Parque Nacional Natural Isla Gorgona is an small island 50 kilometers out of the Colombian pacific coast. There are 2 main islands (Gorgona and Gorgonilla) and 2 tiny rocky keys. The main island of Gorgona is around 26 sq km in area. There are no permanent dwellers on the island.
Spanish conquerors visited the island for periods of time from the 15th to the 18th century. During the 1820's after the independence of Colombia from Spain, Simon Bolivar gave the Gorgona island to Frederick D'Croz, a sergeant major of the British Legion, as thanks for his military service in the "Vargas Swamp Battle," (Batalla del Pantano de Vargas). After the civil war, or the "Thousand days War" (1899-1902), Fidel D'Croz, the great-grand son of Frederick D'Croz, sold part of the island to the businessman Ramon Payan. The D'Croz family took the north of the island; Ramon Payan took the south part of the island, developed it, and built a ranch. The D'Croz family, and the Payan family lived in the island until 1958, when the president of Colombia, Alberto Lleras Camargo, 1958-1962, confiscated the island and built a prison. The main house of the ranch built by Ramon Payan was used as the headquarters of the prison. It was a prison island from 1960 until 1984 when the prison was closed by president Belisario Betancur, 1982-1986, and the island became a national park. The ancient houses of the personnel working at the prison were remodeled and reconverted into a research centre, comfortable accommodation and a restaurant. Since 1985 exuberant rainforest populated again the island. A section of the old prison can be still visited. In the 21st century a concession was given to a tourist company to run a private and secluded hotel.
Flora and fauna
The island is covered with tropical forest, which includes 46 species of reptile, 18 of these snakes, bats, sloths, monkeys, tortoises, as well as the abundant marine life in its waters which can be seen snorkeling from the beach or diving.
The ocean is roamed by sea turtles, whales, whalesharks, whitetip sharks and a lot of other fish species.
From mid-June till November is whale season. Male humpback whales can be seen breaching while the females and their offspring come close to the island at the surface to breath.
Warm and wet.
There are three ways to get to Isla Gorgona, all of them by boat:
There are several ways to get to the island by boat from Buenaventura. Cargo Ships, Dive Boats, and Launches. The Cargo Ships typically leave from the Muelle el Piñal in the afternoon (4PM-6PM) and are headed south towards Saltinga.
There are other cargo ships at the Muelle el Piñal- tell the locals there you want to go to Gorgona and they will take you to whichever ship happens to be leaving that day(if any).
Launches are faster boats that take 4 hours. Boats can be arranged through Aviatur, or you can arrange it yourself.
You can also arrange for a live aboard dive boat to take you to the islands. There are at least three different boats that visit the islands (depending on the season). They are typically weekend trips leaving from Buenaventura at 6PM Fridays, and returning 6am Monday morning, with approximately 6-7 dives around the island, visits to the islands sights, and are all inclusive of meals and park entry fees. These trips are about COP$890,000, and can be arranged through the various dive shops in Cali and Buenaventura.
Several companies have boats with a maximum capacity of 10 people. The price is between C$350,000 and C$500,000 for the 2 hour trip. Here is a list of contacts.
Via El Charco
Taxi de Carga (2)6663042 has flights from Cali.
Contact Dagobert Paredes (in El Charco (2)7470177 - (2)7470091 or in Cali (2)3155605 ) for boats to the island. The capacity is 15 to 20 persons and cost C$500,000 one-way.
It is not allowed to bring alcohol to the island. Bags are sometimes checked on entrance. Confiscated goods will be returned at your departure. On departure bags are sometimes checked for corals or endangered animal species.
The entrance to the park is COP$ 31.000 and has to be payed in advanced together with the cost of accommodation. Since January 2006, Aviatur has taken over the concession for Isla Gorgona. You can get your entry fee at any Aviatur location (there is one in Buenaventura, as well as locations in Cali (2) 664 5050
Access to the park is restricted. You're only allowed without a guide on the area, called El Poblado between the accommodations and the dive shop. With a (free) guide it is possible to visit the former prison area and the one trail leading to the other side of the island.
Tour around part of the old prison located on the island. Until 1984, the island had been a maximum security prison designed for 1,500 but holding up to 2,000 prisoners. Conditions were appalling, with rooms for torture including one, the " bottle" where the victim was forced to stand for days in the impossibly tiny cell not more than 2 feet wide, with a central hole as a toilet & meager rations dropped in from above.
There is a small souvenir shop. However, take everything you need with you.
There is only one restaurant. The meals are good, but prepare for lots of seafood and rice. Three meals included in the accommodation cost (see budget section)
As a national park, alcohol is not permitted in the island.
There is only one hotel in the island. Accommodations are comfortable for a secluded and tropical island, prices are fair for what you get.
Vaccination against yellow fever, tetanus and hepatitus B is recommended.
There are several species of poisonous snakes on the island. Walking to playa Blanca and further is only allowed with guide and rubber boots (You can rent them at restaurant for COP$7,000). After 5pm the it's advisable to wear rubber boots as well and use torches. The hotel is well designed to avoid snakes and every tour guide will teach you simple rules to be safe at all times. No snake bites have been reported since the hotel opened 5 years ago.