Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park, is one of the newest Colombian national parks and a popular ecotourism destination.

The Uramba Bahia Malaga National Natural Park is an exceptional natural site, since it groups together many of the habitats and marine life conditions of the entire Colombian Pacific coast. It forms part of the ‘Mosaico de Conservacion de Bahia Malaga‘ which is made up of the national and regional protected area categories, of the ‘Corredor de Conservacion’ which comprises the Farallones de Cali and Munchique national natural parks, and of the Sistema Departamental de Areas Protegidas -SIDAP- of the Departamento del Valle del Cauca. The area was created as the result of coordinated work between the National Natural Parks de Colombia and the ‘Colectivo Comunitario e Institucional por la Conservacion de losValores Naturales y Culturales de Bahia Malaga’ It is made up of a set of islands and islets, shared between the archipelagos of La Plata and Pital together with Isla Curichiche, Isla Monos, Isla Palma and Los Morros. The geological formation of the coastal strips and current dynamics suggest that they were coastal outcrops that became separated by the action of bio-erosion and marine erosion.

The Uramba Bahia Malaga National Natural Park





In the north, the most exterior part of this beautifu I bay is bordered by the beaches of Juanchaco and Ladrilleros, very popular among the inhabitants of southwest Colombia. These beaches are almost permanently washed by strong waves, which means that they are frequented by surfers. On the other hand, the southern and central parts of the bay are characterised by rocky shores.

NATURAL CHARACTERISTICS

In this beautiful bay we find a variety of ecosystems, such as the muddy and sandy-muddy beaches of the La Plata Archipelago and the Pital Archipelago (sandy beaches predominate, except on Isla Monos); the tertiary rock cliffs on the coast of Isla Palma and Los Morros; tropical rainforest; soft and rocky seabeds; and the pelagic system. The different environments in the Park provide the home for a wide variety of species. 1,396 species have been registered in the protected area, divided into 9 groups of animals and plants.

Hydrographies

The region’s heavy rainfall has a strong impact on the terrestrial hydrographies of the protected area’s hinterland and gives rise to a highly charged drainage pattern which, due to the precipitous nature of the land, makes the watercourses tend to rush down in torrents into the bay. Most of these torrents form relatively small ravines which, though they do not form part of the protected area, fall directly into the seawater of the bay, forming short falls of between one and five metres in height.

Isla Palma - The Uramba Bahia Malaga National Natural Park





Fauna

The marine area is home to 254 species of molluscs, 240 species of sea and/or estuary fish, 237 species of crustaceans, 28 species of echino-derms and 18 species of sponges, to mention only a few of the groups. Also present in the area are 107 species of wildfowl, 30 species of coastal mammals and 12 species of aquatic mammals. In the coastal part of the area 14 species of freshwater fish, 17 of reptiles and 10 of amphibians have been registered. The seahorse figures among the threatened species.

However, the Park’s most prominent species is undoubtedly the humpback whale. Indeed, the Park area is internationally recognized as having one of the highest humpback whale birth rates in the world. Every year, after swimming 8.000 km from Antartica, 700 humback whales reach the coastal waters of the bay to breed and rear their young.

Ata birth a humpback whale weights two and a half tons and needs between 75 and 150litres of its mother’s milk per day. Thus the whale calves gain weight quickly before setting off on th return jouney to the freezing waters of the South Pole. The adults, by contrast, lose wight during this period, since they can feed only in polar water, in normal circumstances, a humpback whale may live up to one hundred years; however, indiscriminate hunting has decimated the population of these giants, which are now protected by international agreements.

At birth a humpback whale weights two and a half tons and needs between 75 and 150litres of its mother’s milk per day. Thus the whale calves gain weight quickly before setting off on th return jouney to the freezing waters of the South Pole. The adults, by contrast, lose wight during this period, since they can feed only in polar water, in normal circumstances, a humpback whale may live up to one hundred years; however, indiscriminate hunting has decimated the population of these giants, which are now protected by international agreements.

The humpback whale reaches up to 16 metres in length, a size comparable to that o a passenger plane. Its robust body tapers off towards the dorsal fin, which is normally on the hump. Its pectoral fins are extremely long and white on the underside. This species mates and breeds in shallow tropical waters, like those of the Uramba Bahia Malaga, Sanquianga, Gorgona and Utría national natural parks. Their songs, which may be heard within a radius of twelve kilometres, are associated with courtship, which takes place exclusively in tropical waters.

POPULATION

The Bahía Málaga region has been traditioanlly inhabited mostly by AfroColombian communities. The Río San Juan basin, which also lies within the Park’s zone of influence , is home to the indigenous Embera Wounaan ethnic group, who have settled in several reserves that border on the black community territories. Although there is no official delimitation between the terrritories of these two ethnic groups, the road leading to the Base Naval del Pacifico separates them extra-oficially.

The Bahía Málaga region has been traditioanlly inhabited mostly by AfroColombian communities. The Río San Juan basin, which also lies within the Park’s zone of influence , is home to the indigenous Embera Wounaan ethnic group, who have settled in several reserves that border on the black community territories. Although there is no official delimitation between the terrritories of these two ethnic groups, the road leading to the Base Naval del Pacifico separates them extra-oficially.

Besides these indigenous inhabitants, over the last twenty years a mestizo population has settled in the Juanchaco and Ladrilleros area, where commercial and tourist activities predomienate.

The Uramba Bahia Malaga National Natural Park

GENERAL INFORMATION

  • Location: 2010
  • Area: 47,094 hectares
  • Altitude: Between 0 and 10 metres above sea level
  • Climate: Warm with steady rainfall all year ound
  • Average temperature: From 18°C to 25.1°C, the average surface water temperature is 27°C

The Uramba Bahia Malaga National Natural Park

PLANNING YOUR VISIT

  • LOCATION: The protected area lies in the middle portion of the Colombian Pacific coast in the municipality of Buenaventura, in Valle del Cauca Department. Its limits are demacated by the lowest tide line, and it also comprises the adjacent islands, islets and seabeds.
  • HOW TO GET THERE: To reach the Park from Bogota, you have to follow a route that splits up into three parts, depending on the distance to be covered. The first step is a flight from Bogotá to Cali; the second the overland route from Cali to Buenaventura ; and lastly, the sea route in a fast launch from Buenaventura to the corregimientos in the hinterland of the protected area, which lasts 1 hour.
  • WHERE TO STAY: The Park itself has no accommodation facilities, although in Juanchaco and Ladrilleros there are rudimentary though comfortable hotels.
  • WHERE TO EAT: In Juanchaco and Ladrilleros you may sample the local fish cuisine and a number of traditioonal recipes from the Pacific Coast.
  • HOW LONG TO STAY: Four days and three nights would be ideal.
  • WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENCTION: The neares hospital is in Buenaventura.
  • WHEN TO GO: The best time for whale watching is between June and November, since this is when they migrate, Even so, please bear in mind that the official whale-watching season begins in mid-July.

WHAT TO VISIT IN THE PARK:

Although there are no marked water trails in the bay area, it is advisable to follow the inner circuits to visit Isla Plata, the Quebrada La Sierpe, the Estero La Muer-te, Playa Chucheros and La Ensenada del Tigre, as well as other beaches and cliffs from which you can engage in whale watching.

WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK:

WHAT TO VISIT IN THE PARK: Although there are no marked water trails in the bay area, it is advisable to follow the inner circuits to visit Isla Plata, the Quebrada La Sierpe, the Estero La Muer-te, Playa Chucheros and La Ensenada del Tigre, as well as other beaches and cliffs from which you can engage in whale watching.

The beauty and landscape diversity of Malaga Bay and Its zone of influence are major attractions for ecotourism and environmental education, and the annual arrival of the humpback whales Is a further incentive to plan and organize eco-tourism and establish agreements when it comes to managing the activity, to ensure harmonious coexistence between these marine mammals and visitors and local inhabitants who want to admire them. Whale watching Is undoubtedly the Park’s main attraction, and for this very reason we must respect a set of rules, since it is a delicate activity that may disturb the whales’ breeding activities.

Other recommendable activities are observing the wild flora and other species of fauna, research, environmental education, photography and filming.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Always take waterproofs and a change of clothes with you, as well as a life-jacket in good condition when you go out to sea.
  • Make sure you have been vaccinated against yellow fever and malaria.



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