The San Blas Islands - Sailing Cartagena to Panama

Trip Start Mar 24, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Wild Card Yacht

Flag of Panama  , Kuna Yala,
Saturday, September 18, 2010

We boarded our Yacht, Wild Card around lunch time on Monday. Apart from the captain and crew, there were only five passengers - the two of us plus Cat and Laura from NZ and Giulia from England. These girls had been traveling through South America the last six months too and were our age, perfect! At 7pm we finally got the ok from customs and were off! We had two full nights and a day of sailing ahead of us to get to the San Blas Islands (off the coast of Panama) so we all settled in and relaxed. The trip out of the harbour at Cartagena was amazing, seeing the old city walls and the new cities lights. The weather was balmy and warm so it was possible to sit and sleep outside on the deck! The sailing time went well, we had beautiful weather, glassy and calm water and a lot of fun (we even managed to sneak in our first international waters swim when we stopped to scrape off the propellers).

 

On our second morning we sailed into the San Blas archipelago at dawn, it was such a beautiful sight - dawn skies with glassy clear waters and perfect white sanded islands covered in Palm Trees (and not a soul in sight)! It was too amazing for words and as we all took turns jumping off the boat over and over into the warm Caribbean water we knew we were in paradise! John took us on the little run around to what we later christened 'Punch Island' (a mound of white sand with two Palm Trees) and we spent the morning snorkeling and literally wallowing in the calm crystal waters. Nige took us our to what we named Conch Island (as it was covered in Conch Shells) which was just a mound of sand in the middle of the sea. There was more snorkeling and wallowing to be done here. After hours spent sunbaking on the deck, swimming across to islands, more snorkeling and even more swimming, it was almost time for sunset. John and the girls mixed up a huge red wine punch (very Caribbean) and we hooned it across to Punch Island where we sat around drinking punch and watching the sunset. Once back on the boat we enjoyed a chicken curry with a few more drinks and sat around bathing in the warm evening and sounds of the ocean lapping against the boat!

 

On our third day, after a few morning swims and some relaxation time it was time for lunch....the previous day, John and negotiated with the local Kuna people (who are the natives that inhabit some of San Blas' islands) who come around on hand made wooden boats to offer fresh, live seafood. We had eight crays, five giant crabs and five fish all for $40. John cooked up a massive feast and we sat on deck throwing our shells overboard as we went in absolute seafood heaven! After we had recovered from our seafood stupor, it was time to sail to immigration (a shack on one of the islands). In the evening we all enjoyed some beers, rums, music and good weather and looked forward to our last day moored at the San Blas.

 

In the morning, on our fourth day Nigel left for the mainland and the rest of us went in the little run around to a Kuna Village. We were greeted by the friendly natives who live in wooden type huts in absolute paradise. The Kuna people are one of the most successfully maintained native groups as they have almost complete control over the San Blas islands as well as having governing powers. The natives were all gorgeous and after offering all the children chocolate nibbles they had no problem giggling at us when we tried to speak to them in Spanish! It was a lovely early morning excursion and we all really enjoyed ourselves. Once back on Wild Card, we moved spots to 'Dog Island' which was a ocean lagoon surrounded by more gorgeous, postcard islands. We jumped in the water which somehow felt warmer then before and spend hours just floating in the warm water. In the meantime some local fishermen arrived on their boat and John bought another five crabs for $20 meaning we were in for another seafood bonanza! Later in the afternoon then weather turned rainy, so we all headed for the cabin to watch movies and look at the amazing photos from the last few days.

After an early morning swim, our fifth and final day was spent sailing to Portobelo where our cruise would end. The Colombia to Panama trip was another absolute highlight of our trip and the fact that the San Blas Islands are not filled with people (most are deserted) and that they are not yet a tourist destination just added to the effect. We were also really lucky as both the John and Nigel told us it was the best weather they had encountered on all the trips they had made! We are all excited to get onto the Panamanian mainland, but are really sad to be leaving the boat that had been our home for the last week.
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