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July 19th, 2016

Nuqui: Colombia's Pacific coast paradise

Discover Nuqui, one of the Pacific coast’s and Colombia’s most idyllic spots. Stay at a beautiful, tranquil eco-lodge and experience tropical forests, untouched beaches and welcoming hospitality from the local communities.

Over the course of a year spent living in Bogota working as a musician and an English teacher in 2013/14, I was lucky enough to explore most corners of Colombia’s arrestingly beautiful and diverse countryside. Numerous trips took in the entire Caribbean coast, including the very furthest tips of La Guajira; the surprisingly under-trodden paths of Huila, with its Desierto de Tatacoa, San Agustin and the neighbouring Volcano of Purace; the rather sleepy and richly verdant coffee region; quaint colonial towns such as Villa de Leyva and Barichara; and the depths of the Colombian Amazon rainforest. Yet, what sticks out so irresistibly for me from this idyllic travel montage is my fortnight spent hidden away on the rugged Pacific coastline of El Choco.

Flight to Nuqui

Reaching this marine enclave, cut off from even basic roads and serviced only with locally-sourced electricity, requires travel either by sea from Panama or by air, via Medellin. My route involved the latter, hopping over from Bogota, before I took the smallest plane I will ever likely board (and yes, it was just my friend, myself and the two pilots) to the smallest airfield I will ever likely land at, in the tiny port village of Nuqui.

And what a culture shock touching down in this village was for me. Five months residing in the cosmopolitan Colombian capital of Bogota was little preparation for the marooned sensation I suddenly felt in this remote, jungle setting. Strolling around Nuqui’s few, dusty central streets, whilst chatting with many of the curious children and welcoming adults, gave me a candid insight into this community’s hypnotically slow and social rhythm of life. On arrival, it immediately became apparent that Nuqui, thankfully, remains unspoilt. It has its market, its boat transports, a school, a church...and not much else.

Nuqui

Whilst the shabby charm of Nuqui provides an authentic lens into life on the El Choco coast, this village is usually only a brief stepping stone for visitors en route to Guachalito. Guachalito is less a village and more a stretch of exquisitely untouched (or as they say in Spanish, “virgin”) beach, accessible only by “lancha” or fishing boat, which extends uninterrupted for tens of miles around the Gulf of Tribuga. As one journeys round this bay, one finds a sprinkling of eco-lodges strung out, miles apart, scattered in between a handful of centuries-old Afro-Colombian villages – all consumed by jungle; all completely paradisiacal.

It was actually a Colombian housemate of mine who recommended that I pay El Choco a visit and, in particular, Guachalito, claiming it to be in the “middle of the action”. By this, he of course meant that I could use my well-situated lodge as a base from which to set off on a whole variety of nature excursions. Though wonderfully located it was and many a nature hike was enjoyed, ‘action’ was, perhaps, somewhat false-advertising: the two weeks I spent in Guachalito turned out to be two of the most tranquil I’d ever known. Staying in a rustic bedroom kitted out with all the necessary mosquito window and bedding nets, as well as an en-suite spouting recently collected rain water, I would exit my boudoir each morning straight onto a personal terrace equipped, naturally, with a hammock and deck chair. From there, I would drink in the surrounding quirkily-coloured wooden huts, along with the majestic waves, a mere hop-skip-and-a-dive away. The lovely chef would ring her mellifluously toned bell at 8am and down I would gaily descend for breakfast. This indulgent tone seeped happily into the rest of the days’ activities – an undemanding beach-read; a deeply non-exerting beach stroll; or a thoroughly deserved dip in the ludicrously turquoise sea.

Three-course lunches and suppers (all included) ensued, with delicious fish-based dishes ranging from fillets of whatever was caught that day to fresh tuna soups and salads. Later, evening beach walks to hidden waterfalls were set against astonishing sunsets on the way there and utterly bewitching star-gazing sessions on our return. (On a clear night, thanks to no light pollution and the benefits of being on the equator, one is treated to a dazzling combination of northern and southern sky constellations).

Overall, whether appreciating the sight of the awe-inspiring jungle crashing silently into the Pacific Ocean, or listening from my bed to the distant roars of howler monkeys and the lapping of gentle waves, I was simply in an unending bliss.

Nuqui

As previously mentioned, this “middle-of-the-action” advantage meant I could access a number of the local nature trips by foot, including visits to the villages of Coqui and Jobi, which offer a beautiful mangrove boat trip upstream to a secluded waterfall, as well as Termales, a village with its own mineral-rich natural spa and jungle hike to another hidden cascade. On one such outing, I came across the annual inter-village football tournament being held in the village of Coqui. Villagers from across the bay had walked, rowed and motor-boated to the village to share in the fever-pitch celebrations and watch some of the most chaotic and poorly refereed football matches I’ve ever seen! So hospitable and effusive were the locals, however, that I actually ended up spending Christmas Eve and Day with them, watching their terrific youth percussive and dance performances late into the night and sharing in their wonderful, unique community. The perfect way, then, to top off this quite magnificent two-week visit to this quite unique destination.

You can visit Colombia's Pacific coast on our Panama Canal and tropical rainforest expedition cruise or on a tailor-made basis.

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