The promise of a bountiful tropical biodiversity between the ocean and the forest, in an isolated part of Colombia, was all it took for photographer Marie Codina (@petit.fernweh) to feel the call of visiting the region of Chocó.
In 2018 after traveling solo for 5 months in Latin America , she was spending a month in Cali and she convinced Allan, a fellow traveller, to join her on a trip to one of the most humid places on earth. As she wandered through lush jungles and endless beaches, Marie captured moments of the daily life and scenic views, while human encounters unveiled to them leafy paths leading to another rhythm of life.
The only department of the country to have coastlines on both the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, Chocó is home to indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations. The region has been left with few infrastructures, and reaching the Pacific coast has to be earned as there is no road leading to there. Choosing the sea route option, Marie and her friend embarked on a twenty four hour voyage from the town of Buenaventura, sharing a tiny cabin with four other Colombian passengers. As they were playing cards on the deck to pass the time, the crossing rewarded them with the company of dolphins and the privilege of picturesque surroundings.
I got up from my berth in the middle of the night and the show was fascinating... the whole sea and the boat were illuminated by an almost full moon.
Upon arrival at Bahia de Solano, the misty scenery exceeded Marie’s expectations: hills of luxuriant palm trees almost blending with the sea, inciting her desire to get lost in the exuberant flora and fauna.
After a bumpy ride on a tuk-tuk, Marie and her friend reached the small town of El Valle. They stayed and felt at home in a welcoming posada in the Afro-Colombian community, taking the time to adapt to the exhausting heat and humidity of the area. Marie soaked up the atmosphere : morning talks at the bakery, evening drinks on porches... hammocks and radios blasting merengue or reggaeton as household staples...celebratory events like a school graduation to the warm rhythm of percussions...
Impromptu exploration walks deeper into the vibrant nature were provided by inhabitants well acquainted with its ecosystem. Despite its richness in soil and biodiversity, the region has been struggling with social and economic abandonment, and while hoping for a more sustainable socio-environment, Marie’s local guides shared with her the wonders of their land. Rivers, waterfalls and a sea of greenery offered Marie a flow of sensations. In the national park of Utria they encountered howler monkeys, impressive spiders, blue crayfish, frogs as colorful as they are poisonous...navigating through a sprawling mangrove, abundant with a myriad of mysterious singing birds hidden in the thick jungle, Marie was in awe of the majestic setting.
I saw immense trees, their circumference larger than our small boat and their numerous roots intertwined to clear themselves a way to the water.
Marie also recalls wandering on the beaches that stretching as far as the eye can see, lined by the forest. Wandering by day she observed fishermen at work, horses carrying branches, the low tide tranquility sometimes interrupted by a bursting motorcycle carrying more than its share of passengers. Resourceful kids gave her a fishing lesson by skillfully catching crabs as bait and using plastic bottles as rods. At night she assisted the militants of an association preserving turtles and making sure their newborns head safely to the ocean, avoiding poachers and hungry birds.
We religiously attended the egg-laying of a huge turtle, in the moonlight, on the beach.
When it was time to end what Marie felt was like an “excursion to the end of the world”, with its complex layers of appeal, the trip back turned out to be more challenging than the outward one. Opting for a faster motor boat, she endured six hours of a rough and hectic ride. But on the way she was lucky to see whales, as a goodbye gift from Chocó, this one of a kind place that would leave a lasting impact on her.
Marie Codina is a photographer, digital designer and art director currently based in Barcelona. Self-taught, she discovered a passion for analogue photography at 16 with her father’s Nikon camera. An avid traveller, she documents her journeys both digitally and on film, enjoying the process of developing rolls.