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Panama summary

March 11, 2017

Panama exceeded our expectations!!!

We have now been in Panama since X-mas. We have seen the San Blas with all the old Indian villages steered by the chief and without any facilities (no internet, food, water, telephone coverage, etc.) We have visited the Bocas del Toro with nice anchorages, some facilities and more animals, and finally gone through the Panama Canal with all the hustles needed.

Tomorrow, Feb 27 we are checking out after almost 3 months in Panama, so what is our feeling for Panama…. We liked it a lot. The people have been friendly, the surroundings are different depending on where you are and the wild life is exceeding expectations. Bunkering is OK to do in Colon, but even better and cheaper in Panama City. To start from the beginning:

  • San Blas: we visited some villages where time has stopped. The woman is head of the family, which means that the men move to the woman’s village when marrying. The children get some education in the village, but have to move to ex. Panama City to get more education. At death the person is buried with his/her belongings, which prevents the relatives from fighting.

We, together with our Dutch friends, were invited to a girl´s birth party, which is celebrated for 3 days. We went by canoe, visited the longhouse where 3 chiefs were smoking something and looking into the spiritual world. We even tested the local drink which is chewed from sugar cane and mixed with coffee flavor.  After visiting 2 tribe villages and one, more secularized, village we motored to the outer islands and anchored on shallow ground in clear water (Holande Cays). The wind was strong so no snorkeling, unfortunately. But some nice canoeing.

  • 3 weeks later we set sail for Bocas del Toro west from the Panama Canal. First we passed the Puerto Lindo anchorage to clear in and get the sailing permit and then, after a celebrating Christmas together with the Swedish boats (Loupan and Hakuna Matata II), we set sail for the 150 NM to Bocas. It was totally different, more touristic, more mangrove islands and more animals. Unfortunately the water was murky and not inviting for snorkeling. But, the anchorages were superb, when we left the coral floor outside Bocas Town and moved to the mareas. You could choose a spot of your own with no people in sight. We saw a lot of birds and other animals and the surroundings were very green  due to some rain now and then.  Unfortunately only the main island at Bocas Town, had roads. The rest of the islands we visited were only reached from the sea.
  • First week of Feb we sailed back towards the Panama Canal, and made a stop in Portobelo before taking a berth in the Shelter Bay marina. As mentioned, we made a small visit to Portobelo on the way west a couple of weeks before (clearing in to Panama), but going by bus from the anchorage at Puerto Linton, the place looked bad. Lots of wrecks from the Hurricane Otto. Now, at anchor in the bay, the town made a much better appearance. We even managed to find a spot to snorkel, and found some nice monkeys in the trees surrounding the playa. The yachties were all gathered in a small bar, where I (Eva) could exchange books and we even managed to get some nice German beer thanks to the owner’s German background. The buses covering the area were nicely painted and looked like old American school busses.
  • Shelter Bay Marina in Colon: the marina was very pleasant, with good facilities even including a swimming pool. We also bunkered  a lot  of food for the future sailing to Marquesas. There was a free of charge bus leaving for the shopping mall every morning. Colon is a dangerous city in some areas, so you don’t  go anywhere without taxi. The malls are the only places that are OK. Feb 10-th we picked up Eva´s sister with husband, and made clear for the Panama Canal transit. Having made use of an Agent the technicalities were rather smooth.
  • After staying in Balboa Yacht club for 2 nights, we motored in flat water to Las Perlas. 8 days later we had seen some of the islands and a lot of animals. The snorkeling was OK but the visibility was not that good. Even so we liked the Perlas that gave us a possibility to show our relatives both places with nice houses for the rich as well as real genuine villages.


During the almost 3 months in Panama we have seen a lot of animals and fine nature, which is our main interest.

  • Puerto Lindo: Howler monkeys with kids
  • Bastimento ( Bocas el Toro): Capuchin monkey, dark with a blond head. Sloths, looks like worn blond whighs. With 2 or 3 toes. Very common but difficult to see. Red frogs, poisonous and indigenous to Bastimento Island. Took some time to find since they were 1 cm long! A well fed Boa Constrictor. It had sneaked in to a hen house and taken a hen. Melting the food made it impossible for him/her to get out of the henhouse. Cayman crocodile
  • Shelter Bay: together with Evas relatives we found Howler monkeys with kids, a raccoon like type of bear and a lot of birds
  • Las Perlas: rather low visibility in the water, but still a lot to see. Motoring from Panama City to Contadora we saw plenty of rays (sand colored). At the anchorage and while snorkeling we saw enormous schools of porcupine fish, 10 to 20 cm in size. They were following the current and just drifting by our ship. We came across a small shark (70 cm long). Sitting in a restaurant we saw an Agouti passing by. It is a rodent, a mixture between a rabbit and a rat, but moving like a rabbit. Enormous flocks of Pelicans and Cormorants. All in all an impressive wild life.
  • Don’t forget the green “stuff”: we like the enormous mass of trees and bushes, lianas etc. All the flowers. You really understand what the jungle / rainforest is like. We will miss that for sure.


From → Sailing Letters

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