Published: March 7th 2012February 22nd 2012
Red Frog Beach
Monday 6th Feb - Bocas
The day before, we'd booked ourselves into a nice German hostel that was extremely clean, had TV in the room and had an excellent shower (a rare luxury on the road). It's funny that probably the 2 best places we've stayed at so far in Latin America are owned and run by Japanese and Germans and although you get plenty of weirdo krautz about, they are the countries of the people we've felt most akin to since we've been gone. We'd also bumped into a dutch girl on the way to the border who then stuck to us like glue for 2 days. The previous afternoon, we'd surfed round town looking for someone to take us on a discovery scuba dive and today was the day for our 1st taste of underwater breathing. It was most definitely an amazing and surreal experience but unfortunately we'd plumbed for the wrong outfit and got stuck with Manuel, an odd name for someone with caribbean features. Let's just say that Manuel was a bit lacking on the communication and patience front which I guess is a bit fundamental when dealing with novice divers. We also later found out
he was lacking a dive teaching qualification which is mandatory for teaching people to breathe through a hose attached to a metal can.
Tuesday 7th Feb - Bocas
So anyway we survived our potentially disasterous outing with Eric the Eel from Starship Scuba and took pleasure in letting them know we weren't going to continue with the PADI course we'd ill-advisedly signed up for the day before. This lead to our usual walk around town followed by a less usual stop at the local airport to see what the deal was on getting out of the place on the only reliable mode of transport currently in Panama. Barely having had a chance to think about jetting out of the place and we were signed up for a new diving course with a new centre as clearly we have the memory of a goldfish and are gluttons for punishment. Anyway this had the effect of delaying our departure plans and gave us a day to hit the beach before our new course started.
Wednesday 8th Feb - Bocas
Today we headed off on the bus to Bocas del Drago at the other side of the Island of
PADI Open Water Qualification in Bocas
Colon, in search of what we'd been told was the best beach in the area. Pleasingly we weren't disappointed as we arrived at an idealic beach with golden white sand, almost perfectly clear greeny blue sea with a long shallow beach and the sun shining. It was a picture perfect paradise and the typical location of someone's screensaver back in cold, wet and windy England. We yet again proved we had the memory of a fish, forgetting that we're 9 degrees of latitude from the equator and that the sun is rather strong as we managed to yet again return home in a nice shade of lobster red. Unfortunately this time we didn't have the excuse of a Chinaman flogging us knocked off cream and only our stupidity to blame. All the better when tomorrow you'll be adorning a nice tight fitting wet suit.
Thursday 9th Feb - Bocas
I managed an excellent nights sleep caked in aloe vera oil, perilously balanced on my side like a sleeping busbee wearing soldier, unable to move so as not to traumatise my baked skin. Exactly the right sort of preparation you're looking for before you venture down into the depths of the sea and learn to swim with no mask on your face whilst breathing from your 'buddys' tin can. Today's dive unfortunately felt a lot more tiresome than the 1st and lacked a little of the exhilaration we'd both previously felt. Still it's hard to complain when you're staying on a caribbean island, surrounded by beautiful beaches and partaking in a spot of scuba diving on the coral reef with the fishies!
Friday 10th Feb - Bocas
So today was our 2nd and last day of the PADI course and turned out to be a little more relaxed than the previous. We again did 2 dives in the clear turquoise waters off Bocas and this time went down to about 15 metres below the surface. Our 1st skill of the day was to remove and replace our weight belts whilst kneeling on the sea bed which is a little harder than you might think. On taking off the belt you're immediately shaken by the imbalance of weight and it's nigh on impossible for the beginner to remain still. Followed up with a spot of mask removal and you're nicely rattled with stinging eyes to move onto the next skill which involves swallowing half the ocean as you change your regulator to a snorkel, back and forth repeatedly until the instructor is kind enough to tap you on the shoulder and let you call it a day. So after all that fun we were back at the office to complete all the tests for the next 3 hours which we managed with room to spare somehow. We celebrated our success in the evening like a couple of party animals with a bar of cadbury's dairy milk in our room.
Saturday 11th Feb - Bocas
6 days on and I'm a little sketchy on this one but I think we spent most of the day recovering from our ordeal and giving in to our laziness by buying a flight to Panama City for Monday and therefore skipping the boat and 11 hour bus drive by paying an extra 80 bucks. All backpackers deserve a free pass once in a while.
Sunday 12th Feb - Bocas
After all our exertions, we hadn't yet ventured to any other surrounding islands as keenly advised by Simon so it was time to make amends and we headed off to Bastimentos in search of beaches. We got dropped off in the little village and started what we thought was a 20 or so minute walk to the Wizard beach. We stumbled our way up an increasingly perilous path that gradually turned to wet slippy mud and made the great decision to turn back after encountering a young german couple making their way back from the beach who appeared to have been waist deep in the mud at one point with the girl missing a front tooth. They both seemed quite pleased with the journey they'd made and judging by their appearance we instantly knew we weren't cut from the same cloth. Luckily on our walk back towards the village we stumbled on a boat leaving driven by a couple of rasta's with a bottle of whiskey who looked ready to get wasted, who kindly asked if we wanted to jump in and go to the other beach on the island. 20 minutes later and we were on the Red Frog beach which was absolutely stunning. Next stop Panama City!