EL CANTIL ECOLODGE
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Colombia's Pacific coast in the department of Choco, is the beautiful, and virtually untouched oasis known as El Cantil. Here, the rainforest descends straight to the sea, providing a unique environment, and one you'd be hard pressed to find in such pristine condition elsewhere. With no cell service or wifi, and short hours of electricity, you are truly disconnected from the stress and chaos of modern, urban living.
THINGS TO KNOW
1| No Wifi, No Cell Service - Tell close friends and family you will be disconnected from the world so they aren't alarmed when you don't respond for several days.
2| Rates are all inclusive. Don't be concerned, this isn't your typical Mexican Riviera all inclusive experience, but rather a thoughtful and delicious, food and excursion-filled experience that you wouldn't want to miss! 3 nights at double occupancy is approx $320 per person in low season and $375 in high season.
3| There is a 9000 Colombian Peso Tourist Fee to be paid upon landing in Nuqui. They give you a cute stamp that would be a nice addition to your passport.
4| Dry Season is the months of January, February, March, & mid-August, Rainy Season is the rest of the year with October - December being the heaviest months of rain (but still enjoyable with much to do in all types of weather)
5| Whale Season is from early June to October
Fly from the city airport in Medellin, Olaya Herrera Airport, to Nuqui. Both ADA & Satena offer flights in very tiny propeller planes. The flight is a short 50 minutes and affords beautiful views of the city of Medellin, followed by mountains covered in green with rivers twisting through, and ultimately the blue waters of the Pacific. The windows in the planes are large and allow for some great aerial photography. Upon landing, a representative of El Cantil will meet you at the airport and motorboat you the 40 or so minutes to the Ecolodge (all included in the prices).
The seven wooden cabins of El Cantil are simple, yet well designed and seemingly blend with the surrounding landscape. Each cabin room has a private bathroom, shelving, mosquito nets on each bed, and a covered veranda with hammocks perfect for relaxing afternoons. Rooms can be configured for single, double or multiple occupancy (our group had a room for 4 and a room for 2 with a shared veranda). The cabins are open air (ie there is no glass in the windows), so expect a few bugs here and there. There is no electricity in the cabins, so staff members come around at approx 6pm everyday to pull down the mosquito nets and to light petrol lanterns. If glamping isn't your thing, perhaps the Choco region isn't for you.
Common areas include a raised, open air restaurant with additional terraces for relaxing, an ocean front bench area, and an additional wooden structure with both covered and uncovered areas for reading, napping, or just enjoying the scenery.
Photo by Richard Silver
Arguably my favorite part of the whole experience, who am I kidding, my favorite part of the whole experience was the food and the three wonderful ladies that cooked three meals a day for us. Upon arrival at El Cantil we were immediately brought bowls of fresh fruit and fresh juices, a trend that continued every time we returned to the lodge from an excursion, walk, or activity.
Everyday a bell was rung, around 12:30/1 for lunch and around 7/7:30 for dinner - we tried not to jump too eagerly out of our hammocks the instant said bell was rung. Meals were seafood based and served family style (my favorite method as it reminds me of home). Menus typically included a soup, some type of rice, a side, a fresh salad, a fish prepared in a myriad number of ways (fried, covered in yellow curry, with herbs & lime, with passionfruit, with coconut, & even a fish lasagna), and a dessert. This was BY FAR my favorite restaurant in Colombia, and one I imagine will be hard to surpass during my last few weeks here.
EXCURSIONS & ACTIVITIES
Included in the basic rooming package at El Cantil are three excursions in the nearby area, all optional, but great ways to get a better sense of the region and the landscape. Each excursion is led by a staff member of El Cantil, who are all knowledgeable and fun people (in our experience they only spoke Spanish, so brush up on your language skills before coming).
1| Short Hike to Cascada de Amor - The shortest of the three activities was a quick jaunt to two nearby waterfalls culminating in a cool (in both temperature and attitude) swim under the falls.
2| Beach Walk & Visit to Thermal Pools in Termales - An hour walk along the beach to the town of Termales, home to some 200 inhabitants and the thermal pools for which the town is named. A $12,000 peso fee is payable at the entry to the pools. The pools are in an idyllic setting, nestled in the jungle, adjacent to a small river. Wooden structures house a small restaurant/bar area (not open for our visit), a bathroom/shower building, and a massage and specialized bath area. Despite the warm temperatures outside, the pools were surprisingly pleasant and relaxing. If you do need to cool off, hop in the refreshingly cool river. 1hr massages are available to interested parties for 50,000 pesos (approx $17).
3| Jungle Hike & Waterfall - Feel the beauty and also the humidity of the rainforest with a hike into the jungle to discover unique plant and animal life. The midway point is a beautiful waterfall nestled in the rocks perfect for a refreshing swim. The hike ends walking along the river until you once again reach the beach.
Other activities such as kayaking, surf lessons, whale watching etc. are available upon request and depending upon seasonality.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend spent checked out from the world - going to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, reading a real book from start to finish, playing & winning all the games (ok just rummi-q), having conversations with friends, watching the full moon from a swinging hammock, eating all the fresh fish, and just enjoying this beautiful corner of Colombia.