The fist time we spent some time with the Kuna indigenous tribes was on our second or third day. We were invited to have a lobster dinner on the island with the tribe. Before dinner we basically spent our day wandering the island and snorkeling the waters. I found a shell that I wanted to keep, so I kept it with me to later ask the chief if it was ok that I kept it (he said yes:))
Now, while most of the islands are absolute paradise, one must also keep in mind the currents. The currents tend to bring trash from the ocean and basically dump that trash onto portions of the island. The tribes basically just burn all their trash (since they don’t make much of it to begin with) and to my knowledge don’t clean up the trashed areas from the currents. So not to get back up on my soap box here, but really if any of you reading this make it to the San Blas Islands, please be cognizant of the waste you produce and leave behind. Otherwise some of that waste that is neglectfully dumped in the ocean could ruin an otherwise perfect island vacation… I’m just saying lets all do our part!! 🙂
Ok, I’m done with that rant… Anyway, so as night came we went onto the island and had a lobster dinner caught fresh and prepared for us that evening!! Of course we did have to pay a small fee for the dinner (another way the tribe makes money) but it was worth it:) Just to have the experience of that nature, it was worth it!! The people of the tribe weren’t necessarily very social by any means, rather they were quite shy in a lot of ways, but they were very courteous and pleasant! The island chief ate a little distance away from us sitting near a campfire and an old TV set. I don’t recall it actually being on, but there was an old radio nearby that was… There was a game on that night… LOL!!
Anyway, the evening was basically spent enjoying the food and the company. At one point I wandered off to the water and once again became mesmerized as I watched little waves crash on the shore, each one lit up by that ever beautiful phosphorescent algae!! I wandered in a bit as well just to play my hands in the water, disturbing the surface to make my own glowing shapes in the sea. So peaceful and beautiful!! And talk about a night sky!! My goodness!!!! So brilliantly full of shimmering lights… I thought I was impressed with the night sky of Puerto Viejo, but my goodness, literally being in the middle of “nowhere” with no lights coming from anywhere except a bonfire, that night sky really glows!! It was just a very awe-inspiring moment for sure.
Before leaving for the night, myself and the German woman bought an anklet from the tribe women. I still have mine on my ankle to this day, and it’s now been over 2 years since I’ve been to the islands! I figured that when it fell off naturally that would be it but its still holding on strong! On our way back to the boat the boys started a little bonfire for us to hang around as we waited for our “taxi” back to the boat:)
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…