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Jun 19, 2000 (Updated May 9, 2005)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Mangrove Dugout Canoe Tour

Cons:Poverty in the village

The Bottom Line: WORTH THE TRIP

Cartagena Colombia has a lot to offer as a vacation destination, but naturally no one place can offer everything. The city's beaches are often crowded and noisy. They are more suited to people watching from the numerous beach bars than quiet relaxation. Don't worry though though, as Cartagena has another nearby treasure, La Boquilla.

La Boquilla is a small fishing village seven kilometres north east of the city past the airport. It is located on a narrow peninsula with the Caribbean on one side and the "Ciennega de Tesca y de la Virgen" a lake and mangrove swamp on the other. It is easily reached in a few minutes from the hotel district by taxi, or for the more adventurous, local bus.

The inhabitants are descendents of slaves originally brought over from Africa to build the city's forts and walls. Their main source of income nowadays is from fishing and tourists from nearby Cartagena.

La Boquilla boasts a long wide beach that attracts the citizen's of Cartagena in the hundreds every weekend. It could easily hold thousands more though. There are several seafood restaurants and thatched roof bars to handle this influx of tourists.

While it is somewhat crowded on the weekend, the beach is almost deserted during the week. Some, although not all of the restaurants and bars remain open every day, so there should not be a problem getting lunch, dinner or a cold drink during mid week. An alternative, if you're making a day of it, would be to bring a picnic lunch.

To get to the beach, one has to pass through the western end of the narrow village. Be prepared, this is the third world and it's a shocking contrast to the modern city you just left. The village can be worth exploring and at the far eastern end is another surprise worth the trip.

Lined up on the shore on the swamp side are several dugout canoes. There are also several young men, who for a small fee will take you on tour of the swamp. There are few customers in the middle of the week and bargaining is encouraged. A one to two hour tour should cost around $5.00-410.00 US.

The canoes are a lot more seaworthy than they look at first. Within minutes of casting off, you find yourself in a different world. This is a tranquil place where egrets and other birds float by your canoe and men fishing the shallow waters with small circular nets, so don't forget your camera.

Soon you are moving through narrow channels with creepers hanging so low you'll have to duck to avoid them. It dosen't require much effort to imagine that you're several thousand miles further south in the Amazon Basin, rather than only a few hundred yards from the highway and civilization.

The dugout eventually winds its way to the furthermost point of the peninsula. Here there is an isolated, almost deserted beach. This is the perfect place for a swim and that picnic lunch, or just a chance to relax away from everything. Your guide will either wait for you, or if you prefer leave and pick you up later in the day for the return trip to the village and onward to civilization again.

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