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Las Perlas Islands, Panama

Las Perlas Islands, Panama
01 February 2012

Report courtesy of World ARC 2010-11 boat Crazy Horse

We visited 3 of the more than 200 Las Perlas Islands located 30 miles south of Panama City. The first we visited was Isla Contadora. We anchored near the airport off the south side of the island after attempting to anchor off the north side, which was bumpy and unprotected. Bill and I never ventured ashore since we were decompressing after all the excitement of the Panama Canal and Panama City. It was nice just to relax and enjoy the peace and the scenery.

As we moved through the islands south easterly we kept being reminded of some of the same island vistas of the Chesapeake Bay. The water was green and dark in places and from afar, the islands didn't look anything like the ones we visited in the San Blas. They could have been some of the islands on the Eastern shore of Maryland.

On Isla Chapera we went ashore to one of the finest beaches I have seen. It was sandy, clear and we watched as several shells of all sizes moved astonishingly across the beach. They were the very things my kids used to collect and call hermit crabs back home. There were iguanas climbing over the rocks and ledges beyond the beach. We spied a huge Manta Ray swimming off the shallow waters nearby.

Next, was an excursion ashore on Isla Mogo Mogo. The dinghy captains dropped off the crews and planned to meet us on the other side of the island. This was not the most well thought plan since we had no idea where we were going. We faced sticky thorny bushes, big sandy holes in the ground, and surprisingly, an orange tree.

This was the island they filmed the popular US show, "Survivor". It was not a island you would call pleasant. It was hot, sticky, and eerie. It was exciting, however. We imagined how the Survivor participants must have felt when reached the "other side" and our dinghies and captains were racing away from the shore and out to sea. We did managed to flag them down and get back on board after sloshing through mucky, slimy, and smelly shoreline.

Finally, we went to Isla Del Rey. We were going at a lazy pace toward Isla Del Rey. Sails were raised but not much wind that day. We were trying to get there in time to venture up a river we heard another boat raving about. Seems like you had to get there at just the right time when the tide was coming in about 1/3 of the 15ft tidial range to make it upriver or you had to wait til the next day. Basically, you could be land-bound until the tide came in. This crew member reminded the captains that we might want to pick up the pace if we were to make the trip up the river. With that, engines were revved and sails taken in.

We anchored near the shore and quickly put the dinghies in the water and raced off to the river near Punta Chiquero. It was 1630 in the afternoon and we were not disappointed. It started out with a large sand bar on our portside and a rocky ledge to starboard. We proceeded slowly since there were several large rocks only a few inches from the surface. Our dinghy captains expertly guided us into the most amazing sights and sounds. The rocks gradually disappeared as we rounded the river to port and then just a shallow sandy bottom was all that kept us from proceeding quite smoothly.

The tide was quickly coming in. We turned off the engines and just let the tide carry us upriver and quietly listened to the sounds of the forest. There were exotic sounding birds and monkeys howling into the afternoon heat. It was something out of an old movie from the 50s of all the jungle sounds they ever produced. Someone mentioned that surely we would see a crocodile.

That was when I started getting a little anxious. We were only in 6 or so inches of water. A croc could surely make quite a nice snack on us! However, I was not going to be the neurotic female that made us turn back! I crouched down in the dinghy making myself quite small- or so I thought.

We were all intently watching for signs of life. Everything was potentially something dangerous. Round one bend we saw two log canoes hidden into the mangroves. Wait, we were in uncharted territory! It was us and the dangerous jungle. How could there be anyone in our jungle? Now it seemed like an old American movie called 'Deliverance'. We were the outsiders. Oops! I won't mention names but two of the men reminded us that we weren't taking our malaria pills and the mosquito's were biting. It was then that we turned on the engines and made our way back out of the river.

If you could imagine how small children have the most excited and amazing looks on their faces when they see something new and exciting. That is the way we looked that day. We were once again kids embarking on some new imaginary adventure. It was all there in front of us. It was all there in our minds. What a day. What an exhilarating experience. Maybe we made more out of it. But it is something I won't forget.

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