Cream Puff is anchored in a really sweet spot. We sailed to a small group of about 12 islands called the Coco Bandero Cays. We are anchored between three islands that are an easy swim from the boat. When we looked at the guidebook we are using for this area we were amused to see we had anchored in the middle of the picture on the cover. I don’t often talk about cruising guidebooks because most of them aren’t worth the paper upon which they are printed. We struggled throughout the Chesapeake Bay and eastern Caribbean with the embellishments made in the books touting towns and ports we found to be, let’s just say, not what was touted. In the Bahamas we found Steve Dodge’s Guide to the Abacos to be exceptional. We also used the Explorer Chartbooks by Monty and Sara Lewis because the charts printed in the books were current and accurate. However, the text of these Bahamas guides was never on point often times leading to big disappointments upon arrival. It is pretty obvious when you think about it, is a guide book going to say anything unflattering about a location when the guide contains advertising from the local businesses at the location?
Cindy and I had basically given up purchasing cruising guidebooks and alternately started to depend on online resources such as Free Cruising Guides. or tourism websites. At least this way should we find the information to be incorrect, it didn’t cost us anything to read it. However, the San Blas Islands are really off the beaten path and getting factual information about the region was challenging. Several people recommended Eric Bauhaus’ The Panama Cruising Guide. The guide has nautical charts allowing us to tuck into areas not clearly shown on our normal charting package. In addition, the information is his book is completely on target containing just about everything we need to know. At $70, this book was expensive but in our opinion worth every penny. It has become our “go to” resource for this area.
Tiadup Island, just to the north of us has a small hotel. Before you get too excited and start go book your next vacation, I need to explain the hotel consists of a hut for the two brothers who are the Kuna indigenous to this area, a volley ball net, a his/hers facility (buckets), and a hut full of hammocks. The tourists shuttle from the mainland by panga and usually stay just one or two nights. They play volleyball, swim and enjoy a meal prepared on an open fire. We happen to be downwind of the fire and whatever it was that was cooking yesterday smelled delicious. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be marooned on an island, this would be the place to find out. If hopping to a few remote islands and sleeping in a hammock while listening to the roar of the ocean on the protective reef is on your bucket list, call San Blas Adventures for your next vacation. The two bothers also supplement their income by selling fresh (live) lobsters to area boats. For an added fee they will cook it for you on the island.
Ear infections stopped us from immediately jumping into the warm clear water. Both of us have spent a tremendous amount of time swimming in the past couple of weeks. Ironically, the infections are both in our right ears. We decided to hang here until the aches go away and we can jump in and find out what lurks in the area reefs. This turned out to be a good place to hang out and watch the world go by. Because these islands are a little bit closer to the mainland campers (backpackers) arrive once and a while on panga and camp on the awesome beaches. The islands provide campsites like nowhere else in the world. Campers are shuttled by pangas from the mainland. But, this is not the only life on the islands.
Looking over to Olosicuidup Island to our right, we saw something moving in the palms. When a local Kuna fellow landed on the island, a monkey came down to the beach as if they knew each other. Watching from the boat we saw the Kuna pick up some trash and got back into his boat. Giving a fresh ripe mango to a monkey is a good way to make a new friend. We learned this in Colombia. Grabbing the camera and a mango we decided to swim to the island rather than dinghy over despite the ear infections. Landing on the beach we removed our fins and mask and started to search. It didn’t take long. All I had to do was open the plastic bag of sliced mango. The monkey was very hesitant at first but obviously wanted some mango. I held out a piece and cautiously he took it from my hand, sat down on a makeshift bench and munched on the mango. It didn’t take long before he realized I was there to feed him and simultaneously I realized he was very tame. At one point the monkey sat on my knee and helped himself to the mango slices in the bag. To be honest, this was a little bit closer than I had imagined things would get. A voice in the back of my head kept telling me to keep in mind we are in the boonies and should I get bitten by an animal, we’re on our own.
Two people from Tiadup Island arrived on the island on the other side, Britt and Daniel. They were a part of a group staying at the “hotel” and swam over. Once on the island, they saw us with the monkey on the beach at the other side of the island. They were English speaking and were amazed by the monkey’s friendliness. Cindy took all the pictures. I offered them some mango so they could experience feeding the monkey. Cindy gave them our email address and told them to drop us a note so we could send the pictures once they get back to civilization. Not being shy, the monkey sat on their knees while being fed mango slices. I think we made their day.
The looming question is, how did this monkey get here? I have to assume it was put on the island by one of the Kuna as a sort of tourist attraction. I’m also assuming monkeys don’t swim. Even if they did, to swim here from the mainland would be a swimming feat worthy of a mention in the Guinness Book of Records. A couple of days later we saw one of the Kuna men hanging a water bag for the monkey.
When other people landed onto the island, the monkey stayed in the trees. We had walked this island just two days earlier and didn’t see it. I wonder how many cruisers have set foot on this island and didn’t see the monkey. Arrive with a mango and it is a whole new experience. Mango is monkey cocaine! He ate every last piece. Just when I thought the experience couldn’t get any better I received a monkey cuddle. He sat deep into my lap and stuck his head into my chest as if to say thanks for the treat.