Popular travel blogs often preach about the benefits and advantages of solo travel. And for good reason – traveling alone can be an enriching and eye-opening experience. However, the solo traveler hype can overshadow the joy of traveling with family.
Exploring with family gives travelers the chance to make and share precious memories together. Even Christopher McCandless, one of American history’s most beloved solo travelers, wrote in his journal towards the end of his life that happiness is only real when shared.
I spent a year living and traveling in Colombia before my boyfriend’s mom, Charlene, came to visit. There were many joys in sharing what I had learned about Colombia with her. Charlene teaches the 3rd grade in the United States, and I knew when we were planning her trip that she deserved a fun, relaxing, and stress-free two weeks through the most magical experiences in Colombia.
The first experience that made the list was snorkeling near the Coral Islands of Rosario off the coast of Cartagena in the Caribbean sea. The Coral Islands of Rosario and San Bernardo, or the Parque Nacional Natural Islas Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo in Spanish, is one of the 46 National Parks in Colombia.
The park features one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, featuring many small islands, peaceful lagoons, fragile reefs, and mangrove swamps. Within the park, it is possible to see the spotted dolphin, West Indian manatee, hawksbill sea turtle, green sea turtle, cat shark, and more than 150 species of fish and 50 species of birds.
The park is one of the best places in Colombia to immerse yourself in the rich, biodiversity the country is known for. I knew Charlene would enjoy seeing the Park by boat, but I also knew it would be really fun to organize an activity she had never done before: snorkeling!
What was so special about the experience was that she had never been snorkeling or explored coral reefs before. Sharing this unique travel experience in Colombia multiplied the joy because I was able to see it for the first time through someone else’s eyes.
We arranged a snorkeling tour of some of the best reefs with a local guide. He provided us with snorkels, goggles, fins, and even swim noodles for when we grew tired. Snorkeling is a great activity for the whole family because you don’t have to be an advanced swimmer to enjoy it. Our guide drove us on his boat to some of the best and most accessible snorkeling spots and gave us as a quick tutorial on snorkeling safety and tips. He gave us as much time as we wanted to explore the reefs.
The water was clear, turquoise, and perfectly warm. Charlene beams that the day’s highlight was the schools of blue, lustrous fish we were able to follow around. After we tired, our guide arranged for a local fisherman to bring us a fresh, hot, and reasonably-priced lobster lunch. After lunch, a local entrepreneur came by our boat to display some locally made jewelry, which Charlene absolutely adored. After the memorable snorkeling, a delicious lunch, and some souvenirs to remember the trip, our guide brought us to one last snorkeling spot to explore a sunken pontoon plane. That night we had dinner at one of the many hotels in the area and toasted our Limonada de Cocos as the sun set over the Caribbean sea.
Overall, it was a privilege to go on an underwater, National Geographic worthy adventure together without the hassle or stress of diving. The experience of snorkeling in the Coral Islands of Rosario was without a doubt…better when shared.
Snorkeling tours of the Coral Islands of Rosario and San Bernardo can be arranged through Colombia Eco Travel.