’s. The music and a formidable strategy of defense led to this officially becoming the first free town of Spanish America in 1713. Tradition, historical pride, and Palenquero – a language unique to this place - are still alive here.
Once in Rincon, we will begin our sea turtle research by helping Fundacion Tortugas del Mar prepare for the hawksbill nesting season. Activities will include marking the beach to track nest locations and clearing the beach of debris. Later that afternoon, we will have some free time to hang out on the beach or walk around town. Tonight is free to hang out in town. Overnight at Hostel Beach House, a simple, locally-owned small hotel right on the beach (2 nights). (B, L, D)
DAY 4 - RINCON del MAR
This morning, we will meet up with a a local student ecology club and head out to the beach to do a cleanup. Plastic waste can impact both nesting turtles and their hatchlings, so keeping the beach clean is critical to protecting them. After lunch, we will head out by boat for a turtle research excursion, looking for green and hawksbill turtles. Once found, our partners will catch them in the water to study, including measuring, weighing, and tagging. Participants will be able to help in this research and then release the turtles back to the water.
The rest of the afternoon will be open for optional activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, hanging out on the beach, or souvenir shopping in town. Dinner will be at a local restaurant. In the evening, we will watch a traditional dance performance by a group of local students. Afterwards, those interested can head out into town for a drink or dancing. (B, L, D)
DAY 5 - PUNTA FARO RESORT / MUCURA ISLAND
After breakfast, we take a short (30 min.) boat ride to the spectacular resort of Punta Faro. This socially-conscious company has many programs that support the local community and wildlife, including one where they give fishermen chicken in place of turtles they catch. They work with Fundacion Tortugas del Mar to study and release these turtles and educate travelers about them.
We will head out in the afternoon for a another turtle research excursion and snorkeling in the coral reef. Afterwards, visit the turtles they are holding for release in a saltwater enclosure or relax on the beach at the resort until a buffet dinner and afterwards, head to bed early to rest up for early morning birding. Overnight at Punta Faro (2 nights). (B, L, D)
DAY 6 - MUCURA ISLAND
Before breakfast (around 6 am), we will head out for an optional birding expedition with a local student environmental club, who are learning this activity to benefit from the tourism to the island. There are a wide variety of shorebirds living in this area and we will explore the islands of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park to look for them.
After breakfast, Punta Faro and Fundacion Tortugas del Mar will collect data on the turtles that were brought in by fishermen and bring local students to release them back into the water. That afternoon, we will meet up with the students again to head to another nearby island participate in an effort to restore mangroves, which are important habitat for sea turtles and fish but are often cut down for firewood. The late afternoon will be free to take a swim in the beautiful clear Caribbean water or take a kayak out for a paddle. After dinner, we will head out for a night swim in bioluminesence a short boat ride away, a truly unique experience. (B, L, D)
DAY 7 - CARTAGENA
Today we wrap up our time on Mucura Island. After breakfast, we take a boat back to Cartagena (2 hours), where we will drop off our things at the hotel and then head into the walled city for lunch and a tour of the famous San Felipe Castle. This hour-long guided tour will explore the largest military installation of the Spanish colonies. That night, we will have a final celebratory dinner in the walled city and a free night to explore the city and watch the nightly performances by local African and Caribbean dance groups. Overnight at Casa de los Reyes. (B, L, D)
DAY 8 - DEPARTURE
After breakfast, you will be transferred to your hotel in time for your flight or head out to visit other parts of this beautiful country. Be sure to take home your souvenirs, photos, and memories of this extraordinary destination. (B)
Is This Trip Right For Me?
Colombia is a safe and peaceful country. After a long civil war, there has been a peace agreement and it has been safe to travel around this region for years. Plan to spend plenty of time near, on, or in the water, on boats, kayaks, snorkeling, and more. This trip is fairly physical but travelers can opt out of any activities they would rather not participate in. This is an active trip that requires a level of physical fitness and an ability to manage sometimes challenging conditions including hot weather and humidity and bugs.
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Photos: Fundacion Tortugas del Mar, I Show You Colombia, Punta Faro Resort