Malpelo: A Living Laboratory


Photo by: Cristian Laverde

Malpelo /Picture b_laplace/


Photo by:  b_laplace

The Malpelo Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna is a rocky archipelago formed by the island of Malpelo and eleven isolated crags in the Colombian Pacific Ocean, 506 kilometers west of the port of Buenaventura. Naked slopes, spattered with white from the blue masked boobies nesting colonies, determine the island’s appearance. The abundance and diversity of marine species in the surrounding waters is truly amazing.

As it is an oceanic island at quite a distance from the continent, Malpelo is a living laboratory, ideal for scientific research, as well as nature tourism-related activities like diving, birding and photography.


  • The sanctuary is made up of Malpelo island and eleven rocky crags.
  • UNESCO declared the area a World Natural Heritage Site by virtue of its marine biodiversity.
  • Also, it is considered one of the five most beautiful diving sites in the world.

How to get there

Malpelo /Picture b_laplace/


Photo by:  b_laplace/

Permission to visit must be requested from the National Natural Parks offices in Bogotá. The trip by boat from Buenaventura takes between 30 and 40 hours.


Due to its isolation from the continent, Malpelo Island contains several endemic species: Malpelo land crabs and geckos, among them. Malpelo is home to the largest colony of masked boobies or Malpelo alcatrazes. Marine fauna is especially rich and diverse, with an abundance of hammer sharks, tollo sharks, gigantic devil rays, and spectacular whale sharks, which can measure up to 15 meters. Schools of yellowtails, groupers, snappers, chernas and tuna fish also abound.


The vegetation of the land ecosystem consists mainly of algae, lichens, and mosses is the object of conservation efforts.


  • Advanced diving
  • Bird watching
  • Underwater photography
  • Science related activities


  • Malpelo is very important as a conservation area.
  • It is the only system in the Colombian Pacific Ocean to have a mosaic of coastal, coral, and mixed bottom ecosystems.
  • It provides habitats for migratory, endemic, and threatened species.
  • Malpelo provides exceptional landscapes with a high educational value.
  • It is a site par excellence for oceanic research in the Colombian Pacific.