English, Stories from Colombia

THE LAND WHERE WHALES LOVE TO JUMP

Sunset from the beach in Nuqui, Choco (Colombia)

Colombia has thousands of places with spectacular natural beauty, Nuqui is an incredibly special place and that is why it is on the top of my list. However, reaching Nuqui in the Colombian pacific coast, is not at all an easy task. Maybe that is one of the reasons why this land is even more spectacular. There are just two ways to reach this place. The first option is taking a ship that comes from the south, specifically from the port of Buanaventura; considering that those ships just carry cargo this is not the best option. The most convenient route is coming by plane from Quibdo, the capital of Choco department; or by small airplanes from the cities of Medellín or Pereira. The airport in Nuqui is smaller than the smallest airport you can imagine, and the runway has only enough area for a small airplane to land. The landing is somewhat risky and makes you feel extremely nervous, but the view of the mountains covered by deep jungle in fusion with the beaches and the immense Pacific Ocean makes it worth.

Nuqui is a small and undeveloped town, where the lack of initiatives by the Colombian Government is evident at first sight. But the inhabitants who are gentle and hardworking have put in great efforts to offer the tourist many options to stay in the form of simple but comfortable hotels, spread on the virgin beaches of Nuqui. Nuqui can seem like a place lost in the middle of nowhere, but anyone who loves nature and good food will feel like at home.

Small inhabitants of beaches and jungles of Nuqui, Choco. (Colombia)
Photo by Carlos Arturo Cardenas

Thanks to recommendations from other travellers, we chose to stay at “La Joviseña” an Eco Hotel. I would strongly recommend booking a hotel in advance before reaching Nuqui, because most of the options available are outside the town and can be reached just by boat. Since we had made our bookings in advance, they were waiting for us right outside the airport to take us to the wonderful beach of Guachalito, in Joví. The hotel is just 35 minutes away by boat from the town of Nuqui, although sometimes the ride can be a bit rocking depending on the tide and how strong the waves are, the view and the peaceful vibe, makes the ride a great experience. I am leaving the link to the website of the hotel because I am sure that you would want to experience it http://www.lajovisena.com/es/hotel-ecologico-nuqui-choco

Once the boat reached the beach, we were wonderstruck by the contrast of the deep jungle and the black sand of the beach. The Pacific Ocean does not offer the same clear blue colours of the Caribbean Sea, but the abundance of the ecosystem is so perfect, that the landscape seems like a painting. The Eco Hotel does not have a dock, so as soon we touched land, we took off our shoes, jumped out of the boat, and we refreshed our feet with salty water. If it is possible, I would strongly recommend travelling with comfortable clothes and shoes because everything is an adventure from the moment you step out of the airport. All the weariness of the journey went away when the owner and her staff received us with a big smile to offer coconut water fresh form the palm tree. Obviously, palm trees are present all over this paradise, and that will strongly mark the flavours of the traditional food in that region.

Plantain tree
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com
Coconut
Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

The Eco Hotel “La Joviseña” has four bungalows, each of them with a capacity to accommodate four to five people, and the hotel has a full capacity of around 20 people. Being just a few guests is easier to enjoy the wonderful service and that vibe of being at home. Each bungalow is built in the traditional style in wood and is built upon stilts, and has a balcony where you will find a hammock to lie on and read or just rest; surrounded by the sound of the birds most of them endemic to the area.  Even though the hammock is extremely comfortable, and the sound of the waves is perfect to sleep, I had to get up many times to find my camera and go behind some brilliant and colourful feathers. As is common all over the area, the hotel too does not have electricity; however, they have a generator that provides electricity to illuminate the common areas at night and to charge gadgets; each cabin also has a lamp powered with solar energy. It is always useful to pack a torch, nevertheless the lack of electricity was never felt.

The Gulf of Tribugá, where the hotel is located, is one of the richest fishing areas in the Colombian coast. The fishermen that go out every day in their canoes with their huge artisanal nets catch a great variety of species including more than 20 varieties of tuna and the delicious red snapper.  Every day from breakfast to dinner, the restaurant at la Joviseña offers dishes prepared with the catch of the day, combined with ingredients collected from their garden and surroundings. Even if you are not a fish lover and the thought of having to eat fish every day makes you think twice, I can guarantee that the smell of the food prepared in that kitchen will entice you to try. The typical dishes of the region are highly influenced by the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous tribes and the Afro-Colombian communities. The recipes perfectly combine leaves, spices and roots from the jungle with coconut, tapioca and fish, placating even the most difficult palates. As a food lover, I keep safe in my memory those flavours as if it was yesterday; and I remember with detail that night where we all shared that red snapper. It was a big fish weighing a few kilos, wrapped in plantain leaves, buried and covered with incandescent coal for many hours giving it a smoky flavour that comes from this traditional method of preparation. The fish sancocho, the tuna empanadas and other delicacies disappeared from the table as if it were magic, day after day.

Trogon bird or commonly known as “the solitude” posing clamly for the picture in Jovi river, Choco. (Colombia)
Photo by Carlos Arturo Cárdenas

Even though, I went to Nuqui many years back, I still have very fresh memories of the waterfalls with clear water where we took bath, just a few meters away from the beach; the perfect temperature of the hot springs which is just half an hour away by boat from the hotel. Or that ride in the canoe navigated by the oarsman in the traditional way over the clear water of the Jovi river where surrounded by trees that paints their shadows in the water, we saw the bird called “the solitude”  (Trogonus personatus) garnishing the landscape with its unforgettable green and red colours. Over and above all these experiences, there is one emotion that I will definitely never forget, which is the feeling that makes me want to go to Nuqui again and again; it was that surprise of watching that humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)  jumping out of the water with its giant body and falling again with all the grace leaving behind just foam. It was that day that I once again realized how wonderful is our planet and I thank the universe to have the chance to enjoy that spectacle.

The humpback whales come year after year to mate and have their babies in the warm water of the Colombian Pacific Ocean; particularly in a place called Utría Cove, three hours away from Nuqui by boat. From June to September or early October, it is a delight for children and adults alike to have the chance to see from the beach the playful whales jumping out of the water with their babies. The fishermen tell stories about their ancient fears of those giant monsters that come every year around June, to swim in the waters where they are used to fishing peacefully.  It was just with time and knowledge that they found out that these whales are peaceful creatures, and from then on, they respect and take care of them. They are immensely proud of knowing that these giant cetaceous chose their ocean to teach their calves how to swim.  From many years now, the locals built a great part of their income based on the interest that tourists and scientists have towards these animals. Today, the inhabitants of Nuqui know which are the favourite places for the whales to swim during the day, their ears are honed to identify the deep noise from the spiracle when the whale comes out to the surface to breath, and they are even able to point with a lot of certainty the next area where the whale is going to resurface again.

Magnificent humpback whale in the Pacific Ocean Nuqui, Choco (Colombia)
Photo by Carlos Arturo Cárdenas

The biodiversity present in the beaches and jungles of Nuqui is a treasure that belongs not just to us as Colombians, but to all humanity. A treasure that we are obliged to protect and respect, in the same way that generations of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities that live there have done. These words can sound rhetorical and pointless, but after experiencing how much the humpback whales love to jump in these waters, it is impossible not to be totally committed to protect it and being able to continue enjoying it, giving the coming generations the chance to come and enjoy it in the same way it is now.  

If you want to know the story of how I started writing follow this link https://colombiatoindia.com/2020/11/17/the-story-of-a-writer/. I want to thank specially to my head editor; he is also an amazing writer follow his blog too clicking the next link https://zenningmyway.com/blogs-to-explore-india/

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