Bocas del Toro
15 February 2011 | Panama
BOCAS DEL TORO
On the 18th January 2011 we decided to take advantage of a weather window and set off for Bocas Del Toro ( 151nm). This turned out, for Talacam, to be 2 nights out and motoring most of the way. Not much wind but a wonderfully calm sea and a full silvery moon to light the way. Passat made in the last light the day before.We arrived early in the morning of the 20th and anchored off Bocas Town on Isla Colon and after catching up on some rest were ready to go to shore and explore.
The islands of Bocas del Toro are the essence of Caribbean Panama. They are located in the extreme western part of the country, only 40 kilometers from the Republic of Costa Rica. This archipelago has the perfect combination of nature and historical and cultural traditions, with a variety of aquatic species, coral reefs, mangroves, tropical forest, beaches with crystal clear water, undisturbed jungles with all the flora and fauna you can imagine. The Bocas del Toro Archipelago consists of nine islands, 52 keys and some 200 tiny islets. The largest and most developed island is Colón Island, where the capital of the province, the town of Bocas del Toro ( Bocas Town ), is located. The total population of the archipelago is around 9000 people, of whom roughly half live in the town of Bocas del Toro. There are many very reasonable hotels and hostels catering for backpackers and surfers and a meal can be had for a few dollars. I am very surprised at the number of back packing tourists in town, young and old. There are many boat trips to choose from to explore the area on the sheltered lagoon side, and we are seriously thinking of making one of these trips to the mainland if time allows. There's a small airport on Isla Colon with flights daily to and from Panama City. A vehicle ferry comes from the mainland town of Almirante five mornings a week and water taxis holding up to twenty-five passengers travel to and from Almirante and the nearby town of Changuinola many times a day. Though not large by any means, Bocas town has a hospital, several Internet Cafes, numerous hotels and restaurants, pharmacy, hardware shops, a bank and one ATM machine and a butchery. There are many stores but no grand supermarkets. Still, most anything you need can be found. The Gourmet store also stocks many hard-to-find foods and sundries. All in all an interesting little place to wander around. We have played a few games of pool and done internet at The Black Olive Bar and Restaurant and had more than one beer at the popular RipTide, a floating bar and restaurant. There are choices, choices and more choices.
Our visit to Red Frog Marina on the island of Bastimentos for a fund raising party was great fun. Live music and a juggling act all to raise money for a Kuna family whose home was destroyed by fire. There are many great walks, one of which started off walking along the beach and through the jungle in search of red frogs and sloths and snakes. Not too successful this walk but the following one took us up into the rain forest and we were successful in the quest for two of the three. The first sloth was in a tree right next to the dirt road and we got some good photos after Bob had prodded it with a stick to raise it from its sleep. The Bastimentos Sky walk revealed many of the tiny red frogs hidden in the damp leaf litter in the forest, this of course, after we knew where to find them. Their poison was used for poison darts/arrows in the dark past. On the way back the sloth was still in his same sleeping position and sorry to say we had to disturb him again. After this 4 hour walk we deservedly stopped for a few cold beers and then back towards the boat. We passed the Marina’s resident sloth perched in a tree on the way through to the dingy. Debbie was very happy to have sighted 2 sloths in one day. Still looking to sight a boa! The following day we had a farewell dinner on our friend Viktor’s boat (hamburger and Vossie’s sort after chips). Viktor had to go back to California for a while but he will be back in the not too distant future. We had heard that Star Fish bay at Boca del Drago was a must so the next day sailed off to spend a few days there. Confirm it was worth the visit. It didn’t take us long to get to shore to walk the beach and swim in the clear water and literally see red starfish dotted around in the shallow water. Lots of water taxis bringing tourists daily but from 4 pm it was wonderfully quiet and deserted and it’s at this time that the huge black pig has his turn to run along the beach with the dogs. Yep…. A pig! And it must be a daily occurance as it has been reported by other cruisers anchored off this beach. We also took a dingy ride around to the next little bay to show Bob and Debbie the Del Drago restaurant and surrounds as we had previously been there by bus on a rainy day. Could have stayed longer at Starfish bay but we sailed back to Bocas town to join in the SuperBowl celebrations and this time anchored off the Bocas Marina after the small disaster of fishing line fouling the prop. It was a fun evening at the Calypso restaurant which is owned by two S.A guys who have made it a great success. Because the weather has been kind to us since we have been in this area and the particular day chosen had very light winds, it was decided we would go out on Passat and have a spinnaker party. We took Talacam’s spinnaker as well and tried out both sails for the first time, each for a few hours. If you watched very carefully there was confirmation that we did move under sail. But like I said it was a party with friends, albeit with beer only and a very good one. Saturday saw a swop meet at the Calypso bar between 4 and 5 pm and naturally we stayed for happy hour 5 to 6 and beyond. Perhaps not such a good idea to be anchored so close to the temptations of Calypso. By the way, if anyone wonders what we do on the days in between these fun filled times………… we have take it very easy for a day or two and recuperate sufficiently to take up where we left off……………
The last few days I have had the good fortune to be staying in the apartment of a friend while she has gone to the mainland of Panama and thus have been able to bring the blog up to date thus far. I will have to add a part two later as we are still cruising in this area for a while and hopefully will have a lot more to add .