It is 8:30 AM in the Caribbean beach town of Palomino, Colombia. The Tikihut Hostel , the French environment group Envol Vert, and a dozen willing volunteers have teamed up together with a local tree farm to preserve the biodiversity that is essential to keeping the natural beauty of Palomino intact. While we may come from different parts of the world, we are united in common cause. From France, Reunion Island, Brussels, New York, and Colombia, our goal is to plant thirteen different species of trees natural to the terrain. As we rumble down the road in a 4×4 and moto taxis, we pass by Arhuaco natives on the side of the road, providing us additional impetus to care for the land as they have done for generations past.
That land in Palomino is beautiful. The beach, unlike Santa Marta, faces the north directly, not the west. This provides bathers, swimmers, and surfers with a strong tide. You will also find plenty of warning signs about how you can be pulled out to sea by the tide if you are not careful. The beach, about an hour and a half northeast by bus from downtown Santa Marta, is not nearly as populated as the beaches surrounding Santa Marta. This makes for a much more natural and intimate experience with the surroundings. While there are beach bars and craft shops close to the village of Palomino, you can also head west along the beach to where the Palomino River meets the ocean. There you will find local families and tourists alike bathing in the river, letting the current take them for a ride to the meeting point with the ocean.
It is the river area where we seek to help preserve the local habitat. Disembarking from the 4×4 we are greeted by our guides as we enter the farm where they are raising the various species of trees. First we were provided with an orientation of the different types of tree species in the Palomino area. The guides noted that this day was a very important day to plant the trees as there were intense rains recently. We were then read a poem about the importance of the forest and how it has helped and continues to help the community. From there, we then got a chance to select which tree we were going to plant.
With trees in hand, we began our trek. The trek combined stunning vistas with the flora and fauna. While the views were very beautiful, we also had to be mindful of where we treaded as armies of ants were hard at work carrying leaves to and fro on the trail’s floor. After ducking under natural canopies on the trail, we came to the Palomino River and the trail opened to our tree planting site. The guide provided us with instructions on how best to plant the trees into the holes. As we planted our trees, the guide also pointed out to us that we were able to see the snow on the peaks of the mountain tops, further showing how diverse the climate is in Palomino. As our local farm guides said goodbye to us we all headed to a popular bathing spot along the Palomino River. The cool water was refreshing after the trek. After cooling off we packed back into the 4×4 and moto taxis and headed back to The Tiki Hut Hostel for a relaxing rest of the afternoon.