San Blas Islands

There is no road between Colombia and Panama. The rainforest in between the 2 countries is very dense and there’s a lot of water. So when you want to travel between the 2 countries, you need to cross the border in another way. Basically there are 3 ways; fly (pretty cheap, but no fun), with a speedboat (fast and not expensive, but no fun either) or a nice miniature vacation and take a sailboat. We chose the last option. The crossing itself doesn’t take that much time, but you get some extra days at the San Blas Islands. Our trip was a total of 4 days.

We chose the ship Stahlratte, a ship that is built in The Netherlands in the beginning of the 20th century and sails under German flag. The owner is a German non-profit organization which had the purpose of maintaining the ship and to keep it sailing. The captain (Ludwig) is German and also 2 of the 3 crew (volunteers) are German. The crew changes from time to time and exists completely of volunteers, except the captain. The ship is known amongst motorcyclists and cyclists because it can transport the motorcycles and bicycles and the bicycles can go inside so they don’t get splashed or sprayed with salt water. And it’s known for its good quality food and service, but then again; it’s German…

Before we left the harbor of Cartagena, we were treated to a wonderful and big breakfast which set the standard for the whole trip. Every day we got great and plenty food. The first night on the islands we had a bbq on one of them and the last night the captain made us grilled fish; a fish we caught ourselves. All the food just tasted great.

The San Blas Islands is a group of about 360 islands. Some are inhabited, most are not. There’s all covered in palmtrees and have beautiful white sandy beaches. The water surrounding them is of a beautiful deepblue color, so it’s a real tropical paradise. It’s an autonomic region within Panama and is owned by the Kuna people. They are an indigenous people and (partly) still live like they used to do; they still use old fashioned canoes (with or without sail) and live in huts on the islands. But they also have motorboats, tv’s, mobile phones and they’re even talking about introducing wifi to the islands.

From Cartagena it was a 1,5 day sail (motor) to our anchorplace at the islands. A beautiful spot, in between a couple of the islands so we could enjoy the tropical feeling and view to the max.

The next 1,5 days were spent being lazy/reading, swimming/snorkeling, paddle, jumping off the boat and of course eating. Nobody wanted to leave the ship after all that…

There were some nice things to see during the snorkeling. There were small reefs with different kinds of coral and beautiful colored fish, lobsters, crabs and sea stars. Some people even saw a small shark and the last night we saw a huge ray passing by.

On the last day, we sailed (motored) to Kuna Yala, the ‘capital’ of the Kuna. The ‘city’ consists of a few islands which are stacked with houses and huts. A guy from borderpatrol and customs came on board to stamp our passports and after that we were taken to shore by a small boat.

Jeeps to take us to Panama City were already waiting. We didn’t cycle because we heard and read from other cyclists that the first part wasn’t doable. A constant up and down and the hills are so steep that you can’t cycle on them. We didn’t want to spoil the wonderful relaxation we had just endured with struggling hard and gaining little, so we decided to take a jeeptaxi to the city. And we were happy with that decision when we saw the road. It was indeed so steep that cycling would have been impossible. Even the jeep had some problems getting up the hills. And the motorcyclists on our trip told us later that they also had some problems. The bikes went on the roof of the car and that wasn’t very good for the paint. We gained a few more scratches…

After having started the day in paradise, after a few hours on the jeep we entered the big city of Panama City with all its crowdedness and skyscrapers. It took a bit of getting used to…

3 thoughts on “San Blas Islands

  1. Hallo Ronnie en Linda, wat een prachtig avontuur en wat een mooie foto’s allemaal. Wat kunnen wij mooi met jullie mee genieten van deze reis. Wens jullie heel veel succes met jullie reis verder. Grietje

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