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San Blas

Eagle Ray

 

Private island?

 

Airport island

 

Kuna Indians

 

 The so dreaded crossing from Bonaire to Panama was actually very nice and uneventful. The weather can be very rough specially entering the Colombian Basin and approaching the continental shelf near San Blas. We were ready for the rough, but that never came.  Approaching the continental shelf, the wind died down and we went under engine for the last 24hrs of the journey. We were quite bored when we arrived in San Blas... After 5 days at sea we were rewarded with one of the most wonderful scenery that we have seen during this trip. San Blas has hundreds of islands, some uninhabited, surrounded by low lying reefs, others with small Indian settlements. 

We anchored at Porvenir, which is the main island with customs, immigration and the "airport". Soon the Kuna Indians approached the boat selling molas and asking for magazines. The whole "Comarca" belong to the Kunas, one of the strongest nations among indigenous Americans. They survived violent inroads from outsiders and today they have developed a socio-political system equal to any of developed western countries, yet they still live a simple life. The airport is situated in one of the islands. The runway takes over the length of the island and contains a hut which is the boarding lounge. The airplanes that land here are really small, taking maximum of 20 passengers.  Here we waited for Herbert, arriving the following day. He will be joining the boat until New Zealand. The next 5 days we explored several of the islands. Chichime Cays has an intricate entrance from the south side, as all of the islands are surrounded by reefs. But this was only obvious when we were safely anchored.  Eye balling through the reefs, the depth was at one point so shallow that our hearts were beating fast.  After that we visited the island of Waisaladup, with one Indian settlement of 4 huts on the eastern side of the island. The snorkelling is fabulous, with lots of rays, some longer than one metre and dolphins swimming near the shore. The last island was Mamitupu. Judit approached Antonio, one of the Kunas, who invited all of us to visit his "hut”.  All three of us jumped into his ula,  a Kuna canoe carved from tree.  He took us to his island and introduced his family. Wife, children and grandchildren live together, making a total of 15 people in his family.  The main hut was used as living room and kitchen, sleeping quarters were in a separate hut. The children, pride and joy of the family, were very excited with new visitors. The children followed us around the village, introducing their pets, which were more unconventional parrots and a monkey. And they were delighted to pose for the camera. The Kunas view each new arrival as a financial Godsend, so we ended up buying far more molas  and plantains that we wanted!!! Nevertheless they are very curious about visitors and happy to show their way of life.