Guest Author: Nicole Kravec
I woke up smiling and drenched in sweat. It took me a moment to remember exactly where I was, as my exuberance to investigate Colombia’s diversity resulted in new accommodations nightly. But as I peeped my head out of the hammock and became further enveloped by the Caribbean humidity, I was content with the decision to spend a few days in one place. I spied a horse grazing near the backpacker tents, heard gentle ocean waves rolling, and smelled fried plantain patacones patties.
Buenos días, Parque Tayrona!
My humble little hammock was nestled along the coast in Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, aka Tayrona National Natural Park, aka a 5 hour bus ride and 5 hour jungle hike from Cartagena. Up until a few hours prior, I hadn’t heard of Parque Tayrona, and hadn’t planned on coming here.
But I suppose I hadn’t not planned on coming here, either. I had spent a few days in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá (another story in and of itself), consulting with the local World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) team on a topic I was to explore later in Borneo: oil-palm. After saturating mi cabeza with agricultural commodity knowledge, my stomach with borojó fruit, and soaking in a bit of Bogotá’s beauty, I decided to head to warmer climate: Cartagena. And after exploring the most extensive fortifications in South America, I found myself on a minibus headed east. I was accompanied by my friend who worked for WorldTeach, a Boston-based non-profit promoting responsible global citizenship by providing opportunities for volunteer educators around the world.
With all of the recent travel, including the minibus and mega hike, it was wonderful to have a day without set plans, surrounded by nature. Adventuring amidst ants and crabs below me and with glittering ocean beside me, in one of the most biologically diverse coastal zones in the Americas, the day tiptoed by peacefully.
Despite the tranquil day, conversations with some of the local tourism operators led me to learn that Tayrona’s history wasn’t always so soothing. The New York Times covers some of Tayrona’s transformation and (eco)tourism’s association.
Traveling strategies. We all have them, conscious or otherwise. When exploring, it’s interesting for me to ponder: What type of experience am I seeking? Why? How, with whom, where? And then, after everything, wondering how I’ve evolved from the experience. If you’re keen, try taking Dr. Stanley C. Plog’s Travel Personality Quiz. While I consider myself to be quite the organized “Type-A” gal, I often find that the best attitude I can adopt when traveling or living abroad is actually quite the opposite.
As I nestled back into my hammock processing the day, I was serenaded into slumber by the local black howler monkeys. I thought of one of the Tayrona park signs I had seen earlier, which translated roughly to: “You will not be alone along the road … you have marmosets, howler monkeys and toucans for company. They will provide you with glee.”
About the author: Perpetually curious about the nexus between genuine environmental conservation, community wellbeing and tourism, Nicole has worked with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre’s Sustainable Tourism Programme, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Harvard Business School and the Campi ya Kanzi community eco-lodge in Kenya. She has lived in/visited 6 continents and attended Cornell University and The Fletcher School of International Affairs.