To Bocas del Toro

Tags: Bocas del Toro, Isla Solarte, Kusapín, Panama

Date: February 18, 2022

After spending almost a week anchored on the Chagres River, we traveled further west towards the Bocas del Toro archipelago. After an overnight sail from Rio Chagres we arrived at Laguna de Bluefield aka Bahia Azul, a bay named after the Dutch pirate and explorer Abraham Blauvelt who sailed in Central America and Jamaica and has given rise to place names in both Nicaragua (the town Bluefield and Bluefield River) and Jamaica (Bluefield Bay) in addition to Laguna de Bluefield in Panama.

Laguna de Bluefield is in the Kusapin peninsula, which is part of the Ngöbe-Buglé comarca, so-called demarcated regions in which indigenous groups possess exclusive land rights and considerable administrative autonomy. The Ngöbe indigenous group already lived in this area when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1502, during his fourth and last voyage to America. They traditionally lived from a mix of subsistence farming and fishing but now supplemented by the men taking work in construction or maintenance in the larger towns.

As we anchored in the bay next to some houses, the kids would come out on the canoes and hang out around the boat, trying to sell a few bananas, maybe get a "regalo" (a present from us), or just to chat. Later, an older couple came over in their canoe on their way home after tending to their plot of land. They gave us the gift of two yuccas and told us how best to cook them — boil them first and then cut them up and fry until crisp in oil.

Pictures of some of the local houses and a general view of the bay:

Tiny islet with a few trees at the entrance to the bay:

After leaving Laguna de Bluefield we moved on to Bocas del Toro proper. The Bocas del Toro archipelgo consists of 11 islands, about 50 cays (smaller islands) and some 200 islets. We spent a few nights in a very protected and small bay on the Isla Solarte. We found a trail in the jungle and went exploring:

Félicie in front of large tree:

A hot lips plant with fruits — so named because the red leaves surrounding the flowers and later berries are shaped like a pair of full red lips:

The Strawberry Poison Dart Frog is found only in eastern central Nicaragua through Costa Rica and northwestern Panama. It shows extreme variation in color and pattern between populations that have been geographically isolated and the different islands if Bocas del Toro all have their typical variation of frog. In Isla Solarte the frogs are bright orange to red with white toes, either patternless or with small black spots:

Here's one where the white toes are very prominent:

Another one, this time with a few spots and a partially grey hind legs:

Not all the frogs in the jungle are bright red and easy to see. We only noticed this one because it jumped on the trail as we were passing. After that it sat completely still, making itself flat to try to blend in with the leaves:

View from a hill top towards the bay where we anchored:

Amanda seen through the trees: