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Susanne Masters visits Colombia, an unexplored swimmer’s paradise complete with its own rainbow-hued river

Until recently, Colombia wasn’t considered particularly safe to visit and Cano Cristales, in the middle of Farc guerrilla territory, was definitely not a place for tourists. In a world of Photoshopped images, Cano Cristales is a swimmer’s fantasy made real – a river that runs with the colours of the rainbow.

A few years ago the Colombian government reclaimed La Macarena, the closest town to Cano Cristales. At the end of 2016 the ratification of a peace deal between government and the Farc made it much easier to visit Colombia. When I started looking at places to swim there I thought I could fit in a Caribbean island, the Pacific coast with humpback whales and waterfalls in the jungle as well as Cano Cristales.


Isla Grande is reached via a mosh pit of boats offering rides from Muelle Turistico de la Bodeguita, the pier by Cartagena’s old town. Paraiso Secreto, a collective of hostels, has an activity desk with boats, people and the knowledge to show you swimming highlights of the island. Swimmers heading along the shore from Paraiso Secreto’s beach flow over seagrass meadows and past mangroves, both of which shimmer with shoals of silver fry. It is a short boat ride to the reef at Punta Brava. Everywhere I looked fish were bustling around the coral. After the sun had set there was another swimming adventure to take. In the sheltered water of the Enchanted Lagoon, night swimmers can enjoy the sparkles of bioluminescence.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Autumn is a pretty special time for outdoor swimmers. Summer’s warmth still lingers and, whether you swim in a wetsuit or skins, a decent swim is possible. Our November issue is packed full of awesome features to inspire your swimming adventures. Tune up your stroke in preparation for winter training; eight of the top winter swimming events to enter now; winter pre- and post-swim gear review; plus, nutrition, technique, events, destinations, interviews and more of your stunning photography and swim stories.