Leatherbacks at last!

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Flag of Panama  , Bocas del Toro,
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We left Boquete a few days ago. We left early in the morning, when it was still dark, and had to jump over the wall of the hostal as the gate was locked! We took the 6am bus to David and then changed onto another bus going to Almirante. This journey took four and a half hours and took us through some spectacular scenery, up over the Talamanca mountains and down the other side to the Carribean coast. We were both pleased to see how much forest is pristine and protected in this area thanks to La Amistad International Park and the Palo Seco Forest Reserve.

A short hop on a boat taxi from Almirante took us to Bocas town on Isla Colon. This is the largest and most populated island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago which comprises six large islands and hundreds of tiny atolls and coralline keys. Bocas town has a lively Caribbean vibe. Situated on a peninsula, it is surrounded on three sides by water. All along the shoreline, timber framed buildings, mostly restaurants serving Caribbean food, sit out over the water on stilts.

The next morning we joined an all day boat trip. First stop was Dolphin Bay where we saw lots of dolphins. They come here to eat the abundant jellyfish that gather in the bay. Then we stopped at Crawl Key for an overpriced lunch but great snorkelling amongst the soft corals. Next stop was Red Frog Beach, a stunning stretch of sand with turquoize water. The beach gets its name from the small red dart frogs that live in the jungle behind the beach. Unfortunately, local children had been catching the frogs to show to tourists in the hope that the tourists will give them a few dollars to take a photo. We were both concerned as some of the frogs did not look well and the children were keeping them moist with sea water! Our final stop was a quick snorkel at Hospital Point which was not that great for coral but did have some interesting marine life and a big drop off into the deep.

After a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Lemongrass, we hooked up with some other people we had met and took a 30 minute taxi ride to Bluff Beach, a nesting site for leatherback turtles. Upon arrival we met a couple of guides and set off along the beach in he dark. Torches are discouraged so as not to disturb the turtles so we walked in the dark, resulting in a few near misses with bits of driftwood! The lack of any light pollution meant the sky was completely awash with stars. We walked for about two hours, quite a slog in deep sand with not the tiniest bit of breeze to cool us down. We reached the end of the beach and had seen tracks of turtles but not the turtles themselves. We feared that our disappointment in Tortuguero might be about to repeat itself. However, on the return journey we soon came across a large 1m+ turtle who had just started digging a hole for her eggs. We quietly gathered around and watched under the guide's very dim torchlight. The whole process took a little over an hour. First she dug a deep hole with her hind flippers, then she laid about 50 snooker ball size eggs, which the guides collected to re-bury in a secure area to prevent poaching. When all the eggs were laid, she covered the hole with sand and then moved around in a large circle disturbing the sand so as to conceal the exact spot where the eggs are laid. She then turned towards the sea and slowly made her way down the sand. As soon as the first wave crashed over her, she was gone into the darkness. We wished her well.

On the way back we saw another leatherback nesting but couldn't stop as we were already an hour late for our return taxi. Apparently leatherbacks can nest up to 10 times in one season although fishing, plastic bags and other human caused fatalities are causing widespread decline in leatherback numbers. I urge anyone who can to contribute to the MCS (Marine Conservation Society) and perhaps adopt a turtle...


Or alternatively stop using plastic bags, get yourself a reusable bag and pop it in the car so you don't forget it when you next go shopping!

For a really in depth look at Leatherbacks see the following publication


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Faith on

We have leatherback out here too !

Faith on

Where have you liked/enjoyed the best so far and for what reason/s?

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