Bocas del Toro, Panama

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July 3, 2015 by kimberlyfenton

After Panama City, we were boarding our 10 hour night bus to Bocas del Toro, jumpers and jeans at the ready. We thought we were prepared for another bus journey in the freezing cold, but this was something else… unbearable! I don’t think we could’ve lasted any longer on that bus, we didn’t get any sleep at all as the level of cold was just unimaginable. I promise I’m not exaggerating. We had the last two seats at the back of the bus, and with it, the blast of the ice cold air coming from above. Horrible, probably the worst journey I’ve ever experienced, I would prefer another 24 hour journey than another hour on that bus. About half way into our journey we found our lifeline! As we were at the back of the bus, we were sat right above the engine. Where the aisle meets the back of the bus, there was a little step, I sat on it in an attempt to get away from the cold air blasting down on us, and the warmth was just heavenly; a real life stairway to heaven. Sal quickly joined me in the aisle and she sat down on the floor inbetween my legs, nicely heating up. It was a much needed lifeline that is for sure, I’m not sure what we would have done otherwise… Warning: two hoodies is not enough.

Isla Colon, which forms part of Bocas del Toro is a small island and my 7th island I’ve been to this year! The island life, as I can now expect, comes with more bikes than cars, and when you did see a car on Isla Colon it was normally a bright yellow taxi. $1 to get to wherever you want on the island. We were about a 15 minute walk from town, and a bikes ride away from the pretty beaches. Our hostel had hammocks overlooking the sea, it was so pretty!

Bike rideBike Ride
Isla ColonBike ride stop

Our bike ride was pretty tough actually, it was a boiling hot day, and we couldn’t find a supermarket for a drink almost the entire journey. The downside of untouched, picturesque islands… When we came to a stop, it was at the first beachfront restaurant/bar, and the first place selling something to drink. The signs were making my mouth water as we cycled along the beach front. “Ice cold cokes” “Water in 100m” “Ice cold beers.” I just kept pointing at the signs to my sister behind and moaning. The wait was worth it, as we chilled out on the big, white sun beds with a great view of the surfer’s beach. We chilled there for a couple of hours and ended up having lunch. We cycled to three different beaches, one with a nice pier to chill out on, and the sea was just so warm! Completely deserted too, I was actually kind of worried, thinking, “these beaches are so nice, where is everyone? Are we not supposed to be here or something?” It was very strange, but nobody was to be seen, so we had the beach to ourselves, and the water was so calm and warm. I guess it has something to do with it being “low season.” Again, like Roatan Island, I don’t understand? The weather is great, and it is so beautiful, how can it be low season?

Isla ColonChilling on the dock

My favourite day, and possibly out of the entire trip, was our day trip with UnderSea. On the island, there are many tour companies and excursions to choose from, we were recommended to go snorkelling here and that we shouldn’t miss out! We ended up choosing UnderSea because the tour visited all of the highlights, Dolphin Bay, Coral Cay and the Islas Zapatillas, but had an extra something. Deep boarding they call it… this crazy sport which I have never even heard of before. After watching the video, it looked like so much fun so we decided on that tour. What a great decision, it was such a great day! On the way to the islands we went through the mangroves to see loads of starfish, and on the way back we stopped off to try our luck at spotting some sloths, and sure enough we saw 3 of the fur balls.

Just before arriving to our first snorkelling destination, the water was such a beautiful colour, and so clear that the guide spotted a nursing shark, un tiburon gato, and we watched it swim along beside us… there was me hoping for another one to show Sal underwater. The location was beautiful, a deserted island with white sandy beaches, and palm trees. Exactly what you imagine paradise to look like and what you see on those perfect beach postcards, only it looks even better in real life. So lucky! Unfortunately my underwater camera has an unexplained dent at the top which allows water in, so now it doesn’t work underwater which is sad 😦 We had a great time snorkelling for about 30 minutes and Sal swam with a nursing shark woohooo! The coral was pretty and deep so we were able to dive down and explore for as long as our lungs could hold out. Good fun!

Isla ZapatillaIsla Zapatilla
Isla ZapatillaIsla Zapatilla

Next stop: Islas Zapatillas, a.k.a Paradise. There are no words to describe this place. Correction: there are not enough words to describe this place… unbelievably beautiful. We ran around screaming and smiling like idiots, lucky there was no one else there apart from the 5 people on our boat! I know I have banged on about all these beautiful and amazing places (my vocabulary is seriously lacking,) but this island really was, absolutely beautiful. I have seen some incredible sights and views this year, but this one was definitely one of my favourites- simplystunning. I really cant do this beautiful, unspoilt island justice, so I will let the photos do the talking.

Isla ZapatillaDolphin Bay

Dolphin BaySnorkelling

The small boat has a long wooden plank sticking out at either side with 5 bits of sturdy string hanging off it attached at the other end was our boards. Take a look at the photo, a crazy little contraption, but so easy to use and SO much fun! Holding your arms out straight, you point the board down to go deeper and lift up the front to reach the surface again. That was the aim of the game, a completely different way to snorkel and explore the reef. I didn’t expect us to actually be exploring such a beautiful reef, but it was so cool to be pulled along by the boat gliding up and down like a dolphin, swimming with the schools of fish and seeing the coral formations below. It was amazing! Once we got the hang of it, we were able to do little pirouettes as the guide called it, or little spins in the water. So much fun, I just want to do it again! We would push our boards down to go deeper and deeper, and then upon reaching the surface we would blow the water out of our snorkels, take a breath, and then plunge back into the water again… Check out this YouTube video to get a better idea.  Definitely recommend this trip!

Isla ZapatillaIsla Zapatilla
Isla ZapatillaTwinny and I

After the rollercoaster underwater, we walked around the island to a little hut where the guide and our captain had prepared lunch and another round of juicy, juicy pineapples! We then had another hour or so to chill on this beautiful island, and Sal and I were in the sea the whole time. It really was paradise, and if anybody ever comes to Panama, or Central America, this should definitely be one of the stops! On our way back to Isla Colon, our guide took us to Barco Hundido, a shipwreck which we could explore without scuba gear! I love shipwrecks, and it felt even more eerie without being in all of your scuba gear, but diving down was so cool. Sal loved it too! Up until I told her that I felt like I was being stung all over, then straight away she gets stung right across the back of her knee and on her hand aww bless. We started swimming for the boat, and I could see all the big jelly fish to avoid with their tentacles floating ahead of us, and the pesky little buggers which pricked me. Mine looked like nothing more than mosquito bites but were stinging quite a bit, but then Sal surfaced and she had two great big lines across the back of her knee which looked painful. Once we got back to our hostel, she wanted me to pee on her, but then she sorted herself out luckily… ahem, just call her Sally Grylls.

Isla ZapatillaIsla Zapatilla

All in all, an amazing day and a great 4 days in Bocas del Toro! Now, I am writing this blog on the way back to San Jose, Costa Rica, where we will spend one more night and then it is time for Sal to go back to England  She is asleep next to me right now, but I will just take this time to write that it has been an amazing couple of weeks travelling with my twin, full of adventure, fun and laughter, and I know she is more excited than ever about her round the world trip after Uni! It was my dream to take her travelling with me and even more so to take her to Costa Rica! What an amazing time we had, thanks for making my dream come true sis! Safe flight home… see you in a couple of weeks!

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