Isla Gorgona

Isla Gorgona is an island in the Pacific Ocean near Colombia.

Understand

Parque Nacional Natural Isla Gorgona is an small island 50 kilometers out of the Colombian pacific coast. There are 2 main islands (Gorgona and Gorgonilla) and 2 tiny rocky keys. The main island of Gorgona is around 26 km2 in area. There are no permanent dwellers on the island.

History

The beach at Isla Gorgona

Spanish conquerors visited the island for periods of time from the 15th to the 18th century. Simon Bolivar, liberator of Colombia, gave the island as to an English army man who helped with the local war of independence against Spain. The island was retained by his descendants until the mid 20th century when the country claimed back the territory (by law, all islands belong to the central government). It was a prison island from 1960 until 1984 when the prison was closed and the island became a national park. The ancient houses of the personnel working at the prison were remodeled and reconverted into a research centre, comfortable accommodation and a restaurant. Since 1985 exuberant rainforest populated again the island. A section of the old prison can be still visited. In the 21st century a concession was given to a tourist company to run a private and secluded hotel.

Flora and fauna

The island is covered with tropical forest, which includes 46 species of reptile, 18 of these snakes, bats, sloths, monkeys, tortoises, as well as the abundant marine life in its waters which can be seen snorkeling from the beach or diving.

The ocean is roamed by sea turtles, whales, whalesharks, whitetip sharks and a lot of other fish species.

From mid-June till November is whale season. Male humpback whales can be seen breaching while the females and their offspring come close to the island at the surface to breath.

Climate

Warm and wet.

Get in

There are three ways to get to Isla Gorgona, all of them by boat:

Via Buenaventura

There are several ways to get to the island by boat from Buenaventura. Cargo Ships, Dive Boats, and Launches. The Cargo Ships typically leave from the Muelle el Piñal in the afternoon (4PM-6PM) and are headed south towards Saltinga.

There are other cargo ships at the Muelle el Piñal- tell the locals there you want to go to Gorgona and they will take you to whichever ship happens to be leaving that day(if any).

Launches are faster boats that take 4 hours. Boats can be arranged through Aviatur, or you can arrange it yourself.

You can also arrange for a live aboard dive boat to take you to the islands. There are at least three different boats that visit the islands (depending on the season). They are typically weekend trips leaving from Buenaventura at 6PM Fridays, and returning 6AM Monday morning, with approximately 6-7 dives around the island, visits to the islands sights, and are all inclusive of meals and park entry fees. These trips are about COP$890,000, and can be arranged through the various dive shops in Cali and Buenaventura.

Via Guapi

This is the shorter boat trip, about 2 hours. Guapi is only accessible by air. Aerolíneas Satena has flights from Cali. Contact them in Cali (2)885 7709 or in Guapi (2)840 0547 - (2)840 0313

Several companies have boats with a maximum capacity of 10 people. The price is between C$350,000 and C$500,000 for the 2 hour trip. Here is a list of contacts.

Via El Charco

Taxi de Carga (2)6663042 has flights from Cali.

Contact Dagobert Paredes (in El Charco (2)7470177 - (2)7470091 or in Cali (2)3155605 ) for boats to the island. The capacity is 15 to 20 persons and cost C$500,000 one-way.


If your boat out of the island doesn't show up, you get a free night on the island.

It is not allowed to bring alcohol to the island. Bags are sometimes checked on entrance. Confiscated goods will be returned at your departure. On departure bags are sometimes checked for corals or endangered animal species.

Fees/Permits

The entrance to the park is COP$ 31.000 and has to be paid in advanced together with the cost of accommodation. Since January 2006, Aviatur has taken over the concession for Isla Gorgona. You can get your entry fee at any Aviatur location (there is one in Buenaventura, as well as locations in Cali (2) 664 5050

Get around

Access to the park is restricted. You're only allowed without a guide on the area, called El Poblado between the accommodations and the dive shop. With a (free) guide it is possible to visit the former prison area and the one trail leading to the other side of the island.

See

The old prison was abandoned in 1984, now covered by jungle

Tour around part of the old prison located on the island. Until 1984, the island had been a maximum security prison designed for 1,500 but holding up to 2,000 prisoners. Conditions were appalling, with rooms for torture including one, the " bottle" where the victim was forced to stand for days in the impossibly tiny cell not more than 2 feet wide, with a central hole as a toilet & meager rations dropped in from above.

Do

Buy

There is a small souvenir shop. However, take everything you need with you.

Eat

There is only one restaurant. The meals are good, but prepare for lots of seafood and rice. Three meals included in the accommodation cost (see budget section)

Drink

As a national park, alcohol is not permitted in the island.

Sleep

Ecotourist hotel in Gorgona

There is only one hotel in the island. Accommodations are comfortable for a secluded and tropical island, prices are fair for what you get.

Splurge

Cope

Vaccination against yellow fever, tetanus and hepatitus B is recommended.

There are several species of poisonous snakes on the island. Walking to playa Blanca and further is only allowed with guide and rubber boots (You can rent them at restaurant for COP$7,000). After 5PM the it's advisable to wear rubber boots as well and use torches. The hotel is well designed to avoid snakes and every tour guide will teach you simple rules to be safe at all times. No snake bites have been reported since the hotel opened 5 years ago.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, August 23, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.