Jungle Trekking: Panamanian Style

While traveling in Central America, I had the opportunity to visit a remote group of islands, off the coast of Panama on the country’s Caribbean side, called Bocas del Toro. A justified haunt for surfers and beach lovers, the islands boast an array of recreational activity. Island-hopping, snorkeling and dolphin watching are all things to do during the day, after which, one can choose to indulge in lively, atmospheric dining and nightlife. Suffice it to say, one never gets bored at Bocas.

It was while island-hopping one morning that my friends and I decided to visit one of the more far-flung, abandoned beaches [on Isla Bastimentos]. We asked our water-taxi driver to drop us off, but he informed us the waves were far too turbulent for his speedboat to traverse, and the best he could do was take us to the populated side of the island— we’d have to hike to the beach by foot, which could take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. Of course, being adverturous, we quickly agreed and before we knew it were off, en route to find Wizard beach.

My friends and I walked through the village, among curious children, paranoid chickens and lazy dogs taking refuge beneath colorful rooftops, until we got to a clearing. We walked the grassy knoll until we came upon a thick, shadowy unwelcoming jungle. We eye-balled one another, wordlessly appealing for sanction, and strolled blindly into the bush. What we happened upon was an experience I’ll never forget. 

Large fallen branches… and mud. Mud, cold and deep— above ankle-deep— and ceaseless. Which means we had to go barefoot, or run the risk of losing our footwear in the sludge. What did we get ourselves into? is all I remember thinking… This beach had better be worth it!

Because of a combination of the mud, branches, random inclines and steep declines, we were forced to take our time on the hike. And so an hour later, after a few tumbles in the mud, a triumphant battle with quicksand, a thwarted disaster involving a clumsy friend, disconnected vine and a cliff, and a brief standoff with a pack of wild pigs, we made it to Wizard beach, which, thank god, was as amazing as we’d hoped. And surprise surprise— we were the only people there! Naturally, we took full advantage of the convenience: we loafed about for hours, tanning, watching immense waves, practicing yoga and meditation, swimming in the surf and having profound moments. Living the good life until the sun began to set and the time came to go back…

…That’s when we realized we would have to hike through the mucky jungle… again!

Happy travels! —VJ