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Malpelo Island, Colombia: A Remote Natural Wonder


Malpelo Island in Colombia
Pacific Naval Force on Malpelo Island, Colombia. Credit: National Navy of Colombia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Far out in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 506 kilometers west of Buenaventura, lies Malpelo Island, a remote and remarkable part of Colombia’s natural heritage. This oceanic island, along with Gorgona Island, is one of the two Colombian islands in the vast Pacific waters, and is a haven of biodiversity and geological wonder.

Malpelo Island is an impressive rock formation rising dramatically from the ocean floor. This huge rock measures 376 meters in height and covers an area of approximately 3.5 square kilometers. It’s surrounded by eleven smaller islets, adding to its charm.

Unique Biodiversity

What sets Malpelo Island apart is its unparalleled marine biodiversity. It’s situated right in the middle of Colombia’s exclusive economic zone in the Pacific Ocean, making it a sanctuary of oceanic life. The island is known for its remarkable coral formations, which are some of the most significant in the Colombian Pacific.

The island has been declared a Flora and Fauna Sanctuary by the Colombian government, owing to its unique terrestrial fauna and marine life. This sanctuary status aims to protect and preserve the island’s rich biodiversity.

Malpelo Island in Colombia
Malpelo island, Colombia. Credit: CAUT/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Complex Ecosystem

The island is surrounded by eleven islets, each contributing to the overall ecosystem. These islets include “The Musketeers” in the far north (Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan), Vagamares and La Torta in the east, and “The Three Kings” (Saul, David, and Solomon) in the extreme south, among others. This complex ecosystem is a focal point for researchers and conservationists from around the world.

Malpelo Island boasts a variety of unique wildlife. Land crabs and various bird species, including sulids and frigate birds, inhabit the island. However, it’s beneath the waves where Malpelo truly shines. The surrounding waters are teeming with marine life, including hammerhead sharks, majestic whale sharks (which can reach up to 15 meters in length), tollos, and devil fish. Schools of tuna, horse mackerel, snapper, grouper, and jacks are abundant.

Malpelo Island in Colombia
Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) near Malpelo Island, Colombia. Credit: CAUT/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Diver’s Paradise

For divers, Malpelo Island is a true paradise. The rich seabed, adorned with corals, offers extraordinary diving opportunities. The geographical isolation of Malpelo has led to the development of unique microfauna, making it a natural laboratory for the study of species evolution.

How to Reach Malpelo Island

Reaching Malpelo Island is an adventure in itself. To get there, you must first make your way to Buenaventura’s port on Colombia’s west coast. From Buenaventura, you’ll embark on a boat journey to Malpelo.

This ocean voyage takes approximately 30 to 35 hours, so it’s best to opt for all-inclusive packages, which typically offer several-day trips, including accommodation, food, certified guides, diving equipment, and transportation. These packages ensure a safe and memorable experience exploring this remote Colombian treasure in the Pacific.

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