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San Andres Island Trip Reports

From: unclewas - Big Juice Board(Original Message)
Sent: 3/5/2002 1:11 PM

Cayo Boliver was the most incredible dive experience I have had to date. But I would like to stress that you don't need to scuba dive to enjoy this Caribbean paradise. But you should be a hearty sort who is unafraid of a little unconvinced in search of the far greater rewards this adventure has to offer.

The trip to and from Cayo Boliver is on board an open style boat aprox 25' in length. Cayo Boliver is not easy to reach and travel is limited by weather wind and wave conditions. THIS IS NOT A HARBOUR TOUR. You will experience 6' to 8' waves, a constant soaking and even the occasional stinging of your eyes as the warm sea sprays smacks your face. But the mild discomfort this hour or so experience generates quickly fades as you approach the tiny island group and the deep blue Caribbean waves are transformed into the most incredible calm turquoise coloured waters I have even seen.

The first stop is to the larger island that is home to a small Colombian Army outpost to register to camp on the final destination called Cayo Boliver aprox 2-3 km away.

Approaching Cayo Boliver is exhilarating in itself. The Crystal Clear waters are dotted with coral formations that come within inches of the surface. A crew member onboard takes his position on the boats bow and using hand signals directs the captain,,, as we thread our way through the coral passages towards the pure white sand beach of this tiny uninhabited island.

Within one hundred yards of shore we are greeted by the "local residents" slow gliding rays who fly by in the shallows near the boat and shore lines. It was around this point I realised I had found someplace very special.

The island itself is less the 1km long and perhaps 200 meters wide at its widest point. It is home to a number of sea birds including, an eagle and numerous curious little lizards. Numerous palm trees sway in the breeze and the island is ringed with vegetation that offers a natural windscreen from the sea.

There is no source of fresh water, no washrooms and no structures except for the occasional sleeping shelters some fishermen have constructed near the beach.

Everybody pitches in when we arrive. Setting up camp in an open area near the centre of the island. Hammocks are hung between the palm trees. A tent is pitched, and an eating area complete with tables and chairs is constructed under a large plastic tarp strung between the palms.

Coolers with food and drinks, a propane cooking stove and bottled water are all provided to sustain us during our stay. Those who don't scuba dive can enjoy hours of snorkelling in the waters that surround in addition to experiencing the simple pleasures that come with camping in the Caribbean wilderness.

THE SCUBA DIVING

The diving itself is a short ten-minute boat ride back out through the natural reef channels to the coral walls that ring the island. I'll never forget the first few minutes of the first dive. Descending down through the crystal clear turquoise waters the walls of coral had a fine layer of sand on them. It was like entering a home that hadn't been lived in for years. Undisturbed by human trespassers with a layer of dust covering everything.

The coral fans sponges and various hard and soft coral structures appeared perfect, undamaged and untouched the way so much coral looks in heavily visited areas. Enormous brain coral, and huge purple coloured flower pot shaped coral. Numerous species of fish including the occasional large grouper, barracuda and even a rather inquisitive nurse shark graced us with their presence.

NIGHT LIFE

Back on shore we shared our campsite with several other adventurers. Two German gentlemen staying at the Isleño (or maybe it was the San Luis) other German gentleman living on the islands. Wernito, Katie an amazing Colombian woman and her incredible four-year-old daughter who warmed my soul with her personality.

After a truly wonderful dinner of salads, pasta and salsa covered with chunks of freshly caught red snapper we ventured down the beach and where treated to the sights of a beautiful full moon rising over the Caribbean horizon and listened to the sounds of Katie with her guitar.

By ten o’clock I crawled into my hammock and just looked up between the palm leaves towards the night sky and stars as the warm breeze gently rocked me and rustled the palm trees above.

THE MORNING AFTER

The next day we rose to the coffee and a delicious serving of scrambled eggs, croissants, a fresh coconuts and headed out for two more dives before returning later that day to SAI.

CONCLUSIONS

Cayo Bolivar is not for the faint of heart or those who are high maintenances tourists who require pampering. It’s a difficult place to get to. Its rough its remote and it requires everyone on the trip to pitch in and help.

But it is by far the greatest adventure this diver/camper/lover of life has had the privilege of experiencing. Werner Köster is the gentleman who took us out to Cayo Bolivar.

Bill Simmons

Bill,
My buddy Bill and I (Dave), have just returned from our second S.A.I diving trip, this year we ventured away from the aquarium and hooked up with Karibik Diver located about 100 meters south of the resort. Werner, the owner of Karibik Divers, gave us a terrific dive experience that I would highly recommend to all divers wishing to visit this great island.

We ventured out to Cayo Bolivar an uninhabited island about 18km south east of S.A.I, our trip was an over night Eco. Adventure, the small island is a beautiful little island with the most spectacular beach you can imagine, it is lined with palm trees, and the most colourful sea colours you can imagine. . Fisherman from S.A.I also frequent the island which allowed our "Capitan" to purchase fresh fish for a terrific dinner after a day of the best diving I have experienced, great colourful walled reefs with plenty of marine life, sharks, rays, huge grouper, big barracuda etc. accommodations are camping style, sleeping in hammocks, however Werner takes tables, chairs, B.B.Q lots of food and beer. And the Capitan is very knowledgeable about marine and wildlife, great to here the island stories" Heck we even had a diver student bring her guitar and serenade the night away on a star studded beach.

To all divers thinking about S.A.I., I WOULD HIGHLY RECCOMEND contacting Werner for your diving experience, he provides a dive computer (and allows you to dive your plan and maximize your bottom time) and wet suit to all divers and goes out of his way to look after his clients both while diving and enjoying S.A.I. night life, a few cerveza were consumed at the local bar trading lies, The diving around the island is still very good and very accessible with all weather. Cayo Bolivar is not always accessible due to the heavy winds that can frequent the area, however, Werners boat is safety equipped with G.P.S and V.H.F radio. He will do his best to get you the island, it cost a little more, but is well worth the adventure, weather permitting.

To all our friends from the Aquarium, we enjoyed everyone’s company and thank you for your time, who knows, if the wifes permit a third trip maybe a three dayer to Cayo Bolivar is in the works. Oh ya and Bill, I will be the " B" next year, ADIOS AMIGOS

San Andres Island

The winter appears to have been very good to us this year, we seem to have had so little precipitation, and whether it was the stuff we grudgingly shovel or the stuff that thankfully makes its own way to the drain. Either way, the drain leads to the creek, the creek leads to the river, the river leads to the lake, you know where I am going with this don’t you. That’s right, there is nothing going down the river or the creek and so we can expect the lakes to be lower again this year. If things continue the way they have been going for the last few seasons the lakes will be so shallow we will be taking open water divers on the Munson. Enough of these depressing thoughts and time to brighten the long gray days of winter.

The week before Christmas those long gray cloudless skies got the better of me and I turned my thoughts to the sunshine of the south. While scanning the web pages of such companies as World of Vacations and Sun Tours, etc. I could not help notice that an all-inclusive holiday on San Andres Island for the sum of $640 CND was leaping out of the page at me. Where the hell is San Andres Island I asked and learned that it is off the coast of Equator (does Equator have a West Coast I ask myself?) Within 48 hours of me seeing the ad’ I was packed and on my way south for the 5 hour flight via Panama on the way down and a 3 hour flight on the way home re: a direct route between the island and Toronto.

What a beautiful little island paradise and as yet the Americans do not seem to have discovered it and so although the currency of choice for the local is the $US there are few if any of them down there dropping it about. My desire was to dive and no sooner was I off the ‘plane than I was checking the local dive stores. The first to investigate was right on the hotel premises, had I been going to have a few shallow dives I am sure it would have been adequate. I am sure you know the type of place, the divers all weighed 300lbs and had not dove since their last winter’s holiday. Good luck to them.

I went down town to check out others, names that come to mind are Sharky’s Dive Store, San Andres Divers and Karibik Diver although there were many others and you can check them out yourselves at www.sanandresisland.com I chose Karibik Divers owned and operated by Werner Köster, a giant of a man with a heart like a pussy cat. Diving on the island ranges in cost between $34US to 74US for a single dive and then some kind of economic package put together for you depending on how many dives you sign up for. I signed up for 5 double dives at a cost of $200 and I don’t think you can beat that price anywhere in the world including Canada.

Karibik Diver is centrally positioned on the main coastal highway in close proximity to all the good hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping facilities and just steps to the main jetty and their high-speed dive boat. The staff was very courteous local people and the store premises were spotlessly clean. Every evening my equipment was washed for me in fresh water and hung to dry in the store where there were also personal washing facilities. If that was not service enough, after every surface interval upon returning to the boat my empty tank had been changed for a full one.

The tiny island (about 5 miles long by 3 miles wide) is carved in half by the airstrip and is covered by a sea of coconut trees. Evidently the island was once a British territory dedicated to growing coconuts and was ceded to Columbia when the Brits’ decided that it was too far from the Windward and the Leeward Island chains to maintain a garrison on.

Strange as it may seem this happened over a 100 years ago and the locals, young and old, still all speak English fluently as well as Spanish. There are two very distinctive coast lines to the island, the open ocean side is a sandy beach lovers paradise opposite picturesque cays while the mainland side is a rocky almost volcanic looking terrain. Either way the island is ideal for diving on either side if the weather turns rough and nasty on the other. I was loaned free of charge a Honda motor scooter for the week I was there by Karibik Diver so that I could meet the boat on any side of the island considered the dive side of the day by Werner. When not diving I rode that little sucker from one end of the island to the other on numerous occasion and even across the island on some of the gravel rural roads.

Would I dive the island again? You bet I would. I saw shark, turtles, dolphins, barracudas, groupers, giant lobsters, file, drum, parrot, trigger, butterfly fish and a host of others as well as huge barrel sponges and tiny ghost crabs and nudibranch.

I dove mounds, canyons, walls, coral gardens of soft and hard varieties as well as wrecks and caves. What were the drawbacks to the island? Well very few actually, the people were all very polite, I never felt threatened once in any area of the city or island, I never felt like I was getting gauged or fleeced by any of the vendors, I was really comfortable.

The roads had one or two gaping holes in the surface but no more so than many places in Toronto. After a heavy rain shower some city intersections would flood momentarily but again no more so than any other city after a tropical down pour.

The hotel food was delicious and plentiful and famous brand drinks were served all day and night for the benefit of those who consider drinking to be an integral part of their holiday. Those who wished could travel to other hotels in the group to sample food in the various restaurants and all the hotels had a variety show every evening as well as many other sporting facilities such as tennis and golf.