A Travellerspoint blog

FEB 10 Snorkelling and More Snorkelling

You Can Never Get Enough

COCOS ISLANDS
We rise with daylight, have a quick breakfast and paddle for an hour to one of the Cocos Islands for snorkelling. We will snorkel navigate two of the Cocos Islands, The first is the biggest and we spend an hour and a half in the water. The sea life is even more impressive especially where the current streams by, the fish are so thick we are literally surrounded by them in the hundreds - all careful to keep a distance of 8 to 12 inches. We lunch on sand beaches and then are back in the water. I try out my new Go Pro with a a telescopic rod so I can get closer to the fish. on every snorkle we are eager in anticipation of something new and unique. I try and capture a reef shark on camera but when I get within 5 or 6 feet it turns on the speed and I can't keep up. I see a spotted ray and catch it on camera. Some of the schools of. fish get so close, they nearly flap the camera with their tails.

SWIMMING WITH THE FISHIES

PADDLING FANATICS

PADDLING FANATICS


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SEVENTH HEAVEN

SEVENTH HEAVEN


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[ b] SNORKELLING WITH SHARKS[/b]
We end the day with another snorkel out to our islets offshore and I see two more reef sharks and then a much bigger 10 foot plus shark with a more snout nose. Something tells me not to stick my Go Pro in front of its snout. It checks me out gives a passing nod and swims by. When I reach shore I find out it is a bull shark, one of the more aggressive sharks known to attack humans. Sometimes it is good to find these things out after the fact. Cutter also ran into it separately from me and when it started to turn back towards him, he decided that was enough, and headed for shore at record speed. We share stories over dinner. A great group of kids to hang out with - 30 years young. Stories oHf places we've been, what we do, stories of our life. I have an advantage over most of them. Monte gives me a nice compliment when ihe says " you are my inspiration for when I turn 50."
We spend the early evening listening to the lap of the waves, the howlers and the toads.

SNORKELLING WITH THE SHARKS

PHOTO OF BULL SHARK

PHOTO OF BULL SHARK

Posted by RDILL 09:30 Comments (0)

FEB 09 Isla Coiba

Back to the Land Back to the Sea

semi-overcast 29 °C

ISLA COIBA
We gather and are ready to start at 9:30 am. It's an hour and a half boat ride to Isla Coiba, the largest Island in the Pacific region of Central America. 503 square kilometres,, 22 kilometres offshore - regarded as the Galapagos of Central America. Other than a ranger station, it is now uninhabited and over 85% has never been disturbed by man - a natural semi tropical jungle with 38 little islets around it and some incredible white sand beaches.

In 1919 it became the prime penal colony for Panama, regarded as a ruthless place with brutal conditions under the dictatorships of Torrijos and Norriega. Few people dared venture close. In 1991 Coiba was protected and in 2004 the penal colony was officially closed down and Coiba was protected as a National Park with a special zone of marine protection. In 2005 it was selected by UNESCO as a world heritage site. It is surrounded by the largest healthy coral reef in the North Pacific and due to its isolation has many endemic plant and animal species.

There are 8 of us. Two newlywed couples on their honeymoons - Reese and Janielle from Toronto and Cutter and Erin from Brooklyn. There is Simon and Anna from Denmark, Monte also from Toronto, myself and Liz our guide from California. It turns out to be a delightful group to spend the next 4 days with. Erin teaches yoga and we have an instant bond. Monte and sometimes Liz become my snorkel partners. We sign in at the ranger station, load our gear into kayaks that are kept there, and head off to a beach about a half hour paddle away. We are the only group allowed to camp or overnight on the Islands except at the ranger station. We land, set up campsite, and then snorkle out to an islet a few hundred metres off shore and circle them.

NEW FRIENDS

NEW FRIENDS


OUR KITCHEN

OUR KITCHEN


CLAIMING TERRITORY

CLAIMING TERRITORY


ARRIVAL CELEBRATION

ARRIVAL CELEBRATION

The sea life is way better than I thought it might be. Lots of coral reefs - not spectacular but alive and flourishing. It's the fish population that is impressive - huge schools of fish, including lots of larger fish. We see wrasse, puffers , parrotfish, butterfly fish, surgeonfish, rainbow runners, angelfish, sergeant majors, golden phase, damsels as well as some bigger grouper, tuna, and.a couple of reef sharks. We spend a couple hours exploring the marine environment. I have my new GoPro set up to film the action.

OUR FIRST SNORKEL SITE

OUR FIRST SNORKEL SITE


EARLY MORNING VIEW FROM THE TENT

EARLY MORNING VIEW FROM THE TENT

Back for supper, and as the dark of night envelops us we are serenaded by howler monkeys and toads, while hermit crabs clean our dishes. By 8 pm we are in our tents- me reading I an guess what the honeymooners are up to. Soon a thunderstorm rains down on us. The tents are not entirely waterproof and I need to readjust my sleeping pad and catch the drips in my goggles. Camping here is just a tent, a pad, and a sheet. It is probably 28 C all through the night.

COIBA TOADS

COIBA TOADS


HERMIT CRABS CLEAN THE DISHES

HERMIT CRABS CLEAN THE DISHES

Posted by RDILL 09:00 Archived in Panama Tagged isla coiba Comments (1)

FEB 08 Santa Catalina

Quirky and Fun

sunny 30 °C

A DAY TO RELAX
I have a day to languish and relax and get caught up on sleep. La Buena Vida serves great food and I delight in fruit salad and homemade granola for breakfast with a papaya drink, and try the fish tacos for lunch. All yummy. I do my own practice in Michelle's outdoor yoga platform and Michelle joins me and we discuss our yoga paths. I repack for the trip to Isla Coiba tomorrow. I read. I walk to the beach and try out my new snorkel mask and bask in the warm water. It doesn't take long to know everyone visiting here. A bunch of them have left the North of Panama cause the weather has been cold and dreary up there, and they say this is the only hot spot in the country right now. I meet some of the peo ple that will accompany us to Isla Coiba and join them for dinner. I practice my Spanish. The most interesting connection is with two young boys that greet me " hola Mr. Santa Claus". Too bad I didn't come with presents. The Internet connection here is totally unpredictable and unreliable as is the power which tends to go off at any time. It takes 10 minutes to get connected to the Internet and then the signal goes. I still can't upload emails. I don't dare try to upload photos. I will add them in later. This will be my last posting till after I return from Coiba in 5 days. Hopefully I will have something interesting to say then.

MORE SANTA CATALINA ARTWORK

MORE SANTA CATALINA ARTWORK


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Posted by RDILL 01:27 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

FEB 07 Getting to Santa Catalina

Not Without Some Early Morning Hitches

semi-overcast 29 °C

SANTA CATALINA AT LAST
The taxi scheduled for 6 didn't t show up What to do. I finally decided to leave and try the new metro. Moved my one bag outside the front gate and it closed and locked and I couldn't get back in for my backpack. Had to sit in the dark and wait till someone turned up around 6:45 am to open the hostel for early breakfast. By that time I had missed the early bus. Good thing I practice yoga. Things got better after that. Hailed a taxi off the street. He got me to the bus depot no problemo. I went up to the ticket booth and everyone was shouting and helping me, and I was immediately ushered right onto the bus and off we went. 3 1/2 hours to a little town named Sona. The bus was not an express but did play wonderful latin music all the way there. The bus was filled with Panamanians plus 2 young European couples that I were heading for Santa Catalina. A young Swedish woman sat beside me, her boyfriend across the aisle. The seats were so uncomfortable we squirmed to find a good position and she finally found the best was to curl up on the seat with her waist length hair tickling me the whole way. I rather enjoyed it. We were immediately ushered into a small private minibus and by 3 that afternoon I was dropped off at La Buena Vida, my home for a few days.

I am in seventh heaven here. The owners and staff are young and delightful to be around. Michelle teaches yoga and I joined her for an late afternoon stretch. She also does wonderful tile designs and the place is full of her handiwork. Mike does iron work and the yoga studio has all these wonderful designs of yoga postures done in ironwork to form the railings. The town is 2 blocks long full of little eating places and surf and dive shacks with the beach at the end of the road.

THE UNITS

THE UNITS


THE YOGA STUDIO

THE YOGA STUDIO


BATHROOM SINK

BATHROOM SINK


MICHELLE'S ART WORK

MICHELLE'S ART WORK


END OF THE ROAD

END OF THE ROAD


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The town is 2 blocks long, full of little eating places and surf and dive shops, with a beach at the end of the road. I enjoy a relaxed dinner
The evening breeze caresses my skin as I sip a papaya smoothie. It's worth it to finally get here. I check in at some of the dive shops and they are excited to report that whale sharks have been hanging around for the past 8 days. I go to bed dreaming of swimming with the sharks .

Posted by RDILL 03:55 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

FEB 05 06 On the Road Again

Why Do We Do What We Do

overcast 29 °C

OK it's been two full days of travelling and I have 6 1/2 hours of bus riding tomorrow to get to some place in the middle of nowhere. Part of me is exhausted and part is exhilarated. Mani was a sweetie and drove me to the airport and sent me off with a big hug. The rest of the day was uneventful except someone sitting next to me gave me "50 Shades of Grey" cause she had just finished it, so I began reading it as we traversed the prairies on our way to Toronto, and it kept me thoroughly entertained. It will be interesting to see how the movie compares. We arrived in Toronto to be met with a snow blizzard and -10 temperatures. Guess it was little premature to get off the plane in my t shirt in anticipation of weather in the tropics. 3 hours sleep in a nearby hotel and then back to the airport heading south to Panama. The nicest driver from Venezuela picked me up and drove me to a cute little B & B right in the middle of town in one of the old neighbourhoods. The last time I had been in these parts was 45 years ago hitchiking back from working as an architect in Barbados. Times have changed. Back then it was a small city with tensions between the U.S. marines and workers controlling the Canal and the local town guys, both groups patrolling the streets in gang mentality just spoiling for a fight with the other. Made it hard to enjoy a cerveza late in the evening. The downtown is now a mass of high rises and construction zones and the traffic moves at a snails pace. It did give us time to chat and to find out a bit about what it's like here compared to Venezuela. But is my Spanish every rusty. I keep throwing in French words instead. Hopefully it all sorts itself out in a week or so. It's amazing how well you can communicate not understanding 50% of what is actually said. Spent the late afternoon walking around town and people watching. The average age is probably in the 20's or early 30's and there is a wonderful street life with lots of bars and restaurants with outdoor areas , just perfect for people watching, and picking up on the day's events while watching soccer on big tv screens. I had a traditional Panamanian dinner at a local restaurant but it wouldn't win a prize in the worldwide cook off competition. Tomorrow I try to navigate the bus system here. Wish me luck!

Posted by RDILL 17:54 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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