Isla Fuerte - a little gem of an island
Steve & Carol
Fri 25 Jan 2019 10:00
We enjoyed this island far more than most we have visited, it is a low, wooded islet that got its name from the fort built by the Spaniards to protect the island from attacks by pirates and privateers. The island is enclosed by reefs and the surrounding waters are very shallow far from shore, especially to the west. A long sand bank extends SE off the south tip of the island, we anchored just after this on the South side of the island and went ashore by beaching the dinghy on the beach ashore from the sand-spit.
There is only one town Puerto Limóm, the island gets some tourism as it’s becoming a holiday spot for Colombians, especially backpackers and divers but doesn’t get many overseas visitors except the few sailors that stop here, it has a couple of dive resorts, some upscale villas, hostels and the homes of the locals which are traditionally built of wood and bitter cane with roofs of thatched palm leaves, some now have corrugated iron roofs and are built on concrete bases and some are primarily concrete!
There are many local boats used for fishing trips to the mainland and tourism.
Fisherman mending his boat.
Although the island gets local tourists during weekends and vacations, it has kept its charm and it was a good call to stop here. Islanders are very friendly and everyone says buenos dias, tardes etc as they walk by - only a few speak a little English. There are plenty of small grocery stores where you can get the basics, there are several bars and restaurants and the hostels also serve drinks and food. There are many lovely paths along which to explore the island - we used the app mapsme which has most of them on it - there are no roads as such just shaded paths as there are only a couple of vehicles - we only saw two, a motorbike and a motorbike front with a small truck rear end. Most carrying is done by donkeys - which there are numerous, rather small donkeys who know the paths well, they know where they are going and don’t stop so it’s better to get out of their way, none had any bridles or halters just basic carrying saddles made of wood and woven leaves which remarkably don’t rub or make them sore!
Either side of the paths are fenced off and all the land is used to grow fruit, mainly bananas and coconuts but also starfruit, citrus trees etc it’s so good to see the locals actually using the land and providing for themselves. There are also livestock - we saw cows in fields - fields for grazing donkeys in, pigs in the town, chicken and turkeys. To us this is the first unspoilt island we have been to for a long time and we really liked it and it reminded us of our stay in Il a Vache Haiti in 2013!
We went looking for an internet cafe we had been told about by our friends on Two Drifters they were here a few weeks ago and anchored in a different anchorage as the weather was different for them, we were on our way to the cafe when we came across La Playita Hostel – it’s run by an Australian - Geoff and his Colombian wife Lily, they invited us in and said we could use the wifi etc, we enjoyed a few drinks and enjoyed talking to them about the island, Colombia and how they ended up on Isla Fuerte. As they had just had a busy holiday period they were celebrating with a staff BBQ in the evening and invited us all to join them if we wanted for a – $5 each.
La Playita Hostel – our Armada National boat patrolling around the island
Accommodation at the hostel
After talking with them we went off to find the famous walking tree with Steph, Greg ( from Lulu), Leo, Yutter (from Shloss Ort), two dogs from the hostel tagged along with us. The tree is magnificent and covers a very large area – it is however hard to photograph due to its size!
Leo and yutter left us after we found the tree and we went on to explore further with Steph and Greg, we came across the lighthouse and captain Morgans cave -a rather small cave which Steph went some of the way into but we didn’t go further than the entrance, we walked further and came to a tiny beach before heading back towards the town.
Greg sharing his water with our dog companions and a welcome shade stop on the way back to town.
The island’s vision for it’s future, encouraging and promoting tourism written on a wall
In the evening we went back ashore to the BBQ - landing on the beach wasn’t easy as the wind had picked up and there was some swell! Once at the hostel we all seemed to suffer from separation anxiety about the boats and the prospect of launching the dinghies. Everyone had a few drinks and a nice meal - I had Veggie burger with chips and Steve had BBQ pork and veg, after which we excused ourselves due to weather and left Geoff and his staff to their BBQ and party. The following day we didn’t go ashore during the day as we were doing boat jobs - laundry, water marking, bread making, patterning some more sun screens to keep the sun out of the cockpit and Steve has been trying to set up the SSB so that we can get emails via it, however we have a problem with one of the cables so it’s still an ongoing project. 5 of the other boats arrived in the afternoon bringing the number of us anchored to 13 and in the evening we went ashore for a sundowner on the beach - I managed to hop out of the dinghy in shallow water only to be knocked over and soaked when a wave picked the dinghy up and ran me over!!
The weather looked good to set off Friday night so on Thursday we went ashore with Jeff and Di for another walk, we were joined by Rhonda and Tim for a walk to revisit the walking tree and then went off and explored the west side of the island with Geoff and Di before heading back to town and the Hostel for something to eat and drink and to use the internet etc.
New upmarket property being built in the middle of nowhere with its own well.
Friday morning a local in his kayak came out selling fruit again - I had previously purchased some very tasty bananas, mangos and sour oranges which taste like lemon before and so I asked for some of his greener bananas and some other fruit which came to 6000pesos - £1.50 as I only had a 10,000 note he said he would be back with some green bananas in 30 mins! as time passed I thought he had let me down however about 3 hours later I saw him paddling out towards us with a big bunch of green bananas - he proudly handed the bunch of about 40 bananas up to me - feeling bad I gave him the rest my Colombian money - 2500 peso and he asked if we had any fishing lures so we gave him one of them as well, he was happy and so were we.
Boats began to head off at about 4 pm for the night sail to Panama and the San Blas, the forecast was for light winds from N -NNW so we were hoping to sail the 85 odd miles, we were heading for Obaldia maybe stopping at Sapzurro - the last town in Colombia as Obaldia is an open bay and not a good stop if there is swell rolling in, most of the boats were heading further north in the San Blas but we had 3 other boats with the same plan as us so we sailed a few miles apart, the wind was a bit more than forecast and so we had a great sail - we even had to slow down so we didn’t get in too early!