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Chasing butterflies and change in Panama

It´s wierd to arrive in Panama where the main language in touristy areas is English, the currency is USD and Latin culture seems to be taking a rapid back seat. I won´t begin to have an opinion on the country as a whole but as a first impression where I sit in Bocas del Toro the indigenous communities, as well as the mix of Caribbean people living here appear to be suffering greatly from tourism. Of course there are many benefits to infrastructure from international expats but speaking to locals the sentiments aren´t that positive.

I dont want to be in Central America listening to the radio from the States blaring out of restaurants and paying the price I would for bottled water in Australia, knowing that the locals can´t afford to live on their own islands. Something has to change before this beautiful archipeligo is just another State of America.

Walking the streets I can hear ex-pat conversations about the price of fuel, complaints about paying $40 USD return for a 30 minute boat ride to get to ´their´privately owned islands. Islands that are now completely closed to the original inhabitants of Panama. I´m not saying Australians don´t create the same problems in countries they choose to settle in, but seeing the stark contrast after so long in South America makes me feel sad for Panamino´s. I spoke to a local boat owner who told me about the deep divide on the Island of Colon in Bocas. Their culture is being absorbed as rapidly as rising water levels.

I wanted a local experience away from the shiny resorts, somewhere natural with only the sounds of insects and throbbing heat. I caught a boat taxi to a nearby swampy jungle and went searching for butterflies and frogs. I met two locals and no tourists, the humidity at 100% fogging my camera lens. I was rewarded with a dense jungle space to myself and the contentment of finally capturing an image of the Blue Morpho butterfly I´ve been chasing since the Amazon! Travelling solo is off to the perfect poetic start.


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There are 3 Comments to "Chasing butterflies and change in Panama"

  • Signe says:

    I feel like Bocas (though lots of fun and pretty) is not really a good sample of Panama. It’s definitely super touristy, as you have noted, it’s also where a lot of gringos go to make visa runs from Costa Rica. In Panama City, there are plenty of locals and you can even see the indigenous people walking around (BriBri I think). Anyways, if you didn’t like Bocas you might want to skip Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. Almost all gringos.

  • kris says:

    Thanks for the advice Signe, the problem I´ve got is lack of time to explore and form a real opinion of where I am, and travelling solo I´m going to focus on the natural places but also where I feel I have safety in numbers, unfortunately that´s most likely going to translate to sticking to the Gringo Trail. I know Panama has so much more to offer and it´s a shame I can neither afford the time or the price tag. I´m meeting a friend from home in Puerto Viejo next so maybe we can escape somewhere together and next stop on my way to visit you! Should be there Tuesdayish, will let you know.

  • Signe says:

    Sounds great! FYI- Costa Rica independence day is the 15th. So plan accordingly. ie: Probably not a good day to get on a bus=)

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