Diving A Coral Kaleidoscope – Sailing Bocas Del Toro

Diving A Coral Kaleidoscope – Sailing Bocas Del Toro

Sailing away from Salt Creek at Isla Bastimentos was bitter sweet. We had so many epic moments that were also firsts for us. We visited our first indigenous village, went on our first jungle adventure, saw our first sloths, monkeys, poison dart frogs and went on our first scuba dive from the boat.

As beautiful as our time was, we had been away from the land of internet for over a week and it was time to get some work done. We needed to anchor somewhere within the zone of a cell phone tower to hotspot our data or find some land based wifi.

The moment we were within range of the Bocas cell phone tower our phone started pinging with sound of emails coming in. We immediately noticed one from our sailing friends s/v Waterbug. “I see that you have arrived in Panama. It looks like you are on Bastimentos Island…Red Frog Marina…good wifi…great people…very nice.” Yes, exactly what we need, the timing couldn’t be more perfect!

It never ceases to amaze me how small, connected and helpful the sailing community is. We looked up the location and sure enough it was a short walk to the most prized beaches and close to one of the best listed dive sites in the Bocas area. Score!

Location Is Everything

Access to these Panamanian Islands is way trickier than we expected.  Plus, I think the Bahamas spoiled us a bit.  Everywhere we anchored seemed “cruiser friendly” and we were always welcome at the docks with our dinghy.  Having access to land in the Bahamas was no big deal. On the opposite end, getting access to the islands here in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago isn’t so easy.

Tourism has blown up in Panama over the past ten years and with that has come a lot of opportunity to make a buck. Fair enough.  Water taxi’s take up every dock and unless you are willing to do a fair amount of bribery to ensure the safety of your dinghy, it’s best to just take a water taxi.  In other words, a marina with good access to the islands, wifi, a free water taxi and nice facilities really starts to look like the best land exploration option.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve spent plenty of days out at anchor here too and it’s been fantastic.  But, we have some long winded and epic land based adventures in mind that require a safe place to “park” the boat.  But more on that in upcoming posts (I know, what a tease!).

A big thanks to our friends of s/v Waterbug for the email and encouraging us to visit Red Frog Marina.  It really is the best access to Isla Bastimentos and hands down the nicest marina and resort we’ve ever stayed at.  A pristine floating dock, lush colorful landscapes, jungle trails to the beaches, open air showers, cicada and red frog symphonies each night…what more could we possibly ask for.

Red Frog Marina
Exploring Bocas Del Toro
Beach fires on Red Frog Beach!

Diving A Coral Kaleidoscope

Hospital Point is where the main hospital of the region was before being moved to Almirante in 1920. Apparently, there are still ruins of the old hospital and the grounds are said to be lovely for roaming about. But we were there for the scenery underwater, not above.  It is the rainy season here in Panama and depending on how much rain and river run off there is, the water visibility can get really terrible.  So, sadly we weren’t able to fully capture this magnificent environment but we had loads of fun anyway!

This area is known for its colorful, well-preserved hard and soft corals…and of course good healthy coral becomes home to a variety of other marine life.  Like these feather duster worms that can be found on almost every piece of coral.  Yes, that is a worm on the right hand side of the photo and it really is called a feather duster.

Scuba Diving Panama
Jelly fish scuba diving
Scuba Diving Panama

Snorkel/Dive Gear

Panamanian Mold…It’s a beast!

There is something extra potent about the tropical heat here.  Mold grows like I have never seen before.  Keeping the boat clean and the black spots away is becoming a full time job.  We are trying our best to keep everything clean, dry and wiped down with vinegar.  But, if anyone out there has any tips for keeping the mold at bay (and removing the mold stains) we would love to hear all about it!

Learning Spanish

If we want to get in good with the locals and really get to know them, we need to be able to have a conversation with them. Jason and I both had a Spanish class in high school but we are beyond rusty.  Then there’s our Canadians on board, Justin and Dale, who are great for French but don’t know a lick of Spanish.

We picked up the Pimsleur Spanish CD’s a long while back and finally started listening to them on the sail to Panama.  We all picked up a few new phrases but getting conversational was looking bleak.  I started searching online for an alternative and that’s when I found the Learn Spanish With Paul Noble.  There were so many glowing reviews talking about how his unique approach to learning language had them conversational in no time.  It was only a couple of bucks on Audible or free if I signed up for a 30 day trial, and even if I canceled after the trial, I still got to keep the book.  Sold…so we signed up!

Seriously, the reviews were dead on.  He does take a different approach to teaching and it’s working!  I’m not saying we’re all a conversational wiz yet but we’re making lots of progress!  Jason seems to be the quickest to pick it up and he certainly has the best dialect but Justin’s country Canadian accent is pure gold!  I have a feeling he is going to win over a lot of Panamanians with his Spanglish charm.

If all goes well, we will start on the French lessons next. That way we have a head start on our French Polynesian adventures and we may be able to woo our French customs officials with some Franglish (is that a thing?) and a smile.

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map

Sailing and diving panama
  • Dates: August 11-14, 2017
  • Nautical Miles Sailed: 17.6
  • Marina: Red Frog Marina: igy-redfrogmarina.com  The marina can be found easily on Active Captain.
  • Cell & WiFi: We had good +movil cell phone service here and the marina wifi worked well.

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