16th November 2015
Office Assistant Davina has recently been in Colombia where she encountered a stand-out local guide. Holidays to this Caribbean paradise at the northern tip of South America can be found on our group tours or tailor-made holidays pages.
As the group assembled for the morning brief, I noticed a lone figure standing on the beach. Dressed simply in a t-shirt and shorts with a machete casually slung over his shoulder was our local guide for the next few days– the somewhat ironically named ‘Gentil’. Once a hunter for the local fishing village of El Valle, Gentil had made a life-changing transition to stop hunting and become one of the local guides for the surrounding area. Contrary to our guide’s easygoing attire, I was decked out in long sleeves, hiking trousers, big clumpy boots and smothered head to toe in insect repellent. I could not help but marvel as he glided seamlessly and elegantly through the jungle, barefoot, no water bottle as I huffed and puffed behind him…. who was this super human? Cutting us a path through the thick jungle with his sharp knife he lead us on a beautiful 4 hour hike along the beaches and into the luscious green jungles of the pacific coast. Here he called to exotic birds and monkeys in the trees, spotted giant Morpho butterflies, cracked open coconuts for us to drink from and pointed out fascinating footprints from some of the rare and wonderful wildlife that inhabits this region of Colombia. His knowledge of the jungle and his talent for spotting creatures and creepy crawlies was impressive to say the least.
Gentil is just one of the many hunters of El Valle who has decided to stop hunting in recognition of the detriment it has caused the delicate ecosystems around Bahia Solano. Before the region was open to tourism, the locals had to make their livelihood as hunters or fishermen. With a population that is 85% Afro-Colombian, Choco is the poorest region of Colombia with more than 60% of the department jobless. However, as the number of visitors has risen and the region’s potential as a beautiful ecotourism destination has been realized, locals like Gentil are beginning to find sustainable alternatives of livelihood. Together with the support of small tour operators and the government, the community here is working towards its goal of making wildlife conservation and environmental protection a main focus. The region has so much to offer from its remote location, wealth of wildlife, wild and ragged landscapes to fresh food and wonderfully friendly people. I would definitely recommend a visit!