Panting, sweating, occasionally swearing, we follow a meandering up and down jungle trail in Tayrona Park — on the outskirts of Santa Marta — to Colombia’s Caribbean coast. To our chagrin, insects and heat are constant companions. Tourism Tayrona Park.
Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta
This area lies near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, highest coastal mountain range in the world. It is located about a one hour drive from the coastal city of Santa Marta.
Because the mountain range extends to the coast, the terrain is rough and uneven. Which also provides the possibility of creature encounters.
Tayrona is named for the indigenous people of the area. Since our exploration, the park has exploded in popularity because of its beautiful beaches and proximity to Santa Marta.
Hiking/walking through the jungle to the sea is half the fun — or half the battle — depending on your point of view.
Inside the Park
Once inside the park, a rickety collectivo takes you 20 minutes inside. Remainder of the way to the beach(es) is by foot, horse or donkey.
It took us one hour walking through the jungle to reach the first beach. Unfortunately, it is not suitable for swimming.
Another 40 minute walk along the coast is our true destination, La Piscina (the pool) Beach.
On the trail, a special monkey species
The titi monkey, a threatened species endemic to Colombia, roams in the park area. Luckily, not far from where we stood, we caught sight of the titi playing in the rustling branches of a nearby tree.
Large ones. Along the path. Fascinating to watch, the red leaf cutter ant is an industrious insect.
We studied a trail of them, busily carrying leaf pieces and twigs. The long line of ants with moving leaves in straight line precision extended out of sight into the jungle.
More creepy crawlers
Lucky us (ha!), we spied a large termite nest.
Plus, we noted other interesting crawling insects. Definitely belonging on the jungle floor. Not in our clothes or backpacks.
Most fortunate, however, were sightings of many colourful butterflies with beautiful markings. Some landed for an up close and personal experience.
We focused on the bright yellow bills of toucans caught in camouflage. Despite those distinguished beaks, toucans are difficult to spot among the ever-moving foliage.
We did glimpse an agouti (large rodent) creeping through the underbrush. Ears must be on high alert here.
As we toiled through the jungle underbrush to reach our beach destination, it was sometimes difficult to follow the trail.
But when we spied donkey droppings, we knew we were on course.
All park supplies are carried in by donkeys/pack horses – no available road or boat access.
The journey not the destination
We forded four streams to get to/from La Piscina. Fortunately, we met no snakes, crocs or leeches (at least on our trek).
Truly, this 1 1/2 hr plus hike is as much about the journey as the destination.
The Beach – but not this one
Finally, with itchy, damp skins due to profuse sweating, we welcomed the cooling breezes of the Caribbean Sea!
Too bad, though (sigh). This beach is not our destination. Too strong an undertow. Not recommended.
Then we see it. The sign to …
La Piscina (the pool)
La Piscina Beach is totally protected by a barrier reef, resulting in calm water. Perfect for swimming.
After the long hike through the jungle and mangroves, we splashed with relief in the refreshing Caribbean Sea.
Valió la pena
And yes, the hike was worth it.
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Music and Sights of Tayrona Park
How to Get Here
From Bogota, take an hour flight to Santa Marta. A 1 hour (34km/21mi) taxi or bus ride east from Santa Marta will get you to the entrance of Tayrona Park. Transportation by boat is also available.
Where to Stay
There are many hotels in Santa Marta in all price ranges. Here is one
Travelled: Feburary, 2012
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