Here’s a few visual tidbits, of middling quality and interest, to tie you over in case you’re not diving any time soon and you’ve already scrolled through all the search results for scuba on google images.
Take me down to Panama City where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…
I apologize for channeling this band, sometimes my brain is not my best friend. My somewhat protracted series related to Panama is soon coming to an end. Yes, I’m milking it, but since I don’t travel every other week I sort of need to. After this post there will be a wrap up with a whole bunch, ok, a medium bunch, of scuba videos and miscellaneous pics. Following that I’ll leave you alone for a while.
Under the waves we had fun, but Bocas Del Toro and all that was around has a lot to offer topside as well. Here are a few stray thoughts and observations, necessarily incomplete, for when you find yourself there, because you should.
There is a bit of a Wild West feel about the town, like anything could happen and some rules are a little blurry. It’s not a beach side chillin’ destination, there’s a strong whiff of adventure about the place. A backpacker town to some extent, BDT has visitors from all over the globe. Among others we met a Mexican biologist doing research on sea cucumbers, a Spanish divemaster student working his way up the Americas, an Australian on his walkabout, a German graphic designer living in Argentina, a bunch of Dutch dudes, even kids from Laval. One of whom had the unfortunate idea to tell Gen he was born the same year she was first certified as a scuba diver… So I had to turn off his air under the water. Just kidding. Sort of. They were a bunch of pleasantly over excited newbies on their first salt water dive ever. They were very happy we took a picture of them.
I mean it.
Let me be brutally blunt, we put up with so much shit as normal joe air travellers, and are often treated (one way or another) so very poorly, that flying with Copa Airlines and Air Panama was a series of little wow moments. Check-in counters? Properly staffed, the net result is that you don’t wait THREE FRICKIN’ HOURS in line among a horde of pissed off people standing around like cattle and nearly miss your flight for Europe. I’m looking at you Air Transat. Yes you, don’t turn away, you want to save on costs, I get it, but sometimes you go too far. Check-in at Montreal with Copa? Maybe ten minutes tops, even faster in Panama City.
Bocas Del Toro is a very chill town, and Bocas Diving Pirates is a very chill dive shop. Chill but professional, don’t let the laid back vibe fool you, these guys are good, real good and they work hard. You don’t have to touch your gear unless you want to. The instruction quality is also excellent. I was listening to el jefe Alex instruct new divers before a DSD and everything was on point, precise, yet humorous. This is not the kind of shop where they “forget” to ask for your certification card or where the DMs dive by intuition rather than by decompression tables. Oxygen rescue kit on every dive, not something we’ve seen very often on our travels. The crew was super nice and quickly made us feel like part of the team, besides Alex, we got to know Omar, our DM Charlie and our groovin’ dancin’ boat stearin’ captain Bernardino. That’s one reason I prefer smaller dive shops, you get to make connections with people (provided you’re not a jackass to start with), and that takes the diving to a different level. You get to know the DM(s) and they get to know you and how you dive.