Saturday, August 16, 2014

BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA: A STUDY IN NATURAL BEAUTY




                 

The islands of Bocas del Toro are the essence and the mirror of Caribbean Panama. This archipelago has the perfect combination of nature with historical and cultural traditions. The incredible variety of aquatic species, coral reefs, mangroves, tropical forest, beaches with crystal clear water, and undisturbed jungles with a myriad of flora and fauna can take your breath away and leave you in total awe.



The stunning aquatic beauty of the reefs in Bocas is incredible!


The lavender sunsets in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro are amazing!

Without doubt, the most famous visitor who arrived at this piece of paradise was Admiral Christopher Columbus on his fourth and final voyage to the New World in 1502 while searching for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. It goes without saying that he was someway confused or mislead, but I cannot help believe that he must have been seriously impressed by the beauty of the area. And in fact Columbus was so taken by the Bocas area that he affixed his name to many sites including Isla Colon (Columbus Island), Isla Cristóbal (Christopher Island) and Bahía de Almirante (Admiral’s Bay).



The reefs are teeming with marine life and waiting for you to visit.



Water taxis are the main form of transportation from the mainland and between the islands of Bocas del Toro and definitely a great way to see the area.


FYI: For those of us who might get a little confused as to how to address Admiral Columbus it depends on the speaker’s language. For example: English: Christopher Columbus; Italian: Cristoforo Colombo; Spanish: Cristóbal Colón; and Portuguese: Cristóvão Colombo. 








I really enjoy maps and this one was especially easy on the eyes for those who want to know the layout of Bocas del Toro.



Bocas del Toro is located on the northern Caribbean coast of Panama. Four hundred years after Columbus’s last voyage to the area, the province of Bocas del Toro was founded. Bocas del Toro translates to “mouth of the bull” and is the name of both the province and its capital. The province of “Bocas” extends from the lush tropical mainland to the islands of the archipelago which has 9 main islands, 52 cays (or smaller islands), and thousands of islets. The capital of “Bocas” is located on Columbus’s namesake island of Isla Colon and is the most populated and commercial of the islands.



This was one of the docks where we spent a lot of time swimming, snorkeling, and sunning in Bocas del Toro.  



The range of vibrant coral colors and types of coral is spectacular.



Our canine friend is the "official greeter" at our very eco-friendly and casual Bocas retreat.


The origin of the name Bocas del Toro is not certain. However, there are many theories which include, but are not limited, to the following: It has been said that when Christopher Columbus landed on one of the fantastically beautiful beaches he saw waterfalls in the form of "bocas del toro" (mouth of the bull). It has also been said that Columbus made note of a large rock on Isla Bastimentos that has the form of a bull lying down. Another theory suggests that the sound of the immense waves which pound on the large volcanic rocks on Isla Bastimentos makes a sound similar to the roaring of a bull. There is also the belief by the local indigenous people that the last "cacique" or chief of the region was known as "Boka (Boca as in "loud mouth"?) Toro." Whatever it’s true derivation, Bocas del Toro is certainly a unique and powerful name for a magnificent area.


For those who wish to alternate snorkeling and diving with surfing there's a tube waiting for you!



Celebrating another birthday in Bocas with another beautiful night is certainly a wonderful birthday gift.


Bocas del Toro is also home to two national parks: Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, Panama’s first marine park, and La Amistad International Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute operates a research station on Colon Island just northwest of Bocas Town. You may go to the following for more information:

http://www.stri.si.edu/english/research/facilities/marine/bocas_del_toro/





There is a local population of manatees in Bocas which may be visited by organized tours. Manatees are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows.These gentle giants are endangered and hopefully protection efforts will be successful.



A vast variety of accommodations are available in the Bocas area. Doesn't this tropical villa look lovely? Warning: you might never want to leave!

Bocas del Toro offers the modern-day visitor or “explorer” so much to enjoy and experience that I can’t help but believe that Senor Christopher Columbus would very much regret all he left behind! Bocas has lush tropical rain forests with abundant fauna and flora, sunny islands with beaches that compete with the Caribbean best, coral reefs set in crystal clear water, and mysterious mangrove islets for exploring.



Water, water everywhere and waiting to be enjoyed, explored, and treasured.



When we were in Bocas there was only one national beer for refreshment and this "still-life" photograph brings back some very cool and refreshing memories.



We had never seen a garden of starfish before and we were enchanted with this one.


The outer islands of Bocas del Toro are easily accessible by boat ride from Isla Colon and have some of the world’s most pristine waters and white sand beaches which are ideal for snorkeling, diving, fishing, surfing, or just relaxing in the tropical sun. The ecosystem on the islands is very diverse with hundreds of species of birds, fish, dolphins, monkeys, toucans, sloth, as well as other marine and wildlife including manatees.




The three-toed sloth are tree-living mammals and are found in the jungles of Bocas. With their slow metabolism and their very slow movement they are perfectly adapted to the tropical climate. See the following for more on slothshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-toed_sloth



Taking a small and rustic water taxi to another beach to be "discovered" brings a smile to my face.

Bocas del Toro is also a fascinating mosaic of cultures including Spanish, Indian, English and French-speaking West Indian natives, Europeans, and North and South Americans.



An introductory swimming lesson for one of the local girls was great fun for both of us.



A colorful and fun-looking backpacker accommodation in Bocas town. This building is typical of the colorful clapboard construction in Bocas.

Culturally, the islands and the lowlands on the mainland around them support a distinct group of Indians, the Guaymas. They still live by fishing and subsistence farming, travel mostly by canoe, and reside in wooden, thatch-roofed huts. The Guaymi language is still commonly spoken, although many converse in Spanish, or Gali-Gali, the distinct Creole language of Bocas delToro that combines English, Spanish, and Guaymi. This dialect had its origins among the Jamaicans brought over to harvest bananas. Descendants of these workers are a major segment of the population. The third group found in the area is the “Latinos” of mixed Indian and Spanish ancestry. The blend of cultures makes Bocas del Toro a real delight and much more than just a "pretty place"!



Dining on the water and watching the local boats is a great way to spend a little time in Bocas Town, the capital and commercial center of the province of Bocas del Toro.



A diving beauty as seen in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. An archipelago, sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of islands.



Oh, mama mia, another gorgeous setting sun on another gorgeous Bocas day.

There is definitely something to interest and enchant every type of visitor to the Bocas area. I realize and apologize if I am starting to sound like a travel agent, but my enthusiasm for the delights of Bocas is difficult to contain. So enough talk already.  It’s time to visit Bocas with additional photos at the following link to my album:

BOCAS DEL TORO PHOTO ALBUM



I hope they do justice to the beauty and magic of delightful BOCAS. Enjoy and gracias until next time! Laura



                                                    Memories are just a click away!

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