It is amazing how many tourists / holiday-makers come to the island of Tenerife year after year -and yet the majority of them never even consider popping across to its neighbouring island of La Gomera. With a ferry-crossing that takes around 45 minutes -which is roughly the same time that it takes to cross from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight in the UK, embarking on a simple day-trip to this wonderful little island, which is steeped in history -and has an abundance of beauty, seems par-for-the-course in my eyes -and so I hope that this little insight into the second-smallest island in the Canary Islands archipelago will be an incentive for people to embark on their first-ever island-hopping adventure off the north-western coast of Africa. The travel-route between both islands is a very direct one -and daily ferries set sail from Los Cristianos in Tenerife and San Sbastian in La Gomera on a regular basis.
As an ex-pat living on the island I took my car (along with my three children, of course) across to La Gomera -simply because I intended travelling onwards to the islands of La Palma and El Hierro in a few days time, before returning to Tenerife about a week later. Because I hate missing-out on anything when I am embarking on what I call my Voyages of Discovery, I had done extensive research on La Gomera, long-before visiting the island, and so I was pretty clued-up on what I wanted to see and do during the 48 hours or so that my family and I would be staying on the island. However, as the majority of people who arrive in Tenerife come here purely to relax and sunbathe -and have no wish to drive whilst they are on holiday, I would highly recommend going on one of the many ‘Jeep Safari’ excursions to La Gomera.
Not-only are the majority of these tours relatively inexpensive (i.e. one doesn’t have to pay for the cost of a car on both the outward and the return journeys) but the jeep-drivers obviously know exactly where the most interesting and picturesque places are to visit -and they can also be a mine of information throughout the tour. Although the crossing can be a little choppy at times, on the whole the sea is like a mill pond, and so one can enjoy relaxing on the upper deck, basking in the warm sunshine and simply letting the world go by. Alternatively, if one is not an ardent sun-lover, then there is nothing wrong with supping an ice cold drink on the rear deck of the ship, whilst watching the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean being churned-up by the ships propellers, thus causing a mini-tidal-wave in its wake that is simply hypnotic.
Before one has the chance for a second drink the ferry is pulling into the port of San Sebastian, which is always an exciting time for me when I am approaching an island I have never visited before, as I feel like I am now in uncharted territory -simply because I have not set-foot on the ‘rock’ beforehand. From the port it is a steep climb out of the bay, at which point one has the choice of encircling the island by either taking the southern or the northern route to the Garajonay National Park, which was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 1986. The Alto de Garajonay rises to 1487 metres (4,878 feet) above sea-level and once inside the park there is the opportunity to see the Roque de Agando volcanic chimney. Many of the Jeep safaris stop for lunch at the village of Chipude, where the local inhabitants are happy to give a demonstration of their whistling language (known locally as ‘Silbo Gomero’) which is a form of communication that was developed by the Guanches, the first inhabitants to set-foot on the Canary Islands hundreds of years ago -and it is still taught and practiced in many of the Canarian schools today.
Apparently there are over 3,000 words which can be relayed by whistling, and as part of their presentation the locals will ask a handful of guests to hide various pieces of cutlery, or small condiments jars, anywhere in the restaurant, before informing their counterparts about their whereabouts -simply by whistling directions to them. Most people that I speak to are unaware that it was from the island of La Gomera that Christopher Columbus set sail for the Americas back in September 1492, with his three ships; ‘Santa Maria’, ‘La Pinta’ and ‘La Nina’. The following year he actually set-off again for the Caribbean, only this time he took ’17’ ships with him -and 5 years later, in 1498, he set-off on his third and final voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from this lovely island. Visiting the last remaining fortifications of where Columbus stayed in San Sebastian over 500 years ago is still one of the major tourist attractions on the island.
Jeep Safari’s normally last around ten hours, the majority of the drivers taking the 9am ferry in the morning to La Gomera, and after spending the day circumnavigating this almost-circular island, they invariably catch the 6 pm sailing back to Tenerife in the evening. Apart from the islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El-Hierro, all of which can be reached within a few hours from Los Cristianos Harbour, the islands of Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura can also be accessed by ferry from Santa Cruz, Tenerife’s capital city in the north of the island. This major ferry-port, where all of the cruise ships call into on their travels around the globe, is only a one-hour drive from Los Cristianos. Every island has its own unique individuality, and over the coming weeks I will be giving an insight into each one in turn -including throwing-in a few ‘interesting’ anecdotes about what happened to me and my family during the month that we took traversing all ‘7’ of them. However, that is another story! For Jeep Safari’s in La Gomera contact any of the following companies: www.TenerifeExcursion.com or www.Tamaran.com or www.dosomethingdifferent.com