Thu 29th Mar – Mon 2nd Apr
So getting to bed at gone 4am probably wasn’t the best start for today…at least checkout is at 1 and my flight to San Andres not till 4!
After a spot of lunch and saying bye to Maria, I get to the airport with plenty of time to spare – or so I thought! Viva Colombia couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery and are far worse than Ryanair (yep, and that’s a tough title to beat)! After queuing for over an hour to get the tourist visa required for San Andres (yes, this was a shock to several of us in the queue, second shock was the price….109000!!!) we are then told you need your boarding pass first. Continue in queue for another hour to get boarding pass and check in luggage to then rejoin the end of the queue again to purchase aforementioned tourist visa from a guy who couldn’t work or process these bloody things any slower if his life depended on it! With the queue still massive and joe soap plodding along as if he had all the time in the world and no other member of staff ‘allowed’ to help, we are then ushered through security without a visa as the flight is about to board! A different member of staff is then issuing these visas rápido in order to get this flight off….if only this guy was issuing them in the first place!
Finally on board, I can sit back and relax. Nobody is sat in the aisle seat so I tell Lola, the nice Argentinian girl I’m sat next too I’ll move over so we have more space…just as announcement is made saying that if you do this, you will be charged if that seat is deemed better than the one you’re in!!!
After landing, I check my phone while taxing and realise where I’ve booked is miles away from anywhere, in the middle of nowhere! I get chatting to a girl from Spain and she tells me there’s no point staying there and I should stay in the centre.
San Andrés centre is walking distance from the airport so I walk with the Spanish girl to her hostel (10-15 min walk to El Viajero). Due to it being Semana Santa, there’s no room at the inn! They kindly give me the WiFi passcode and I quickly get on to booking.com and Hostelworld. There wasn’t much coming up in my budget – loads of hotels but well over £400! I find a great looking posada (called San Nicolas) with private room for £108.
The walk off the main street to the road it’s on is a bit sketchy and did make me wonder where the hell I am I heading!
My hosts weren’t expecting me – and I explain I’d only made the booking 10 mins ago and the rest of the saga. They show me to my room and I’ve got a big double bed, tv, fridge and also another room with bunks and a single and my own bathroom! All this space just for me!
The owners Adriana and Juan are amazing and overload me with info but feeling slightly hungover and knackered it’s hard going in Spanish. Not much is open because Thursday & Friday are their Easter bank holidays so they tell me just next door is a supermarket that’s open so I nip there to get some supplies.
Some street food for dinner, a film in Spanish and I call it a day!
San Andrés is an island belonging to Colombia but 700km from it and nearer to Nicaragua (only 150km). It’s also quite close to Jamaica and definitely has more of that reggae Caribbean vibe going on. A lot of the locals are of Afro-Caribbean descent too rather than South American Colombian….so there are lots of references to and bars with Bob Marley and rastas.
I awake Friday feeling fresh as a daisy, after breakfast I chat with the owners again. They speak no English but my brain is functioning again so it’s much easier to converse. I’m told all about the tours on offer and book a boat trip to some neighbouring islands tomorrow and a land tour for Sat.
Today, I set off to do a rekkie of the centre and spend the day at the beach. The centre is full of duty free type shops. San Andrés is a tax free zone so loads of Colombians come here and stock up on perfume and toiletries. Again being a bank holiday, none of the shops are open….probably a good thing!
The draw of San Andres are its beaches and it’s beautiful sea….it’s known as the sea of 7 colours and it is certainly stunning.
I walk the length and back of the centre’s main beach Spratt Bight…and whilst the beach isn’t amazing, the sea most definitely is.
Being a top holiday destination and Easter, this beach is crowded…I find a space on the beach and while away a few hours with my kindle.
After a day baking in the sun, I head home to relax and enjoy one of the first healthy meals and one I prepared myself – a simple tuna salad but it’s bloody good!
Saturday is boat trip day. Juan kindly takes me to the launcher on his scooter and at 9am, people for each tour are called up, life jackets handed out we board are boat. Health and Safety doesn’t exist much in these parts of the world but they’re quite strict here!
The boat journey is fun and quite bumpy on the way over but the most enjoyable part is seeing the different colours of the sea. It’s so beautiful and the clear turquoise water is stunning.
We arrive at Johnny Cay which is the island u can see from the beach at Spratt Bight and are led to a specific restaurant in the central hub of eateries. Lunch will be served here at 1pm and they start taking people’s orders. I think it’s quite expensive for what it is so decide not to bother.
I first wander round the island – takes about 10 minutes in total but there isn’t much of interest or anywhere to sit on the other side.
I did feel at one point like I was on Bear Grylls The Island and got excited when I could see people coming towards me from the other direction. It was like when the people from one group see the other group for the first time in the tv programme!
Bizarrely, the people coming towards me I knew 1 of – it was Lola – the girl I sat next to on the plane. We chat and swap details with a view to hooking up when I get to Argentina.
I venture further on and am nearly back at my starting point and getting chatting to a couple off my boat. They’re lovely and tell me I can sit with them.
The island is lovely but the one thing that spoils it is the amount of people they squash on to it. Boat after boat of people keep arriving and it completely ruins the island vibe as you are squashed like sardines in a tin on the beach. I was more than ready to leave by 2pm.
We sailed passed some other Islabds which I thought we were going to visit but nope. We sail to the mangroves with a bit of info on the place but don’t actually sail through them so I didn’t really see the point…
Still the stunning turquoise waters are a wonder to stare out at
Next stop is the Aquario. These are 2 natural pools in the sea where u can walk in up to about waist height and see a lot of fish. I perch over the edge of the arrival bar to take a look, see the size of the fish are bigger than my head and think did that!!! Nope, I’m not ready to confront my fear of fish just yet n not with buggers that big….I’ll just go find me a spot on the beach, drink a beer and do a bit more cooking!
On the way back, many boats stop in a certain part where there are a lot of manta rays and u can get in the sea, swim with them and touch them. Again, I’m happy to just watch others do this from the comfort of my boat!
This tour is called the Super Full and cost 50,000. You can do Johnny Cay and the Aquario for 35,000 and I’m not really sure the added additions added much to the tour to be honest. Maybe going at Easter meant it was massively crowded and going at a more normal time might have been better but overall, I wouldn’t rush to do this again…
I grab a few tinnies to have with dinner on the way home and look into places to go out this evening. A lot look like clubs with an entry charge, I pin them on maps me and decide to go take a look.
The beach front of Spratt Bight is where it’s at and Colombians like nothing better than sitting around with friends and family, with a beer or 2 and of course a speaker…they all bring they’re own speakers and listen to their own music!
I’m enjoying watching the world go by when I get chatting to a Colombian couple sat next to me from Cali who start offering me shots of the whiskey they’re drinking! They decide to go for a walk and invite me along too. We drink and chat about all sorts into the early hours. Opposite the famous club Coco Loco, we sit and drink with the hoards outside a shop selling booze! The queue for this club is enormous and in the hour or so we are sat there, doesn’t go down. Not really one for clubs, we stay drinking sat on the street with loads of others too.
I venture home around 2am and it’s a good 30 min walk from here. 10 mins in I’m stopped by an old guy on a moped telling me it’s dangerous to be walking at this time on these streets. I decline his offer of a lift but when he says he doesn’t want any money but is just offering to take me home safely I take up his offer and jump on! Safely home, I tip him well, set 4 alarms as I have to be up in less than 5 hours to be on the other tour!
My alarm goes off and after snoozing it 3 times decide there’s no way I can do a tour now. I speak to Juan and get it changed to the afternoon slot – phew!
I head to the beach for a bit then go to the meeting point for the island tour. It was meant to be in a chiva but maybe because the numbers were low, we go in a minibus – least it has air on! Strangely, the couple I was out with last night are in the same tour and I get to meet their lovely children…including the adorable and uber cute Jacobo
The tour stopped at Captain Morgan’s Cave which was an additional 15,000 for entry on top of the 35,000 already paid for the tour.
I’m not sure what the purpose of this place really is – just a cave that captain Morgan used to hide his treasure in and built up to be a lot more than it is to create some kind of tourist attraction. I’d personally just give it a miss!
Then on to Las Piscinitas which has an entrance fee of 5000. This is where you jump get in the sea or jump off a board and swim with some ginormous fish.
Yep, despite the blazing heat – I stayed on dry land! The last stop was to a blow hole that blows water out when a wave comes in….we were there 20 minutes or so and nothing happened! Took a few photos
had locals try sell u coco locos or pina coladas and other wares before getting back in the van, finishing the loop of the island and that’s it!
There were some places of beauty and interest along the way which we didn’t stop at.
My advice would be to give this tour a miss and just hire a jeep or moped and do it yourself. You can get a jeep for about 150-180,000.
Monday my last day I decide to hit the shops and spend a day at the beach. Now the Easter and weekend crowds have gone, it is much nicer, quieter and calmer here. I hear 2 British people next to me on the beach so get chatting to them – it’s the first time I’ve heard and spoken English to people in days! I have had numerous compliments off many locals on Spanish though which is great and it is getting better everyday.
After 6 hours, I’m suitably fried and can’t take any more heat so decide to go shopping. In need of smellies, I stock up here taking advantage of the low prices and treat myself to a new top…got to fit in with the locals.
I nearly buy a bag too but just manage to stop myself!
I really enjoyed my holiday whilst on holiday but it is true what everybody told me beforehand about the place – it is massively touristy but I guess it’s the same as going to Brighton or Tenby during school holidays….and overall, I am glad I came and the tan is coming along nicely too!