Bocas del Toro, the Island Paradise
06.08.2016 – 09.08.2016
Jippii, we’ll be heading to the next country, Panama! From San Jose Costa Rica , we booked a bus with Caribe Shuttle, which would take us until the first city after the border and then we continue by boat to the island “Isla Colon”, which is the most populated and touristic island in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro.
Pick up time was estimated between 6:20am and 6:50am, but as we already learned here in Costa Rica, better don’t rely on punctuality. 😉 We started the long ride at 7am and went pretty fast until Puerto Viejo, which we have visited at the beginning of our trip already and is close to the Panamanian border. Since it was not the first time that we planned to cross a border, we knew we would need some sort of onward bus ticket to proof that we leave the country after a certain time. On our tickets from Caribe Shuttle however, it said that we have to have a flight ticket ready to our home country to show it at the border…that was the moment I first got suspicious, where as Jakub was still completely convinced that the booked bus tickets we had were totally fine. Turned out, they were not sufficient! 🙂 The Panamian police offficers at the border insisted on a flight ticket we had to show them, not willing to let us pass… luckily, I being the well organized and prepared German, had created some, let’s say very real looking flight tickets to Munich, which we could show the officers in the end on my tablet. 😉 And there it was, the desperately wanted entry stamp for Panama, which we really earned after almost dying from heart attacks at the border crossing!! We already saw us sitting in a dark cell without sunlight at the border, only allowed to make one phone call…Too be honest, we don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have some sort of flight ticket, but these men seemed very serious about the immigration process, which is why you’re better off having a “booked” flight. 😉
Back in our shuttle bus, it took us another 40 minutes to the port city Almirante, where we took a boat to Isla Colon. The clear water we saw once we were close to the island was amazing – even at the small port we could see starfish in the water! Since there are lots of beaches to explore, we decided to book a round trip to several spots for the next day. Starting at 9:30am, we headed to the first destination, the dolphin’s bay – and there they were, showing their fins and playing in the water! But of course, we were not the only boat with tourists aboard, means the dolphins were surrounded by at least 6 boats… that unfortunately made this experience once again less exciting as it was supposed to be. Yes, we know that most of the tours are fully booked with tourists and as long as we go for planned tours, we will never have a private and lone experience. Nevertheless, we somehow try to stick to this “romantic” idea of seeing or experiencing something more private… one day it’ll happen. 😉 Continuing to our next spot, our capitain on the way stopped the small boat and allowed us to snorchel in the cristal clear water to see the stunning underwater world – amazing. Such colorful fish and corals, we really enjoyed it. After 45 minutes we headed to Isla Zapatilla, a very remote and uncrowded beach. It looked picture perfect with its white sandy beach and the turquoise water! But then… dark clouds at the sky…. did we just hear the rumble of a thunder…. is that rain on our skin…? Rain in paradise, please no! Unfortunately, it did start raining and it was storming like crazy. We tried to hide somewhere under palm trees, creating a shelter with our beach blanket (Majlo, that was the best present ever!! :)) but got soaking wet. Luckily, our captain picked us up and we headed to another spot. Our only disadvantage was that the boat had no roof or anything to protect from the rain. We were soaking wet, water splashing in our faces from everywhere, what a trip. 🙂 All of us were more than happy when we drove back to Isla Colon to dry our clothes and ourselves!
For the next day, we decided to wait how the weather develops in the morning. It was sunny and beautiful, so we went to the Red Frog Beach – best choice ever. What a beautiful spot on earth…we have seen a lot of beaches so far, but this one seriously had this certain something. 🙂 We wanted to stay there forever, dive in the waves, swim, sleep, take a million pictures which can never show the amazing nature. All in all, a wonderful day. We had hoped to repeat it the day after, but the weather again was against us which is why we allowed ourselves a lazy day. We felt it was necessary to just do nothing once in a while and completed only one task that day: get copies from our passports, which we would need for our sailing boat trip to Colombia that we’ve booked. 🙂
09.08.2016 – 11.08.2016
Early morning the next day we said “Bye Bye” Bocas del Toro and ” Hello” Panama City!
Arriving late in the afternoon at Allbrook Mall, we took the metro to direction city center, which was quiet funny. There is only one line which takes you more or less from north to South in Panama city and back – so there was no chance of confusing metro lines hopping in the wrong metro. 😉
Our hostel for the next 2 days was located in the area “Casco Antiguo”, a very old neighborhood with beautiful houses and old churches. We took a stroll down to the water and were fascinated by the illuminated skyline of Panama City. The next morning, we walked along the water front on “Avenida Balboa”, a very modern and beautiful walkway into the city.
In the afternoon, we planned to visit the “Miraflores Locks”, one of the 3 locks where visitors can see the huge ships crossing the Panama Canal. Taking a public bus for 0.35$ we arrived at around 3pm there – luckily, we have read several comments on TripAdvisor beforehand and knew that between 10:30am-14:00pm the directions of the Canal are being changed and no ship would cross. After a short introduction via 3D cinema about the Canal, we went to the visitor terrace and saw the very impressive, huge merchant ship which was about to cross the Canal! Standing there, we felt like small ants next to it and where amazed by the awesome technology behind the Canal.
To sum it up, the Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The landmass is slightly above the mean sea level, which creates the need to lift the vessel upto 26 meters above mean sea level. As the vessel is lifted and after reaching the other end of the canal, it has to be dropped down to the mean sea level, to enable the ship continue its sea passage. To facilitate the lifting and dropping of the vessel, Lock Gates are provided [source: http://www.brighthubengineering.com/naval-architecture/35713-the-panama-canal-a-man-made-engineering-marvel/%5D.
I could have stood there all day long watching the ships to cross, so cool. 🙂
But we needed to go back to the hostel and prepare our luggage for the biggest adventure so far on our trip: sailing across the Caribbean Sea to Colombia! I hope we meet Captain Jack Sparrow and his Black Pearl Crew…. 😉