Panama Carribean, Bocas del Toro

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Saturday, March 3, 2007

It's a 4 hour bus trip over sweeping green mountains from David to the north coast of Panama. We're dropped off at Almirante and walk through the township with  primarily a black population. We definitely prefer the latino culture of Panama. For us it seems a little more open and welcoming.

The water round the town seems dirty. A lot of the poorer houses are directly above the water, and I'm guessing some household rubbish and sewerage finds its way below. We take a fast launch to Isla Colon, one of the islands of Bocas del Toro.

Again, it's a real shock to reach a place with a lot of tourists. After a night in a good value utilitarian hotel above the Chinese supermarket, and a very average curry meal (the lassi is so salty that my throat almost siezes up), we depart early for Isla Bastimiento which is reputed to be more tranquil.

Isla Bastimiento is indeed much more to our liking with fewer tourists and a more laid-back atmosphere. We´re staying in a small economic cabin with the best view in town, surrounded by plants and flowers. There are lots of tiny jewelled birds in reds and yellows darting around the undergrowth.

The nearest beach is about 15 minutes walk along a path past the cemetery, under two barbed-wire fences and over the hills in the middle of the island to the other side. It's deserted, mostly clean, a little windy, and the waves are dumping.

We have a chat with the local tourist policeman, who shares his favourite Panamanian music artists with us, and accompany him to the neighbouring beaches. Uh haaah, this is where all the tourists are - the beach at the end that can be reached by boat, where there is a bar and café. At the end of the day the policeman gives us a private tour of the ref frog sanctuary behind the beach and we actually spot one of the little fellows sitting in a tiny puddle cradled in a curled up leaf. He (or she) seems so perfectly formed, a brilliant scarlet red with shiny black spots.

Food on the island is great - fresh seafood and fresh vegetables. I think we're developing a taste for the Panamanian-style "patacones" - slices of green plantain, flattened and fried until slightly crispy and golden brown.

At Almirante (on the way back to David) we meet an official Bocas guide, very friendly, who wants to meet someone like Anna so he can make caramel babies. Yes Anna has a sister, but unfortunately she also is taken!

For us the Islas de Bocas have been oversold, and overdeveloped with the kind of tourism that attracts a different kind of tourist. Isla Bastimiento is definitely its saving grace. 
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