Recently, I did something I’ve never done before – I went whale-watching. My friend Terri wanted to do this to celebrate her birthday, and she invited me to go with her and her husband Brad.
On the Pacific coast of Panama during August and September is where humpback whales go to have their babies, and the many islands off the coast of Boca Chica (about 1 1/2 hours from Boquete) provide a protected “nursery” for the youngsters.
This was a day trip organized by one of the tour companies here called Boquete Outdoor Adventures. There were others on the tour with us – a mother with her two boys and two other couples, for a total of 10. We left Boquete in their van at 7 a.m. and arrived at Boca Chica to board the boat (called a “panga”) about 8:30.
We did see numerous whales, but their appearance was a little underwhelming – basically, we only saw them coming up to breathe and they were some distance from the boat. None jumped out of the water in spectacular fashion, which would have been totally awesome. No matter – it was a treat to see those great creatures at all!
After spending some time in the open water watching the whales, we headed out to a gorgeous island for some beach time and relaxation. I had been to this island about two and a half years ago on the same tour (minus the whales, since it was the wrong time of year). This island is a national park and has no man-made improvements on it. The tour guide, assisted by Terri’s husband, hung several hammocks from the palm trees for us to relax in.
While we were chilling or playing in the water, our tour guide was preparing some appetizers – pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, and rambutan (featured in a previous blog post). A bit later, the main course was served, which was a traditional on-the-go meal called a mono (Spanish for “monkey”). It consists of rice and beans, baked chicken, and a couple of thick slices of ripe plantain wrapped in a banana leaf. Panamanian workers commonly take this meal with them to work as their lunch.
Terri found an impressive new friend on the beach – a huge iguana. She had brought some bananas with her for a snack, and was happy to share them with him. He was joined by many hermit crabs – they were everywhere!
I stayed in the hammock most of the afternoon, since my balance isn’t very good. With the shifting sand and the waves knocking me off my feet, I’m not at my best in the ocean. I do love the sounds of the ocean, though – I could sit on the beach and listen to it for hours!
We were scheduled to leave about 2:30, as the tide was coming in. The waves were quite a bit larger than in the video, and it was rather tricky to get on the boat. We had to wade in waist- to chest-deep water go get to the boat, then climb up a small ladder on the side of the boat. The tour guide provided much-needed assistance for me to get to the boat and up the ladder.
On the way back to the dock, we stopped to do more whale-watching. Shortly afterwards, the tour guide spotted a whale jumping out of the water in the far distance. However, no one was prepared to get a picture and most of us didn’t even see it.
Overall, it was a very pleasant adventure, and I can now mark seeing whales off my to-do list. Due to my balance issues and the power of the ocean, I think I may limit my aquatic adventures in the future to swimming in a pool instead of the ocean. But walking on the beach and enjoying the soothing sounds of the waves is still on the list, for sure!