Coral, Colombian Style


Deco Stops

In Old Providence, hotels are generally small and locally owned. For the best proximity to dive shops, get one of Hotel Miss Elma's four beautiful wood-paneled rooms, or try a package deal from one of four other Decameron affiliates (decameron.com). Whether you stay there or not, don't miss Miss Elma's crab sandwiches, and wash them down with Colombia's Kola Roman red soda.

For traveling the island's 10-mile-loop road, take your pick of bicycle, motorbike or golf cart. Get a kayak to explore the mangrove channels of McBean Lagoon National Park, or cross to scenic Crab Cay. Amble over the Lovers' Lane Bridge to Santa Catalina, visit the historic fort then go snorkeling through the cave beneath the Morgan's Head formation at the point.

The mixed seafood plate at Caf? Studio is a dinner must-have. At the end of the day, kick back in a hammock at the Roland Roots Bar with a coco loco mixed in a freshly macheted coconut. If your timing is right, there will be a bonfire to celebrate the full moon over Manzanillo Bay. On weekends, watch cat boat races on the east side of the island and horse races on the beach at South West Bay, or rent your own horse there for a trip into the mountains.

Visit during May or June and you should have glass-calm seas, high temperatures and a chance to see the bizarre spectacle created each year when the island's land crabs come out of the hills en masse.

The Guide to Providencia

Average Water Temp: 79-82°F What to Wear: A 3 mm shorty should be enough at any time. Average Viz: 80 to 150 feet When to Go: Year-round, but best in August and September, and hot in the summer

Must Do
High Point: Don't just wonder what it's like from sea level. Make the hour-and-a-half trek to the top of El Pico (The Peak), the highest point on the island at 1,180 feet. Enjoy a commanding view of the surrounding reefs.

Must Dive
FELIPE'S PLACE: Tour this collection of ledges, abundant in coral and varied sea life, popularized by Felipe Cabeza of PADI Dive Resort Felipe Diving in Providencia.

TURTLE ROCK: On this dive you'll find a 35-foot-wide rock descending from 75 feet to 120 that is rife with black coral.

SPIRAL: A descending tunnel from 80 feet to 115 feet is a highlight of this fissured route that begins on the edge of a cliff and spirals downward.

TETE'S PLACE: A coralline shoal that's shallow and close to the shore. Features pillar coral mixed with octocorals and large schools of fish.

CONFUSION CORAL: Octocorals and sponges populate this site that had many names prior to its current one. Its steep slope begins at 60 feet running south to about 130 feet in depth.
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Travel Tips
Take a flight from any of several Central and South American starting points to San Andr?s. From there, catch one of the daily 30-minute flights to Providence aboard one of Satena Airline's 19-seaters.

Must Have
Use your surplus pesos on a hand-carved turtle painted in a scheme so colorful it's sure to be a conversation piece back home. Don't forget some of the island's Bush Rum for conversations of a completely different sort.

Rigged & Ready
Flight 001 Toiletry Spacepak & Luggage Locator Tag Set: The Toiletry Spacepak bag provides ample space and organization through its various mesh pockets and compartments.? And keep your luggage in check with Flight 001's Locator Tag Set featuring four exclusive, brightly colored rubber tags. flight001.com

Colombia Listings

Dive Centers

Dive Resorts/Hotels
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Special thanks to Proexport Colombia, Dairo Snorkeling Center & Ecoturism, Divers Team, Felipe Diving, and Body Contact Travel Agency (bodycontact2002@yahoo.com).



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