From Cartagena we took a bus to the north part of Covenas, a northwestern cove of the Carribean. From there we took a small motor boat to a group of islands called the San Bernardo Islands. One of these islands is Isla Palma. This was our first "resort" experience as a family. We were greeted on the dock with cold drinks and dancing staff. The hotel was decorated in an interesting way, with traditional Afro-Colombian characters all over the place and murals of pirates and sea life.
The only thing on this island was the resort and some wildlife areas, so we did not feel distracted by too many options for activity. All of our food, including snacks was included in the price of the hotel, so we only had one choice of restaurants as well (the food was good, but not as good as Tayrona, which was fancier). We played on the beach, collected shells, had family volleyball games, slept in, watched beautiful sunsets, and were blessed with so many meaningful conversations and connections together.
We did pay to go on a boat tour/snorkling outing on these islands. Parts of this were very awkward/disappointing. One island they took us to is the most densely populated island in the world. Most of these people are children, living in fairly extreme poverty. It is not that we did not like visiting this place, but the tour was set up very much in a way that made us feel awkward, almost as if we were going to a "human zoo." We did not like that. They also took us to a small island where we were hounded by poor, desperate people trying to sell us things. This was so sad, and so hard to deal with, but also provided for some good discussions.
On the way back to Isla Palma, we stopped in the ocean to do our second round of snorkling. It was quite wavy, and felt like we were in the middle of the ocean, but we were over a beautiful reef. The coral here was largely untouched, beautiful, and unbelievably diverse. We were in awe. We spent a long time watching all the various fish, sea anemonaes, shells, and coral.
Aaron conquered his fear of sharks that afternoon, and Lydia conquered her fear of bumpy boat rides. We all arrived back, wet and hungry and happy for the experiences of the day.
On our last day at Isla Palma, we were watching a very small dolphin show on the dock of the hotel. The hotel has blocked off part of the ocean at the end of their dock where they have two pet dolphins, Fiona and Camilla. There were only about 10 people watching this show. Lydia and Andy were invited into the water to swim with the dolphins. And Fiona, who is only 10 years old, let them each ride on her back. I did not have my camera for this moment, but it was a thrill for all three of them. A kind Colombian took some photos for me and sent them to me later.