Sunday, January 25, 2009

Playa La Barqueta to Boca Brava & Beyond

Today my company (Jeff & Amy from Washington state), Dr. Jennifer Daniels and I took a boat ride from the mangroves behind Playa La Barqueta to a private beach near Boca Brava. We started at 7:00 a.m. and were on the water by 8:15 a.m. There were tiny no-see-ums everywhere, so we were anxious to get on the water & moving. I've been on enough kayak trips through the mangroves to recognize side channels and generally know where I am. It was great to finally get the big picture and understand without the benefit of GPS (coming soon). Alexander (his is 2 brothers) drove us expertly to a private beach (owned by their partner Douglas). We spend the next 2 hours beach combing, swimming, snorkeling (though the visibility was poor), and sharing stories. We returned to Boca Brava for lunch (where the above picture was taken from). The surprise for us was a beach party on an island in the mangrove system. We were heartily welcomed, given coconut juice (even though mine was a bit fermented & tasted alcoholic) & danced with the local talent. Jimmy (disc jockey from David radio station 92.8) played the music. We had a great time, as seen in the following video.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tesoro Escondido (Hidden Treasure)

After three days in Boquete, we headed for Bocas Del Toro for three great nights at Tesoro Escondido ( I've been to Bocas before and didn't want to return to Bocas Town (too much of a scene). Lucky for us, Melissa did the research and came up with this great location near Bluff Beach. Monique opened Tesoro Escondido several years ago and has been providing out-of-the-way lodging in a beautiful location with GREAT meals ever since. A big treat for us was seeing this mama slouth with her baby. In their nocternal comfort zone, they moved surprisingly fast. We also saw (& heard) loads of howler monkeys. The beach walking was endless as were surfing opportunities if you were so inclined. Our favorite swim was this long bay pictured above. I will definitely return when the waters are calm (for snorkeling) and the weather is sunny (September/October).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Boquete Tree Trek Adventure

The pictures are pretty self-explanatory. To say the least, we had a BLAST! This adventure is highly recommended.... it's pretty safe (safer than driving the CPA/Pan American Highway), the scenery is beautiful, and thrills are well worth the $60 price tag. If you look closely, you will see pictures of Melissa & Jake (visiting from Alaska & on their way to Columbia to para-sail for 2 weeks), Pauline, and me. I have to close with this excellent video that will make you feel like you were on the trip!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Islas Secas

This says it all! We had a wonderful Boquete Chicas Islas Secas trip on January 11. The weather was perfect, the water warm-calm-deep blue, and the snorkeling was some of the best in Panama. Carlos Spragge from Buzos Boca Brava took 15 of us Chicas out in his 50' boat for a day of adventure at Islas Secas (a group of islands 1.5 hours away from Boca Chica). I spent over 2 hours in the water and saw a stingray feeding, several giant parrot fish chomping on rocks, at least 20 varieties of fish I couldn't identify (where was that fish ID card?). On our return, we trolled at 10 knots per hour & caught 2 dorados (or mahimahi/dolphin fish). The first one was brought in by Pauline & weighed in at 25 pounds. The second was brought in by Penny and weighed at least twice as much. Boca Chica is close to my condo (only 1.5 hours away) so I will return.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fer-de-lance and More Happy Monkeys

I couldn't resist adding this continuation of the last video (go to the bottom of the previous blog). This is what happened when happy red-backed squirrel monkeys met Bridget on their way to eat bananas. Just as I was beginning to miss the wildness of Mono Feliz and Punta Burica, I stepped outside my condo (about 11:00 p.m. the night before last) and ran into a fer-de-lance snake. It was a 2-foot long juvenile (the worst kind because they don't know how to regulate their venom). According to the Internet (so it must be true), "the fer-de-lance is the most dangerous snake of Central and South America, and causes more human deaths than any other American reptile. On average, a fer-de-lance injects 105mg of venom in one bite, although a venom yield of up to 310mg has been recorded while milking them. The fatal dose for a human is 50mg." I couldn't find anyone at that late hour to tell about the snake, so it is still free. I believe your chances of dying in Panama are much higher by car accident than by snakebite (just ask Pauline about our 2 near misses on the way to Puerto Armuelles).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ultra Adventure at Mono Feliz

I just returned from a 2-day adventure at Mono Feliz located near the Panama/Costa Rica border on the Pacific Ocean. WOW! After following Ken, Sharon, Rick & Nancy for 3 hours over freeways, back roads, dirt roads and beach, we arrived at Mono Feliz, run by a gringo named Juancho. The only way to get to Mono Feliz is to wait for low tide, then rock & roll over beach sand, interesting rock formations and streams. This was a good test of my new truck (a 2008 Turbo Diesel 4WD Nissan Frontier). Minutes after our arrival, the herd of 35 Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys arrived (to eat bananas). Red-backed squirrel monkeys are endangered & quite rare in Panama. They make nice pets (for a few years until they reach puberty) & fit nicely into illegal animal trade that pervades Central America. In order to get the cute little squirrel monkeys, poachers kill the mother and "rescue" the babies. Hence, there are fewer & fewer females and the race declines or becomes extinct. This is the same type of monkeys as Bengie who lives at Paradise Gardens. We spend the night (Pauline, Bridget & I) while Ken, Sharon, Rick & Nancy returned to Playa Barqueta. We had a fabulous 2 days & I can't wait to return. Besides the squirrel monkeys, we encountered howlers and white faced monkeys... not to mention the red-eyed tree frog (that Juancho brought to the dinner table), scorpion, wolf spider, and hords of scavenging land hermit crabs. We spend the afternoon of January 2 collecting beautiful shells & sea glass (we even found 3 pieces of rare blue sea glass). Everything was so beautiful and perfect, we found ourselves wondering if it was real. After a stunning sunset (we came close to seeing the fabled green flash), native dinner and refreshing shower, we retreated to our beach-front cabins. There were no screens on the windows and there were no bugs. Our morning walk took us to Dave's place (a 40 minute walk toward the border). We found Dave in the raw feeding white-faced monkeys (more bananas). He showed us his margay (rescued from Bocas del Toro 3 years ago), hotel (with electricity & hot water) and baby Olive Ridley turtles (about to be released). We returned to Mono Feliz for a great breakfast followed by more beach combing. We left around 2:00 p.m. (for beach driving at low tide) & returned to Las Olas at 5:00 p.m. I'm already planning my next trip to Mono Feliz. You can be assured that if you come visit me for any length of time, I'll take you to Mono Feliz, the place of happy, laughing monkeys.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fireworks, Bonfires, Mariachi Bands & Friends

December 31, 2008 started out like almost any other day on this glorious beach. Pauline & I went for an early morning walk (that's Pauline in the sunrise picture), then cooled down at the pool. I dashed into David for a few hours in the afternoon (buying some list minute items for Richard & Nina's rental along with these apple bananas for $1.50) and finished up the day with a second beach walk (you guessed it, this is a picture of the last sunset in 2008). The fun really got underway around 8:00 p.m. when I went over to Ken & Sharon's beach party. The bonfire was lite right after I showed up, shedding some light on who was there (a wonderful group of people, I might add). Ken set off the fireworks (illegal to purchase in the U.S. but perfectly legal and available year-round here) around 9:00 (so that some of us could go to bed at our normal 10:00.... we are retirees, after all). I followed Leslie's family to the next party given by Roy & Ron (at Ron's beach house). This was an extravagant party (which I crashed since I knew neither Ron nor Roy) which included a 6-man Mariachi Band (above), drinks, dinner, dessert & fireworks. While drinking my agua & feeling the magic of the night sky, I saw a comet (Wow!). Mike (who shared my table) said that a really big comet show will happen this Saturday night (so I'll be looking for that). I returned home to my condo just before midnight so I could see the Las Olas Resort fireworks (the best I've ever seen at a close distance). Enjoy & Happy New Year!