[Continued from Bocas del Toro Adventure - Part 2]
We rose early Tuesday morning and headed next door to the main house for breakfast. We spoke to one of the owners, Leigh, about a snorkeling tour. She said they have a Captain they have been using for 6 years and he gives great tours. She called him and told him to come over and pick us up. There were also 4 other guests who wanted to do the boat tour, so we would have a nice, small group of 8.
Captain Chris arrived about 9:30 am, right at the dock of the B&B. How convenient! We boarded the boat, prepared for a day of sea and sun. The weather was beautiful and quite warm. Although the temperature was probably in the low 90s during the hottest part of the day, on the water it was comfortable.
We cruised along, across the flat water, toward our first destination: Dolphin Bay. Around the Bocas del Toro Archipelago there are lots and lots of mangrove islands. At one point, the boat headed into a small bay, surrounded by mangroves. It appeared to be a dead-end, but Capt. Chris kept going. As we neared the back of the bay, we could see a small opening in the thick mangroves. It looked like an "alley" that someone had cut - but we were assured it was a natural break. We headed straight into it:
Making our way a little further, we entered a bay called Dolphin Bay (Laguna Bocatorito), where we hung out to try to spot some ________________ (guess what). I was a little bummed when Capt. Chris said we wouldn't be doing any swimming or snorkeling there. It didn't take long before we spotted some dolphins, lazily cruising around the bay. However, as I discovered, spotting them and catching them with the camera were two different things. I did manage to get a couple of short videos:
When we left Dolphin Bay, we skimmed along the water toward Coral Cay (Crawl Cay, Kraal Cay) - a very popular snorkeling spot. I've mentioned several times about how calm the water is around the islands. To give you an idea, check out the video below. It made me want to get out a ski or wakeboard and have Capt. Chris give me a tow...
On the way to Coral Cay, we pulled in off the main waterway into a small cove. There was nothing particularly scenic or interesting about this cove - as far as I could see. Capt. Chris stopped the engine about 30-40 feet out from the mangroves that formed the edge of the cove and announced we would have about a half hour to snorkel here. When I looked over the side of the boat, I could see that there was a lot of "scenery" below, in the shallow, clear water. Time to go snorkeling!
We all went over the side into the warm water and we were amazed at all the marine life. The water was only about 3-5 feet deep in most places, so we could get a close-up view of dozens of different types of coral, sea urchins, and other tropical sea life. There weren't many fish, but the abundance of other life forms kept us fascinated. Some of the star attractions in this gallery (pun intended) were the huge starfish (see the photo at the top of the post). They were all over the place. The water was so warm and clear and there was so much to see, Tina said she could have spent hours exploring this small area. But Capt. Chris called us back in and we moved on.
Our next stop was at a small, thatched-roof restaurant on the water at Coral Cay. The skipper pulled up and told us we needed to place our orders for lunch. Once we had all ordered, we would head out to a nearby snorkeling spot and spend some time in the water, while our lunch was being prepared. When we got into the modest little restaurant, we realized this was a tourist-only restaurant - nobody else would pay the ridiculous prices. The menu prices ranged from $11 for vegetable pasta to $16 for a shrimp plate and $18 for a mixed plate. Tina and I decided to split a grilled chicken plate.
We went off for more snorkeling in Coral Cay and returned for our lunch. When everyone was ready, we continued on our boat tour. The Captain wound his way up through the mangrove islands, pulling into shore at one point, where he was looking for some sloths. He spotted several up in the trees but it was tough to get a good look at them. Fortunately, we had gotten the up-close-and-personal sloth encounter the day before.
We cruised along for a while and pulled in at a dock with a number of other boats. We disembarked to hike over to the other side of the island and our destination: Red Frog Beach. It was only about a 15 minute walk through the forest on a constructed pathway. The path opened up to a beautiful, white sand beach with actual waves (the first we'd seen in Bocas). It is the first beach we've seen in Panama that reminded us of a Maui beach. We had an hour to hang out and play in the warm water and the waves. There were quite a few other people but it was far from crowded. Red Frog Beach is one of the best-known beaches in Bocas.
Why is it called Red Frog Beach? Because of these little guys -->
The Captain pointed these out to us on our way back to the boat. [I included the picture with the fingers, even though a bit blurry, to give you some scale.]
It took us a while to cruise back to Saigon Bay, where we started. Capt. Chris pointed out different points of interest along the way and filled in some history of the islands. Mostly, we just relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We were all sunned, salty, and sleepy and we were anticipating a nice shower when we got back.
We arrived back at the B&B about 4:30pm, cleaned up, and the four of us walked into town again. We had dinner at another nice restaurant. The food was quite good and it was a little less expensive than the night before. After our long day, we opted for a taxi ride back to our respective hotels ($1 per person) and crashed out.
The next morning, we got together with Terry and Cheri after breakfast to take out the kayaks our B&B had available for guest use. We paddled around the calm waters of Saigon Bay and surrounding areas for a couple of hours. We got back in time to get showers, pack up, and just make the 11am checkout time. We took a taxi back to the departure dock for the water taxi to Almirante. The water taxi ferried us back into Alimrante, where we were reunited with our car ($6 parking fee for the 2 days). The normal 3 hour drive back to Boquete took a bit longer, thanks to the fact that we started off down the wrong highway (for about half an hour). However, we made it back and we all agreed that we would love to do another Bocas trip - perhaps a bit longer next time.
Posted by Mark. Comments?