Isla Bastementos: Red frogs and creepy creepy jungle weed

Published: September 27th 2013
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Isla Bastimentos

Beach south of Red FrogBeach south of Red FrogBeach south of Red Frog

all to ourselves
Who would have thought that a 10 minute boat ride would bring you to such a different place, but Isla Bastementos is very unique. The thumping sounds of reggaeton at night heard back on Isla Colon, are replaced here with roaring howler monkeys, deafening frogs and thousands of birds. Everyone is super laid back, dozing in hammocks while listening to Bob Marley and speaking Gali Gali, a Creole language that combines Afro-Antillean English, Spanish and Ngöbe-Buglé. Crazy characters are abound, and when combined with the natural beauty of the place, it really does feel like a totally different world to the one we have been travelling through. Shane said the place has a touch of Looney Tunes about it, and it is a perfect analogy.

We stayed in Isla Colon until the Sunday in order to check out the 8th annual Bocas chilli cook off, not to partake in the cooking, just to gorge ourselves on the results and cast our vote. Having never been to a Chilli cook off, only seeing them on shows like the Simpsons, i was greatly intrigued to see what it was all about. What it did involve was the whole U.S expat community of Bocas getting down to the beach, some of them cooking chilli, and the rest getting drunk under the heat of some of the chilli, but mainly the sun. I soon found out that 'Chilli' meant chilli con carne, not chilli sauce, which i was hoping it would be... Still, it was good fun making our way through the stalls, all up i reckon we ate about 1.5kg of chilli each. After casting our vote, we wanted to stay and see who won, but instead had to roll home and lie in a hammock for a few hours in an attempt to help our stomachs to process a week's worth of meat that was consumed in under an hour.

The next day we got the boat over to Isla Bastementos and caught up with Shane and Abi, who had come across to the island a few days prior. Shortly after us arriving, Shane was keen to walk over to Red Frog beach, on the surf side of the island. Every guidebook, and relevant internet site warns that this 1hr trail is frequented by armed robbers, and we heard stories about some people being robbed at gunpoint (although a fake gun) a few days prior. Despite this, we ventured off with only a bottle of water and enough money for a beer, nothing that would be missed. Quickly walking out of the town of Old Bank we were soon in the jungle with a myriad of birds making all sorts of noises in the dense foliage above us. After 30 minutes or so we popped out onto Wizard beach, an amazing jungle lined surf beach that stretches for a few kilometres, and not a soul in site. By this stage, sweat was stinging the eyes and we were drenched, so a nice dip in the ocean was needed. The water is so warm that there is no discernible difference between the air and sea temp; it would be possible to stay in the water 24x7 and not get cold here...

Making our way up the beach we strolled along the sand, or weaved our way through jungle, depending on the accessibility on the beach. In places the jungle would make it's way all the way own to the water making it impassable, in other places massive volcanic rocks with coconuts palms growing out of them would block the path. Soon though we reached the headland which we had to go up and across to get to Red Frog. As the name suggests, the beach is named after the poisonous red dart frogs that live in the area. And sure enough, once we had left the confines of the beach and back into the deep jungle there was these colourful little guys jumping around everywhere. Some bright red, some orange, some painted like a jaguar, no bigger then a 10c coin. There was one spot we found where a hundred or so of them were hiding in the leaf litter, a beautiful site to watch, but where there are lots of frogs, there is bound to be lots of snakes, so we pushed on.

Not long after, we had made our way to Red Frog where we were greeted with another amazing jungle lined beach, but this time with a few more people as there is a resort at the other end. With our money still in our grubby hands, we decided it would be best to spend it on a beer each, rather then hand it over to any robbers on the way back. While we were having our nectar from the heavens, a police officer walked into the bar, and we found out that he had just been posted to ensure safety along the trail due to the increase of muggings. After a few more hours swimming, it was time to go back to Old Bank, this time though with a police escort!

Abi had not joined us that day, so next day we went back to Red Frog, this time taking a boat, and Shane his camera. Once again, the weather was perfect as we made our way through swims at Red Frog, and then crossed the headland to another deserted beach, catching nice little body surfing waves in the shade of the jungle as the sun set behind it. That night a cool change came through and storms ravaged the islands all nights. With the temperature dropped, the next day was spent doing sfa, sleeping in hammocks and reading a book listening to the howler monkeys roar all afternoon and night.

But alas all things good must come to an end. We are back on Isla Colon now for the night before heading up to Costa Rica. It is apparently Arthur Guinness Day, so I am typing this up drinking Ireland's national brew with a storm raging above. The weather has been brilliant for our 12 days here, whilst we have watched storms hammer the mainland every night, very lucky indeed. It will be interesting to see what the weather brings us on our return.

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