Tag Archives: Isla bastimentos

Strawberry Red Frog Detour

So it occurred to me after finishing that last post that I never actually explained why the Red Frog Beach is called as such.  But, as I’m sure you are able to guess, it’s because of the red frogs that live there!  Now at one point in time the sands of the particular beach known as Red Frog Beach were completely littered with the frogs.  Now however, you will be hard pressed to see one at all.  It’s not only that the little buggers have become exploited and are dying out because of people trying to handle them and thereby poison them to their deaths (death of the frog, not the human) but it’s also hard to see them because of their absolutely tiny size!

The red frogs of Isla Bastimentos are about the size of a nickel to a quarter, are red (duh!) and are speckled with black dots all over their body making them look like a strawberry!  Each time I walked through the jungle from the hostel to the beach or back again, I searched every surface I could just to spot one of the tiny beauties.  On the second day there, I was blessed enough to spot one.  They are quite a sight to behold and it’s really a good thing I “hunted” them as vigorously as I did, otherwise I’m sure I never would have spotted on, even if given a month there!  They really are that tiny and hard to spot!!  Sadly every time that I was walking through with my camera I never could find any, but at least I got in one live viewing!

So, I’m going to jump up on a soap box for a few minutes here just in case someone reading this does visit the area.  I implore you to at all costs to NOT handle, pick up, or touch the red frogs.  In addition, I strongly suggest you don’t even pay others for pictures with the frogs.  Let me explain further:

The Red Frogs, like most other frogs are quite delicate in nature.  They basically breathe through their skin and literally absorb their environment into their bodies.  So, while they are not poisonous to humans to the touch, we are poisonous to them!! Sunscreen, soap, oils, hair product, our lunch, literally any residue we may have on our hands is absorbed into their body and can potentially poison them to death.  It is in part due to people (tourists) handling the cute critters that they no longer in bountiful numbers and are dying out.

Another thing I would strongly suggest against is even to pay for pictures of you holding the frogs.  Children, yes children, would go around to tourists with a red frog or two that they had caught and ask if the tourist wanted a picture with it.  The tourist, not knowing (hopefully) that they were #1 exploiting the amphibian and #2 potentially killing or aiding in the amphibians death by holding it, would pay the children for a lovely vacation picture of them holding the frogs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about supporting local economies, however I believe there is a more sound way to do so.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so as there was a posting at the hostel about this very situation occurring (children selling picts with frogs to tourists) and imploring tourists to not take part!!  Kudos to Bocas Bound!!!

Ok, I’m off my soap box now… And by any means, I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I do everything right by the environment, but I do try to do my part as best as possible.  And for this particular area, not touching the frogs was my way of doing just that.

One last little bit of interesting information… Strawberry Red Frogs are not poisonous to humans to the touch.  They DO have poison on their skin, however if that poison does not get into our blood stream, then they are not poisonous to us.  Hence why you could (please DON’T though!!) touch or pick them up without being harmed… Local people apparently would also eat them and suffer no consequences from the poisoned skin of the frog because the stomach acid would kill off the poison.  However if punctured with something that had brushed against the skin of the frog, you’re a gonner!  Due to their ability to poison people if punctured, they are part of the poison-dart group of frogs used by indigenous people as weapons if needed.  Pretty cool stuff…

On to day two on Isla Bastimentos…

Isla Bastimentos

I arrived to the JAMPAN tour office with my gear and groceries ready to go.  We loaded up and were heading out shortly after that.  The boat wasn’t huge by any means as it really didn’t need to be.  Just a simple commuter to get between the islands that made up the greater area of Bocas.  I learned on my way over that the tour owners, a couple from Florida had moved down to Bocas after first vacationing there and simply fell in love with the place.  So much so that they gave up their “normal” lives in the States and opened the boat tour business in Bocas.  I should also mention that acting as a shuttle service is only one of what they offer.  They also took out snorkel trips, dolphin sighting trips and day trips to the various beaches.

For my needs however, I only used their shuttle service.  We hummed silently (apparently they had just updated their engines to make them more eco-friendly and therefore less of a noise nuisance to the marine life, YAY!!) along for perhaps 10-20 minutes and finally arrived on the very modest but sturdy dock of Isla Bastimentos.  From there it was just a short hike along a trail to the (apparently) only hostel on the island: Bocas Bound.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before I had seen several advertisements of this particular hostel while traveling to Bocas, and even a few before.  Normally I would not go with a hostel that was so heavily advertised, but what did attract me considerably was the price.  They were running a special of sorts that basically gave you a third night at 1/2 price, and since the original price was only $10, I thought heck, 3 nights it is!  The other benefit to this hostel was a free breakfast, cheep beer (yay!) but BEST of all, unlimited and free access to the famous red frog beach!  They even had a trail that went through the jungle from the hostel cabins to the beach.  Quite convenient and fun to walk through!

So I paid my hostel fees, settled in the dorm room, put away my groceries in the outdoor community kitchen and immediately hiked down to the beach!  I had been itching for quite some time (basically since leaving Costa Rica) to once again be on a beautiful and inviting beach and since I was now on the Caribbean, I salivated at the thought of the warmer waters and pristine sands that I imagined in my mind, but so far had not encountered (even though Bocas is an island too!!).

I made my way down the trail and finally emerged onto a scene that finally took my breath away!!!  A beautiful, inviting, soft sanded, warm and bright Caribbean beach!!  I shed off my cover-up dress and all but sprinted into the warm waters until fully submerged.  I can’t say how long I was in the water, but I was out there for several hours at least simply playing in the shallow waters, floating on my back along the gentle waves of the sea, and sunning myself on the sand in between bouts of swim sessions.

There was a little rock formation off the beach, not a very far swim at all that I thought would be fun to swim to and maybe climb on to explore a bit.  I swam up to the formation and with bare feet hoisted myself up on the rocks, being careful not to step on any of the inverts that were clinging to the rock.  I wandered around for a bit seeking out the different critters making their home on the rocks and generally watching the ocean from a rocky point until plunging back into the water and swimming to shore again.  I had to specifically mention this part of my swim because, well… Let me go back a tiny bit.

When I was first checking into the hostel I asked the helpful staff if they by any chance had snorkel gear for the beach.  They said they did but no longer lent or even rented them out because many of the hostel patrons apparently ended up ruining the gear, so it was just not worth it to them to deal with snorkel gear rental anymore.  However, they did say that there was a “kiosk” on the beach that did rent out gear.  After my first “dip in the pool” I walked along the beach and found the rental kiosk, but sadly they too did not have any snorkel gear to rent.  It wasn’t as if they were out of the gear because of all the people on the beach (I was one of maybe 4 others there!) but rather they simply didn’t have any anymore.  So after I finished my first beach fun and went back to the hostel, I spoke with the staff just to let them know that those particular individuals no longer rented snorkel gear, and the lovely young lady felt so bad that she had “led me astray” that she allowed me to use the snorkel gear that they had (even though she wasn’t supposed to!!)!!  Needless to say I was very appreciative of this and just had to go back again for another swim, or snorkel rather.  I did of course promise to take good care of the gear, and true to my word did:)

Ok, so now fast forwarding again… With the snorkel gear in tow I decided to swim yet again to the little rock formation to check out all the sea life around the rocks that lived below the surface.  Man-o-man… Was I EVER LUCKY!!!  As it turned out, with goggles to actually be able to see everything in my surroundings, I realized that as I had climbed up the rocks barefoot on my previous trip there, I had just narrowly missed stepping on one of several dozens of long-spiked sea urchins!!  Those things were just everywhere!! Tucked in every nook and cranny of each rock yet hidden from the surface by just a few inches and further disguised by the water crashing against the rocks were sea urchins!!  I have no idea how I missed stepping on at least one, but goodness am so very THANKFUL that I never did!  I guess in my previous ignorant bliss it never occurred to me to watch out climbing on sea rocks in bare feet!

The rest of that day went by peacefully and soundly.  There was only one other person that was staying in the hostel at that time, which was fine by me so needless to say it was a quieter night.  The next night however, slightly different story…