Tag Archives: Travel

Bocas Del Toro, Panama – Bastimentos

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.

Bocas del Toro Bastimentos

Bastimentos

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!

Green Butterfly

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!

Sloth 1

Sloth 2

Sloth 3

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!

Strawberry Poison Dart 1

Strawberry Poison Dart 2

Strawberry Poison Dart 3

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.

Bastimentos Ants

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.

 

Advertisements

Tortuguero, Costa Rica

PREFACE: Honestly, I have no idea how this happened. It´s June and the last time I posted was MONTHS ago. I keep thinking about posting, but the reality of not having my own computer or even tablet (which I did have when I was posting regularly and is now, um, broken) makes it really kind of difficult. But, I want to do better, and so this post re-starts what I can almost promise will be more regular updates. Because I missed so much in between, I may also fill in with some older stuff from the last few months.

So, let´s talk about Costa Rica! Everyone loves this place and for good reason; its gorgeous! However, I have two main complaints that seem to be mirrored by backpackers in general- 1) It is expensive! For me this was definitely true. Having spent the last few weeks in Nicaragua, Costa Rica was a slap in the face. Money just doesn´t stretch as far, with as little effort, as it does elsewhere. However, if you are coming straight from the U.S. for example, I´m sure the overall lower prices will seem great. It´s all relative, right? 2) Compared to the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is almost  a mini U.S. I definitely found this to be true. Comparatively, it is a pretty well developed country where there are lots of English speakers, U.S. dollars are widely accepted and there are more Gringos on each bus you ride than I had seen anywhere else.  I met more people from the U.S. traveling in Costa Rica than possibly on the entire rest of my trip, and I was only there for 10 days! For a lot of  experienced backpackers, it´s just not culturally different enough from the U.S. or other western countries to be as interesting as the rest of the region. But, I´m sure for some and certinaly those less experienced, this would make it the perfect travel destination! Still, no matter what your level of travel experience or desired level of comfort, you can´t argue with the natural beauty in Costa Rica. I had an amazing time visiting just a few new places, including Tortugero.

Tree canopy Tortuguero

Tortuguero is a National Park on Costa Rica´s Carribbean side, accessible only by boat or plane. Tourist shuttles are widely available to Tortuguero, but taking public transportation is really easy and 1/3 the price. A bus from San Jose to Cariari (1,660 Colones)  then another from Cariari to La Pavona (1,100 Colones) takes you to the boat (1,660 Colones) you need to finally arrive in Tortuguero. The whole thing takes about five hours and will cost you around $9. Bonus: the boat ride to Tortuguero is more like a tour than just transportation, snaking down the river until you eventually land in the small but very charming village. There are many opportunities for wildlife spotting from a kayak or a canoe through Tortuguero´s canals, or on foot through the land portion of the National Park. There are beaches, abundant soccer matches to watch and overall good vibes.

Tortuguero Lizard DSCN9069 DSCN9064 DSCN9043

I did a canoe tour ($20) which resulted in spotting three different types of monkeys (Spider, Howler and White-faced), several large birds, a few caymans, and lots of lizards. Later, I walked, on my own, through the National Park and found myself in the company of a very still and very low to the ground family of Howler Monkeys. One even posed long enough for me to FINALLY get a few decent pictures! Spotting these guys running from tree to tree is relatively easy, but getting a non-blurry photo takes a lot of patience, a little luck, and a pretty good camera. Just look at this one´s foot and his face!

Tortuguero Howler Monkey

Tortuguero Howler Monkey

Though Tortuguero is not one of the 5 most popular places to visit on a trip to Costa Rica, if you have the time and are interested in spotting wildlife, you should definitely find your way there.