Playas del Chocó

twenty-three original pictures
veintitrés imágenes originales
vingt-trois images



These pictures were taken at the occasion of a trip to Chocó, a department in north-western Colombia, in November 2011. About 83 % of Chocó's population is Afrocolombian and 13% is native American, mostly Embera indians. The department has a diverse geography, unique ecosystems and unexploited natural resources. However, its population has one of the lowest standards of living in Colombia, and cases of starvation among children have been reported. Due to its small population (450,000), inhospitable topography, and distance from Bogotá, Chocó has received little attention from the Colombian government, and there are many problems of infrastructure. For instance, despite being one of the world's rainiest places, with close to 10 meters of annual precipitation, Chocó's capital Quibdó was left without water in 2007. Roads, where they exist, are in avery poor state. Chocó is the only one of Colombia's 32 departments to have coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and to share a border with Panamá. This and the fact that it borders the Gulf of Urabá makes it one's of Colombia's most strategic regions for drug trafficking activities, especially exports of cocaine. A large contingent of the Colombian Navy and Army is present in Chocó. Up until the mid-1990s, Chocó was relatively peaceful, but activities of guerilla and paramilitary groups have changed that. Drug production (coca is grown in northern Chocó) and trafficking activities are a major factor for the presence of armed groups in the region since the late 1990s, and much of the fighting is about control over drug corridors. An estimated 50,000 Chocoanos, as the inhabitants of the department are called, have become internal refugees in Colombia as a result of the violence between 2008 and 2011 (and many more before that). Nowadays, although the fighting is not as intense as in the past, armed groups remain active and drug trafficking continues.

I went to the region of Bahía Solano and stayed in the village of El Valle (see map), which was very peaceful. In spite of the poverty of its inhabitants and the general dereliction of infrastructure and housing, this is a tourist area. Tourists mostly come to watch whales, birds and other wildlife in the Utría national park, to surf and enjoy the beautiful beaches and laidback lifestyle of the region. The region's peacefulness seems to be due in some measure to the presence of a Colombian Navy base in Bahía Solano (Batallón de Asalto Fluvial de Infantería de Marina No. 3).

As there are no roads from the rest of Colombia, the only practical way to get to Bahía Solano is by plane from Medellín, then by car or tuk-tuk to El Valle. Adventurers can try to catch fast boats (planeadoras) from Buenaventura, but this is a long (6 or 7 hours), complicated, uncomfortable and not entirely safe trip (boat may capsize; bad encounters a possibility). There is a five-star lodge in El Valle called El Almejal, but of course it is expensive. I stayed at the Posada Villa Maga, which offered basic but safe, clean and comfortable wood huts equipped with mosquito nets at a very affordable price. Villa Maga is charming in more than one ways, not least the warm welcome of owners Carmen Lucía and Pepe (Tel.: 320 777 4767 - magapacifico@yahoo.com.mx).


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1. First Impression
2. Cloudy Pacific
3. El Almejal
4. Islita del Valle
5. Parasol
6. Río Valle
7. Tronco
8. Pelicano
9. Red Verde
10. Black & White
11. Charla Playera
12. Pescando Viuda
13. Pescadorcillo
14. Lone Paddler
15. Pobre Caballo
16. Plage Déserte
17. Claroscuro
18. Hot Beach
19. Lonely Pacific
20. Reflejo
21. Contraluz
22. Splash
23. Sunset

** All pictures taken with a Canon EOS 60D camera, except 7 taken with an iPhone 3GS


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