Isla Gamez is a small island, about 3/8 mile in length and perhaps 100 yards wide
at its largest point. The way it runs west-to-east to Isla Parida gives great protection
from the south swells, and the big island protects it completely from the west.
The anchorage was flat and nearly free of any roll.
But what really grabbed us about Isla Gamez was the white beach and swaying palm trees,
like a picture postcard, just a few yards from the boat. The beach and palms are at the thinnest part of the
island, so one can see the sky thru the palm trees over the beach. We were the
only boat anchored here, and the net effect was to give a sense of a being at a
deserted island paradise; it was so pretty it's hard to describe!
We had heard a boat, SPARTA, check in to the morning SSB net from nearby
Boca Chica, so after we got the boat settled into the anchorage, she decided to
try and raise them. We were pleased when they responded and told us that they
too had said, upon first arriving in Panama, at Isla Gamez, that "this is
what we've been looking for!". They also told us about Boca Chica which
we would be visiting later, so it was a good contact to have made.
It drizzled a little that evening, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm
for our new "home with a view" as we had our celebratory beers and tots
that first night. There were a few panga fishermen who anchored each night
about 1/2 mile away, close to Isla Parida, but they in no way impinged
on our sense of privacy. Later that night a large, 50-ish foot catamaran
made it's way around the north end of Isla Parida and anchored about a mile
away, off of Punta Del Pozo, but once again, they did not get close to us
at all, and by the next morning they were gone.
The next morning we got up and were greeted with a sunny day and the truly
terrific view of the beach from the back of RHAPSODY. We had a nice
breakfast (scrambled eggs with cheese!) and about 10:00 we donned snorkeling
gear and swam the easy 40-50 yards from our boat to the beach.
We got out of the water and took a quick walk to the other, south,
side of the island which was just as picturesque with volcanic rocks.
There were dozens of small islands within view from the south side and we
were once again struck by the cruisers paradise we had found ourselves in.
We took a bunch of pictures, waded thru the tide pools looking at the various
life there and sat under the palm trees just marvelling at the beauty of it all.
After awhile, we re-donned our snorkeling gear and swam towards the east side
of the island, hugging the coast, which changed from white sand beach to some
really nice rocks and reefs full of fish (and a stingray) for underwater viewing. The visibility
wasn't great, perhaps 6-10 feet, but what we lacked in visibility was more than
made up for by the scenicness of the whole place.
Around noon, we swam back to RHAPSODY and had a nice lunch, the usual
ham and cheese sandwich, and relaxed by reading
and learning about the region from our several cruiser's guides and
tour books. Slightly after lunch a small motor boat from the mainland
appeared and disgorged about 6 tourists onto the beach, where they strung
hammocks, had a picnic, snorkeled and so on. It was Sunday, and we had
heard that there might be tourist boats visiting the island. It was o.k.
though, as it's a nice feeling to see people visiting the place and having
a good time and realizing that what they get to experience for a few hours,
we got to experience for days at a time upon our own boat.
Monday morning, around 6:00 am, we were awakened by someone knocking
on the boat.
Who could be there? My first thought, as I scrambled
to put on some clothes and go outside was that the park rangers,
which we had read about, were visiting us to collect park fees, but
when I got outside, there was a panga with a couple of fishermen in it.
Disoriented at first, it took me a few seconds to understand what they
were saying as they directed my attention to the bottom of the boat
where there were 20 or 30 lobsters moving around in pool of water.
They wanted to sell us some Langostas!
We found out their names,
Jose and Julio, and made a deal to buy two lobsters (slightly
over 1 lb each) for $10. Through hand signs and broken Spanish,
we also realized, as they passed us a bag containing mangoes, avocados,
and freshly picked pineapple, that they further wanted to trade
the fruit for stock provisions like rice and flour.
We were a little short of rice, but we were able to dig up a couple
of pounds of flour to trade for the fresh fruit. So by 7:00
am, we had already secured our lunch fare for the day, which we
deposited still alive into a 5 gallon bucket with some sea water
to keep them going.
After they left, we did the dinghy drill and decided to visit the
nearby beaches and coves on Isla Parida for a little
exploring. We first took the dinghy about 1/2 mile to Playa
del Socorro, but were dismayed to once again see "Private Property"
signs preventing us from going ashore. Around the corner to the
cove at Punta Jurel, where we had expected, from our reading,
to find a small resort that might welcome us, instead we found what
appeared to be a private residence, but did not feel like disturbing
the occupants, so we just circled once in the cove and then left,
heading south to the beaches by Punta Lanza.
At the north of the two beaches we found what appeared to be
the fancy resort ... modern bungalows with solar panels and so
on, but once again, there were "Private Property" signs, so
we didn't go ashore there either. Finally, making our way to the
southern of the two beaches by Punta Lanza, there were no more signs,
so we landed the dinghy and went ashore for a bit of exploring.
On the beach we watched hundreds of these cute little red crabs
that would scamper out of our way as we approached. However, I found
that if I threw a stick into the midst of them, they would all
run to it curiously to see if it was food. We were pleased,
among all of the lush coconut palms, ferns, and trees, to find some
very hearty Epiphytes (air plants) growing on the trees.
the beach a bit there was a fresh water stream that made its
way to the ocean where we found what might of been some
feline (cat) tracks.
After about an hour beachcombing, we decided to return to RHAPSODY.
From about a mile away we could see her proudly sitting at anchor
off of Isla Gamez, another one of those "kodak moments".
When we got back we cleaned and barb-b-qued up the lobsters for
lunch. Mmmm mmm mmm!
Daytrip to the beach at Punta Lanza
On Tuesday morning we decided to do some more snorkeling so we
loaded up the dinghy with the gear and headed to another small
beach on Isla Gamez where we went ashore, donned the gear, and
snorkeled off the beach around some rocks and reefs. The visibility
was still limited to 6-10', but the water was nice and the snorkeling
was fun, if not spectacular.
We returned to RHAPSODY about 10:00 am, and took off our swimsuits
to dry on the lifelines. While I was on deck
having a smoke, a panga with 6-8 people approached RHAPSODY. I
quickly donned my shorts as the boat, marked "USO" for the park
service, arrived with a pair of Rangers and 4 friends.
The ranger, Carlos, and his assistant, Ron, gingerly
explained to us that they would, if it was alright, be back later
in the afternoon to collect the park fee from us. We, of course,
said that we would be more than happy to comply with the rules
and regulations and agreed to meet them later that afternoon.
In the meantime, we had lunch and then loaded the
dinghy up with the snorkeling gear and an anchor and headed
over to nearby Isla Tintorera which looked like a very inviting
spot to go diving, all craggy with lots of reefs with waves breaking
When we got there, what had drawn us to the island, its craggy
rough looking nature, ended up being a problem, as there was quite
a bit of surf around all of the reefs, making it hard to find a
good place to safely snorkel. We finally dropped the dinghy anchor
off of the west side of the island and dove in, but the snorkeling
was difficult. There was also a lot of current driving around the island
which raised sediment and matter in the water, further limiting the
visibility. After about 45 minutes of fighting the current and limited
visibility, we got back in the dinghy and returned to RHAPSODY.
About 3:00, as promised, rangers Carlos and Ron and their amigos
returned to RHAPSODY, came aboard, and made to collect the park fees,
while telling us much about the islands and the ranger's mission.
They told us about which islands nearby had the best reefs to dive,
the extent of the park and where we could go for free if we wanted,
and so on. We offered them some Coca Colas, which they gratefully
accepted while they had us fill out a one page survey which they use to
help direct the park's efforts at ecotourism. When they asked how long
we had been there and how long we planned to stay, we fudged and told
them that we had arrived the night before, even though we had already
been at Isla Gamez for three nights. They told us the fee for our boat,
50' in length, was $25 a night. We told them that we would probably
stay two more nights, and so proffered up $75 in U.S. currency for them.
As the process continued, their friends were busy jumping off the
panga behind RHAPSODY, laughing and playing in the water.
In a really nice gesture, the rangers told us that, basically, since we were such
nice folks and didn't hassle them about the park fee, that they would
look the other way if we wanted to stay more than two additional days,
implying that we could stay a week if we wanted and that they would not
stop by to collect fees from us again. Apparently other cruisers have
raised a fuss when approached to pay the park fees, and since we were
forthcoming and polite with ours, they felt good about us. We thanked them very
much as they gathered up the trainees, got back on their panga and
We spent the rest of Tuesday afternoon and evening on RHAPSODY,
enjoying the sunset and a rainbow that appeared before it began
lightly raining, sipping cocktails, and having a nice dinner.