The Americas travel blog

The private beach where we snorkelled

We leave at 10am on a small boat out amongst the Bocas del Toros islands with 5 stops to make. The first stop is at dolphin lagoon. We see 20 or so dolphins in the area feeding. Fortunately, the boats do not hassle them and we enjoy spotting them from either side of the boat. Next we call in at another island and order lunch for when we return later in the day. Out now to deeper water where our boat anchors and we can snorkel the coral reef. There is a lot of healthy coral but the colours are more muted than we are used to seeing. The water is warm, not quite Florida warm, but the visibility is good and there is no dead coral and lots of fish to see. After that we visit a private beach on another island. We have the opportunity to snorkel some more from this beach. There are some rocky outcrops not far from shore and although the coral is poor, because the water is so shallow, the marine life is amazing. There are two fish I have never seen before. One moves on its side along the ocean floor and if it feels threatened it camouflages itself. The one I saw changed from a grey colour to brown once it settled into the sea grass and I could hardly see it. Another fish I'd never seen before was a deep blue and it looked like it had fairy lights of lighter blue across its back. Unfortunately that's all the snorkelling for today and at 2.30 we leave to return to the island for lunch, seafood of course.

Back on our boat and we have two more stops before returning to Isla Colon. The first stop is at sloth island. Here from our boat we see 3 different pygmy sloths in the trees. Sloths are interesting looking animals related to the koala, slow moving, they eat and sleep a lot and only come down from their tree once a week to urinate. They also have a face only a mother could love! The final stop is at a very shallow area of the archipelago where there are many orange starfish in the water. Our boat floats over the top of them so we can all get a good close look. Back to Bocas town at about 5.30 so a full day which we thoroughly enjoyed.

I had seen some information in the Lonely Planet guide about a tour to see turtles lay their eggs on a beach near here. Tomas took us to the office to book this tour and Anita and I (Phil didn't want to go) signed up. Then it was back to the Hotel to shower and wash the salt and sand off and as we didn't have much time we grabbed a hamburger at the bakery across the road from the Hotel. Our taxi picked Anita and I up from the Hotel at 8pm and drove us over some very bumpy roads for 1/2 hour to the beach. Here at a small beach hut we met our guide and 4 other people for out tour. After a talk about the efforts to protect the turtles and the eggs that are laid on this beach, our guide took us along the dark beach with no lights. The only light he carried was a red light to use if we find a turtle as this colour light does not distress them. We walk about 3 or 4 kms along the beach which is actually really pleasant but no sign of any turtles coming to shore. Thank god for mobile phones though, as the guide gets a call to say a hawksbill turtle has come to shore right at the beach hut where we set out from. So back we head as quickly as we can by beach, but swap to the road when we can, as it's faster. We arrive to find the turtle has come up from the water to the vegetation line and she has already dug a hole. One of the volunteers has his hand underneath her catching the eggs and counting them before gently laying them in the hole. We stand right behind her and watch her lay 157 eggs in total. Whilst she is laying her eggs the volunteers remove the parasites, like a barnacle, from her shell and measure her (81cm). After she has finished laying her eggs she uses her flippers to cover the eggs with sand and takes great care in restoring the sand to keep her nest safe from predators. When she is satisfied it cannot be detected, she turns around to face the water and we follow her as she makes her way back to the ocean. It was something special to be able to get so close to her and see her lay her eggs. She will come back to this beach in a couple of weeks, but not in the same spot, and lay some more eggs. It's a shame so few of her babies will survive, they anticipate only 1 or 2 will reach maturity. Our taxi returns to pick us up and take us back to the Hotel. We are home by 11.30. Loved it! Nature at it's best.

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