Gorgona Island is a small Colombian island in the Pacific Ocean. The island functioned as a prison until 1985 when it was turned into a Natural Park.
From red balloon-like frigate birds to white-faced capuchin monkeys to majestically-gliding sea turtles, Gorgona Island and its surrounding marine habitats are bursting with an incredible diversity of wildlife. Located 50km off southern Colombia’s Pacific coast, the 25km2 island may be small in size but it is undeniably rich in history having respectively welcomed conquistadors, prisoners and tourists to its densely-lined tropical rainforest shores. Appropriately named Gorgona Island by Francisco Pizarro in 1527 owing to the similarities between the serpent-haired monsters of Greek mythology and the Spaniard’s discovery of a multitude of island snakes, the present-day popular tourist destination is now valued for much more than just these cold-blooded slithering creatures. Whether looking towards the sky, peering into the forest or gazing into the ocean, animal-loving visitors will be simply astounded by the intriguing, and often endemic, wildlife species to be found at every island turn.
- Exclusively found within the confines of Gorgona Island in Colombia is the blue anole, a brightly-colored arboreal lizard which has attracted worldwide interest thanks to its striking and absolutely unique appearance.
- Tourists lucky enough to visit the island from July to October will be treated to the remarkable sight of thousands of humpback whales who swim to tropical waters to mate and bear offspring before journeying back to the considerably colder Antarctic sea.
Although a name which once instilled fear in its inhabitants, given that it was home to a maximum security prison for almost 25 years (1960-1984), Gorgona Island now produces a significantly different, and certainly more positive, set of emotions in its visitors. With hardly a trace of penitentiary life left and the majority of the prison buildings simply forming a part of the forestial undergrowth, all attention now revolves around the island’s spectacular terrestrial fauna. Having reached the Colombian wildlife haven by boat, tourists will not have to venture far in the company of their guide to set their eyes on proud-looking pelicans, blue-footed boobies and tree-hugging sloths. With more than 147 bird species, Gorgona’s skies are equally filled with the fluttering wings of numerous feathered friends including the endemic Black-crowned Antshrike, Red-legged Honeycreeper and yellow-breasted Bananaquit. As for the reptiles which inspired Pizarro’s naming of the island almost five centuries ago,
Gorgona Island’s snakes are still plentiful but, thanks to the careful safety procedures in place, including the provision of rubber boots, the constant presence of expert guides and an evening curfew, visitors can explore every part of the island fully at ease.
Beyond the mighty rainforest expanse and into the ocean’s extreme depths, tourists wishing to witness a truly extraordinary underwater world should sign up for the numerous scuba diving sessions on offer. Greeted with the sights of vibrantly-colored parrot fish, carpet-like manta rays and gently-pulsating octopi lurking near to the largest coral bank of the Colombian Pacific, divers will find themselves mesmerized by the sheer magnitude of marine species which surround them. Equally captivating, and visible from the comfort of a motorboat, are the glimpses of porpoises and dolphins as they soar over the waves. However, back on dry land, the absolute highlight for turtle enthusiasts has to be the unforgettable spectacle of the hard-shelled creatures crawling towards the island’s shores to lay their precious eggs.
Having made a pre-booked reservation and with the necessary permit to hand, visitors to the World Heritage Site of Gorgona Island will undoubtedly take great delight in witnessing some of the most enchanting and rarest wildlife species in the world.
Image by whltravel