A Travellerspoint blog

The Beach and the Mountains

Coronado and El Velle

sunny 86 °F

We took off last weekend for a trip to Punta Chame and ended up in Coronado. The short version of the story was the cleaning service didn't clean the condo in Punta Chame from the previous guests and we moved on down the beach. However, the benefit of this event was that we were able to visit Gorgona,Coronado, and El Valle. Gorgona is just starting to be developed by condo, land, and hotel speculators. There a few nice place available but most of the new stuff is in the development stages.
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We stayed at the Coronado Bay condominiums for three nights and used that as our base. Besides walking the beach, a very beautiful black and tan sand mix, bird watching and people watching, we explored the community. The places on the beach and the view from the highrise apartments are the best. The homes off the beach are nice but they have difficult beach access and all beaches in Panama are public. Also, once you get off the main roads of the community, it's slow going on the uncared for streets.
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We cruised up the mountains to El Valle on Sunday. A nice mountain town develop in the crater of a large volcano that "blew it's top" centuries ago. It is usually cooler in El Valle than in Coronado just because of the elevation but the humidity was still very high. We ate lunch at a great little restaurant called Bruschetta. A popular spot for tourists. Maxine and Foo-Foo were also having lunch when we were there. We visited the farmers market which was very cool and went to the local zoo. The zoo was disgusting. I'm not a radical animal rights activist, but after visiting that dump I was ready to release all the animals and birds back into the wild. And if you are a "forgiener" you pay extra to get in. The main reason we went there was to see a "Golden Frog". The Golden Frog is endangered and the frog house has two in captivity. I'm glad we got to see them, but the zoo is a place not to visit. Save your time and go to the Farmers Market. Lots of great deals and very friendly Panamanians.

We returned to Panama City on Monday. Kryss had classes to teach and clients to see. It has been amazing to me to watch the development of her business. No matter where we go Dr. Krysstine helps fill the need.

Tuesday night we became real "gringo" tourists. We went to Restaurante-Bar Tinajas in Panama City. They are known for their outstanding show of traditional Panamanian dances, costumes and music. We had heard from many people it was worth seeing the show but the food was just average, much like a dinner theater. Our friends were right. Food average, show great and we're glad we went. The place was filled with tourists from the US, Canada, Columbia, and the UK.
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This coming weekend...the jungle.

Posted by rhislop 10:40 Archived in Panama Tagged mountains beaches birds panama el valle panama_city coronado_beach gordona Comments (0)

More Whales, Hummingbirds and Lightning

More fun...

rain 78 °F

It's been about a week since we've had time to sit down and share our current adventure. However, one thing is for sure, the life experiences just keep coming. We've in the rainy season here in Panama. We are told by the locals that it really gets bad in October and November. We were walking back to our condo and without any warning, no lightning, thunder, sprinkles of rain, the clouds opened up and we were soaked. The drains were flooded, the freeway slowed to a crawl, and the splash back from rude drivers guaranteed us hot showers at home.
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We had so much fun on the whale watching trip to the Pearl Islands we decided to go again. The day started beautifully and the boat ride out to the islands was uneventful. Just when the islands came into view on the horizon we saw our first whale. As we got closer we saw a mother and a calf and other whales cruising around the island. Again we had lunch on Contradora Island, saw a lot of hummingbirds, relaxed at the beach, walked around part of the island and then returned to our boat for the trip back to Panama City. As we were leaving the Pearl Islands a group of male whales were bumping and banging against each other to gain the attention of a female whale. They put on quiet a show, splashing in the water, using their pectoral fins to strike, splash and push each other. Then sky started to darken, the wind picked up, the seas became choppy and the captain put the pedal to the metal for the dash to Panama City. We didn't make it, rain, wind, lightning, rough seas; what a ride. Another guarantee for hot showers. I believe I'm a fair weather sailor.
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In the evenings we usually get rain that lasts for about an hour. It really cools everything off and makes the nights very comfortable. Once and a while lightning also adds to the mix and we get some great shows over Panama Bay. The picture shows the cargo ships lining up to enter the Panama Canal with lightning giving everything some extra illumination.
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And once again this week we walked to the fish market and picked up fresh shrimp, red snapper and ceviche. All combined to make a couple really delicious dinners. The fish monger is cutting the filets for us. He's missing a couple fingers. A tough business selling fish.024_-_Copy.jpg

Tomorrow were off to Punta Chame for the weekend. We plan to drive up to El Valle on Sunday just to check out the farmers market. It is suppose to be one of the best in Panama. The adventure continues...

Posted by rhislop 15:47 Archived in Panama Tagged rain whales panama lightning watching pearl_islands panama_city thunder hummingbirds contradora Comments (0)

Food and Fireworks

...with a stop at the beach

sunny 83 °F

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We had an opportunity to visit Coronado Beach and stay at the Coronado Bay Condos on Wednesday night. It was an offer we couldn't refuse.
Coronado Beach is the first "planned" resort community in Panama. Established as a place Panamanians could come to that was close to Panama City (about 1 hour and 20 minute drive) and ex-pats could build winter homes or permanent residences. Just a couple of miles off the Panamerican Highway the town is easy to get to and offers lots of services, businesses and even a McDonald's and KFC. We only stayed one night, but intend to revisit in the near future. There seems be some interesting oppurtunities in Coronado.

One of our Colorado connection friends invited us to dinner on Friday night. The restaurant at the Crown Plaza Hotel has a new Indian Buffett on Friday nights, serving food with lots of curry, spices, rice and very sweet Indian deserts. The food was great. However, I found the appetizers the most interesting. The chef had made some creative art pieces with some of the fruits. They included a Pineapple Panda, a Watermelon Parrot, and a Watermelon shark eating a pineapple fish, all in the name of foodie art.
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Our condo is on Panama Bay in an area called Punta Patilla. About four blocks across the bay, as a pelican would fly, is the Trump Tower and other buildings of the Punta Pacifica area. In between us, on the bay is the Panamanian Union Club. This is a private club for wealthy Panamanians. Usually every weekend there is some kind of event on their patio, which we can watch from our solarium. Last night the show started at about 9pm and ended at 1:30am. There were fireworks, dancers, singing, showtunes, etc. We guessed it must have been an over the top wedding.
The fireworks usually exploded below us, which was an interesting way to watch since we normally are looking up at them. Additionally, as they exploded they reflected on to the glass windows of the buildings of Punta Pacifica. All-in-all, an enjoyable night.
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As we start a new day we wonder what is next during this Panamanian experience....

Posted by rhislop 07:06 Archived in Panama Tagged beach towers panama bay fireworks food_art coronado_beach Comments (0)

Whale Watching Panama

ask for Anne

sunny 85 °F

This was an incredible trip. Kryss and I have been whale watching in Newfoundland, Alaska, Hawaii, and in Costa Rica. Nothing in the way of quantity and activity has been like this experience. We saw more whales yesterday than we'd seen on all our previous trips combined. After the first ten, before 10:30 in the morning, we stopped counting.
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We left Panama City with three other whale watchers, a naturalist/guide (Anne), her husband/assistant (Otniel), and the boat captain (William). The forecast promised rain and there were a few clouds in the sky. The water was a little choppy but our able captain guided us on a relatively smooth course toward the Pearl Islands. The Pearl Islands are about 1.5 hours via boat, 40 miles, from Panama City. As we left Panama City on the horizon the skies became blue. Our guide spotted the first whale before we had reached the Pearl Islands. The excitement really started at that point. Everyone scanning the waters with camera in hand for a blow spout, a tail, or the gentle roll of the surfacing Southern Hemisphere Humpback whale.
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We learned from our guide that the whales in these waters come for two reasons; raising their new borns and reproduction. They don't eat while they are in this raising and breeding stage, losing almost a third of their body weight. The warm waters are very conducive for birthing and teaching the new borns. Over and over we saw mothers with their new born coming in and out of the water. The blow spouts were the tell tail warning that a whale was going to surface, but for how long and to what extent was always the question. Many times they would dip back into the water without making a display of their fluke (tail). One very unusual event happened early on, a whale laid his/her tail flat on the surface of the water and then hung down into the depths. For at least 15 minutes we observed this behavior. The professional crew kept the boat a safe distance way as we watched this cool event. Below is a picture of the "hanging fluke" and a type fluke shot.
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We cruised the Pearl Islands for about three hours capturing hundreds of various whale images. In the distant we saw four separate whales breach, coming staight out of the water and crashing down with a huge splash. Unfortunately, they were too far away for a photograph. The whales must have known it was lunch time since we didn't see any around the noon hour, so we headed into Isle Contadora for lunch. Transfering from our boat to the island water taxi I slipped and almost hit the water. Kryss grabbed me and I held onto the cameras. No problems. A refreshing lunch, with two bottles of water and a beer...ready to go again. On the island I spotted these flowers, don't know what they're called but I like the color. We also had time for a family shot!
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Reboarding our boat was uneventful and we headed back to the ocean for a quick snorkle/swim. Then back to the business of whale watching in Panama. As we were searching the horizon for whales, one came right under our boat and rolled onto his/her side to give us a look. The white underbelly and blue rippled waters gave a very surreal look to the photograph. Can you spot the eye? As we were leaving the Pearl's and heading back to Panama City another whale came right along side our boat and as if waving good bye stuck out his/her dorsal fin. Again, another beautiful turquoise color in the water.
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The ride back to Panama City looked like it might be a wet one. The skies started turning gray, fog and mist could be seen in the distance and the captain suggested that I might want to cover up my cameras. I heeded his advise and as soon as I did another whale popped up. I decided to risk a little rain; put on my rain shell to cover my camera if the rain started, and got out one camera. I'm glad I did, one last mammal to send us home. A small group of dolphins started playing in our wake, entertaining everyone with their jumps and fast moves.
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This was one fantastic trip. If you come to Panama and want to go whale watching, just remember whale watching panama and ask for Anne. I know we will.

PS. It never rained...yeah!

Posted by rhislop 13:08 Archived in Panama Tagged islands panama dolphins dolphin whale watching anne pearl whale_watching_panama isla_contadora Comments (0)

Fire and Lightning

Popa Island Resort

semi-overcast 82 °F

Our last full day at the Popa Island resort started on the dreary side. It was raining and we were rather gloomy since we'd be leaving the next day. We had enjoyed our time at Popa Paradise Resort and weren't quite ready for it to end. The resort staff was really taking great care of us, we were only two of five guests. They can accommodate about sixty to seventy guests at one time, but this time of year is their slow season. We spent most of the day working on Kryss's website, taking care of email business, and generally taking it easy. The chef told us to save our energy because the evening was going to be exciting. Little did we know...

When dinner time arrived, the five guests of the resort were seated at one table and the fun began. Orders were taken adult beverages were served and we were told that "showtime" was almost ready to start. Shortly, our dinner arrived seven fresh lobsters, with all the "fixin's". The chef Darien presented his artwork and said, "enjoy"! They were fantastic!
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After dinner was completed the staff brought out four drums for all the guests but me, I was busy taking pictures. Background music was turned on and everyone started drumming. Off to the left of the dining area you could hear the performers getting ready, smell the kerosene, and see glimpes of fire. Then the music was turned up, the guest drummers start playing to the beat and the first of the dancers hit the stage. What a show, lots of photos and super entertainment.
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The show lasted about twenty minutes. An absolutely professional performance by the four fire dancers. Toward the end of the show lightning appeared in the distance and added a bit of color to the show. In the next photo you can see the dancer doing the splits with the lightning in the background, along with the lights of the pool and the fire stick. Lots of action!
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We stayed up way too late. The rain started and that was the indicator that it was time to call it a night. During the night the lightning really put on another show and the next photo capped off "showtime".
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The Popa Island Paradise Resort is a very difficult place to leave. The staff is great, the food fantastic, and the "showtime" presentation was outstanding. We'll return to this place!

Posted by rhislop 07:17 Archived in Panama Tagged panama bocas_del_toros popa_island popa_paradise_resort Comments (0)

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