We arrived in Cartagena excited to discover the most emblematic city of Colombia and the natural wonders located near by. Cartagena was love at the first sight, from the moment we entered the walled town on the way to the hotel we knew that our holiday will be longer than we have planned it initially.
Without hesitation we extended our stay for 3 extra nights in “Soy local”, a beautiful hotel located right in the heart of the old town and we started planning our trips for the coming days.
We booked online a tour for the Mud vulcano and the Pink sea and I hardly had any sleep that night, excited for the early morning trip. Visiting a pink lake was always my dream and now it was about to become reality in a greater form: The pink sea of Cartagena.
El totumo, the mud vulcano
After 2 hours delay (the travel agencies in Cartagena don’t have the concept of punctuality) we are finally in the tour bus, together with few other tourists of different nationalities.
First stop of the trip is the mud vulcano and I am a bit disappointed, my entire outfit and the make up that I had carefully prepared for the pink sea photo session is going to be totally ruined. I am telling myself that I will not jump in the muddy crater but I easily change my mind, trying not to miss any fun moment of the trip.
We receive a short briefing about the vulcano and the facilities near by and we hand over our phones to a local “photographer” who will be responsible with our photos in exchange of a small donation.
The vulcano looks a bit funny, resembling a pig pond more than a natural wonder but nevertheless I am decided to climb the slippery steps to the top. I am jumping inside of the crater and in a matter of seconds my whole body is trapped in a warn bath of soft mud, while one of the “masseurs” is pulling me toward the center of the crater for a better experience and a “touchy” massage.
El totumo is an active vulcano known for it’s therapeutic properties, a lifetime experience in a natural SPA that shouldn’t be missed. The locals believe that the vulcano was devil’s work, spewing fire and lava in the past but was miraculously turned into mud by a priest who sprinkled holy water inside.
Nowadays the only water sprinkled it’s in the lake located near by, a natural bath offered by the local ladies in order to clean up all the sticky mud.
The pink sea of Cartagena
After one hour ride from Cartagena we are finally reaching the last stop of our trip, The pink sea of Cartagena.
Known as “El salar de Galerazamba”, the unique pink colored sea is located in the town with the same name and it’s the highlight of my trip to Colombia. A mesmerizing sea, fairy tale like, a place like no other in the world. Nothing can describe in words the beauty of this place.
We are jumping out of the bus before the engine stops, carrying less about the safety briefing given by our tour guide and trying to make the best out of this short visit. Nobody wants to waste any second of the 20 minutes time that was offered to us to explore the unique natural wonder. It’s beginning of March and the best time to visit the Pink sea as the water levels are lower than in any other period of the year and the color more vibrant.
The bright pink color is a natural phenomenon caused by microbes which create pigmented protein to absorb the sun’s energy and represent the favorite food of flamingos, responsible with the pink color of their feathers.
Being in fact a salt mine with high concentration of salt, it’s advisable to wear your sandals to avoid hurting your feet in the sharp crystal. Swimming is prohibited same as entering the water more than few inches but the limited time of visit would have made it impossible anyway. I highly recommend you to rent a car and visit the Pink sea by yourself, this will offer you more flexibility and you will be able to stop on the road to enjoy the scenery as well.
The magic world of plankton
Another enchanting and rare natural phenomenon that I discovered during my holiday in Cartagena is the bioluminescent Plankton, visible only in 7 places throughout the world. Those interesting microorganisms have the capability of glowing in the dark while disturbed by waves or human movement and you will be surprised to discover that plankton is another favorite food of flamingos. No wonder why their beauty seems out of this world!
After a quite boring day exploring the beaches near by Cartagena waiting for the night to come, we are finally asked to board a small fishing boat from Playa tranquila around 8 pm when the sun has gone to sleep and the bright moon is watching over the lagoon filled with bioluminescent creatures. It’s a bit chilly outside but we were advised not to bring anything except dry clothes and a towel.
We are rushing to jump in the warm lagoon but our excitement is replaced soon by disappointment, realizing that the plankton bioluminescence is not so visible as promoted in the advertisement and impossible to be capture in a picture with a regular camera. Luckily the tour company offers a professional photo shoot and we are gladly to pay for their service, trying to immortalize this special encounter. After few failed attempts of sharp movements meant to trigger the microorganisms defense system and determine them to glow, we managed to obtain a proof of our experience.
Did you have the chance to visit any of those natural wonders yet? If not…I hope you find my travel advice useful and you will consider Colombia as your future travel destination.