Wow! I am here at last! Bocas del Toro, Panama, a destination I have wanted to go to for a long time. So much to do, so little time! I have only three days!
I arrive early in the morning at the charming little airport, grab my bag and walk down town( all of 4 blocks away) to find my hotel and stash my bags and grab my sunscreen. Then I am off down the main street, each block locals approach me: need a boat today? Boat driver available, follow me…After talking to a few, I choose one that feels good and negotiate a price. Like everyone, I want to go to the beach. The day is sunny and warm with a light breeze. I choose the tour to Red Frog Beach, Dolphin Bay and Zapatilla Key including snorkeling and a light lunch with about 15 others on a sailing catamaran for $45 per person. Oh boy. We load up, take off and the feeling of sliding on the waves as we leave the bay is incredible. There is soft music playing and several people are up on the front of the boat slathering sunscreen. Some are standing staring off into the ocean and some are holding a beer. After about 20 minutes, first stop Red Frog beach on the island of Bastimentos. We file off the boat and pay our $3 at the gate, then we pile on the back of a pick up which takes on a ten minute trail to the other die of the island where the beach is..and oh what a beach. Several miles long, light tan sand, soft on my feet and beautiful Caribbean blue ocean coming at me in wave after wave after wave. It’s so inviting, I must go in the water and I wade out. It is shallow a long ways and the temperature is a perfect 84 F degrees. This is the life, playing in the waves, body surfing and swimming under the clouded and sunny sky. When I get up in the beach, it s warm enough to sir dry and I sit down. A boy approaches and offers me a cold drink of Pipa( fresh coconut water still in the shell) with a straw sticking out. For just $1.00, it is the coolest, sweetest thing I have tasted in a long time. After a short siesta, it is time to get back on the truck and go back to the boat for the next leg of the trip. Another 30 minutes of smooth sailing and we’re at the Zapatillas, a set of twin islands where there is a marine preserve. We don our snorkeling gear and jump in the water to snorkel around coral reefs, orange, purple and brown waving around on the ocean floor. Someone spots a manta ray, someone else an octopus and we all see a variety of colorful fish. Again the water is perfect, clear blue green and just cool enough but not cold. We swim up to a gorgeous white sand beach and have lunch of sandwiches and soft drinks, chips and fruit. Rest again and back on the boat for the third leg. With in 20 minutes we arrive in a beautiful bay called dolphin Bay. Why you say? Of course, there are dolphins an there they are. Someone sights them and we go toward the place where they are. The dolphins are playful today and swim and jump around the front of the boat. It is mesmerizing and try as we might, it is very difficult to capture a picture, you had to be there.
We head back for Bocas with our drinks in hand, tired but happy. It is all I can do to take shower in my room, eat dinner and go to bed. Long wonderful day.
Today I decide to take the Los Monos botanical gardens tour since I love plants and flowers and I want to know what grows here. The tour takes about 2 hours and is $15. Lin the owner is a delightful, knowledgeable woman from New Zealand who has been here with her husband “Kiwi” Dave for over 10 years. They have planted and grown on their multi acre farm hundreds of species of Palm trees, some over a 100 ears old. The flowers are incredible ranging from delicate orchid of varying sizes and shapes to heliconia and birds of paradise. I am overwhelmed with the beauty and smells of this place. Flowers are blooming everywhere, bees buzz, butterflies abound and hummingbirds hover. The place is so alive.
Afterwards we have a cool drink of ice tea and ask questions.
After yesterday I am still tired so have lunch in town at a great sushi place called RAW and take a siesta. By evening I am ready to party, and go to the local disco called the Wreck Deck. It is basically a bar built out over the water on pilings over a small sunken boat. The owner, Benson, has put lights around the edge of dock where the boat is and you can see the coral growing on it and the fish swimming in and out and around it.. the music is by DJ and is slow and pulsing as the dancers begin to arrive. By midnight the places is packed and jamming and the music has accelerated as the dance fever takes hold. Needless to say, I sleep late the next morning.
Today I want to spend part of it shopping for gifts for friends back home and wander through town looking at the various tented booths and stores. One called island Interiors has a lot of local art and crafts, including baskets, weavings, molas, local chocolate, coffee, paintings and much more. I finally decide on some chocolate, coffee and a mola which is that local Indian artwork sort of like a quilted material where they hand sew birds and fish and other designs on brightly colored cloth.
I’ve got time for a little bird watching in the afternoon. I take my binoculars and go on a well recommended trail and I see parrots, hawks, other exotic colorful birds I have never seen before except in books. I even see a sloth slowly crossing the path and I stop and take some photos. By God, she has a tiny baby in her pouch. She looks like she is smiling right at me.
In the evening I go to the Smithsonian and they take me on a turtle walk. It happens to be nesting season and if you walk on the beach quietly at night you can watch the giant turtles nesting and laying their eggs on the beach which they do every year. This is simply amazing.
Next morning, I’m off, back to the states. I will be back as soon as I can as there are still so many things I didn’t get to do.