I am an inexperienced kayaker, to say the least, but I get the hang of that paddle and I like floating on the water. So I decided to kayak around Colombia's 24.5-acre Mucura Island.
This was not extreme adventure: I wore a lifejacket, Caribbean waters aren't the same as the open Atlantic and the water at the island's edge was so shallow I was more likely to scrape my knees on rocks then drown if I tipped over.
The keeper of the kayaks said it would take 30 minutes to circle the island; I did well to complete the journey in twice that time. It was my second time in a kayak.
Mucura Island is one of several coral islands that are part of Colombia's Natural Corals of the Rosario National Park. It is accessible via a speedboat ride of approximately two hours from Cartagena. (Click on the image for a larger view of a map of the area
I visited with a small press group for an overnight stay.
The 10-year-old Punta Faro Hotel, a private business, owns 11 acres of Mucura. It is a retreat from life's hustle and bustle, a place where there are palm trees and thatched roofs but no room keys.
Punta Faro also has some features that are not quite so quaint, such as air conditioning and a spa providing massages in a house that sits over Caribbean waters.
Its 45 rooms can accommodate up to 120, according to our on-site host, Sergio Tobon.
Punta Faro and the associated Rosario park islands are ideal for clients who want to get away from traditional touristic circuits for lots of relaxation in combination with a range of activity choices and some light sightseeing.
Besides kayaking, watersports include catamaran sailing and windsurfing. Scuba diving (including courses, if needed) and snorkeling are underwater options to see marine life and coral reefs. Tobon said that to protect the coral, no leisure activities involve motorized boats, although transport among islands and to the mainland is on a speedboat.
Land-based options are cycling, guided ecological walks or independent hikes, tennis and ballgames on the beach.
Sightseeing means a boat trip to view other Rosario islands, most notably Santa Cruz, a manmade affair, which Tobon said accommodates 1,200 residents on less than one acre. It was densely packed; our stroll across the island took us through someone's kitchen. The "gravel" is dead coral.
We also viewed a few curiously positioned and brightly painted houses, seemingly sitting on the water. They were built on coral reefs before that was forbidden.
Just the same, Punta Faro isn't for every client. Meals are tasty, but they are buffet -- or as the hotel describes them at its website, "TV meals."
Night dives are an option, but when it comes to entertainment, there isn't much, except TV.
Systems fail. I experienced a clogged sink drain and malfunctioning room safe during my 24-hour visit. And the sightseeing at Santa Cruz was a high-temperature, high-humidity business.
On the other hand, the WiFi worked.
When it is a match, clients will have a bumpy ride of about two hours each way from and to Cartagena, covering 43 nautical miles (49.5 miles to the landlubbers among us). Cartagena is on Colombia's west-facing coast, and the islands are southwest of the city. The speedboat transfer, operated once daily each way, is $83 roundtrip for an adult, $60 for a child.
Room rates start at about $155 per person, double, for a room and three meals.
Agents can book clients by emailing email@example.com
. Patrice Renaud, international market manager for the property, said agents could send payment and receive the agreed commission after, or arrange to pay net. Visit www.puntafaro.com