Boating on the Atrato River
Photo by Mauricio Morales

As a spectacular sun sets over the Chocó rainforest, a dugout rides the Atrato River near the capital Quibdó.

As the most important river meandering its way from the southern high Andes north along the Pacific flatlands, the Atrato is navigational for some 500 kilometers until it reaches the Urabá Gulf in the Colombian Darien Gap. This slow and majestic river was once closed to all river traffic by decree from the Spanish monarchs.

Today, the river is a vital lifeline for Afro Colombian communities needing to trade with the Caribbean ports of Cartagena and Barranquilla.

Ever since Panama broke away from Colombia, politicians have debated using the estuaries of the Atrato to form part of a greater inter-oceanic waterway connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic.

However, life along the Atrato flows by slowly and in this picture, it’s just another night trip for one captain into the darkness of the Darien.