El Chocó: the lost paradise of Colombia

by Tanja

We are in Nuquí, Colombia and more precisely in El Chocó region on the Pacific Coast. From the window of the little propeller airplane, we catch the first glimpses of the coast’s untouched beauty. Flying above miles of thick jungle, muddy rivers, and dark sand beaches, we enter the LOST WORLD. It’s hard to describe, there simply aren’t many places like this to be found on this planet anymore. The eco-region of El Chocó has a truly primordial beauty. The dense rainforest is home to exotic flora, a countless number of birds and forgotten animals.

Nuquí Colombia

Once landed in Nuquí, in the western part of El Chocó region, our journey continues on board of a lancha – a traditional boat – and after 30 minutes we reach the exotic village of Termales. No electricity, no roads, no hot water (natural hot springs instead!), no commodities. Only the sound of the waves and the wild nature around us and, although the main draw here is seeing the humpback whales, being away from it all has been the real highlight of our journey. Sitting on the beach without a soul in sight, having no electricity and being completely disconnected worked as a perfect detox and deeply recharged our inner batteries.

Whale watching in Nuquí, Colombia

Nuquí, a small town in El Chocó province, is one of the top destinations to see whales in Colombia. Between July and September, huge numbers of migrating humpback whales migrate from the colder waters of the Antarctic and southern Chile every year to Colombia’s Pacific coast to breed.  They then return to give birth a year later. Weighing around 40 tonnes and 30 meters in length, these majestic creatures cut through the ocean surface with their enormous fins and perform graceful jumps.

Nuquí, the nearby Playa Guachalito and Termales are the most popular and best places to go whale watching in Colombia. From our posada in Termales we watched whales jumping through the water in incredible slow-motion leaps every morning while having breakfast. A priceless experience!

For a closer encounter, we joined a whale watching tour on a lancha. We floated for hours in a tranquil bay where a mother and her cub where practicing dives in the shallow waters. It was just five of us on a tiny boat and the curious duo of whales calmly floating beside us. We jumped in the water and we dived with these incredibly gentle creatures listening to their singing. Something we would never believe we could have experienced!

Practical information: there is no need to book in advance, the lanchas depart daily at 8 AM and at 3 PM. Cost: COP 100.000 per person, duration: 3 hours. Do not miss it!

Nuquí Colombia

Nuquí Colombia

Where to stay around Nuquí, El Chocó Colombia

We stayed in the small community of Termales, an isolated coastal village  immune to mass development. Here lives an amazing mix of cultural and ethnic diversity with Afro-Colombians and indigenous tribespeople. The Mocha-colored beach stretches for miles, backdropped by jungle-covered mountains, the humpback whales jumping less than a hundred meters offshore. We choose the posada Cabañas Refugio Salomon and we loved it. The Salomon family is caring and genuine, they don’t speak much English but they do their best to make you feel like home!

Nuquí Colombia

Nuquí Colombia

How to get to Nuquí, El Chocó Colombia

Getting to Nuquí in the El Chocó region is not super easy. The flights are operated by Sarpa and they depart from Medellín only (30 minutes). After long research, we found out that we could buy the flights online on the San German website. Nuquí ColombiaThe small propellers planes fill up quickly and they have strict baggage limitation (5 kg carry on, 10 kg luggage – you can buy extra weight at the airport). We heard that the Sarpa flights depart also from Pereira, in the Eje Cafetero, but there is no way to buy the tickets online.

In Nuquí, upon arrival, we’ve been asked to pay an entry fee of COP 15.000. Walking down the muddy road in front of the airport we reached the pier where public boats take up the coast stopping in every village including Guachalito and Termales (departure 1:30 PM, cost: COP 32.000 per person). If you arrive early in the morning you can jump on the private boats operating the same ride and at the same price. We used the red boat of El Profe, the professor, departing at 11:30 AM. He also organise tours.

Practical Tips for a Visit to Nuquí, Colombia

  • There are no ATMs in Nuquí, make sure you bring all the cash you will need
  • There is no cell phone service, especially once you leave the town of Nuquí
  • Most of the posadas provide only a few hours of electricity and internet a day (5 PM – 10 PM)
  • El Chocó is one of the wettest places on the planet with 16-18m of rain per year, so don’t forget your rain jacket!
  • Bring tons of bug spray (you will need it), suncream, headtorch and a good book
  • El Chocó is a malaria-risk area
  • The best whale watching is from June to October.

Whales Nuquì Colombia

There you have it, our complete travel guide to Nuquí, Colombia. While it’s certainly best to plan your visit during the whale’s migration (June-October), Nuquí is a worthy destination off the beaten path in Colombia all year round!
A visit to El Chocó on the Pacific coast opens up adventurous opportunities to explore the jungle, go scuba diving, relax in thermal pools surrounded by jungle or witness the tiny turtles hatch and make their way to the sea. You can also just enjoy the sea view from your hammock, gazing across the Pacific Ocean!

We hope this guide has been useful and we wish you an amazing trip to Nuquí, Colombia!


Wanna see more photos of our whale watching experience in Nuquí, Colombia?
Click here!


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