The department of Chocó is in Colombia, on the western coast where the Andeas Mountains descend into the Pacific Ocean.
Geography of Chocó
Hidden between the Darien Gap on the border with Panama and the provinces of Antioquia and Valle de Cauca, Chocó Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. Its pristine jungle rivers and tropical rainforests are home to highly diverse flora and fauna. Experts label Chocó a biodiversity hotspot; a region in which a large number of endemic plants and animals are found and whose habitat is particularly vulnerable to environmental destruction.
Every year in July, humpback whales travel thousands of miles from the cold waters of the South Pole to the warm equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean to give birth. From July to November, travelers have the opportunity to observe whales, which can reach up to 15 meters long, near to the coast.
Chocó Colombia remains a still undiscovered paradise for ornithologists and about 650 bird species live on the Colombian Pacific coast. Researchers suspect that many still undiscovered animals and plants exist, especially in the Utría National Park, which is home to numerous endemic species, including the Great Green Macaw and the Choco Toucan. Howler monkeys, which are endangered species, appear especially in the early morning, when their loud cries welcome the new day.
Chocó is unique in Colombia for its ethnic and cultural diversity. The coastal region of Chocó is inhabited predominantly by Afro-Colombian, while the interior of the region is home to indigenous ethnic groups, including the Emberá.
Traditionally, people in Chocó have engaged in hunting and gathering and rainforest agriculture, growing banana, maize, and sugarcane. More recently, other products, such as rice, yucca, and beans were incorporated, as well as sugar cane, cacao and coffee.
With year round warm weather, Chocó is an incredible destination to visit any time of year. For the best deals and to avoid the crowds, plan your trip to Chocó Colombia for October to March, when the whales are away and there are fewer weekenders. One of the best ways to experience the rich culture of Chocó is with one of the many community based tourism enterprises in the region. For more information, click here for frequently asked questions about Chocó.
History of Chocó
The 500,000 habitants of Chocó (10.44 hab / km²) are mostly Afro Colombians, descendants of African slaves who were forced to work in gold mines during the colonial period. Following the abolition of slavery, they remained in the region, working in the rubber industry. Nowadays, Afro-Colombians live together with migrants from the Andean highlands and numerous indigenous people, who, despite the Spanish conquest, have preserved their cultural identity to this day. The main ethnic indigenous groups native to the Chocó are the Embera - Katio and the Waunaan.
Economy of Chocó
The department of Chocó is isolated and economically underdeveloped. The main economic activities are mining and forestry, which generate negative consequences for the environment and the region´s fragile ecosystems. Most people live from agriculture and fishing in one of the most water-rich regions of the world. Industrial development is rare. Many "Chocoanos" pin their hopes on tourism since it offers greater prosperity, while at the same time as promoting good environmental stewardship and the preservation of the region´s natural resources.
Culture of Chocó
Many of the people in Chocó are Afro Colombian, and so the African roots of population shape the cultural life of Chocó. The music, religion and the people make a journey into the cultural melting pot of Chocó a unique experience. African rhythms mix with Latin music and indigenous spiritual beliefs blend with Catholicism. Many legends and myths are still alive today. This is most evident in the most important celebration in Chocó, the 30 day-long "Fiestas de San Pacho", held in September in honor of St. Francis every year.