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Isla de Providencia, Colombia Trip Journal

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January 19, 2010, Isla de Providencia, Colombia

Isla de Providencia is part of the San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago, about 150 miles east of Nicaragua, but is a region of Colombia. The world’s third largest barrier reef is here.

We anchored about two miles off the coast of Isla de Providencia, as there’s a wide, shallow reef that prevents ships from getting closer to the island. We used the tenders to go ashore – about 20 minutes. An absolutely beautiful day – the Caribbean was its usual turquoise blue, the breeze was blowing and the temperatures were in the low 80’s – which are consistent year round.

Isla de Providencia is small – 6 ½ square miles (17 sq km). There’s one main village – Pueblo Viego, “old town”, which is where the tenders dropped us. There are a few hotels, restaurants and shops, but not a lot. People come here to relax, visit the surrounding areas, such as Isla de Santa Catalina and the McBean Lagoon which is a National Park, scuba dive and snorkel. The population for the entire island is only 5,000 residents – during the year, approximately 15,000 people visit.

The Providence Land Company established an English Puritan colony here in 1629. There’s also a history of Providencia being used as a base by the pirate, Henry Morgan. He supposedly buried a lot of treasures here from his raids on the Spanish empire. In 2000, UNESCO declared Isla de Providencia to be a part of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve.

After we arrived and got off the tender, we watched a musical presentation (dancing and singing) performed by some of the local residents. The young children did the dancing and they did a great job, plus they seemingly enjoyed themselves.

Because Pueblo Viego is so small, it didn’t take us long to walk around and see the shops, markets, some homes and a church.

Not a lot of tourists visit here, so I think the residents of Pueblo Viego were as curious about us as we were them. Very friendly people – we were standing by the Baptist Church and one of the ladies invited us to come in with her and take a look around.

Connecting the Isla de Providencia and Isla de Santa Catalina is a floating wooden bridge, (Lover’s Lane), which we crossed. We came across several local fishermen on Isla de Santa Catalina who were cleaning the morning’s catch. Wow! Huge red snappers and some other types of white fish. I wish they were onboard tonight preparing dinner.

There’s a flight of steps leading to Morgan’s Fort, where some of the cannons are still on-site. This is where Henry Morgan defended his stolen treasures. There’s also a trail through the hilly area where “supposedly” many of Morgan’s treasures are still buried. We didn’t look for the treasures – figured Customs would take them away from us when we arrived back in the U.S., plus the safe in our room is way too small! (John brought too many watches).

Money is the Colombian peso. The transportation around the island is by collectivos – shared minivans which follow two routes – one clockwise and the other counterclockwise.

A beautiful, untouched by commerce, pristine Caribbean island.

We leave at 5pm, headed for Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, where we will spend the day tomorrow.

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