Isla de Canas, about 40 kilometers from Pedasi on the Azuero Peninsula, is the most important nesting sight for turtles on Panama’s Pacific coast.
Five species come here to lay between 20,000 and 30,000 eggs in the waves each year.
No one knows the best time to come to see the turtles…it can be as late as September and November or it can begin as early as April or May.
We left Pedasi and drove for about an hour before we started to wonder if we had missed the turn to Isla de Canas. We asked some people on horseback, (the only people around) and they assured us that it was just down the road. It was on the left with an old wooden sign, so don’t worry, if you are looking, you won’t miss it. We drove down a rocky dirt road that ended at a little swamp stream. We were told that if no one was around, just hit the “gong” (a rusty metal circle) and someone will hopefully come to take you to the island. Thankfully a tough looking tour guide girl was sitting around and charged us fifty cents a person.
Because it was low tide we had to wade through mud to get to the boat, about fifty feet away. Although the men with us trudged through happily, I can always be counted on to dress inappropriately, so in a white skirt and flip flops (and Katie in a white tube dress) the mud became a labyrinth of quicksand and booby traps. Our flip flips got stuck in the mud every step, and terrified of a rumored crocodile we read about in “Lonely Planet”, we started to panic and scream like little girls. The rumor turned out to be true : we asked a local kid if such a crocodile existed, and he nodded his head ominously.
When we finally reached the safety of the little boat and drove out into the stream, it was a great trip. The trees hung low over the river and it was magical driving through the swampy rainforest area. Everybody started saying stuff like “I’m glad we came!” and “This is worth the ride!” etc.
Approaching the island was also gorgeous, and as we docked the tour guide asked us when we wanted to meet her back at the boat. We said two hours which turned out to be plenty of time. A little boy lead us to the beach across the island and we walked by cane houses and local people sitting on their porches. The population of Isla Canas is 900 and the community has been there since the 1920s, brought from local towns to protect the turtles and the eggs.
The pristine beach was 100% deserted from people and alas, sea turtles. We jumped in the waves, went for a long walk and found about thirty sand dollars between us girls, some as big as a saucers! An hour and a half was a perfect amount of time on the beach, and we were running out of supplies and provisions, so we ventured to the bar near the boat dock and drank beer under a cane roof with the jukebox blasting.
We rode back, with an eye out for the crocs, after a great day, although turtle-less, at Isla de Canas.
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|Written by Robin Dishner|
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Filed under: Country Guide on April 8th, 2008