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Travel and Living in Colombia: Four Deadly Denizens

For those adventurous and intrepid few who might be considering travel and living in Colombia, here are five of the region’s deadliest denizens. Depending on your itinerary, you may post poised to meet and greet any or all of these animals. Be prepared.

1. Piranha. A large school of hundreds of piranhas can strip a cow to the bone in as little as five minutes. Smaller, roaming schools of these voracious flesh eaters can still left nothing more than a pile of cleaned bones in less than an hour on a slow day. In many small towns and villages in the Colombian and Brazilian Amazon, they’re referred to as “donkey castrators” for reasons you can likely figure out for yourself. They’re attracted not only by blood, but also splashing and noise in the water. When fishing for them, you slosh your rod tip back and forth in the water a number of times, then drop your baited hook into the water. You rarely have to wait for long if any razor tooths are in the area. They’re not bashful about grabbing the bait either. Just don’t try to remove the hook from their mouths bare-handed.

2. Vampire Bats Of the nearly 1000 species of bats, only three are classed as vampires or blood-consuming bats. Whenever I visit the Choco region of Colombia, a vast tropical rainforest inhabited by the typically field-mouse-sized vampire bats, and among others, often much larger fruit and insect-eating bat species, I always take special precautions at night to avoid being “the blue plate special”. I use a sturdy mosquito net with an extra-fine mesh and drape a translucent plastic sheet across the top of the mosquito netting for a little extra protection from “bat droppings”. At night, in the pitch black interiors of local resident HOMEs, you won’t see them, but you’ll hear the furry flyers as they flap around your bedroom. When they make “droppings”, and they will do so frequently, you’ll hear the plop, plop, plop as these hit the plastic sheeting you’ve draped over the mosquito netting for just this occasion. Feel free to engage yourself in a smug expression quietly in the darkness thinking, “they may get you, but they didn’t get me!” Then go back to sleep – if you can.

3. Giant Squid These denizens of the deep are not a myth, they’re real enough to take the lives of at least a couple of local fishermen on Colombia’s Pacific coast each year. Attacks are most common at night when fishermen in wooden launches of 25 feet or so in length use fire-lit torches or car battery powered flash lights to attract schools of fish to their boat. At least two of the longer tentacles have bony hooks to help hold prey and the mouth is a deadly hooked beak-like structure which can easily scissor its way through flesh and bone. Even a “small” squid of three feet or so can be potentially dangerous if it gets hold of a hapless fisherman or a “visitor” like you swimming in the sea offshore at night. Larger ones from three to five meters or more are virtually inescapable on the open ocean, especially if you’re in the water.

4. Sharks A fisherman in a small wooden launch frantically waved my guide and I down off the coast of the Utria Ensenada National Park on Colombia’s Pacific coast one December afternoon. As we approached, we noticed his boat slowly swirling in a tight circle with his line locked at a steep angle into the blue-green waters. A two and a half meter long Bull shark had swallowed whole his live catch of a 20 pound Bravo and was now hooked himself. Ultimately the shark would have damaged the boat, sank it and added the fisherman to his Christmas Eve meal ticket had we not happened along. The shark was the one who got eaten this time, but too often the ending is much different for fishermen in the seafood-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean between Nuqui and Bahia Solano.

Nature Lovers and Adventure Seekers Delight

The Pacific Ocean coast of Colombia’s “Choco” region is both a nature lover’s and adventure Lover’s delight. Whether you’re up for some world class deep sea sport fishing, a relaxing soak in a natural thermal pool, the region has something for you to enjoy. Travelers to Colombia cannot always know what’s next. There’s almost never a dull moment.

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