We found our holiday through TravelLocal while reading ALL THE BLOGS about Colombia. We knew we were traveling to Bucaramanga, Colombia for a friends wedding, but wanted to get the most out of our time in the country. I found doing the research and deciding on a trip itinerary very overwhelming, especially since we speak very little Spanish. This was our first time using any travel agency, and we could not have been more pleased with the local agency and TravelLocal.
From the very beginning Jose was very responsive. Because there are so many wonderful places in Colombia, we were overwhelmed with the choices for destinations. I told Jose I wanted to see whales, and he totally hooked us up! The itinerary was perfect for our time in Colombia-- almost too perfect for our level of adventure and timeline. Once in country, John was amazing to work with. Anytime there was even a threat of an issue, he had it rectified immediately! I never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a response-- even on holidays and weekends. Very, very impressed with the customer service provided by TravelLocal's partner in Colombia.
I found it very interesting that our trip to Nuqui really pushed our (my) adventure limits, and Jose could not have known this going into it. I might recommend asking clients how comfortable they are on the water, tiny planes, and camp-like accommodations in a very remote area. There was also a level of physical activity that might need to be addressed with clients prior to booking. I would encourage clients to brush up on their Spanish, because we rarely met anyone who spoke English. For us, this was totally fine-- as we would never visit another country and expect them to speak our language, however others might not appreciate the adventure. We are flexible travelers who enjoy hiking, small boats, camping, but also love a fancy meal and a nice hotel-- so this was the perfect itinerary for us.
Our very first leg of the trip with TravelLocal's partner agency did get off to a rough start. The driver did not arrive to pick us up, and while John did his best to get another driver there-- we would not have had enough time to make it to the airport if we didn't leave immediately in a cab from our hotel. Of course with my paranoia about this entire trip being a scam, I was SO NERVOUS about the rest of our trip. John more than made up for it by not only reimbursing us for the cab ride, but treating us to a fabulous dinner our last night in Cartagena. I don't recall having a driver that spoke English, but they were so professional, courteous, and well-informed that it did not matter. We always felt perfectly safe with the drivers and at all accommodations. It is the flawless execution of our transfers and the conflict-resolution that will bring us back to TravelLocal's partner for our next trip to Colombia.
Depending on how 'touristy' you like to go, I recommend Medellin over Cartagena. While Cartagena was beautiful, it was overwhelmingly touristy, and the locals took full advantage. I'm glad we went, but would not likely go back. Medellin, however, was an unexpected treat! The people were overly accommodating, and treated you more like a human than a tourist dollar. The city is gorgeous in it's own right, and was the only place we met makers with authentic products and traditional food. Regarding Nuqui, be ready for an adventure. It's very primitive and remote, but one of the most amazing experiences. I would recommend preparing to go camping, and your expectations will be exceeded. We brought mosquito nets, but didn't need them when being smart about lights in the cabin. You will need plenty of mosquito spray, and be smart about apparel. (We wore long sleeve and pants on most adventures). Here in the US they recommend getting the Yellow Fever and Tetanus shot, as well as the Malaria and Typhoid vaccination. I didn't regret getting any of these shots, but it was probably overkill. The cook (Choco) at the Nautilos hotel was fantastic, she found a way to make 8 fish dishes taste completely different and delicious each time. I have been craving Choco's cooking since we left Nuqui! The whales are more stunning than you could even imagine. If you have any form of motion or sea sickness (or a fear of small spaces), I would consider choosing another itinerary. My husband and I did not have any issues, but the other guests of the eco-resort were not so lucky. Overall, TravelLocal's partner company was super responsive and accommodating. I wish they could arrange all of our travel, because I completely trust their suggestions and their ability to resolve conflict.
As I mentioned, my only request was to see whales-- and this trip did not disappoint. Not only did we have a wonderful time in Medellin and Cartagena, but we spent four days in the untouched paradise of Nuqui (Guachalito). While the weather was rough, we were determined to see whales, and John helped us by communicating with the team at Hotel Nautilos. When we finally got out on the water, we saw what we traveled to Colombia to experience, the Humpback Whale! We not only saw 4-5 whales breach, but 10-15 whales swimming around us playing in the ocean, and more than 20 whale sprays from the boat and from shore. The most memorable part of the trip was being on a private boat, just myself, my husband, and the lovely captain Santiago. We were in the middle of a thunderstorm on the open ocean in a tiny boat, when we saw the spray of a Humpback and Santiago killed the boat motor. Not a minute later, the whale surged out of the water and crashed down right beside us! Other whales continued to breach and put on a show for our boat. When they were done, Santiago cranked up the motor-- and got us safely back to shore. It was one of the most terrifying and magical moments of my life! Thanks to the agency (and Santiago) for making it happen.