Panama Anxiety

Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hostel Bastimentos

Flag of Panama  , Bocas del Toro,
Saturday, May 22, 2010

The day started with a hang over from last night´s Reggae Night and earlier than necessary due to Sean´s watch stopping, something to do with him dropping it !!  Off to Panama, a border day , we think we know what we are doing but as you know its never straight forward.  We exit Costa Rica and make our way across an old river bridge with wooden planks covering up the massive gaps in the floor and join the immigration queue.

Its very, very hot and my rucksack feels very heavy and we wait for quite a while with other travellers.  A couple get sent back to Costa Rica and another couple have to do a bit of arguing about return flights and such like.  The immigration guy is a right old grouch and gives us a hard time about having to have proof we will be exiting Panama but it seems to be a bit of a scam with him and the bus companies.  We don`t understand and a very helpful couple sort things out for us and its "welcome to Panama" time.

 A tourist bus takes us through sketchy Panamanian port towns as we pass through miles and miles and more miles of banana plantations, with Chiquita banana boats waiting to be loaded up for export. We are speed boated to the town of Bocas, one of the Bocas del Toro island group, called a modern day Galapagos. Not sure about the Galapagos bit but it is absolutely beautiful - scores of densely forested islands.  We catch another boat to the tiny island of Bastimentos home to wild beaches, nesting grounds for turtles, poison red frogs, mangrove islands and coral reef.  No swimming on this island though, due to highly dangerous rip currents.

No cars, only reached by boat and the main highway is a simple concrete path which can be walked in about 20 minutes. Its an unspoilt heaven. The main settlement is the historic West Indian town of Old Bank which has its origins in the banana industry. Wooden houses on stilts, a couple of places to get good fish dinners in caribbean sauce . We stay in the rambling Hostal Bastimentos which is empty except for one other couple - Jean and Pauline from France. Its pretty wild and unspoilt here as we trek through jungle mud to spend a day at Wizard Beach watching a couple of surfers try the waves.

Having watched our French friends take the hostel canoe across the bay to Hospital Point for snorkelling we try our hand. The canoe is really a massive  carved out log and its heavy. We paddle off in a perfect zig zag Dads Army style!!  We make it for snorkelling and sunbathing and paddle back just in time to avoid the rain.  The boat is so heavy we just about manage to lift it up on to the beach. The hostal gets busier and we share birthday drinks with our French Friends and talk to Enrique the hostel owner about island life and its changing culture. We head off to the town of Bocas Town for scuba diving and hopefully  curry at an indian restauarant!  The (*******) restaurant`s closed for the summer, but we do manage to find the best hot pepper sauce.

Bocas is Panama`s principle tourist draw with a small-town Caribbean feel.  Plenty of Americans have settled here and locals tell us of a huge mega resort thats due to be built which will change the whole face and feel of the place. There are "for sale " signs everywhere and we are glad to be here before it all disappears.  Elsewhere on the islands the Colombian version of "I´m a celebrity" is being filmed ... on a prime turtle nesting site.  says it all really. 

Meanwhile, Sean is scuba diving and  I go shopping  to try and find him some birthday presents among the Bob Marley hippie pants and shell necklaces!! 


Slideshow Report as Spam


Rahul Vora on

Hi Sean and Helen,

Great post! Glad to know you guys are still having fun!
My son and I were there. We went surfing on Bastimentos and trudging through the muddy paths looking for the Red Frogs. We also enjoyed the hot sauce at Killing My Men!
I just got back from a trip to India and China including some travel in Sichuan. Still hoping to see you in August.


p.s. Happy Birth Day Sean!!!

Howard on

Great stuff,but why is everything Sean's fault.

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