Sunday, 23 March 2008


I arrived in the small western Panamaian town of Boquete a few weeks ago and Ive been pretty much "stuck" here since then. I had met Tom from Norway in San Jose on my first day there, and he had told me about some volunteering he was doing in Panama. It sounded good, and, unlike in Costa Rica where volunteers pay to work, this was free, so I ended up in Paradise Garden and have been there most days since.

Its a really nice place, and as well as loads of monkeys and birds, it has the odd more exotic animal like Lotti here, a Margay, similar to an Ocelot (or a small Jaguar I guess), who is a great attraction. Like a lot of the animals, she had been rescued from owners who tired of their "pets", in her case she arrived with atrophied muscles and a kinked tail from living in such a confined space...shes in pretty good health now though, as any of the many small birds that make the mistake of entering her enclosure know.

Most days I spend showing people around as a sort of tour guide, which is more fun than i thought it would be, even if sometimes Bengy here likes to play a little too much with his hands... always seems to do it in front of the prettier girls, for some reason...
Tom and I also walk the dogs, feed the animals, build cages and enclosures and make the tea, so it can be pretty busy, but never too stressful to be honest.

My favourite animal though has to be Macie, a 10 month old nappy wearing howler monkey, who sits on my shoulder while i work, or sleeps under my T shirt. Shes currently being prepped for rehab back to the wild (she was an orphan) and will be sadly missed, though it is the goal of Paradise Garden to release as many of the animals as possible. Apart from working, Im doing a bit of spanish and have had to do a couple of the tours in spanish, which is pretty difficult given my level, but educational.
Better go change that nappy...

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Towards Panama

Although Dominical is reputated to have monster waves, it actually had the best conditions we had seen yet - not as angry and dangerous as before, and on my last day it was really really good. It´s also a nice town to relax in while not riding waves. But enough surfing for a while, and onto Bahia drake, the main wilderness area on the Pacific coast. The trip here was great, ending with a boat taking us from Sierpe through pretty mangrove forests and pods of dolphins after passing through some pretty scary waves.

Bahia Drake itself is really pretty, and the place im staying in, el Mirador, is really nice, located high above with a great view, with nothing but the sound of crashing waves and candlelight to lull you to sleep. Apart from Saturday night that is, with the local disco beats vibrarting to ruin the ambience.
I did a couple of dives as its touted as the best diving in costa rica, and though I did see loads of white tipped reef sharks, as well as several large schools of pelagic fish, poor enough visibility coupled with pretty ordinary coral meant an ok rather than great dive experience. And it aint cheap around here... I passed on a day hike costing 95 dollars...they do take the piss sometimes in Costa Rica.

Still theres a fair bit to see for free here, with loads of pretty birds like hummingbirds, macquaws, parrots, warblers, frigate birds tanagiers and loads more, as well as lots of iguanas and other lizzards, and the plant life is really beautuful and vibrant. But Panama calls, and a boat - bus - border crossing - minibus - chicken bus ride later, via a brief stop in David, Im in Boquete, where Im going to stay put for a bit...

Friday, 7 March 2008

South Pacific

Leaving Montezuma with heavy hearts, we boarded the boat back to Jaco and onto Mauel Antonio, a national park and beach towards the southern pacific coast. We shared the bus with numerous pick pockets, as well as a couple of girls from Calafornia and Holland. After a few bumpy hours standing, and a short taxi ride, we arrived to another stunning beach location. Next morning we were up early to beat the heat and hoards to the park. Although the animals wernt as plentiful as advertised, we did managed to see loads of monkeys, sloths, birds and lizards.

The town itself seems to have gone downhill, with all the bars closing up early, so we visited el avion, a plane themed resturant with really great food, the tuna steak was as good a meal as any ive ever had. Ever.

Next day we did a bit of canopying through the trees, which is always a laugh so long as the cables hold, and played a strange drinking card name with a bunch of americans from the canopy tour. Next day was some more quality beach time. Well, all these sunsets might never happen if there not observed, right? Were now in Dominical, another beach town with a slightly ugly beach but a nice enough vibe. You cant have everything.

Saturday, 1 March 2008


Pelicans swooping over cresting waves, spray in your face, eyes squinting to see another perfect sunset. Now this is more like it.
Over breakfast in San Jose I met Ian, an Ozzie surfer who was heading to Jaco, so decided to make that my first destination. The waves there were pretty good, though the town dissapointed a bit - where were all the hookers and cocaine it's famous for?
Finding none, we headed off to Montezuma by boat, a beautiful little town with nice beaches and restaurants, but little surf. On the crossing we saw loads of playful dolphins, some turtles and a whale in the distance. Costa Rica has a lot of wildlife.

We shared a taxi with a couple of Canadians girls who were heading to MalPais, a major surfing destination. To be honest, the conditions weren't the best - the swell was a bit big for the beach to hold so lots of serious tsunami like walls of white, but every now and then we managed to get a decent wave. And the sunsets weren't half bad.

After a few days we decided that the conditions dictated a bit of a respite and headed back to Montezuma for a bit of waterfall watching, which, given the precarious path up to the top, was probably more dodgy than the surfing. Still the dip at the end was beautifully refresing. Not having really gone out late in the surfer spots due to the sausage fest nature of such places, we hit the bars in Montezuma and ended up at some fire party on the beach which was all very pleasant. I really will miss this place.