Snorkelling, Sloths and rain? RAIN?

A title lined up for alliteration there. But no…Wow. Surprising that I would do that. That’s how surprised we were when it rained on our two day-trips in Bocas del Toro. Typical.


Snorkelling Trip


A day of searing heat proceeded this day-trip that we had planned and so we were excited for some snorkelling in the sunshine. Of course, the weather had a different idea and so instead it was cold and overcast. The day consisted of stops at multiple locations, the main one being Islas zapatillas, which I had read about beforehand and they had looked like paradise on Earth. I could completely see the beauty of the islands when we arrived. Perfect white sand, palm trees and no buildings in sight. However, the sight was slightly marred by the fact that the sun wasn’t shining. That hadn’t happened in any of the photos on the internet. This must be some sort of mistake I thought. No mistake, just reality. Don’t get me wrong, the sea was still a beautiful turquoise blue but the surprisingly cold rain was slightly taking away from the whole thing.


Two people in Bocas del Toro
Pete and Brendan ready for a snorkel


Nevertheless, we went for a snorkel and it was still crystal clear. There weren’t that many fish around but I did see a small sunfish which was very impressive. After returning to the boat and the rest of the people, who were just paddling right next to the rickety craft, we played football on the beach. Not with a football though. With the only available round thing on this tiny island. No, not one of the heads of one of the constantly screeching tourists, although it did cross my mind. An empty dried up coconut. Playing with local kid who helped lead the tour, we quickly found out that our fitness was a little low thanks to the beer drinking and lack of exercise but also the fact that our precious European feet couldn’t handle kicking a coconut around on a beach for too long.


Posing in the water Bocas del Toro
What you show people when you return: You’re having fun, posing by a boat in relative paradise


Black and white photo on an island
What you don’t show people: The cold rain stings your salty skin, your foot is battered and bruised from a coconut and your arms chafed from the rubber ring swimming the night before.


After that we went to Dolphin bay, to see (to my utter surprise) … Dolphins. Who would’ve guessed it? It was an amazing sight but definitely ruined by the number of companies in the bay. Their boats chased after the dolphins and surrounded them at points which felt a little cruel, also the fact that people in all the boats spent their whole time filming the experience or taking photos annoyed me slightly. They saw the whole experience through their phone instead of with their eyes, which to me, seemed like a waste.

Sloth island. Inventive names vol.2, I know, but we went with it because who doesn’t want to see sloths. Problem with sloths is, as you may have guessed, they don’t like moving. At all. And thanks to their brown fur, they look exactly like a branch. We did see some of them that the guide had pointed out (after he used his whistle that is supposed to make them move), but maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Maybe in reality, it’s all a scam and there’s no such thing as sloths. But I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and trust the integrity of the man, the myth, the legend, David Attenborough. He saw sloths and he’s a national treasure, so it must be true. We love you David.


Life jackets
Steve Irwin and Chris Packham, on the hunt for sloths. You decide who’s who.


Finally, we stopped at Cayo Coral which was supposed to be the most amazing in terms of coral viewing but instead there was a tiny patch of coral, lots of different colours but nothing particularly spectacular, a saw a few interesting jellyfish then got out.


Red Frog Beach


On another overcast day Pete, Brendan and I headed out for Red Frog beach which I had read about before as a nice place to spend the day. We took a water taxi there which took around 15 mins and Pete drove about half the way. As soon as we arrived it began raining, and in typical Central American fashion, it wasn’t drizzle. Taking shelter in the trees we came to the point where we had to pay, Brendan and I had enough money readily available but Pete was left rummaging around for $1 bills. Instead the man spied a condom in Pete’s bag of assorted clutter and it was then exchanged it for entry to the beach and island. Never had I seen a condom used as a form of payment before and it was nothing less than a beautiful moment.


Driving a boat
A Panamanian water taxi driver in the making, armed only with condoms and a smile…


Getting to the beach we were slightly disappointed, not because the beach wasn’t nice, it was probably because it was still raining. We still went for a swim in the slightly seaweedy water where I was nipped by a pesky crab and then we did a long jump competition on the beach which of course I won with my gangly legs, not even Dutch Pete’s lankiness could surpass my springy goat legs. Just call me Mr. Tumnus. After getting a little bored we decided to go for a wander down one of the tracks we’d seen, all in our flip flops, which always seems to happen and it never ends well (see Montenegro and Trinidad). Aiming for nowhere in particular we ended up in this private housing complex on top of the hill, each house had a pool, they all had beautiful views over the sea and most seemed a bit empty. We were a little unclean by this point mostly due to our poor choice of footwear and so Pete decided that a shower would be nice. As if by magic there was an outdoor shower at the nearest house and so he went for a little rinse and got back to the road just before one of the patrol trucks came to maintain the security of the houses and make sure three young men weren’t breaking into these expensive houses.

After asking where we could go to see anything interesting we were pointed into the forest and we thought we’d try and find a way back from there instead of back down the same path. However, the slippery mud and my cheap flipflops weren’t working harmoniously and so it made for difficult walking but we were rewarded with a random wooden staircase in the forest which after a lot of steps took us into the canopy and a zip wire. A quick relax and then we headed back the way we had come trying our best to avoid the security patrol and maintain the structural integrity of our flip-flops.


in a rainforest
Courageous canopy conquerors


Final thoughts


Yes, it rained all over our parade, but in the end, we didn’t care too much. The sights were still worth seeing and we had a lot of fun. Even better was the fact that Brendan didn’t drown on his first-time snorkelling.



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