Published on 19 january 2009 at 0h00
The SAN BLAS islands are an archipelago of coral islands situated in the Caribbean Sea, along the coast of Panama, between the Panama Canal and Columbia. A paradise for sailing and especially diving, this archipelago, composed of 370 islands, is still off the beaten tourist track... A magical place, to be discovered as a matter of urgency!
The San Blas archipelago is situated along the East Coast of Panama, and is composed of 370 small and large islands, only 37 of which are island-villages...
These islands can only be approached with precise charts, as although the depth between the islands is around 30/50 metres, the approach to them is another matter – the echo sounder will very quickly indicate 15/10/8/5/3 metres, sometimes over a distance of 50 metres. Sailing is in daylight only, as the long coral reefs, certain of which are 2 miles long, are less than one metre below the surface and are often difficult to see. The islands making up this archipelago are 1 to 3 metres above sea level, covered with coconut trees and white sand, and are rarely more than 100 or 200 metres long. A real paradise for swimming, snorkelling and peace, as there are no cars, mopeds or bicycles in the San Blas islands – just unspoilt nature.
The seabed in this archipelago is very rich in fauna and flora. For the pleasure of fishing, you will find grouper fish, red porgy, barracuda and Spanish mackerel of very respectable sizes, all in amongst a multitude of tropical fish. Other marine inhabitants present in this area are the nurse shark and the lemon shark – both peaceful if you ignore them... The octopus, crayfish and giant crabs are also present in this aquarium, but fishing them is best left to the inhabitants of this region, the Kuna Indians, who will take pleasure in coming to sell them to you aboard, as fishing is one of their main sources of income.
The Kunas respect and love their culture, and protect their territory. Traditions are still rooted in their daily way of life. In fact, they have resisted five centuries of various invasions (Spanish, French, English and others) and the proselytising of all kinds of religions, thus becoming the only American Indians to have a real autonomy in their territory and the means of preserving their traditions and their culture.
The relationships between the Kunas are based on sharing and solidarity in the community. Recently, the use of money has however disrupted these traditions somewhat.
The SAN BLAS archipelago is now one of the last tropical paradises on the planet with an authentic and delightful population, a lush environment and a superb seabed. Don’t miss this opportunity; visit this still-virgin area soon, before mass tourism perverts this beauty, with all the consequences this implies.
San Blas Sailing offers you the chance to discover this incredible San Blas archipelago, aboard its fleet of catamarans ( a Grand Sud 42, a Prout 34, a Lagoon 440, a Lagoon 47 and a Dean 40). A dream programme which will only require that you choose your desert island from the 370 in this archipelago, a real pearl of the Caribbean Sea. Discover the big coral reefs, the pleasures of underwater fishing, kayaking, beach volleyball, barbecues on the beach and life far from mass tourism!
Several programmes are being offered. If you are just interested in the San Blas islands, the 7-day programme will allow you to discover the islands and the Kuna Indians. It will include a visit to an Indian village, a traditional Kuna community, several desert islands and an island inhabited by a Kuna family where the San Blas sailing team will prepare a lunch for you with the family, based on rice, coconuts and a barbecue. Of course, throughout the cruise, diving with mask and snorkel on the various coral reefs will set the rhythm, as will fishing.
If you want to take advantage of your voyage to also discover Panama, there is a 12-day cruise, which covers the same ground as the 7-day cruise, then allows you to discover Isla Grande, Portobelo, Colon and finish with a visit to the famous locks of the Panama Canal...
And for nature lovers, it is also possible to combine the cruise in the San Blas Islands with a stay in an eco-lodge in the primary tropical forest. A must!
THE LOCAL WEATHER:
Panama is sheltered from the hurricanes and storms, and 2 seasons predominate: from December to April, the trade wind season (north/east winds), constant winds and no rain, but worse visibility underwater and several currents - this is the best season for sailing! The rest of the year, the winds are lighter and the rain scattered (but nothing dramatic!), visibility underwater is much better and it is even possible to explore the ‘exterior’ of the reefs (the windward side), the light is more ‘dense’ and the sunsets are often spectacular. This is the best season for underwater fishing, exploration of the coral reefs and discovery of the marine fauna. And the anchorages are often empty...
The temperatures vary little with the seasons: from 26 to 30 degrees on average for the air, and from 25 to 28 for the water.
From Europe: Iberia is offering Madrid/Panama with just one change on the outward journey.
From Paris: Air France via Caracas, Bogota or Miami.
From the main European capitals: via Caracas, Bogota or Miami.
Delta Airlines: via Atlanta, American Airlines via Miami
From Canada: Direct charter flight in the high season, flight via Miami, Atlanta, Newark…
The Panama / San Blas Islands flight is easy and not very expensive (every day – 35 minute flight).
For the coastal areas of the San Blas Islands and Panama City, no particular precautions are necessary. On the other hand, if you plan to visit the Darien, the yellow fever vaccination is recommended.
Panama is not a dangerous country. There are no pirates or hurricanes and sailing is pleasant all the year round...
The San Blas islands are clearly threatened by global warming. Scientists predict that in 40 to 60 years, the archipelago will be submerged! The Kuna Indians will then have to live – once again – in the mountains bordering their territory...
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