Because of the Darien Gap, it isn’t possible to travel by land between Panama and Colombia. So your choices are to fly or go by sea. And what better way than sailing on a 64 foot yacht for 5 days via Panama’s idyllic San Blas islands. Blue skies, pristine white sandy beaches, all palm fringed of course.
And don’t forget the amazing turquoise waters with a hidden treasure trove lying beneath: the beautiful coral and the huge variety of brightly coloured fish, not to mention eagle rays, turtles and dolphins.
A true Paradise both above and below the water.
We lucked out completely with our choice of boat. The Quest is owned and operated by an experienced Swedish captain, Goeran, for whom these trips are clearly a labour of love as he sails you around the beautiful Caribbean coast in what essentially is his home, of which he is rightfully very proud. With only 10 passengers plus the captain and the cook, Isabel, there was plenty of room, both inside and on deck although apart from sleeping, we pretty much spent all of our time on the deck or in the water. There were 4 private cabins and 2 bathrooms with unlimited fresh water thanks to his desalination machine, both for drinking as well as for showering off the salt water after a snorkel. The luxury of unlimited showers in 2 bathrooms (and also on deck when you climbed in from the sea) cannot be understated and we were able to put away those baby wipes as they weren’t required on the Quest (unlike on other boats where showers aren’t available; in fact we even heard that on some boats there aren’t even any toilets (but I don’t want to think about that!)). Not that we actually saw many other boats to be able to gloat over as essentially we seemed to have Paradise pretty much all to ourselves.
L: The view down from the top mast of the Quest
Well almost but not quite. On our first full day of sailing and snorkelling we moored just off one tiny island. The captain called this island Julio’s island in honour of the local Kuna called Julio who is in in his 70s and who apparently had last left the island in the 1990s (although what had caused Julio to take such a drastic step at that point in time was not known). Ok I hear you say: what’s the big deal, Julio and his family plus another family live on an island, so what? But this particular island was tiny. It took us less than 15 minutes to walk around its entire perimeter. But even here you find solar power as well as a sign advertising beer, coca cola and coconuts for sale. And apparently there was even wifi. Amazing hey!
The island we moored near on our 2nd day was completely uninhabited despite possibly being marginally larger (think this one may have taken us the full 15 minutes to walk around). Here we saw an eagle ray in the water as well as colourful starfish. The captain also dropped us off on another part of the reef in the open water although here the snorkelling was a little more challenging in the choppier water and I was pretty happy when I caught sight of the captain returning in his zodiac to collect us (even if this did entail rather an inelegant scramble back into the boat!).
R: The Quest
And to top it all, on the boat we were fed like kings. The cook managed to produce some amazingly delicious meals from what was a pretty small galley kitchen even when the boat was moving (and let’s face it we probably didn’t help that much by getting in her way as we squeezed past her and her stove on our way to the beer fridge!). From full eggs and bacon or pancakes for breakfast to burritos for lunch, not forgetting the freshest of fresh lobster served in a delicious garlic sauce one night for dinner or the shrimp pasta on another. This is the life……!
L: The lobster doesn’t get much fresher than this; R: our bedroom for 5 nights