On our way from Colombia to Costa Rica we had an extra stop at a surprise port. The San Blas Islands, Panama were not part of the original port plan but the maritime crew arranged for us to spend a night at anchor there and to have a day of shore leave on Tortuga Island. These islands are home to one of the last remaining truly indigenous peoples - apparently if they marry an outsider they have to leave the islands! Shortly after we dropped anchor a family came over in their boat selling textiles that were beautifully handmade. I found it ironic that in these little islands seemingly in the middle of nowhere technology has not gone unnoticed – one of the items they were selling was a laptop case!
The tender was doing runs most of the shore leave day, it took 20-30 minutes to get to Tortuga from our anchorage and not everyone can fit in at once. I left the ship around 10:00 and had a couple hours on the island before coming back so that Jess could have some time ashore too. As everyone was getting ready to go we had an awesome galley moment – we had got breakfast and bagged lunches made in the nick of time and all our galley team were sent away to get themselves ready for the 9:00 tender. “Phew, we made it,” we thought. That was great but the galley was still a mess with dirty dishes everywhere. As the first tender was filling up with people to leave we heard one of the students on galley that call out “hey guys, let’s go clean the galley. It’ll only take 10 minutes and we can take the second tender.” And come they did! All the kids who are amazing in galley showed up in a swarm and had that place spic and span in the time it took me to go to the walk-in (two levels below the galley) to put food away in the fridge. I came up amazed at how much work had taken place!
Back to the island. When I arrived I decided the first thing was to circumnavigate the island by foot, walking in the surf when possible. I took a lot of pictures and every shot is postcard worthy. If you were looking for a tropical island you couldn’t do much better! The water was a beautiful colour and some places had a nice white sandy beach while others were rockier but beside coral. I did a little snorkelling, the most interesting find was a bottom dwelling fish, the kind with two eyes on one side.
There were a few indigenous people on the island, it was unclear whether they lived there or just came for the day to supply tourists with handmade textiles (no laptop cases this time) and drinks (until the cooler was empty).
Everyone had a great time swimming, snorkeling, napping etc. Some of the kids made their way over to a nearby island, others wove visors from palm fronds. There was a volley ball net set up in the water and lots of people made use of that.