One of the most exciting and powerful journeys I have had in these gastronomic tourism experiences, was the journey in search of lionfish.
When we started the research we were two who would travel but life or destiny had another idea of travel in which I would travel alone and facing a blockage with the water that left me with the sudden departure of the one who would be with me.
To get into the context of the lionfish it is important to know that its origin is from the Indian Ocean but for reasons that many do not understand when visiting other countries and the harm they can do by taking fauna and flora to their countries of origin, it happened this way with this fish and a man who saw it beautiful and took it to his home in Miami-United States.
This fish reproduces quickly and easily. It is glamorously dangerous because its fins end in poisonous spines that with a single touch generate a strong reaction on the skin that only goes away after several hours. Not only is it the venom it carries in its fins, it is also the largest predator in the marine larder as it eats everything and no one eats it.
It reproduces sexually and in this process releases a pair of bags containing between 2,000 and 15,000 eggs that are carried by currents, thus quickly reaching our seas.
In Colombia they are mainly found in Santa Marta and in Isla Fuerte where I met him.
As an action to preserve the maritime larder, campaigns were started with local fishermen and cooks to fish for this fish that can only be caught by diving and spearfishing. Its meat is appreciated for its intense white color and good flavor.
It is necessary to know how to fish it as well as how to cook it, since filleting it means knowing how to remove its poison very well.
Interesting and exciting was to undertake this journey that would start from Bogotá by air to Monteria to begin a land crossing to San Bernardo del Viento and Paso Nuevo where I would take a boat that would leave me at my final destination: Isla Fuerte.
This island is located in the department of Cordoba, south of the Gulf of Morrosquillo. It is a small island inhabited by warm, friendly people where everyone knows each other and is like a big family.
My experience was to start with a simple snorkeling, move on to free diving, free diving and finish with scuba diving for lionfish.
The day of the snorkeling was the ultimate test with my blockage with the water and additionally it was the day I was looking forward to the most to get to know the habitat of this fish, learn about its fishing and get out of the water to the preparation of the fish.
I was calm, following the instructor’s instructions. We began to descend and manage the pressure in the ears. Everything was fine, the pressure in my ears was under control, but the moment I released my hand from my nose a puff of water came in and I quickly panicked. The mask was not on properly and the only thing I could do was to seek to surface.
My greatest fear had been realized, but I would not leave it at that. I took a few minutes to reset myself, air and a good adjustment to the mask to start the dive again.
A dive that allowed me to enter an unknown world, where I swam with different species, where I saw corals and felt an indescribable peace.
Local anglers are avid fishermen, many of them do it free lance and without required protections. A somewhat dangerous feat to which they do not see much of a problem.
Words fall short to express the experiences in this island with the different experiences of diving in its beaches of crystalline waters where a lobster easily reaches the seashore, playing with the children to raise a kite which they call kite, learning at night to dance shock while drinking beer or rum with the local tradition of giving the first sip to the animas and what to say about the experience in the kitchen with one of the best cooks on the island who taught me to fillet the fish and prepare it with different local marinades.
It can be consumed breaded, with a local stew, in ceviche or lean with a few drops of lemon juice, to name just one of the options.
I have always said it and will continue to say it. Gastronomic tourism is much more than a restaurant, it is an experience that is lived with all 5 senses.