This morning we had yet another early AM pickup, this time leaving a 4:15 to head to the domestic airport in Panama City for our flight to San Blas, an autonomous Comarca called the Kuna Yala, where the indigenous group, the Kuna People, live. We departed the airport almost 1 hour late, and after one stop on the way, arrived to Achutupo, an airstrip paved out off the mainland coast in the middle of forest. Here, we met our guide who boarded us into a boat to transfer us the 10 minutes to the nearby island where we would be staying. All around, on different islands, you can see houses made of what looks like bamboo and palm leaves for a roof, all bunched together in clusters. We arrived to Dolphin lodge, where we dropped off our luggage in our rustic bungalow with balcony and a hammock overlooking the Caribbean Sea. We were greeted with breakfast and from there set out to first go explore and walk around the community island of Achutupo, which is literally a 2 minute boat ride away from the other island where we were staying. While waiting for the boat to get across, we saw dolphins come swimming through the time strait, jumping out of the water and playing with each other. Our guide told us that this is where the name Dolphin Lodge comes from, in that the Dolphins migrate through here and can be spotted generally from November through April.
On Achutupo we walked around, saw many people including women wearing their traditional clothing with beads on their legs and forearms, a man taking a nap in a dugout canoe, and many children wandering around half or completely naked saying “Hola”. This was obviously a greeting they had just learned in school and were anxious to use, as Spanish is their second language here. It has only recently been decided by the Kuna people that learning Spanish as well as Kuna in their schools will now be a requirement. Many women held up molas as we wandered through the village, their handicraft well known throughout all of Panama. After this quick visit we headed in a boat with our guide to a nearby Playa Bonita, a beautiful white sand beach on another island with a hotel where we spent some time snorkeling in the reef and relaxing on the sand shore. The sky was overcast this day, so the snorkeling was not fantastic and my mask kept filling up with water making my eyes sting form the salt. In the afternoon we returned to Dolphin for lunch and then passed up the opportunity to travel to other nearby islands, opting instead to read in a hammock. The meals were always fresh seafood, accompanied with rice and vegetables. Being from Montana where seafood is not the most common menu item (nor the best prepared), this was real treat!