Heroes and migrating crabs in paradise, Providencia

Some 800km off mainland Colombia are the aqua blue waters and white sandy beaches of San Andrés and Providencia (Old Providence).

Snorkelling on the sandy island of Jonny Cay, San Andrés, Colombia

Located close to Nicaragua, these islands have a fascinating history, having been claimed by Nicaragua, Britain, the Dutch and Colombia, and raided by pirates. Here, the culture is more Caribbean than Colombian; Creole is the main language and is based on English, and the locals are very proud of their English routes.

With my friend Jenny on vacation from Britain, my trip took me to the beautiful island of Old Providence or Providencia where I was reunited with my Lost City trekking partners.

Swinging on Playa Manzanillo at sunset, Providencia

Sunset at Playa Manzanillo, Providencia

We arrived on the island to be collected by the local taxi, a 1970s Chevrolet, and were taken around the island to our hostel in Freshwater Bay. My friends Oisin, Mary and Pralay were out enjoying 30 metre visibility diving with sharks and finishing off their PADI qualifications.

It wasn’t long before we were gorging ourselves on beautiful fresh seafood.

It was hard to find any drama on this chilled out island, but drama soon found us when a very frightened woman staying at the hostel approached us for help as she was having a severe allergic reaction to seafood, experiencing difficulty breathing and her face was swelling up. English gentleman Pralay quickly jumped into action and, like a scene from a James Bond movie, grabbed his scooter and took the sick girl to hospital, which was located on the opposite side of the island, and ensured she was given the correct treatment. A true hero!

Pralay Mistery, a man with a big spoon and a scooter, saving lives

Pralay, a man with a big spoon and a scooter, saving lives

We had arrived in what was supposed to be crab migration season (April/May) but we were just a few days too early to see the thousands of black crabs come down from the mountains to take to the water to lay their eggs. During the migration it is illegal to sell/eat crab.

Despite this, there was plenty to keep us busy, whether it was having a seafood lunch at Playa Manzanillo beach, watching the horses racing on South West Bay beach or hiking Isla Santa Catalina.

Off San Andrés is the stunning island of Johnny Cay where people can snorkel with fish and see Mantarays. Sadly this poorly managed tourist attraction means the coral is being destroyed and Mantarays are being held by locals for photo opportunities. The snorkelling is crowded and unremarkable.

Accommodation: Cabañas Agua Dulce Hotel, Freshwater Bay (Bahía Aguadulce), Providencia, dorm COP45,000, and its affiliate, Blue Almond Hostel on San Andrés, book in advance.

Getting there: Several flights a day fly from Bogota to San Andrés for as low as US$90 return. There is also a direct flight a day between Cartegana and San Andrés. Check out Copa Air, Viva Colombia and Avianca. Select Colombia and Spanish on the websites for a cheaper price. There may be problems paying with a foreign credit card.

Snorkelling at Jonny Cay, San Andrés, Colombia

Snorkelling at Jonny Cay, San Andrés

Ferry: A ferry connects Providencia and San Andrés but it does not run every day. Check the website for the latest schedule. COP160,000 return. Daily chartered flights are also available between the islands.

Scooter hire: This is essential to travel around the island, COP50,000

Diving: Felipe Diving Centre, Providencia.

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