Scuba Diving in the Caribbean

Trip Start Sep 09, 2006
Trip End Aug 18, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, February 25, 2007

After 4 hours on a bus from Cartagena, we arrive at the bustling city of Santa Marta, and hop on a taxi to a neighboring town.  The taxi driver turns the bend, and we get a peek at something blue below us, and then whiz around another bend, and we get an even better look at a gorgeous and pristine blue bay below us, with the lights of a tiny village in the background.  Is that really Taganga??  Do we get to live here for a while??

Yes, the benefits of travelling are definitely moments such as these...when you realize, just for the moment, how lucky you are to be here, at this exact time and place. 

The village of Taganga itself is a beautiful, Bohemian-esque, quiet little fishing village set in a calm deep bay at the western boundary of Tayrona National Park.  It's easy to spend weeks just sitting cross-legged on the beach, swimming in the calm waters in front of you, chatting it up with quirky travellers who have found a home here, and sipping any variety of huge fresh fruit shakes for just $0.65USD...Mango con Leche (milk), and Mora (blackberry) are our favorite. However, we can't seem to mention enough how the true charm of Taganga definitely lies in its location.  For the next 100kms in either direction, lies untouched beach after whitesand beach, and bay after turquoise bay of Caribbean sea, waves crashing at the shoreline.  And it gets better!  The underworld beneath the surfaces of the Caribbean waters is just waiting to be explored. 

Having attained our PADI Open Water and Advanced Diving Certifications in Dahab, Egypt in 2003, we hadn´t really done any extensive SCUBA diving since then, and were feeling a little "green" (if not completely freaked out).  We had had issues of panic/anxiety, a couple of bad experiences on our last dives in the Dominican Republic in 2004, and needed to put all that behind us with new, calmer, more rewarding experiences.  So, we set aside our fears, and decided to just GO FOR IT.  After all, "diving is fun", right, PADI lovers?

For the next 72 hours, all we did was SCUBA.  We did 5 separate dives in 2 days, including a refresher course and a night dive... and surpassed all our own expectations.  "We´re Ba-a-a-ack..." to the world of diving, and realized what we had been missing.  Once we were down there, and had gotten used to breathing from a regulator, adjusted our buoyancy, and remembered how to equalize the pressure, we were astounded as to what lies beneath.  Phenomenal brain shaped corrals, colorful fish, and strange plant life we had never seen before.  Moray eels opening and closing their jaws menacingly, neon-colored fish scooting around the corners, long skinny trumpet fish swimming in groups, stationary rock fish sitting on the ocean floor, angel fish, Picasso fish, snapper, and spiky sea anemones.  The most memorable experience had to be finding a massive Stingray the size of a large truck tire laying camouflaged in the sand, with another fish hanging out on its back in symbiosis.  Suddenly, it shook off all the sand around it, and shimmied across the ocean floor at lightning speed right under our feet!   Steve Irwin did cross our minds at that moment.

So, submerging under water and going to depths of 25m below sea level is one thing during the day, but imagine it at night!  

It´s pitch black, we zoom at crazy speeds rocking on waves into the dark sea on our motor boat.   We don our masks, place our regulators into our mouths, take a deep breath, and somersault into total darkness, with only the sight of each other´s tiny wrist flashlights to prevent us from panicking.  Because as soon as you turn around and face the abyss, you´ve lost all sense of direction and depth, and you hope that when you turn back around, you´re not left completely alone.  You finally calm yourself, and get used to the absence of light, and in between equalizations, you point your flashlight to the corral to illuminate vibrant tones of reds and blues, and creepy crawly creatures that hide away during the day.  Lanky tentacled lobsters walking over surfaces, and stationary starfish prettily placed on the sand.  Suddenly, we´re facing a current, and have to swim through it...this being our 3rd dive of the day, we feel exhausted.  But, our confidence takes over, and we swim to meet the rest of our group in a small huddle on the ocean floor.  At 18m below sea level, here we sit on the sand, and our dive master asks us to switch off our flashlights...The moonlight creeps in, and magically displays the fluorescent plankton all around us as we move our hands in the water, agitating the minuscule aquatic creatures...just like fairy dust!

And when 40 minutes were up, we surfaced under the night sky, in a calm bay, with the Caribbean Sea cradling us.  We removed our regulators from our mouths, took a breath of uncompressed air, and had a sense of accomplishment and amazement.  We motored back to shore, celebrated with donuts and hot chocolate back on the beach.  Magical.

- When a Stingray feels threatened, (i.e. if something boxes it in), it may respond to danger by automatically flexing the serrated spine on its tail (which can measure up to 25 cm or about 10 inches in length) in an upward motion.  The combination of toxins and the puncture wound from the spine caused Irwin to die of cardiac arrest, with most damage being inflicted by tears to arteries or other main blood vessels. A similar incident in Florida a month later in which a man survived a stingray barb through the heart showed that Irwin may have caused his own death by removing the barb.
- Plankton is by definition, the aggregate of passively floating, drifting, or somewhat motile organisms occurring in a body of water, primarily comprising microscopic algae and protozoa.
- Lobster is the basis of a global industry that nets US$1.8 billion in trade annually.  In North America prior to the 20th century, local lobster was not a popular food. In the Maritimes, eating lobster was considered a mark of poverty.  In some parts of the Maritime provinces of Canada, lobster was used as a fertilizer for farmers' fields, and a great deal of lobster was fed to slaves or the lower members of society.  The issue of whether or not lobsters are capable of experiencing pain remains contested.

- Diving Company: Tayrona Dive Club, 2 dives cost 150 000 pesos, but you can get a discounted package if you want to do a few more dives. Equipment is good, reputation is good as well. They have a nice dive boat with a ladder, so you don´t have to forgo your vanity and attempt to jump into the boat from the side.  Chopper was our dive master, very friendly, speaks descent English, and knows the surrounding waters very well.
- Techos Azules is a good hotel, rooms are tiny, but you get a kitchen and living room. You can also rent apartments for almost the same price that are advertised along the beach.

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Where I stayed
Techos Azules
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feliciawong on

awesome travel blog
hey, i'm in the midst of research for a trip to Colombia in March 2008 and wanted to say that your travelogue has been a fantastic source of information. love the pictures and travel stories, and thanks for the useful info/tips at the end of every entry.

happy travels! :)

Jenn on

Great info. we love divin' and came with no expectations to this charming little town and fell in love with it, i totally recommend this place for divers. In regards of schools, there are many right at th entrance but i went further in and picked one by the beach, great service, great prices. The Name is Nautilius. To stay we picked casa holandesa. They have a problem with getting water overall in this town, so be prepared to wash yourself with seawater.

Jasbeto on

There is another scuba dive center at the end of the sea walk. It is Calipso dive center. They offer NAUI scuba courses and free acommodation in the dive center for the students. They also offer Scuba Safaris in Gayraca Bay in the middle of Tayrona National Park.

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