We arrived in Bocas del Toro to torrential rain, Caribbean accents and the sounds of reggae. We travelled to Bocas by boat and spent the first afternoon (when the rain had stopped) exploring the beaches.
Throughout our time in Bocas we ate some amazing food, curried fish and coconut rice was one of my standout favourites. We walked everywhere and were constantly surrounded by reggae and friendly locals. It feels very much like you are part of the community and every evening was spent at a different restaurant on a jetty over the water.
In Bocas in December you have to be prepared for torrential downpours at some point in the afternoon/early evening but once the skies clear the weather is lovely and warm.
A day that will live in my memory forever was spent in Bocas. We travelled to ‘Dolphin Bay’ and caught a glimpse of some dolphins dining on jellyfish. Being the first time seeing dolphins in the wild was amazing and a privilege. We went from Dolphin Bay onto Isla Zapatilla, a beautiful, calm, deserted island with clear blue water as far as the eye can see. I felt like I had been marooned in the set of Pirates of the Caribbean!! We were then taken by our guide to see some sloths before heading on to a great spot for snorkelling which was a great experience. We spent the remainder of the day on the beach and I wish I could live that day again and again!!
I was extremely sad to leave Bocas and it’s heavy Caribbean feel but I went on to the San Blas islands which were straight out of paradise and provided a back to basics experience with the tranquility and amazing sunshine I was after! Seeing the 365 minute islands was amazing and I love that tourism is yet to spoil them and I don’t imagine the locals will let that happen!
Bocas and San Blas are two areas of paradise that gave me experiences that I will treasure for a lifetime.
My trip didn´t get off to the best start, my outbound flight from the UK to New York was delayed meaning that I had limited time (40 minutes instead of the 5 hours I had scheduled) to get through US security which anyone who has travelled to the US knows is almost impossible. Running out of time I sprinted to the gate on my boarding pass only to catch sight of the TV screens which said that my flight was leaving from a different gate. After a frantic ten or so minutes running from one end of the terminal to the other, I was then told that my flight was leaving from the gate originally on my boarding pass – thanks Newark with your inaccurate information – and then had to run back to where I had been originally. I was the last passenger to board and it took me a good 30 minutes to be able to breathe normally again!
Thankfully, the rest of my trip was much smoother than the start of it. We started our trip in Panama City and met our Gadventures tour guide Andrea at our first hotel. The weather in December was humid but with beautifully warm evenings. We went for dinner in a traditional restaurant in a beautiful old square in the Casco Viejo. I can’t take about Panama City without talking about the Panama Canal and Miraflores lock. I was amazed to learn about the history of the Panama Canal and to see Miraflores lock in action was something else. The feat of engineering is absolutely outstanding and I feel lucky to have witnessed it. Work is currently being undertaken to build a second canal and I hope that it is magnificent as the first!!
The next day we left early to travel to the mountainous Boquete. There was a drastic drop in temperature and an increase in rain but it only made our surroundings even more beautiful. In Boquete we did a waterfall hike through the mountains which although was far muddier than we were prepared for, I really enjoyed doing something a bit more active, especially after our 8 hour journey in a minivan on bumpy roads the day before. I don´t know how we made it down from the hike without any injuries and only plenty of shoes caked in mud because it was so slippery because of the rainfall in the mountains. In Boquete we experienced our first Panamanian local restaurants which offer cheap, fresh, typically Panamanian food – very similar to the Sodas of Costa Rica.
A Panoramic tour of Boquete took in coffee plantations, a minor earthquake, a volcano – Volcán Baru, winding roads, luscious green foliage and local communities. Here is where I tasted a coffee bean before it goes through the coffee making processes, saw even more waterfalls and bought some of the strongest bags I own from the locals using only natural materials. It was Boquete that really made me realise how untouched by tourism parts of the world can be. In more remote parts of Boquete they speak their own local language and have very few belongings. One house had no windows and only a breeze block shell for a house. The children had an old worn out football and a teddy bear which was hanging on the washing line made from natural materials. The thing that struck me was how the community had such a strong community feel and had no idea how poor in monetary terms they were but how rich in community spirit they were. I had to admire their work ethic, how they retained their own language, dress and philosophy and how they lived hand in hand with nature. I felt so sad that they had very little but hope that their community never loses its roots and stays untouched from outside influences.
Boquete is small and so a couple of days was enough time to spend there. We managed to fit plenty in and ate plenty of fresh food including lots of fish and amazing bread and cakes from the local bakery. I was sad to leave the mountains of Boquete because it is absolutely stunning and the local people are amazing and welcoming of so many tourists. Next stop was Bocas del Toro which deserves a whole post of its own….coming soon in Part 2.