Thursday, January 14, 2010

San Blas was SanBlastic!

San Blas is a group of 365 Islands on the Caribbean coastline of Panama and is in Kuna Yala (the indigenous people of Panama) territory. Getting there in itself is an adventure and the best time to go is during the dry season in a 4 wheel drive off-road ready vehicle. Don’t even think of taking anything else. Some 4 wheel drives don't even make it! The distance is about 2-3 hours from Panama City. The off-road adventure takes through Nusagandi Camp (Biological Conservation Center); basically lush rainforests atop mountains. There is a $2 per person charge to use this road. (Gringo Warning: Prices will vary for you but you can stand firm and hand them the appropriate amount). On this road you will tackle steep hills with loose gravel. Sections get washed out so stay alert for missing chunks of the road. You don’t want to find yourself tumbling down a cliff. The best part is the river crossing. At first glance it can be very intimidating but watch the cars ahead to see how to take it on. There is definitely a shallower path to take through it. Check out the photos.


Once you get to the shoreline, you will see many boats and Kuna Indians. The boats are long skinny colorful boats made of either dug out trees or fiberglass. Flotation devices are available in each boat. You just need to tell them which Island you’re going to and they will load up all of your stuff, pack you in with a bunch of other people, and take you on your way.

Our supplies:
2 person tent
2 beach chairs
1 cooler (drinks & snacks for 2 days)
Lantern & flashlight
Clothing: Swimwear, change of clothes, warmer set for cooler evenings
Umbrella (unnecessary because it’s too windy to use)
Snorkeling equipment: mask, snorkel, & fins
Waterproof case for passports, money, cell phone, etc.
Spear gun & lobster bag

Supply Wish List:
Hammocks to tie to the trees
Ipod speakers for the beach

The weather was amazing. We were never hot or cold because it’s a perfect combination of sun, wind, and shade. Snorkeling was amazing. We got our hands on many sand dollars, 3 large conch shells, and other pretty interesting finds. The fish and squid were plentiful and we even saw some unusual species like a tiger striped fish with wings? The coral reefs were iridescent purple and green.

I was there for 2 days total and slept in our tent at night. It felt like a week and we were so refreshed when leaving…. Ahhhh. We’ll definitely do it again!

Our Expenses (give or take):
$6 per person cross the river
$4 parking
$2 per person for use of road
$10-20 boat shuttle (prices vary a lot based on how much money they think you have)
$3 per person for use of the Island (cost more to stay the night)
$1 per person for breakfast
$40 in treats/drinks to stock the cooler
½ tank of gas there & back

Take cash broken down into small bills & keep separate from your main stash (pocket). Little expenses will pop up a lot. Plus you will pay for EVERYTHING. The Islands are controlled by the Kuna Yala and they charge you to even step on their islands and even pick a coconut. This is one of the ways they make their living but the prices are still very reasonable. If you are a gringo, expect to be charged more. If you feel that you’re being taken, you can try to ask them for the Panamanian price, not the gringo price.

Have your passport on you and easily accessible during the drive. There are many checkpoints between Panama City & San Blas. They will want to check everyone in the car and if you look suspicious they may check your cargo to make sure you’re not trafficking narcotics. They were generally polite to us and caused only minor traffic inconvenience.

Waterproof Sun block! Take it, use it!

Take plenty of H2O. You’re going to sweat and swim in salt water! If you take or drink any alcohol you will especially dehydrate. We froze half our supply the day before the trip so that we would be able to ration the water and still have cold water the next day.

Kuna Yala has unique handmade souvenirs. Buy the colorful embroidered crafts.

Next time we hope to go to Dog Island in San Blas... Hopefully sooner then later... Will keep you updated!


Anonymous said...

I want your life for just five mins. You must be married to the most amazing man in the world.

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