After a rainy Tuesday morning, the sun came out just in time for our trip into the surrounding Bocas del Toro area. We headed to Isla Bastimentos to visit the indigenous Salt Creek Ngobe community. This is a community of indigenous people who live on land adjacent to Bastimentos National Park. As a part of our Resource Management course, we learned how the Salt Creek tourism group began their ecotourism business and how they continue to encourage visitors whilst managing the natural resources within and around their community. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to see and experience an ecotourism business that encourages local management, as we learned about these concepts in our lecture. Having the opportunity to go out in the field and see our lecture material applied in real life is an experience we can only get here in Bocas.
Our excursion began with a beautiful boat ride along the coasts of Isla Solarte and Isla Bastimentos alongside and through mangroves overlooking the pristine, blue water on one side and the rainforest islands on the other. We then headed up a small creek through an area where the mangroves had been cut just wide enough for one boat to fit through, so it was quite a squeeze when we encountered a boat traveling the other way! We travel almost everywhere by boat, and the few times that we’ve been in a car it now seems unnatural!
Once we arrived at the Salt Creek village, we chose to go on a guided hike to a place called Bat Cave. We hiked for about an hour and a half to get there and we were able to walk through the Salt Creek Ngobe village and learn about how this community lives. We then continued on into the forest where we learned about the native plants and animals that we saw along the way from our trained Ngobe guide. Because it rained all morning, as well as the day before, we all had fun wearing our rain boots and sloshing through some rainforest mud!
The bat cave was amazing and we were able to walk into an open area on some wooden boards over the water inside the cave and there were hundreds of bats resting on the ceiling of the cave. There were even some bats flying around over our heads–it was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity! We then had a fun hike back to the village where we started, and finished the day with another beautiful and relaxing boat ride back to the center.