Published: October 27th 2011October 26th 2011
Amy and I towards the end of our trip.
Bocas Del Toro is a Caribbean area in Northern Panama that is made up of several Islands of which the main Island is called Bocas Del Toro and the main town on the Island is Called Bocas Town. To get to the island you must take a water taxi from Almirante, a 30 minute boat ride. Almirante is literally a crappy town and not a place you want to spend much time. Waiting for our boat to arrive to head to Bocas we could not help but notice the quantity of garbage in the water and the number of outhouses that were located over the water - the place literally smelled like feces due to this - we couldn't wait to get away! Amy and I couldn't help but think of the irony of how "tourism" is so harsh on the environment, yet when you see how the locals treat their land, you can't help but wonder if tourism really is any worse or maybe instead makes the locals treat their areas better to keep the tourism. I'm sure it could be extensively debated and tourism can impact access to and abuse of clean water among other things, but seeing Almirante
Come sail away...
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me...
certainly creates a counter argument. Ultimately, we arrived in Bocas close to sunset and were delighted to find our pre-picked hostel had available rooms so we settled in and headed out for some dinner and drinks.
Our first full day on Bocas was one of those days from paradise which reminds us why we are spending the better part of a year exploring the world, certainly a day that will not soon be forgotten! At our hostel we saw a flyer to sail a catamaran to go see some dolphins (in the wild), snorkel, eat some lunch, snorkel again, and then head back to the island - an all day excrusion. We were both instantly hooked and our only debate was which day should we go. A quick walk to town and we found the dock for the trip, 15 minutes later we were sailing on a 42 foot catamaran. Our first leg of the journey brought us to a bay a few miles away where the dolphins live. The captain noted that in the past 200 days or so he has not seen dolphins only twice when they sailed to the bay. We were able to see probably
Amy soaking up rays
Stretched out on the net over the water.
a dozen or so dolphins in their natural environment swimming, eating, and just living. After 20-30 minutes of enjoying the dolphins we were on our way to our first snorkeling spot - a mangrove with a reef. As those of you who follow the blog know we went diving in Utila Honduras and had an amazing time, the coral and fish were absolutely unbeliveable. The color of the coral on Bocas is actually superior to that in Utila (although the quantity of coral pales in comparison to Utila). The colors were so vibrant and true it was incredible. I saw one piece of coral that was so black I have never seen anything such a true color black in my life. The coral was probably the same color as the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns with the lights turned off at midnight - so pure. The other unique thing about this area was the mangrove - I have never snorkeled or really swam near a mangrove before. It was definietly interesting to see the mangrove from underwater and see the aquatic life around that area. This was also the first time I have ever snorkeled in the rain - true to
Me soaking up rays
Laying on the net of the catamaran with the turquoise waters below.
form for the last few weeks it rained today - although it was only for a an hour or so and then a wonderful blue sky came out to grace us for the last part of our excursion. Our second and final snorkel spot was covered with starfish. I'm not sure I have ever seen a starfish alive in the ocean before, but there were literally hundreds of them at our second location - a joy to see. In addition we saw a HUGE triangle fish, and few other of the common reef fish. At the second location we also saw a purple sand dollar - something I am certain I have never seen before and never new existed! What a wonderful day...and I have not even mentioned the jellyfish - which had to number in the tens of thousands - they were everywhere! Our captain said that they would not sting us so don't worry, but still we should try to avoid them and not touch them (hmmmm...I'm thinking they sting). Either we were lucky and snorkeled around all of the jellyfish or they really don't sting, but they were incredible to watch in the water! Another part of
Dolphin just heading down.
the journey that made it so great was the fact that we were on a catamaran and were laying/sitting on nets that hung over the water. I've never had an experience like it before, but it is amazing to be "floating" a few feet over the water and looking down at the coral and turquoise waters while listening to the catamaran cut through the waves - simply amazing!
The rest of our time in Bocas was spent walking the streets watching the locals and checking out the local art and gift stands. I picked up a newspaper called "The Visitor" that has articles in both English in Spanish - helping me expand upon my Spanish skills. I came across an interesting article stating that the Panamanian government offers free 30 day medical insurance for tourists. The article was not very expansive, but did mention that it covers accidents while tourists are in the country. I would think this is a nice little bonus for those considering coming to Panama for a vacation.
Our next stop is Puerto Viejo Costa Rica - not far off the Panamanian border. We will only be there for one day and then we
Laying on the net over the water.
will be heading to Paraiso (near San Jose) to meet with Amy's AFS host family from her high school exchange. It will be my first time meeting most of them.
There are more photos below