Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia (CNN) — From a distance, it is laborious at first to find out what Santa Cruz del Islote really is. Rising from the ocean, the island — one of the densely populated on the earth — seems to be floating.
Legend has it that fishermen from the close by islands spent the night time on Santa Cruz and determined to remain there completely after they realized there have been no mosquitoes. Locals attribute the mosquito-free surroundings to the absence of mangroves and seashores.
It is like stepping right into a Gabriel García Márquez novel. Santa Cruz contains a dreamlike, harmless lifestyle (there are not any police on the island), and the colourful homes are handed down by way of generations, so there are not any non-native residents.
Some estimates put about 1,200 inhabitants on the tiny island that is concerning the measurement of two soccer fields. However some say the group is smaller.
Juve Nal, a sexagenarian who has lived on Santa Cruz his entire life, says it’s extra like 900.
“We get irritated as a result of the media all the time say the island is extra crowded than it’s,” grumbles Nal, who appears to behave as group chief, tour information and spokesperson all rolled into one.
Regardless of the inhabitants (which is unknown as no census has been carried out for many years), Santa Cruz is a good squeeze.
About 115 homes are crammed higgledy-piggledy on prime of each other, whereas aged males with sort eyes and weathered faces sit out on their chairs sipping beer, teenage boys line the streets nodding their heads and swaying to champeta beats and younger moms chatter away at nook outlets.
Nal dips and dives out and in of the winding alleys, ducking beneath washing strains and mentioning the assorted facilities of the island — a church right here, a faculty there — and waxes lyrical concerning the peaceable, relaxed lifestyle.
“There isn’t any crime right here,” he says, beaming proudly. “We’ve got no police and we don’t want them both.”
He stops by a small sq., marked by a big white cross. It is a good place for a photograph op, he explains, as this cross offers the island its title.
Juve Nal acts as a tour information and unofficial spokesman for the Colombian island of Santa Cruz.
A current partnership with Lodge Punta Faro has resulted within the institution of a small conservation aquarium on Santa Cruz.
Beforehand locals handled turtles the identical manner they’d a hen, killing them for meat. Now, they rigorously untangle the turtles caught of their fishing nets, and take care of them till the resort’s conservation crew comes to gather them.
Vacationers pays a small payment to enter the aquarium, which additionally homes small sharks, stingrays and fish.
In any other case, Santa Cruz is crowded with homes. Islanders have needed to begin constructing upwards, as area has run out for extra homes on the bottom.
“It’s a concern for the longer term,” admits Nal. “We’re working out of land, and I have no idea what the reply is. We can’t preserve increase and up.”
However the islanders of Santa Cruz don’t need your pity.
“We’re comfortable,” Nal says. “The place else on the earth is there no want for police, the place else can you’ve an island for simply your little group?
“Day by day I get to get up to the sound and the view of the ocean. I might not wish to reside anyplace else.”
Visiting Santa Cruz
Guests are requested to pay 3,000 pesos ($1) upon arrival on the island. In recent times, Nal says, extra backpackers have come to go to, taking photos of islanders as in the event that they had been visiting a zoo.
“It was very disrespectful,” he says. “Now we cost one thing, and we give them a tour, so the vacationers notice we’re not simply right here to be checked out, however as an alternative they’ll find out about our tradition.”
The cash from the excursions goes towards serving to conservation efforts and towards the day-to-day working of the island — resembling shopping for consuming water, which a ship drops off from the mainland as soon as each few weeks.
There are considerations the island will fall sufferer to rising sea ranges. Alejandro Alzate, the overall supervisor and co-owner of Punta Faro, says Santa Cruz experiences flooding usually, and will some day disappear beneath the rising tide.
“The locals do not wish to know this, although,” he sighs. “They will not pay attention because it means ultimately they should transfer. And life on Santa Cruz will not be one thing you can discover elsewhere.
“Persons are proud to reside there. It is greater than only a group, it is a tradition, a lifestyle. They do not wish to be anywhere else.”
Life on the island could seem shaky, but it surely’s an organized chaos, and for the islanders, it really works a deal with.
Lucy Sherriff is a contract multimedia journalist primarily based in Bogotá and covers surroundings, journey and gender points.