Interview Jules Domine – Samana Fest Organizer (Colombia)
Over the holidays we caught up with French rider Jules Domine, organizer of the 2nd Samana Festival in Colombia (on the dam threatened Samana river…); the first and sole multi-day down the river festival in the world. So if you always wanted to discover Colombian rivers, this could be the occasion… and if you’re a non kayaker, Jules and his crew organized some raft options for family and friends… so really there is NO EXCUSE not to go…
KS: Jules we are 3 weeks away from the second edition of the Samana fest. Give us a few good reasons to join you down there.
JD: There is a thousand good reason ! Perhaps it’s just a good enough excuse to justify a trip to Colombia ! From a kayaker perspective, this country has everything to seduce, sunshine, warm water, smile all around and beautiful girls… do you need more ?
On a more serious note, The samana is so unique ! I have been around a little, and when i first D the Samana, i knew we where in a special place ! The whitewater is just so fun and will satisfy from a hard core class 5 paddler to a shaky class 4 beater ! It’s a pool drop, big water run, lots of play features and sneak lines, everybody gets a kick out of it ! When paddling, if you lift your eyes to the jungle, you will understand what bio-diversity means… there is hundreds of birds, and plant species in every square metres and taking a trip down this river is like immersing yourself into the Amazon, without the commitment that this would involve, because in 2 days, you are out !
To all this beauty and unique character, adds the ephemeral aspect of the place. It’s sad to think of, but there is great chances for the Samana will be dammed. By coming, you can perhaps help out the situation, and you get to experience a place that may not be there in a few years….
As an extra convincing arguments, this is the only multi-day river festival that I know of, and that makes it extra-special.
KS: How did you come up with a multi day river festival? That’s pretty cool and unique. the only one of that kind in the world no?
JD: The idea just came on it’s own… The Samana is a multi-day trip, deep into the green hell, if a festival was to happen on it, it was going to be a multi-day ! Of course, this involves heavy lodigitics, but that what i like, innovative concepts to bring people into the wilderness.
KS: How hard is the river stretch on The Samana river where you organize the festival?
JD: The canyon of the Samana is a 45 km stretch of class 3 and 4 ! Anyone with a solid roll and some kayaking skills can make it ! As a reference,
KS: There is also an option for non kayakers that can jump on the raft right? pretty cool for girlfriends/family that want to join…
JD: Yes, our goal here is just to share this time and places with everybody ! Kayaks are cool, that’s undeniable, but if we really want this festival to efficiently expose the Samana and the pending ecological and cultural disaster about to happen, we can limit the exposure to a few stinky dudes. Rafts are a great way to convey an all around crowd into recondite places. Also, we wanted to organize the « Samana fest » not the » Sausage fest ». Unfortunately, the male to female ratio in our sport is not even so I had to find a way to correct that during the event.
KS: You are also super concerned about environmental issues – especially in Colombia. what is the situation down there on that front?
JD: If you are not familiar with the country history, well it’s one of a kind. The country is barley coming out of 4O years of civil war and yet her somber past strongly contrast with her bright future. The jaded geography and abundant rain makes for an incredible paddling destination. Yet, because most region where not safely accessible of decades, development project where postponed. Now that the situation improved, vast chuck of land and plentiful natural resources are up for grab. As you may know, electricity is the base of all development and due to their appropriate topography and hydrology, Colombian rivers are very profitable, vulnerable targets. This phenomena is strongly exacerbated by corrupt politics working hand in hands with multinational corporation, very lax environmental legislation and ignorant local population. Free flowing river are falling quick in this country and proactive actions towards conservation are vital.
KS: Safety. Is that safe to travel in Colombia?
JD: My though on that is quite simple, don’t look for trouble , you won’t get none ! Colombian people are extremely friendly and have a strong will to figth the « Narco » Cliches that 40 year of civil war and Escobar casted on them. You will actually be extremely surprised on how far people get out of their way to help you and show you a good time here ! Off course, as equal as any other South American cities, you could get unlucky and get you wallet stolen while playing the tourist in some fancy area, but the days of kidnapping gringos are over !
KS: Are there any Colombian Paddlers these days?
JD: There has always been, but due to the strong economical uplift of the country in the recent years, lots of Colombian are turning into extreme sports. It’s really nice to see and the more people we get into kayaking, the more people will show love & respect to the rivers of this marvelous land !
KS: How can we know more about the event?
JD: If you are interested, visit the facebook page of the event, or go onto www.expeditioncolombia.com and in our adventure tours, find « Samana Fest ». remember this is a non profit event, dedicated to good times and conservation ! cheers !