Bocas del Toro, Panama, a group of islands off the western caribbean coast of the country, might be the most popular destination in Panama outside of Panama City. All of the guidebooks will tell you that it is a MUST GO for the beaches and surfing and partying in town on Isla Colon. But, once you start to talk to actual backpackers who have been there, you will hear mixed reviews. Some people love it and want to stay there forever and never leave. Others, myself included, think it is just OK and would rather spend the rest of our lives elsewhere. But, to be fair Bocas is actually a set of islands, each with their own vibe and while Isla Colon, the main island, was not my favorite experience yet, I found Bastimentos, a different island, to be really pretty, much more relaxed, and whole lot more enjoyable.
My time in Bocas happened to overlap with that of some permanently sailing friends of mine, who were living on their boat in the marina on Bastimentos. I met up with them and headed over to their home to hang out and trade travel stories for a few days. It was really good to see some familiar faces and just relax outside of the main island in Bocas!
We did a bit of exploring of the island, played cards on some beaches, had some drinks and came across the one animal that I had yet to spot on my trip- a sloth!
This guy, with the markings on his back and his relatively fast-for-a-sloth pace, is actually a Costa Rican sloth. Not sure how he got to Bocas, but he literally just crossed a path right in front of us, giving me the chance to get these up close shots!
Bastimentos also boasts a population of tiny Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs that one of its beaches, Red Frog Beach, is named for. We looked everywhere as we walked along without seeing any and decided going into the jungle a bit (in flip flops) might lead to better results. We didn´t go in very far before the first one was spotted by one of my friends. Once we saw one, we saw a bunch more. Excited to be able to get some good shots of these little guys I inched slowly forward, camera at the ready and started snapping. The small group of fire ants I happened to step into just then simultaneously starting stinging. Though a few of my toes blistered up to the point that I was limping around Panama for about a week aftward, I came away with these amazing pictures!
And here are the type of ants that I`m pretty sure stung me. These are the very ants that the frogs get their poison from so you can imagine that the sting actually hurts quite a bit for such a small animal.
In the end, Bocas del Toro has an island vibe for everyone! So, even if you don´t feel like Colon is the one for you, there are a whole host of others that you can spend your time on instead! AND always were closed toed shoes when exploring in the jungle.