The Cays of San Andres

In my last article, I talked briefly about the history of San Andres, this Caribbean island belonging to Colombia that has the shape of a sea horse. But even though the people of the island and their culture charmed me, it’s mostly its nature that made me fall in love with San Andres. Locals call the sea surrounding the island “the Sea of Seven Colours”, and that is perfectly understandable when you look at all the different shades of blue.

One of the Cays of San Andres
The Sea of Seven Colours

This can be explained by the many coral reefs found all around the island. In fact, San Andres Island (and its northern neighbours Providencia Island and Santa Catalina Island) is part of the UNESCO Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, due to its high biodiversity and its coral reefs, which are among the most important in the northern hemisphere.

And corals do not only have an impact on the colour of the sea. They shape the landscape. All around the island of San Andres (itself born of coral formation) you can find several cays. Cays, cayes, or keys (from Spanish Cayo) are sand islands formed on coral reefs. There are several in the Caribbean and San Andres is no exception.

Rocky Cay
A sunken ship near Rocky Cay

The most popular among tourists is probably Johnny Cay, a one-square-kilometer island north of San Andres. Johnny Cay is a nature reserve on which there are hundreds of iguanas, which are protected. Walking around the island help to realize the particular aspect of the cay: one side of the island is bordered by a beautiful sandy beach, the other by a coral formation on which it is difficult (and almost dangerous!) to walk barefoot.

Other cays, Haynes Cay and Rocky Cay for example, do not necessarily offer such a beautiful beach as Johnny Cay, but are perfect for exploring the sea around (and swimming among the corals!).

Coral in San Andres
A coral near Rocky Cay

Beyond their influence on the landscape, corals are also of great importance in the marine ecosystem. They offer food, shelter and habitat to several species of fish and shellfish. Diving around cays allows us to discover a rich, colorful and magical world! However, show respect for the environment around you. Corals are declining all over the world, largely because of human activity. The ecosystem they support is fragile, do not forget it!

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