From buccaneering pirates and smugglers to a boutique hotel industry?

Piracy and smuggling has long been a pastime of the local Raizal population of Colombia’s Old Providence Island. In the 17th Century the infamous Welsh buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan used this remote island in the Western Caribbean as a base to raid the Spanish empire, sacking cities such as Cartagena and Panama City in the process. More recent infamous, and equally undesirable, visitors have included drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who used his holiday home on Old Providence Island to plot his smuggling activities. This remote outpost is one of the final bastion’s of Caribbean creole culture and has managed to avoid the mega-resorts that plague so many other Caribbean Islands. Old Providence Island, or Isla Providencia as it is known to the Colombians, is only now slowly opening itself up to small scale luxury tourism.

Why do people visit this hard to reach volcanic island? The main reason is its remoteness, which keeps the tourist hordes away. It’s easy to have a picture perfect white sand beach with lapping turquoise seas all to yourself on Isla Providencia. Another major draw is the huge barrier reef that is just offshore from the island – Providencia’s barrier reef is the second longest in the Caribbean. Encircling much of the island, for years this reef provided effective defense for the pirates that used to inhabit the island.

What for the future of Providence Island? Many of the locals are increasingly looking towards tourism as a source of income and means of preserving their local environment, which has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. A new 14 room luxury hotel called Deep Blue leads the way. Found on the edge of the McBean Lagoon National Park, Deep Blue has stunning sea views towards a tiny offshore island named Crab Caye. The most luxurious of all rooms are the Luxury Suites, whose balconies contain infinity edged pools with spectacular and panoramic views towards a multi-shaded sea. A variety of excursions are offered , the most popular being what is referred to as the Robinson Crusoe Experience – a private luxury boat tour where guests fish (or spear-fish) their own lunch before cooking it on a deserted beach followed by an afternoon snorkelling with sharks and turtles. Call it luxury travel, Old Providence style.

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