Colombia's Pacific Coast Region


Ecologically, the Pacific/Chocó Natural region belongs entirely to the Chocó Biogeographic Region and is considered a biodiversity hotspot. It also has areas with some of the highest rainfall in the world, with areas near Quibdo, Chocó reaching an amazing 13,000 mm (510 in) annually.

Ending abruptly in the Pacific Ocean, the largely unexplored Serrania del Baudo gives tropical exuberance a new meaning. This coastal mountain is covered by lush tropical forest that gives life to a myriad of plants, animals and crystal-clear streams. Here, the relentless Pacific Ocean clashes with the forest in a perpetual struggle for space.

In this region, the jungle and ocean meet head-on with rugged grey-sand beaches. Stretching like a ribbon with the Pacific Ocean at its side, the Pacific Coast is one of Colombia’s most pristine and beautiful regions of Colombia. North, the mountain ranges of the Serranía de Baudó rise directly from the Ocean to reach a height of about 500 m, then drop into the ocean giving shape to bays and coves. southern part, hydrated by rivers, streams and spectacular waterfall, is generally flatter, except for its many rocky beach side cliffs.


Gold Toad photo by Wilfried Berns

The pacific coast of Chocó is the perfect place for nature lovers because of its unrivalled biodiversity. Along a 1,300 km coastline, the Colombian Pacific Ocean combines with the coastal rainforests to produce an exceptionally rich and varied flora distributed in lagoons, estuaries, mangrove swamps, coral formations, cliffs, sedimentary bottoms, and sandy beaches.

This ecosystem is unequaled with its high species diversity and endemism (up to 30% in some parts). These unique forests support the single greatest concentration of endemic birds, with the total number of bird species at 600 (7% of the world’s total). In addition, the tropical forests here support 200 species of mammal, 100 species of reptile, and 120 species of amphibian. Recently, the area has received fame as being the last place on earth where the majestic golden poison arrow frog still survives.


Humpback Whale photo by Patrick Hawks

In the month of July the first humpback whales begin to arrive along the Pacific Coast of Colombia. During whale season, which peaks in September but can last until December, about three thousand whales arrive here. They come to the region to escape colder arctic waters in order to bear and raise their young. The tropical climate facilitates the birth of the 6 meter long baby whales and makes it easier for the females to feed and train them for survival. Males also arrive with the females, and are responsible for spectacular water breaches, as they play and try to show off for the females and show power and dominance over other males.

 

You can see these majestic creatures play and interact with one another even from the beach, but we can arrange a boat tour if you want a closer look. It is simply amazing to see these 16 m long, 35,000 kg animals breaching their mammoth bodies several feet out of the water. Expect to hear gasps of amazement, then cheers of excitement every time they leap into the air and land on their backs with thunderous splashes. The memory of this amazing experience will last a lifetime.

 

The waters off the Pacific Coast are even more amazing. In the right season, divers will encounter immense schools of snappers, jacks and barracudas. Crab mating season, in February and March, should not be missed as millions of terrestrial crabs come down from the forests and swarm the beaches on their way the ocean. Agallona sardines by the millions, marine birds by the thousands, and large sea predators are easy to spot in April and May. This is one reason the area is among the greatest offshore sport spots in the world, as countless of Marlin, Tuna, Mahi Mahi and Sailfish congregate to enjoy the abundance.

 

For a close encounter with white-fin and black-fin sharks, it is recommended to dive at La Parguera, where it is also possible to admire snappers, tunas and large schools of black-tail mackerel. At El Amargal, diving is done in deep waters, where black corals and lemon, tiger and white-fin sharks are likely to be seen.

 

The most beautiful and interesting places on the coast to visit are Gorgona Island, Nuqui and Solano Bay. Gorgona Island was once the place of maximum-security prison, but these days it has become the perfect place for whale watching, including the occasional killer whale, and the waters off surrounding the Islands are incredibly rich in marine life. Here you will find large numbers of sharks, sea lions, dolphins, whale sharks, and hammerheads. Only 30 minutes by boat from Bahia Solano, the sunken ship off Sebastian Belalcazar is a great place to see schools of sharks, sea turtles and giant groupers.

 

Off the coast of Ensenada de Utría national park you will see snappers, mammoth groupers, and giant rays. Other great dives sites include Piedra de la Esperanza and Punta Diego in Utría; the sunken ship in Huina; San Telmo, in Juná; Chadó; El Faro; Juan Tejada; León; Mina del Diablo; and the area around Cabo Marzo. This is also a zone for artisan spear fishing and ideal for whale watching from July to November.


Bahía Solano is a municipality and town in the Chocó Department, Colombia situated some two hundred km due west of Medellin and 100 km south of the Panamanian border. It has a population of about 10,000 people, mostly of African decent. There are also several hundred people of indigenous decent scattered around the town and upstream living along the rivers. The town is at a very strategic point for the Colombian army and they have a sizable presence there. The towns claim to fame is some of the best deep sea fishing in the world. Black and blue marlin in particular. Also it is a major way-point for humpback whales who come with there young between the months of July and October to the Pacific Coast of Colombia.


Located about 50 km north of Nuqui we find El Valley. The small town very laid back town of only about 3000 people is regarded as having the best surfing beaches in the area, with El Almejal being considered the most beautiful of El Valley's beaches.

 

Parque Nacional Natural Ensenada de Utriá photo by Marlene Inez

Located between Nuqui and El Valley is Parque Nacional Natural Ensenada de Utría. This giant 545 sq km Park was created in 1987 to preserve several unique aquatic and terrestrial habitats, including tangles of mangrove swamps, coral reefs and 17,401 hectares (43,000 ac) of Pacific rainforest. The park consists of steep, heavily forested mountains that crash right into the sea to create truly dramatic scenery. Marine fauna in the area is very diverse, including 105 species of crustaceans and several species of whales, among them the famous humpback whales.

 

Utría is a national and global treasure due to the beauty of its landscapes, the pristine condition of its ecosystems and the incredible diversity of its flora and fauna. In addition, many exciting activities are available in the park, including hiking, nature trekking, humpback whale watching, canoing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

 

Life in Nuqui photo by Alvaro Torres

Nuqui is located in the Gulf of Tribugá on the shores of the Ancachí River. The town itself has relatively little to offer visitors aside from a serviceable airport and some interesting and vibrant outdoor marketplaces. Basically, this is a fishing village surrounded by jungle, with immense beaches and numerous freshwater streams, which is ideal for hikers, divers, surfers, and nature lovers. There are also a number of beautiful ecolodges to the north and south of the small town.

 

 

Humpback Whale photo by Patrick Hawks

Parque Nacional Natural Isla Gorgona is a small 26 sq km island about 50 kilometers off Bahia Guapi on the southern Colombian Pacific Coasts. Gorgona is surrounded by three smaller islets; these islands include Gorgonilla, El Viudo and Rocas del Horno. The collection of islands is home to one of the most pristine ecosystems on earth - there are no permanent residents on the island the human impact to these fragile ecosystems has been kept to an absolute minimum.

 

From 1960 until 1984, visitors to Colombia's Isla Gorgona arrived shackled and blindfolded and slept behind barbed-wire fences and on wooden bunks without mattresses. The 2,500 inmates of Gorgona Prison were dissuaded from escaping by the numerous species of poisonous snakes and the schools of sharks that patrol the island. The prison is now derelict, overrun by capuchin monkeys and iguanas, but some parts were converted into a rather grisly and foreboding, yet very interesting museum.

 

The natural wealth of the island is made up of 147 bird species, sloths, monkeys, more than a dozen species of snake and other reptiles (including the endemic blue anole), 100s of species of invertebrate, and surrounding the island is a vast powerhouse of marine biodiversity, including dolphins, porpoises, sharks, sea lions, and even humpback whales that visit the Colombian Pacific from October to November to give birth to their young. Kayaking tours around the island are a great way to view the incredible natural beauty the island offers.