2012 Trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama

In April we went to Panama during Jordan's spring break. We wanted to explore the Caribbean coast of Panama. Panama is an interesting country. Because of the Panama canal, the economy is pretty good. Cost of living is reasonable and medical care is good and affordable. No wonder there are quite a few expats in various parts of Panama. The island group we were heading for is in the west of Panama, close to the border with Costa Rica. Unfortunately the connections between domestic flights and international flights are typically bad in Panama. So both on the way in and on the way out we had to spend a night in Panama City. But because so may tourist have this problem, there are quite a few companies/individuals offering 3 or 5 hours sight seeing tours of Panama City. We had enlisted one of them.

Below we are waiting in Panama City on the International Airport. The man in the orange shirt is Jose Saenz, our tour guide.
Jose took us on a tour through some of Panama City. The first stop was by the Miraflores locks at the Pacific Ocean end of the Canal.
Afterwards he drove us through old down town Panama City. Panama City is almost 500 years old and there are many very old buildings. There is a massive project underway to restore all of the old town. But there are still many extremely poor people living in the old buildings. There is a lot of security here. The military, the national police and the presidential police are all present in full combat gear. You are wondering whether they are looking for criminals or just keeping an eye on each other.

After driving through the old town, we drove to Isla Flamengo, the fardest of 3 small islands that are now connected to the mainland. From there you can see the new downtown over the water. You can also feed the fishes. But after we fed the fishes, we went to a seafood restaurant to pick up dinner to take to our hotel, where Jordan fell asleep very quickly.
The next morning we were up very early again to catch our flight to Bocas del Toro.
In Bocas we had rented (part of) a house owned/build by a German/American couple. They had cleared a few acres of jungle with 700 feet of beach and then build their house. They rent the 2 bedroom house downstairs and live upstarts in their apartment. They have a full time employee whos job it is to keep the jungle from taking the property back. The house is very remote. Bocas del Toro is on Isla Colon which is quite remote in Panama. Then on Isla Colon this house is 12 miles from the airport over a small road and a long dirt drive way. It takes 40 minutes to get there from the airport. But it is a magnificant place as the pictures will show later.

On the first 2 pictures you are looking down from the patio over sone of the cleared land towards the sea. On the 3rd picture you see Stephanie and Jordan on the patio together with Gundula, the owner of the house.
On e day their gardner brough a fresh coconut for Jordan to drink and an 'old' one for Stephanie to eat.
Stephanie had pulled a muscle in her back again and spent a lot of time on the patio painting. She likes that more than going to the beach anyway. She got better pretty quick with some medications brought at the pharmacy without a prescription.
Diederik spent a lot of time on the beach, just as Jordan. Gundula loved to do things with Jordan. I got the strong impression that after 10 years in this remote location, she is getting lonely. The first picture below is the house as seen from the beach, followed by a few pictures of the beach itself.
There were medium size waves every day we were there, but you could easily (and safely) get into the water. So Jordan and Diederik were in the water several times a day. Their friendly dogs sometimes followed us down to the beach as youc an see. The place being remote and the owners open minded, the beach was cloting optional.
But Jordan quickly discovered that there were other things he could do on the beach such as climb trees and throw cocunuts.
If you walked a short way along the coast trhough the jungle, you ended up on a longer beach that also had a cold fresh wafer lagoon where gound water had formed a pond and the excess ran into the ocean. No waves here, so it was a nice place to hang out.
On the last day, the waves were a little smaller and Gundula took Jordan out in a canoe. All went smooth until they tried to get back adn one big wave threw them off course.
In a place like this there is a diverse plant life. Some edible, many just very colorfull. Below is a sampling from all the pictures we took.
There were of course also many critters. The big ones like the Howler Monkeys were heard a lot, but they are hadr to see and even when you seee something it always is a silouette against the bright sky. Here are a few 'good' critters (sloth, hummingbird,a dn seastar):
And then a few of the typically less apreciated ones:
poison dart frog
One day we took a taxi to Bocas del Toro to have a look, go have lunch and do some shopping. Many of the buildings here are build above the water. first a few pictures of the view from the restaurant and then a few from the place it self. The other pictures of Bocas are self explanatory.
Jordan eating octopus
Of course Stephanie had to be constraint not to mix in some business with our vacation:
A few more pictures by the house and it is time to go home again.
Jordan playing in the rain
Overall, this was a very interesting trip. Very different from anything else we have done. On par with going to Bali or visiting the Aboriginals in Australia. But when it comes down to it, while we like remote places, this place was way too remote for us. It is closer to New York than the west coast of the USA, but it takes 30 hours to get there. And being 40 minutes away from a store is also too much. So while we would highly recomend this to the adventurous ones, we will not go back here (let alone move here).