Tuesday, October 3, 2017

San Blas Islands, Panama, September 30 - October 1, 2017

I was waiting outside for my ride to San Blas at 5 am, not sure if I really wanted to go.  I'm not a beach person but San Blas is truly a 'must do' while in Panama.  A lot of people from Madventure were going to Cartagena on a 5 day sailing trip - 3 days in the islands then 2 days dead heading to Colombia.  I decided I didn't want to do that - if the weather is bad, 2 days can seem quite long on a small boat, so I opted for this option and I will fly to Cartagena October 4.

The first hour of the trip was on excellent highway.  Then we turned off onto a pothole filled, very hilly, twisty insane road.  At the summit I could see some of the islands in the distance-

There are 365 islands owned by the Kuna people.  They are like our Indigenous people but they own their own land and also govern it.  We had to show our passports at the 'border'-

Upon arriving, a lancha picked us up-

and we were on our way.

Most islands are uninhabited or barely-

Some have been turned into tourist friendly locations like Perro Chico where Kuna families take turns living 3 months/year, working for the tourists.  Beer, water and pop are available and sometimes there's a small restaurant-

Frigate's Gate is another island-

They sell crafts and shells-

at inflated prices.  Living accommodations are simple and nasty looking-

I stayed on Isla Asseryaladub-

 in a communal hut-

I had a great sleep with the cool breeze blowing in off the Caribbean and the quiet.  It was soooo peaceful after 3 nights at booming Lunatic's Castle.

They have a fresh water well that they pump into this cistern.  This water is used for showering, flushing toilets and cleaning, however they haul their drinking and cooking water from the mainland-

There is only power at night which is provided by a generator-

Lunch and supper were the same.  We had a choice of fried fish or fried chicken.  Why bother filleting?

After day one -  two meals of 'fried' and the need for immodium, I learned I could also order "a la plancha', which is grilled.  I think they deep fried it first, then threw it on the grill for a few seconds!

Our first island visit was to Perro Chico where they've sunken a small boat to attract fish and grow corral.  Cacique Cruisers, the company I travelled with, offers free snorkeling equipment-

and I used my underwater camera for the first time!  I've made 63 dives without my own camera and now finally I have one!  I am pretty impressed by its pictures-

Yes that is a jelly fish!  There weren't many fish to see and the people were walking on and touching the corral.  There is no education by the guides to "DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!' 

Even though I'm not a beach person, I did fall asleep!  After the last few nights of pounding bass in my room, it's no wonder!  

After lunch, we visited a 'piscina', a very shallow spot in the middle of the sea where there were many starfish - different colors of brown/orange-

and a green one-

We returned to Asseryaladub and had supper, again fried fish, and later a bonfire.  The fire was made from dried coconut leaves so only lasted about 15 minutes-

Our first visit on Day 2 was to the village island where about 2000 people live in Kuna Yala-

There is no place for the fairly new introduction of plastic garbage but it doesn't seem to bother the inhabitants that it's all over the place!

One strong wind would wipe everything out.  According to our guide, they are protected by their beliefs.  For example, women wear beading around their calves as a form of protection-

People gather daily in the church-

where the Chiefs lead the service from the hammocks-

There are a couple of schools where they learn English, Dulegaya, Spanish and French-

There's also a hospital-


and library-

Grocery stores are simple-

However poor they seem to be, they are 'connected'-

The streets are narrow and muddy when it rains-

They make beer called chichi that is free and drank on special occasions.  The brewery is known by the leaf hanging in the doorway-

The people weren't really friendly.  The women wanted $1 for each picture.  It seemed to me like the whole place felt exploited by the likes of me.

Women wear traditional dress and according to our guide, not just today for our benefit-

Kids wear uniforms to school-

Of course, transportation is by boat-

I love the sail!  And-

that doesn't look like too much fun to me!

The mola is appliquéd symbols done by hand-

and reflects their beliefs.  It is worn as part of traditional clothing.

Our next stop was the island of Chichimé which was larger but still only took about 15 minutes to walk around-

There was a lot of garbage scattered around.

Men free dive up to 50 feet to find lobster which they sell to local restaurants-

The second day was cloudy, windy and cool.  We got quite wet returning to Asseryaladub to pick up our luggage.  After a 3 hour ride back to Panama City, I was thrilled to find only 4 people in my dorm and absolute quiet!  Here's hoping for a great sleep!  Tomorrow I'll spend my last day in Panama City exploring!

Oh ya, almost forgot-

My two favorite men!


  1. I hope a category 4 or 5 never hits those islands! I don't think the leg beads would do much to protect those homes...
    Looks like you'll be getting your fill of fried fish for a while! Take good care.
    (Fabulous picture of your guys!)


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