Day 9 |
Sep 09, 2008

San Blas, Panama

By Claudia Roedel, Biologist/Dive Master

Noon Position: 09° 33’ N, 078° 55’ W

Sunny weather in the morning, stormy in the vicinity of the ship in the afternoon.

Today, as we had breakfast, we could see the islands that comprise the San Blas archipelago during our slow approach. There were many little islands all around us, all quite low. Some were covered in huts, so packed together that we wondered if there was space to walk among them. Others were covered in coconut trees, with just one or a few huts on them. These are the islands inhabited by the Kuna Indians and they do have this peculiar habit of crowding one island, while others are left quite uninhabited. These islands are not wasted, though, as coconuts are one of their main crops.

After the ship had anchored, Expedition Leader Suzana Machado D’Oliveira established the shore party, and guests began disembarking at the island of Wichup Wala. We had three guides from Panama, and each led one group on a walk around the island. We saw the school where the children were learning to sculpt clay, and the congress house where important community decisions are made. There was a mango tree in the center of the square, which was quite surprising as the soil is white sand and there is no fresh water in these islands. There is also a basketball hoop in the square, and we were told that the Kuna quite enjoy the sport. Everywhere we walked there were women dressed in their traditional garb: wrap skirt, Mola blouse, a scarf on their heads and beads wrapped around their legs and arms. The colorful Molas that they sew were displayed everywhere. They had them in all sizes: little ones the size of patches, to oversized ones meant to be wall hangings.

Once we finished our walk around town, there was a dance performance at the square. Men and women danced in line to the sound of flutes and rattles. It was quite hot at noon, and many guests decided to return to the Prince Albert II for lunch aboard.

The braver souls went straight to Wilidupe, where we had time to get into the water to cool down before we ate lunch. On the menu were rice cooked in coconut, and lobsters, caught yesterday especially for us.

During our time in Wilidupe, we could see dark clouds and lightning over the mainland, and after lunch, the wind turned and the lightning storm came closer to the island. Many people decided to go back to the ship, and just a few remained on the shore to wait out the storm. It started to rain, and there were spectacular lightning bolts all around us. Expedition Leader Suzana suspended the Zodiac shuttle during the storm, but service restarted afterwards, and more people came ashore.

But unfortunately the storm lingered and the weather didn’t clear, so out time ashore was cut short as everybody returned to the ship earlier than planned.