Things I’ve learned on the jungle beach

arriving to the beach

We just got back from the amazing Juan De Dios beach on the Pacific coast of #Colombia, and I need to write a few things that might be useful for my future self or fellow travellers.

Getting to Juan De Dios was easy — 3-hour bus ride from Cali to Buenaventura and 1-hour boat taxi from Buenaventura to Juan De Dios. Timing was important, as the boat runs only four times per day.

The budget for a couple for five days was around 1m COP (~210 GBP) for a private hut. The food was included, and it was great. You will need ~100k COP extra for kayak and waterfall trips (highly recommended) and an occasional beer at the neighbour camp.

Now the key points to keep in mind if you’re going to the jungle beach for the 1st time:

1. You will get wet. Often.

From the very 1st moment I jumped out from the taxi boat into the waist-deep sea, I knew I’ve made some packing mistakes. My long trousers were too heavy and never completely dried during our stay in the jungle. Pack as light as you can, the quickest drying things you can find. Because of humidity, heavy rain every night, the easiest way to dry your clothes is wearing them.

2. You will hurt your toes. Get the right shoes.

Flip-flops are terrible for jungle hikes, mud, slippery stones and almost anything else. Tree roots on narrow paths and sharp rocks in the sea will always try to hit your toes. Your hiking boots will survive the mud and deep puddles, but will never get dry. Next time I’ll take just one pair of water shoes.

3. Protect yourself. Sun and mosquitoes.

Make sure you get a yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before going to the jungle. Have enough of sunblock and DEET and always carry it with you. Don’t forget your Medkit too. Wear a hat, protect vulnerable parts when going for long trips — wear a scarf, long sleeve swim shirt. This will help to reduce the discomfort and make your adventures more enjoyable.

4. Risk safely, but try new things.

You will be doing new things in an unknown environment. Kayaking through the rocky passage or jumping into the natural waterfall pool, stepping on the unknown surfaces — risk safely, check and ask questions whenever you can. Get out of your comfort zone to grow, but be smart.

5. It’s not comfortable, but you will get used to it.

Itchy bites, burned skin, layers of sunblock and DEET, sandy and wet clothes — it’s not fun at first, but it fades away quickly as your mind and body goes into survival mode and adapts. Most of us forgot what it’s like to live in nature. Even sleeping at night might be tricky at first because of all the loud sounds of nature and open-plan huts. Earplugs might help.

6. Dogs are your best friends.

Dogs are different in the jungle camps. They are free and independent. If they decide, they will accompany you on long hikes and even kayak trips, play and go for a swim with you. They might come to sleep and protect you in your hut at night. And they never do what you tell them. You’re in trouble if you don’t like dogs.

7. Take your rubbish with you. It is a problem.

Most likely you will have to bring your water to the jungle. You will have to take the plastic bottles and any rubbish back with you. You will notice the plastic problem quickly – every day the beach needs to be cleaned from the rubbish — it will be stored in the designated area and will most likely stay there for months and maybe years. You will encounter lots of beautiful wild beaches full of old shoes, slippers, fishing nets, bottles and all kinds of rubbish. It’s sad.

8. Life depends on the rhythms of nature.

Want to go kayaking in the mangroves? Need to wait for the high tide.  Want to reach distant beaches and explore caves? Low tide is your friend.  6 PM? Get the candles ready and check your mosquito net.  Life stops after it gets dark, get ready to entertain yourself.

9. It’s hard to disconnect. Try harder.

Even if there is no electricity, you will probably have access to a little generator to charge your phones and cameras. We even had some signal from the nearest town. Don’t fall into this trap. Use your phone less, or you’re wasting your time.

10. Support and talk to the locals.

You will get lots of helpful advice and interesting stories if you speak to the locals. Support them and be respectful. Travelling is the easiest way to get to know yourself and get better. Be open, be brave, and you will have a life-changing experience even if the change is tiny.

Check out our short video from the beach!

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