After crossing the border into Panama we caught a small bus heading in the direction of Bocas Del Toro. Bocas is a hot destination for travelers, boasting unique party venues and a plethora of activities. The bus only take you half way, the other half is one of my preferred methods of transport (for all the wrong reasons), a panga! The thrill you experience when watching a horror movie goes part way to describing the terror of riding a Central American panga. Usually overloaded with people and luggage, whilst speeding through murky waters, unspoken scenario’s tend to pop into your head.
The panga journey takes about 30 minutes and you whiz past some really extraordinary scenery, from the tall tropical hills, to the small wooden shacks on the riverbanks you really start to feel you were off to meet Robinson Crusoe. Bocas is an archipelago made up of 9 major islands, 50 cays (low, coral-based islands), and 200-plus islets. In recent years some of the remote islands have been famed for playing home to the ‘Survivor’ TV show.
Bocas Del Toro is, in all honesty, a playground for adults. You can island hop in pangas, visit a desert island for the day, surf, scuba dive, bike ride or party in a galleon, pumping out reggae beats.
You can take a day trip for around $25 each to one of the desert islands. Our trip started by visiting a restaurant on Isla Bastimentos, before heading to an uninhabited island, called Zapatillas. Once ashore, we dragged the cool box full of beer onto the beach, before taking a dip in the emerald-green waters. The snorkeling was amazing with large areas of coral lying just meters off the beach, perfect for spying tropical fish and shell hunting.
You can walk around the entire island in just 40 minutes, but it was only when we walked into the trees, in the centre of the island, we realised that it was infested with horse flies. If you have never seen a horse fly, it’s probably for the best; they’re called ‘horse’ flies because they’re huge! They love the taste of human blood and literally rip into your skin with their mandibles, so they can drink your blood. This definitely reduced the romance of the island and so we raced back to the beach so we could jump in the sea and scare the pesky vampires away.
After spending a few hours on Zapatillas we jumped back onto the panga and went in search of the local hot spot for dolphins. Our driver circled the area and then three beautiful dolphins emerged. One appeared to be missing a fin, which made us feel pretty bad. We guessed it was most likely damaged by a propeller from a tourist trip, like the one we were on.
The dolphins put on a show, jumping out of the water and playing before we left them in peace… This really was a slice of paradise and a must do trip for anyone heading to Panama.