Story about our cruise in San-Blas islands

Log Book from San-Blas

It was winter time, I was feeling grey like the weather, I told Oliver I needed vacation. Without a word he took his laptop and opened a page already loaded. I’ve been feeling the same for the last three weeks he said, do you know San-Blas ? It’s how our private cruise to San-Blas started.

Family trip to San-Blas

We are a family of six. We decided to sail the San-Blas islands because it is a preserved place, there is so much islands that you need to do it on a boat to really appreciate the trip, and the children were so excited at the idea of seeing desert islands.

Oliver hear about San-Blas the first time in a report about Panama (he s addict to boat reports and other boat stuff) he took the opportunity of holidays to show me how boat life can be pure happiness. I know it s for try to convince  me to buy a boat later, but I was needing sun…

intro

 vacation

Our private cruise to san-blas

 

Which kind of boat to sail Guna Yala ?

After a Google search we opted for Catamaran San Blas charter company. Because first we were looking for a catamaran, monohull offer big sensation navigating, but we was looking for a relaxing sailing trip not an adrenaline sailing. The prices was displayed on the website, and there is no form to fill to speak with an human. (I hate to speak with robot) We first spoke via the WhatsApp application to find out which date to book. We opted for a 4-day cruise aboard a boat named Onatigle, a 48 feet catamaran.

we booked for February, because it’s cheaper than during the high season and the weather is ideal for appreciate the cruise. We just paid the reservation, and opted for a last payment the departure day. (Safer in case of accident or anything before to go)

what to pack for the trip?

The weeks passed and D-day arrived. The children’s lugages were ready but not ours😅. Fortunately we don’t need much, 2 swimsuits and 3 dresses including a long sleeve one. Oliver took 3 T-shirts and his laptop, a go pro, a power bank for his phone and a drone. We also took some cash money cause there is no ATM or banks in San-Blas.

It brought me back to that question we used to have as a child: If you were going to a desert island what would you bring with you? A toothbrush or a book? Seriously a toothbrush or a book ?! I think that fishing equipment would have been more appropriate … Hopefully we have no need to worry about that. Our private cruise to San-Blas is all inclusive, a chef is on board and we have been confirmed that there is fishing equipment too (Oliver like to fish).

 waiting to go

From home to  Panama

Arrival in Panama

 

The last days was so long cause we was really excited. Kids was asking thousands of questions and was counting the nights before departure like if it was Christmas. D-day arrived, and after a quick flight, we landed in Panama city. The charter company send us a contact so, we had a taxi phone number and he was waiting for us at the airport. But anyway, if you don’t have contacts, there is taxi driver at the airport.

We landed the day before our cruise because getting to San-Blas takes time. It’s not particularly complicated but there are a few rules  to know. So, we was needing an hotel to spend the first night. The charter company offer 2 propositions, one in Panama city, and the other one in the jungle.

So, we chossed the jungle. We booked two cabanas (kind of hut) in an Eco-lodge named Pachamama 10 km away from the departure dock to the San-Blas  islands. The receptionist arranged our transportation from the Eco-lodge to the boat the next day.

The taxi driver have to stop by the custom because San-Blas or Guna yala is an independent province of Panama. The accommodation was really basic, not even a private bathroom, but it was clean and the jungle trip was better than expected: We took the time for a nice walk and went for a swim in the property’s waterfall. I am cautious so I did not bathe but the children loved it. We even saw monkeys, and funny colorfull birds which made our jungle experience so great.

Finally on board

The next morning a taxi dropped us on the dock in Carti where we meet an other friendly tourists group. So, all of us took the same taxi boat to join our respective boat. The taxi-boat is a kind of long motor boat with wooden benches. It stops like a bus near different islands and boats to bring passengers to their destination. It dropped us off directly on our Catamaran where, juices, fruits, snacks and cocktails were waiting for us on the cockpit table! Our private cruise to San-Blas is finaly starting!!!!

Visit

 life on board in a private cruise

 The Catamaran 

After a boat visit, the children chose their room. The advantage of a catamaran: we were able to give them the left hull, so, we kept the right one. Which give us privacy. Of course the kids were jumping all over the trampolines at the front of the catamaran so I took the opportunity to relax on the sundeck at the back. Oliver kept himself busy trying to understand how the sails of this boat work (I’m glad we took a cruise with a skipper).

Crew

 personal chef and captain

 The Crew

Our Captain

Onatigle’s captain, is also the owner of the boat. A tall man named Jepi, with a good English and a strong French accent. He did the introduction. He have a great experience of the sea because he lived almost all his life on boats. The children were a little impressed by his tattoos first. But after 2 hours to ask him questions about sharks and dinosaurs (none of them are to be feared in San-Blas😄), they decreed he is a pirate and adopted him.

First impression

This is how the cruise started. Personally I had never seen turquoise water elsewhere than in the movies. I had always believed that the technicians were cheating during the editing to make the turquoise color. But no! It is indeed like a giant swimming pool. The waters are not deep there are shallows everywhere, so, it s safe to swim. At that precise moment I remember feeling privileged. Drinking cocktails under the sun while the captain of our private cruise is taking us to some paradise islands and our chef is preparing the lunch.

Island life

 kayak & paddle board 

 Water activities 

We anchored in a bay where there were already two other boats. (I’m so glad we choose a catamaran rather than a monohull) It was lunch time so, we enjoyed a good meal based on fresh fish in front of a breathtaking view . Even Lea was delighted with her plate (our teen don’t eat meet only fish and veggies).

As soon as the meal was finished, the little ones threw themselves into the water and climbed back up by the dinghy. Lea learn really fast how to paddle boarding. We snorkeled around a very old looking shipwreck and visited a Kuna village.

The captain offered to go to another island to spend the evening; it was a very small island. We had a barbecue on the beach. The chandeliers were made of coconut shell, and we used leaf tree as plates. I enjoyed watching everything be prepare from a hammock hang between two coconut trees.

at sea 

 wake up in paradise

 Fresh fruit & fresh fish 

first morning

The wake up was fabulous although very early, because of the sun. We are not used to this heat. Breakfast was served in the cockpit with fresh fruits and it is really the best way to start a good day. Fruits and coffee, front of such an extraordinary view with a nice breeze.

After a last swim we left for a new island. I chose this time to appreciate the view offered from the trampolines at the front of the boat to see the sea running under me. But after 1 hour Thomas (1 of our twins) started to feel bad, and I didn’t know how to stop his seasickness. Hopefully the captain did. He installed Thomas next to him behind the steering wheel and let him drive the boat. (he was so proud to sail a boat) so, after that everything went back to normal. The seasickness it’s a bit like hiccups, it can pass by thinking of something else.

We were lucky and caught a fish, a big Mahi Mahi, so, the chef incorporated it into our lunch, some kunas also came to us to offer delicious lobsters.

How beautiful are San-Blas islands

From island to island, we did kayak, snorkeling, swimming to the beach, we went to a local bar to enjoy fresh coconuts served in its shell. Lea was able to practice wake board towed by the dinghy which is used to get to shore.

Oliver finally used the drone he bought last year. He took some amazing pictures which can make any tour operator jealous. For my part, I was surprised to see the differences in mentality from one island to another. The Kuna people are welcoming with tourists and their culture is unique. A mix of contemporary and traditional, quite disconcerting but authentic.

Amazing

 extraordinary travel

Expectation vs reality 

In short, those vacations on Onatigle were better than I would have imagine. Our private cruise to San-Blas was a success. The children came back with plenty of memories and stories to tell. We did great snorkelings, swim with turtles and colorful reef fishes. We promised to the kids to do it again in two years.

So, now we are discussing about a future trip, longer. Why not this time aboard our own catamaran? It has been three years now that Oliver is talking about it. I know it sounds a little bit crazy, but I’m more confident today. I would like to have a longer sailing experience. To get an idea of what to expect. I’m guessing the sensations are different between short sailing from island to island in the San-Blas and going for the real deal.

portfolio

 snorkeling, fishing, cocktails & food

 Additional

 Pictures

Picnic on the beach

The chef prepared for us picnic and some barbecues on the beach with hammocks to have a peaceful after lunch nap.

Mahi-Mahi

Lea catched a mahi-mahi. (Oliver was proud but still a bit jealous that she catch the biggest fish.) The chef prepare it different ways. So, we eat it, raw (like sashimi) with a Panamanian sauce and also cooked with the special chef secret. (delicious)

catch of the day

Sea wildlife is abundant. We appreciated to eat and fish respectfully of the environment without feeding the big corporations. Kuna come to the boat to offer fish, lobsters, crabs and fruits.

Just a perfect day

This one is simple, but probably one of my favorite pics. It was a bit before the sunset, kids were playing together. Oliver and I was drinking a cocktail on the beach watching the sea without a word. Just a magical moment.

Paddle board and toys

 

People paddle standing on the board (it s call a stand up paddle) but honestly I prefer to seat. It’s more stable, and easier to paddle. We had also a kayak on board and some floating toys to go snorkeling 

good hosts

The crew was really friendly, and helpful. They teach us a lot about San-Blas. Give us some sailing tips, and useful advice about catamarans. They made our private cruise to San-Blas unforgettable.

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