San Andrés (island) is a coral island among the Colombian islands in the Caribbean Sea; it is the largest island of the southern group of islands. Together with the nearby islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina (which, with some smaller islets and shoals, form the northern group of the Colombian archipelago), San Andrés forms the department of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. The island’s location in South America has been aptly described as “Geographically near Nicaragua, past historically tied to England, and politically part of Colombia.”
While San Andrés island is located 50 km (31 mi) to the south of Providencia, the Colombian archipelago is approximately 750 km (470 mi) from the Colombian main land and about 230 km (140 mi) east of Nicaragua. This archipelago encompass a total area of 57 km2 (22 sq mi), including the outer cays, reefs, atolls and sand banks with 45 km2 (17 sq mi) being the area of the islands. In 2000, it was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, named “Seaflower Biosphere Reserve”, which not only includes the islands but also about 10% of the Caribbean Sea, amounting to a vast marine area of 300,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi). The purpose of this declaration is to ensure that the ecosystem which has a large biodiversity is well preserved and conserved.
Located on the northern end of the island, the department’s capital, also named San Andrés but nicknamed El Centro, is the main urban center. Along the 30 km (19 mi) road that circles the island, there are many picturesque beaches, coral reefs, cays, geysers, and coves. Also of note are La Loma, the town of San Andrés, the Baptist Church, Seaquarium, the large pond of La Laguna, and a fresh water lake amidst mangrove forests. There are coconut palm plantations, lush pastures, and tall native trees reaching 20 meters (66 ft). Surrounded by the warm Caribbean Sea, all of these features have made the island an “exotic holiday destination”
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