If you’re looking for an off-the beaten tracks activity to cut off from work and feel like a Colombian insider, this tour will be a real surprise and you will feel filled with love and great energy at the end of your day. This trip is a day-trip from Santa Marta but can also turn into a longer journey if you wish to carry on further north of La Guajira going to the desert, the Northeast point of South America. Visiting the sanctuary of Flamingos in the village of Camarones
How to get there
From Santa Marta, get on the bus to Palomino, it costs $10.000, from Palomino take another bus towards Rioacha for $10.000 and ask them to stop you at the Camarones antenas. Before you get there, you will pass a toll, at that point call Sabas saying you are at the toll, so he can come wait for you at the meeting point on his motorbike. From there he will bring you the the village and will stop by a shop on the way if you need any water and snacks for the tour.
Depending on the season, the lagoon had been dry for three years so it became salt flats but at this moment, it was filled with water. The sanctuary contains various lagoons, we went on a boat tour with Sabas and his son Pipe. But let me explain here, it is not any type of boat, it was a very cute sailing boat made of a plastic veil, and the wood would come from one tree. Very rustic but doing its job, since the wind was our friend and the lagoon quite shallow.
A few boats were out there chasing the Flamingos. Easy way to spot them, a big shade of pink at the horizon. Fortunately for us they flew towards our direction so we did not have to go that far, because sometimes it can take up to three hours trip to chase them and come back depending on the wind situation. On the other hand, the sad part of this story is that the Flamingos flew because they got scared. Three times a day a plane flies above the lagoon from Bogota to Rioacha. The Flamingos get scared so the leader of them tell them to go to the other lagoon where it’s quieter. But the damage is done, the plane scares them as they think it is a bigger bird attacking them. That is really a shame that the plane route has to fly above the Flamingos sanctuary because at the end of the day this is affecting the whole flora and fauna.
Flamingos like this lagoon because of the food it provides. But they actually feel restless and unsafe because of the plane so have to leave. And these are not Colombian, they are from Australia, migrated to La Guajira because they loved the site. What a shame that modernisation and airlines are actually damaging the safety ness of these beautiful birds. And Flamingos are like penguins they are very sentimental. They are faithful to their partner their whole life and the day one of them die, the other dies of sadness. When it is born, a flamingo is white, then turns grey and pink because of the little pink worms they eat in the lagoon.
Meet the Wayuu Community
After the tour, Norma, Sabas’ wife and also way met with us and gathered all the kids to take a chair and sit down. She explained to us how the community works, how the kids go to school, eat all together at the kitchen and mothers rotates to cook every week. Each house has water tanks filled for one month, it costs them $40.000 to get water monthly.
Each community is one family, it can be up to 300 people because there, live the children, the aunt and uncles, the nephews, the cousins, the grand fathers etc. When one of the kids gets married he builds his house in the same community so the family doesn’t spread out. It is not surprising to see very big families, Norma’s sister has actually 14 kids and pregnant of the 15th! Some of the kids are called by their number, which makes it very cute, so you’ll hear “12th come say hi!”
School was donated by foreigners, 7 years ago it was a wooden school donated by Germans, but they got more money from Americans and Germans so they are rebuilding it in cement.
The government also provided the communities with recycling bins to teach people how to recycle.
Sabas is also into exporting craftsmanship working with a French lady who is bringing them to France and selling them for a good action. The money goes to the community!
We spent some time offering them some food we bought earlier at the Buritaca supermarket. Food supplies contained rice, beans, vegetables, tuna, crackers, nuts, and because it was christmas some chocolate and candies! Each kid was receiving one chocolate medal and a candy all with a big smile on their face. Some where more shy than the other but you could feel happiness and complicity amongst them. They were a family, the older were helping the younger and all were very bonded. They also had a lot of respect for Norma, the leader of this community.
Lunch by the beach
Anecdote: the people from Camarones say that if you leave Camarones without having eaten camarones (shrimps in Spanish) you haven’t been to Camarones!
So after your boat tour and meeting with the Community, Sabas will bring you to his father’s restaurant a few meters away from his house, by the sea, surrounded with white sand and palm trees. The Lago Mar restaurant is a seafood restaurant serving, shrimp cocktail, fried fish with coconut rice, fried plantains and salad or also shrimps in garlic sauce with coconut rice, fried plantains and salad. They serves alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages and the atmosphere is very holiday relax.
You will be welcomed by the kids and the old ladies selling their craftsmanships, multicolour bracelets, bags, dresses and some more. Don’t try to bargain, the prices are set and honest, remember that all of this art is handmade and takes a lot of time to make. To give you an example the big and beautiful hammocks take about a month to be made, hence why they cost about $700,000. A bag for you lady will cost between $80.000 and $120.000 and a bracelet $2.000. If you’re short in money you can also offer the kids a bit of your plate, a fried plantain or some rice will make them happy. Don’t be rude, they are happy kids willing to help their families with a few coins to bring home. You can also have a quick chat in English with them since the majority is learning English at school so you’ll here some “what’s your name” or “where you from” quite often!
If you wish yo help the Wayuu communities in Camarones, get in touch with our lovely guide Sabas via WhatsApp on +57 314 5794062.