Monday morning we decided to trade the crowded, brown beaches of Bocagrande for the white sand and sunshine of the Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca.
It cost 45,000 COP (About $24US per person) to catch an early-morning ‘speed’ boat ride from the Cartagena Harbor to the beautiful stretch of narrow white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water known as Playa Blanca.
Upon arrival we docked briefly to drop-off a gang of backpacking gringos determined to camp-out on the island. They seemed way under-prepared and way over… white for a long day without much shade. Regardless, us Latinos (shhh) proceeded towards Islas del Rosario for a serious snorkeling session. We sped across the pristine water and around small, lush islands scattered as far as the eye could see.
We made one more stop before getting our feet wet at the Islas del Rosario Aquarium where, to our pleasant surprise, most of our fellow passengers unloaded. As it turned out, Rocio, myself and a lovely Urguayan girl were treated to a private snorkel tour from one of the local guides.
The Bocachica native swam around like a fish showing us an endless stream of exotic fish and coral. He would dive down and touch random things and then pop back up to the surface to explain it. The best was when he told us how dangerous or poisonous something was and then he’d dive down and wave his hands 2-inches away from it to show us. We saw schools of fish, water snakes, brain-shaped coral and those kick-ass sea anemones that Nemo used to hide in.
We cruised around for a solid half hour enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the under-water world until my fingers got pruned up and my stomach started craving sushi. We hoped back on the boat, picked up the aquarium losers and headed back to Playa Blanca for lunch. On the way back our guide explained some of the life in the ocean. From what I could understand of his heavy coastal-accented Spanish it was really interesting. I never realized that dolphins were just gay sharks.
I’m not going to lie, I felt a little weird eating the whole fish for lunch considering I just went swimming with his cousins. But, I was hungry and the deep-fried fellow went nice with the rice and patacones (fried plantains). After lunch I did my best beached sea-lion impression as the sun cooked me up like a big piece of bacon.
I came out of the coma awhile later to the sound of two local boys splashing around close by. I decided it was time for some exercise so I joined in on the fun.
The two brothers do this every day as their parents work cooking up fish for tourists at the water-front ‘restaurant’ nearby. As expected they were great swimmers but weren’t yet seasoned in the art of belly-flopping. I took the liberty of sharing my wealth of knowledge on the subject.
The beach drops off pretty quick as it hits the shoreline so it made for a perfect platform for a variety of challenges. We went from belly flops to cannon balls to long jump (as seen in the video). In between competitions we shared stories about our respective homes while they kept a constant curious eye on Rocio sunbathing… I can’t blame ’em.
At 3pm the boat-crew came by and rounded everybody up to head back. I was water logged, burnt to a crisp and had just lost two competitions in a row to the boys so it couldn’t have come at a better time. We said our farewells via face splashes and shipped off.
On our way back to Cartagena we were waved down by a group of beach-goers on the far-side of Playa Blanca. It was the same gringo posse that we arrived with. Their bright pink skin and tired faces proved they weren’t ready for a night of tap water and digging bathroom holes. My favorite was an Australian kid with a big fish tattooed on his back who gets sea sick easily!
We made it back to solid ground at about 4:30pm where Aloa Vera and cold beer called. I answered on the first ring.