Colombia is may not be infamous for the diving, but it will not disappoint. With Caribbean and Pacific coastline, the country has some hidden diving gems. Many people will tell you to head to the Caribbean coast when you are travelling in Colombia. A lot of visitors base themselves in Santa Marta, and then explore places such as Tayrona National Park and Minca. Santa Marta itself is quite unimpressive, however just a short bus ride away you will find Taganga. This sleepy fishing town is on the very edge of Tayrona National Park. It is also the perfect place for Scuba Diving in Colombia.
Is the scuba diving in Tayrona Park good?
Before my arrival, I had heard mixed reviews about scuba diving in Taganga. Some people said it was amazing, others were disappointed. As always, I was determined to make my own mind up! Well, I visited Taganga for a couple of nights, and ended up staying 3 months! I intended just to dive a few days before heading somewhere else after my 3 weeks in Colombia. However, with no real plan anyway, and the offer of some work diving, I decided to stay. During that time, I did a few hundred dives in Tayrona national Park. I can honestly say – it never got boring! The coral is in fantastic condition, and the water temperate. The water here is absolutely perfect for beginners too. There is plenty of life to be seen. You are very unlikely to see huge animals here, and perhaps that is what has disappointed people.
What will you see diving in Tayrona Park?
Lots of coral, that’s a definite! And it’s huge, colourful and in great condition. Some people theorise this is because the coast of Tayrona is protected from any kind of extreme weather by the nearby Sierra Nevada. There’s some impressive brain coral, as well as colourful soft fans. Hiding in amongst that, you will find plenty of moray eels and lobster. Fish are tropical and vibrant, with huge angel fish sailing right past you, as well as trigger fish and the occasional barracuda! It is not uncommon to see seahorses, lobster and Flamingo Tongues. I particularly enjoyed night diving from Taganga, because of the beautiful bio-luminescence! If you have never seen it, it is amazing!
Which is the best dive centre in Taganga?
There are around 10 dive centres in Taganga, which is a lot for a small town! Some come and go, whilst others have been there for years. As always with scuba diving, you should research. I am a huge believer in looking carefully at dive operators. As a PADI Instructor, I know all too well that there can be huge differences in quality between dive centres. Before arriving in Taganga, I looked around online at reviews. Ocean Lovers consistently came up as the top rated Dive Centre in Taganga. This rating is highly deserved! The centre is run by Lisi, a very experienced Instructor from Austria. The staff who work at Ocean Lovers are a mix of locals and expats. Lisi prides herself on Ocean Lovers great reputaion, and is always on hand to answer questions. The centre itself has great equipment, multi lingual staff, and small groups – maximum 4!
Is Taganga a good place to learn to scuba dive?
Taganga is a great place to get your Open Water certificate. It is extremely cheap to do the Open Water course in Colombia. Ocean Lovers are currently charging $850,000 COP (December 2018). That is $260 USD which is amazingly good value! Many of the backpackers in Taganga are in town to dive, so you will have things in common and meet new people. There is also plenty of things to do in Taganga when you are not diving. The scuba diving in Tayrona Park itself is ideal for a beginner, with many shallow sites which are sheltered from big currents. Many dive sites are protected from the winds, and have sloping bottoms for an easy and slow descent. Ocean Lovers is also very social. As the busiest centre in Taganga, there are always customers. Which means, there are always people to chat to!
How is scuba diving in Taganga for certified divers?
Whilst it may not blow your socks off, there’s plenty to see underwater. At around $55 USD for two fun dives, I think any keen diver would be mad not to at least take the time to see another side of Colombia! There are a big range of dive sites, including some great drift dives. Dive sites are chosen on the day, as it can be dictated by the wind direction. With Ocean Lovers, the price includes all equipment, plus snacks and drinks on a sheltered beach during your surface interval. They also offer a range of courses and specialties. I met a Divemaster Intern who was loving her time there, so if you are considering going Pro, it could be a good place to choose for your Divemaster Internship! If you do plan to go for lots of diving, check out my dive packing list.
When is the best time to scuba dive in Tayrona National Park?
The Caribbean waters of Taganga are perfect for scuba diving year round. The water temperature can change quite significantly throughout the year though. January can get as cold as 22 degrees celsius, with July/ August sometimes reaching 30 degrees! I always recommend contacting a Dive Centre before you arrive to check water temperature, particularly if you are bringing your own gear. This way, you know what to expect! It is worth noting that Tayrona Park is closed to the public for the month of February every year. Dates can vary though, so it is worth checking locally. This means the park is also shut for divers. You can still go Scuba Diving from Taganga, but you just don’t go into the park boundaries. Diving is still good, but there are fewer dive sites that are accessible.
How to get from Santa Marta to Taganga
Taganga is only about 15 minutes drive from Santa Marta, so you could easily take a taxi for around $12,000 pesos. If you’re extra frivolous like me, you can take the local bus. Blue buses fly down the streets of Santa Marta and might seem a bit daunting, but just throw your arm out when you see one that says Taganga in the front window and hop on. The fare is $1600 pesos, and of course the bus takes a fair bit longer than a taxi. It’s hot and it gets very full, but if you have the time, take it!
Where to stay in Taganga
There are several options in Taganga, ranging from very budget to more luxurious. Me and Vincent stayed at the Alchemist, which was super cheap ($34,000 pesos) and not that bad. We had a private room which is located in a different building to the dorm rooms. It was fairly quiet and suited us. I can’t comment on the dorms though. Nirvana has a pool and is a bit more lively, with an on-site bar and lots of backpackers staying there. If you want a quiet hostel, walk out of town towards Santa Marta for 10 minutes to find Hostal Cielo. This hostel is run by a friendly local family and offers beautiful views from their rooftop. The town itself is tiny, so anywhere you stay you will be in walking distance of the beach and all dive centres.
Overall, I think it was one of my favourite places to visit in Colombia, purely because of the diving! But maybe I am a little biased as an instructor!
Have you been diving in Taganga? Let me know how it was in the comments!
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