No one has ever heard of Providencia, and part of me wants to keep it that way.
But I absolutely had to share a video of our dives with sharks off island (link at the bottom), and as long as we’re here let me tell you a bit about the island.
I visited Providencia for the first time twelve years ago with my cousin Alex. I remember precious little about the trip, other than crystal blue waters and colorful fish, quaint hamlets along the beach and in the hills, and a warm friendly population that spoke an indecipherable mix of English, Spanish and Creole. But I was dazzled enough to demand a return twelve years later, even if it required a two-day motorsail to get there.
In part, Providencia is able to keep its quaint underdevelopment by being completely out of the way. It’s not the kind of place you stop over in for a day or two on your way somewhere else (unless you’re a sailboat transiting between Panama and Cayman). It is a Colombian island, located 140 miles off of the Nicaraguan Caribbean coastline and 440 miles from Colombian mainland. To get there without your own boat, you have to fly from mainland Colombia to its sister island, San Andres, and then take a small ferry (they give you seasickness medicine when you buy your ferry ticket – probably not advisable) or a small plane across the 50 miles to Providencia. If you come to Providencia, you come to go off the grid. If that doesn’t sound worth the effort, you’re probably petting the turtles at a behemoth all-inclusive resort on some other, easier-to-get-to Caribbean island.
In other part, Providencia is able to keep its slow pace and old school charm by being completely undeveloped and unlikely to change anytime in the future. Top tourist attractions are snorkeling, diving, horseback riding and hiking. There is one hill to hike (but wow what a view from the 1200 feet peak!) and one of only two true barrier reefs in the Caribbean to dive and snorkel. There are a handful of restaurants, another handful of guest houses and three dive shops. The sole means of transportation is scooter and piragua, and gasoline reserves are often short. Locals are dedicated to keeping the island pristine and undeveloped. If you make it to Providencia, it’s because you abhor all things quintessentially Caribbean – cruiseships, t-shirt shops, gimmicky photo ops and all-inclusive resorts.
In late March, we snorkeled much of the waters around the anchorage and Santa Catalina, and went on a two-tank dive on the barrier reef with Pichi from Felipe’s Dive Shop. The water is crystal clear, even right off the town dock. We were joined on both dives and one snorkel by sharks; they would swim right by us, pretty uninterested in us. They are trained to eat the lionfish the dive masters spear. I must (belatedly) assure you that I am generally not scared of most sharks, it depends upon the kind of shark and the situation. If you are scared of sharks, you might want to skip the video. Watch our dives below!