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Pulse of the jungle, call of the sea

THE ISOLATED PACIFIC VILLAGES IN THE NORTH OF CHOCÓ PROVINCE CRY OUT TO THOSE WHO DREAM OF BEING CAST AWAY, OF EXPLORING THE EQUATORIAL RAINFOREST, AND OF SPENDING CAMP FIRENIGHTS DANCING CHAMPETA. THIS IS ONE OF COLOMBIA’S LAST TRULY OFF – GRID CORNERS
IMAGE: GETTY

There’s a place I walk to each morning when I wake up, jet lagged, at daybreak. I tiptoe from my cabaña, past hammocks and ishermen testing their lines, along molten-silver sands wet from a night-long deluge. I clamber up and over a rock pool. I skirt dritwood exhumed on the last high tide. I follow the snagging coastline, feeling on my bare soles the crisp spines of fallen palm fronds, half-buried in the sand like some giant creature lying in a shallow grave. I walk and walk, and don’t meet another soul, and then it’s there: a mile of rugged, empty beach facing the dawn.

This morning, the Paciic is living up to its name. Peaceful. The light is difuse; the water fades through deep blue and leaden grey to the darkish lip of the horizon. Little waves lisp and drag at the shore. I’ve never felt so far from home, so blissfully marooned. At my back, the jungle comes crashing down from volcanic hills and then stops in its tracks, like me, to look out across the ocean. And together, the forest and I witness a miracle. In the distance, atop the dark glass of the water, I see a white cloud mushroom and disperse. Moments pass. Then a whale breaches the surface. Its black body rises quickly, vertically from the water. It freezes for a moment, then twists and smacks headlong into the water. I wait for it to come again. I sit so long that hermit crabs waltz up and etch their busy swirls in the sand around my thighs. But the show’s over.

When I get back to El Cantil Ecolodge, in Guachalito, manager Pozo meets me at breakfast with a smile so broad you’d think he’d won the lottery. He suggests in booming costeño Spanish that we should gobble down our bowls of fruit and pile into his ishing boat, grandly named Saviour King II. Conditions are perfect, he says, for an ocean safari. When I tell him about my sighting this morning, he claps his hands: “It’s emotional to see them jump, isn’t it? It’s powerful for me, every time.”

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We reveal the destinations that made our Cool List 2019 — from booming gastronomic hotspots to up-and-coming cities, this is the last word in where you should visit in the year to come. Elsewhere, we explore the wild side of Quebec’s national parks; leave our shoes behind on Colombia’s barefoot Pacific coast; and spend a long weekend in Bornholm. Other highlights this issue include Kuala Lumpur, Richmond, Prague, Marrakech and Taipei while our photo story joins the wild horse herders in Iceland’s rural east.