In February, Solimar began working in Bocas del Toro, a Panamanian archipelago located in the Caribbean near the Costa Rican border. It is one of the main tourism destinations in Panama, but also a biological hotspot for flora and fauna.
Close to the main island, Isla Colón, is Dolphin Bay, where large populations of dolphins live year round. They prefer the calm water of the Bay for mating and raising their offspring, which makes Dolphin Bay an attractive destination for dolphin spotting. Bluff Beach is located in Isla Colon boasts a large population of Leatherback and Hawksbill Turtles. The turtles come to nest every year between February and July – always returning to nest on the beach where they were born.
Bocas del Toro is also home to the Pygmy Sloth and the Escudo Hummingbird, named after the Escudo de Veraguas Island. Another interesting endemic species is the Red Frog, a very bright amphibian that lives in the archipelago. There are approximately 60 sub-species of frogs that live on the islands – all identified by vivid colors. From Isla Colon, you can take a five-minute boat ride to Isla Bastimentos where you can find a different colored frog!
The culture in the islands is also as unique as the wildlife. The local population speaks Spanish, but also Guari Guari, which is very similar to English including variations on the accents of certain words. The territory called Comarca of Ngäbe- Bugle is home to two of the largest indigenous ethnic groups in Panama. They have a very rich culture and extensive knowledge about the local forest. These groups also host several community-based tourism projects.
Solimar, together with National Geographic and the Management of Aquatic Resources and Alternative Development Program, hopes to highlight the rich biodiversity and culture of these islands by developing a Geotourism Website that properly tells the story of this magical place. The information for the Website will be provided entirely by the local people. With support from a Geotourism Council, which will be formed by community members involved with the tourism industry, this Website will strive to unite people from the entire region in proudly showcasing Bocas del Toro to the world!
Beginning June 1st, residents of Bocas del Toro will be able to start contributing information about their destination to the Website. We look forward to sharing the finished Website with you in the coming months. Hopefully it will prove to be a great travel planning resource for visitors.
We recently told you about the launch of the geotourism mapguide program in Bocas del Toro, Panama. The Solimar team has been hard at work for a few months getting ready for the official call for nominations, which began June 1st.
The Bocas Geotourism Stewardship Council (GSC) began with 7 members and now has 13 active members, due in large part to the efforts of the local team conducting individual presentations about the project. The council will steer the site nomination gathering and vetting process. The council now includes the Mayor of Bocas, the Environmental Unit of the Municipality, the Smithsonian Institute, the local Tourism Chamber, local TV and newspaper representatives and local hotel, surf shop and dive center owners.
Several members of the Bocas GSC have donated television, radio and newspaper advertising space to help promote the upcoming site nomination website launch. The local billingual newspaper has also donated space for an article on the Geotourism Program in every issue. So far two articles on the upcoming program have run in that local newspaper.
Solimar's local coordinators and GSC members have also conducted over 60 presentations to 79 business promoting the site nomination period and raising local awareness about the geotourism program. At least 10 Bocas site nominations will be ready and loaded onto the Go Blue Central America site nomination website for the launch on June 1st.
Twenty-nine additional businesses have signed letters of interest committing to participate in the Geotourism prorgram. Many more local businesses have given a verbal commitment to participate. These businesses have expressed great enthusiasm about receiving the tourism sustainability best practices training as a part of the Geotourism Program. To learn more about this program or to nominate a business, please visit the website: