Old Bank in Isla BastimentosFebruary 1, 2020 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F
Well, Tio Tom's hasn't changed a whole lot since we were here last time. It's actually a little worse for the wear. And the same could be said for Old Bank, the town on Isla Bastimentos. Bastimentos is just a 10-minute water taxi away from other islands but it is a totally different world. Here, the residents are black and it's more like being on a Caribbean island like Jamaica than in Panama.
They speak a patois that's a combination of English, Spanish, and Pirate. It's dirty and grungy and there's garbage everywhere but for some reason we kind of like it. People are nice.Tourism has actually decreased here since before. That's possibly the only place I've ever been in the last 20 years where that's happened. Maybe that's a good thing? One of my favorite beaches in the world, Wizard Beach, is still undeveloped and requires 30 to 45 minutes of hiking through a muddy jungle path. But it's clean.
Just one bay over from there is Red Frog Beach, where there are lots of condos and expensive resorts, bars and restaurants etc. People usually pay to take a water taxi there. It used to be easier to hike from Wizard Beach to Red Frog but now it's a lot harder because the water level is much higher and there's less beach to walk on.
Unfortunately our room at Tío Tom's was next to the boat gas station, which is a small shack on stilts. It was loud from the boat traffic and the exhaust was disgusting. But we're travelers and we know that we will be gone in a few days and we make the best of it. There are really nice people here including the young managers of the place and couples from Germany, Holland and elsewhere.
In the three nights we were here we went to the beach every day and read a lot while in our hammocks. We started second-guessing whether it was worth it to bring our hammocks and straps, and this made it all worthwhile.
We ate at a couple local places that we ate at last time and the Creole seafood is top notch. We also found a really nice place run by some Americans called Firefly. And we met the local roaming musician, Creole Joe.
This is the type of place that people usually either really love or really hate. It's charming in a gritty sort of way but I'm not sure I'll need to come back. The place seems dirtier than normal and people just burn their garbage or throw it anywhere. And we see garbage floating around the bay, although Wizard Beach does seem to make it all worthwhile. There hardly any remote beaches in the world that you can walk to and boats can't land and there's no development. The waves are too rough for boats to land. But surfers love that.
Most people would never walk up and down the muddy jungle path to get there. It's difficult and more than one person turns back before getting to the beach on the other side of the island.
The garbage seems worse than before including cans and bottles and whatever floating around the water in Old Bank.
We had a good time but we're ready to go back to Isla Colon and chill out in a better place on the beach where we will have the ocean breeze and waves. Old Bank is on the leeward side of Bastimentosntos and that's why you can build housing on stilts here and the water is very calm like a lake.
Here's the easy part of the walk to wizard Beach.
All photos are here.