Colombia is a country of thousands of rivers: with three ranges of the Andes and the mighty Amazon rainforest, there is no shortage of amazing waterways where kayakers can experience rushing white water, serene jungle lakes and everything in between. From kayaking through mangroves on Caribbean islands to searching for pink dolphins on Amazonian rivers, here are the best places to go kayaking in Colombia.
The Samana River
This is the Colombian river for the hardcore kayaking crowd. The Samana River flows through lowland jungles in the Caldas and Antioquia departments and is renowned among serious kayakers for its amazing white water. Local operator Expedition Colombia, led by a kayaking world champion, no less, offers amazing three-day kayaking tours of the river, or you can attend their annual Samana Fest, which attracts some of the world’s best kayakers.
The Old McBean Lagoon National Park is a unique and fragile ecosystem of coastal mangroves hugging the beautiful coastline of Providencia Island in the Colombian Caribbean. As it is protected, the best way to visit this delicate ecosystem peacefully, and to best enjoy its amazing wildlife, is to take a kayak out there. Paddling the azure blue waters, you might even come across wild sea turtles!
The vast network of lakes surrounding the little town of Guatapé, about two hours east of Medellin, offers the perfect place for some peaceful kayaking, with not a rapid in sight. You can hire kayaks from down by the docks, or arrange them at your hostel, and simply set out to explore the coves, private islands and hidden corners of this stunning area.
The Natural Reserve of Rio Claro is the perfect place to visit for all manner of travellers such as ecotourists, extreme sport fanatics and birders. Kayakers will also enjoy the chance to explore the clear, green waters of the dramatic canyon. However, hardcore kayakers should be aware that kayaking at Rio Claro is very much a beginner’s experience.You can also sign up for a three-day kayaking course at Rio Claro, so it’s a top place to learn.
OK, so the Amazon is a vast region, but there are some excellent spots to enjoy kayaking throughout Colombia’s massive jungles. The best trip to take is from the jungle town of Puerto Narino in Amazonas department, where you can kayak out to Tarapoto Lake, a protected wetland area that is home to a large population of pink river dolphins. You can paddle among them, or even slip into the water for a swim, but watch out for the piranhas!
The capital of adventure sports in Colombia, San Gil remains the most popular place to visit in the country for anyone who fancies a rush of adrenaline. One of the more interesting trips you can enjoy here is a kayaking trip along the Suarez River. As with the Samana River, this isn’t a trip for novice kayakers – the white-water rapids can reach level four or five – but if you have kayaked before, you will fall in love with the Suarez River in San Gil.
While more well known for its UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Site, San Agustin also boasts some top-level kayaking experiences. The mighty Magdalena River, in its early stages, flows alongside the town and offers some epic white-water rafting and kayaking opportunities. The Magdalena Strait, the narrowest point of the river, is a kayaker’s dream.