Bocas Del Toro is centered around the water and therefore water activities are abundant. On our third day in Bocas, we decided to take a catamaran trip with Bocas Sailing and see some of the other islands of Bocas Del Toro. The trip included two stops with opportunities to swim and snorkel.
One of the great benefits of visiting Panama is the fact that it is much cheaper than visiting Costa Rica, and our sailing trip was no exception. In Costa Rica, a half day sailing trip is around $80 / person. In Bocas we paid around $45 / person and it was a 9 to 5 pm journey. But.. you get what you pay for as well. The boat we went sailed on was called the Chewbacca and it was pretty weathered compared to the boats we’ve been on in Tamarindo. But it was fun and we had a great time.
The journey started by sailing across the main Bocas bay and doing a little deep sea fishing. All of the kids got a chance to hold the rods as we dragged them across the ocean. After everyone was tired, hot and done fishing, I got stuck holding a rod. I’m not a huge fan of fishing so I was just waiting for someone else to come get the rod from me and low and behold, I caught something. It was actually kind of funny. It wasn’t very big, but I caught a lizard fish. It put up a little fight, but was pretty easy to reel in. Once they finally got the fish off my hook and back in the water, I was able to relinquish the rod and move back to the front of the boat. Erin and I got a good laugh about the fact that I was the only one to catch anything and the only one that didn’t want to catch anything.
Our first stop was in Dolphin Bay, which is a popular place to spot – you guessed it – dolphins. There were a few other smaller boats in the bay looking for dolphins as well. After a few minutes of searching, we spotted a dolphin fairly close to the boat. We didn’t see very many of them, but that particular dolphin played around for about 20 minutes before we took off to our next location.
Around noon, we finally stopped at a spot where we could get in the water. It felt so good to get in the water after a very hot and sunny morning aboard the catamaran. We donned snorkel equipment and headed out to check out the reefs below us. The snorkeling gear was another example of getting what you pay for. It worked just fine, but it had seen WAY better days. Rubber fins were held together with threads and I’m not 100% sure that anything had been cleaned much more than a dip in the ocean in a few years. But it is what it is and we tossed on our masks and snorkels and swam into an amazing underwater world.
Erin and I have done quite a bit of diving in Maui and while the fish in Maui are absolutely incredible, the reefs are middle of the road. I was blown away with the beauty of the reefs in Bocas del Toro. They were beautiful. Purples, orange, red, green, blue, yellow, pink. Everywhere. It was stunning to see.
The kids were also amazed. They have never really snorkeled before, so they were excited about even just breathing under water! I was holding Abby’s hand much of the time and I could constantly hear her muffled little voice coming out of her snorkel saying “Cool!” “Dad, look at that!” “See those fish?” “Dad, look!” I was very proud of her for being so enthusiastic, I know sometimes it’s a little scary to see exactly what’s going on under the water. She wasn’t freaked out even in the slightest way. We had so much fun.
We were also able to have a discussion with the kids before we dove about how fragile coral is and that even touching it can kill it. They really absorbed that information and were extremely careful and respectful of the underwater world. I was very proud of them. They even yelled at me once when my fin got a little too close for comfort to a rock as they were worried I might hurt something.
It took us a long time to get to the next spot, I’m not sure why (wind speeds?) but we all felt a little rushed by the time we were able to get in the water, but we didn’t let that phase us, we were there to snorkel, so we did.
The second location had less coral, but a lot more fish. Quite a bit more fish! It was totally cool to see schools of fish swimming around the kids. Again, all three of their little voices coming out of their snorkels. “Dad! Mom! Look!” “Did you see that?” “Over here!” They were giddy with fish excitement.
After 30 minutes or so of exploring, we hopped back on the boat and slowly made our way back to Bocas Town.
Overall it was a great day, yet over and over it was clear that we were in Panama and not in Costa Rica. The enthusiasm and kindness of the crew was very different than the boats we’ve been on in Costa Rica. The drink and food selection were sub par. The boat was pretty worn down and small. But.. we weren’t expecting a Costa Rican sailing trip, we were expecting a Panamanian trip, and it met every expectation and need. I would certainly recommend a trip on a catamaran while in Bocas.