Panama is a wonderful and affordable place to travel. No Spanish necessary and commerce is in US Dollars. Most famous for the Panama Canal, it’s also a country filled with hidden treasures. If you want to get a taste of extraordinary biodiversity while it still exists, consider a trip to Bocas del Toro on the Atlantic. It’s only a short ride from the mainland, but you will find a boat that transport you to another world.
When I went with my family, we stayed at Casa Cayuco Eco Adventure Lodge. This place really lives up to its name. It’s an incredibly ecologically diverse setting. It is situated right on the islands coast line and at the entrance to a lush island rainforest.
The rainforest is filled with coconut palms, monkeys, and two-toed and three-toed sloths. The sloths are hard to see, so you will want a local guide whose eyes are trained to recognize their patterns in the trees. Fortunately, the proprietors, Dave and Suzanne have cultivated a fantastic relationship with the local fishing village.
The relationship is a genuine partnership that involves both employment for services including catching fresh fish every day (meals to die for!) and leading guests on excursions just saw the most beautiful and exclusive places I’ve been in my life. In return, The proprietors have contributed to building schools for the kids, housing for the teachers, and pathways through the swamps for daily commutes. This relationship is so essential to the experience that almost all guests take a tour of the village during the course of their stay.
Mangrove Coral reef
If you like snorkeling, there are many options. If you swim off the dock just a bit, you’ll find impressive reefs just offshore. The best snorkeling is a short boat ride away. A small mangrove island stands at the center of a coral reef, and, remarkably, is a part of that reef! as you swim around the island, you see that the “knees“, the watery roots of the mangroves, our hosts to an array of corals. Shocking red and pink corals on tree limbs partly conceal tropical fish of even more dazzling colors.
The bat cave is not for the faint of heart. But, believe me: it’s an adventure you will never forget. You will be proud of your accomplishments, your bravery, and you’ll have amazing stories to tell. This wet cave requires you to wade in near pitch black (don’t worry, you’ll have a headlamp) beneath a cave roof lined by countless bats of various species of vampire bats and long nosed fruit bats.
Some parts of the cave requires a bit of climbing. Nothing too technical, but you want to have a good footwear.
Again, the local guides are indispensable. Milton, the man who discovered this cave, is a renowned naturalist throughout central America. This is a cave where new species of small fish have been discovered. Travel lightly and these rare species may survive for another generation to see them, too.
Every night, every morning, every lunch, delicious fresh food was prepared and served community style. The hosts were willing and able to accommodate any food allergies.
Dave and Suzanne, the proprietors when I visited, I recently handed over the reins to another couple. The new managers cater to vegan guests. It’s not clear how this new emphasis will fit with the legacy of a resort deeply integrated with a fishing village. But I have no doubt that the natural beauty and peaceful setting will rejuvenate travelers. And I am confident that Bocas del Toro will continue to offer extraordinary eco adventures for recreation.