August 25, 2017
We finally left Panama City for the Las Perlas Islands, which are a group of islands in the Gulf of Panama. If you look at a map, Panama City is in the middle of the arch shape that makes up the country of Panama, and the Las Perlas Islands are directly south. They are a group of islands fairly close together. Some are inhabited with small villages or vacation homes for wealthy Panamanians, but others are uninhabited and wild. We were excited to get away from the city and hopefully get some time in the water. So far, we have not been disappointed.
Right away our day started out great as we hooked two sierra while trolling out toward the islands. We took this as a good sign that there were going to be more fish in our future in the islands.
Our first stop was Isla Pacheca, a small island that is privately owned. As we were approaching the island, we spotted blows from a pod of whales not too far in the distance. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed our suspicions that we had found humpback whales! The humpbacks have a very distinctive white pattern on their tales (or flukes). So, if you are lucky enough to spot one, you will recognize the humpbacks.
We dropped anchor in about 30 feet of water, recognizing that it was close to high tide. The tides in Panama can be 10-15 feet or more, so you really have to watch your depth and the tide charts when anchoring, or you could end up with your boat on the sand at low tide! We were delighted when we looked over the side of the boat and could see our anchor chain on the bottom. I’ll take 30 feet of visibility any day. After getting everything situated on the boat before the sun started to fade, we could still see and hear the whales off in the distance. Awesome.
We stayed at Pacheca for two nights, but after some squalls came through during the night making it a quite uncomfortable anchorage, we decided to move over to Isla Contadora just a couple of miles away. Contadora is one of the few islands that is inhabited, and although small even has a runway for small planes to land.
There were a couple other sailboats anchored at Contadora, and later that afternoon we were greeted by Tassio and Isabelle from the sailboat Yoyo. Tassio had been out spearfishing and brought us a huge piece of Amberjack. THAT is a great way to make new friends!
The next morning we got a call on the radio from Yoyo just as we were finishing breakfast that two humpback whales were right by our boat. We quickly ran outside with the video camera to catch a mama and her calf slowly drifting by us with the current. The baby was having some fun rolling around and slapping his fins on the water. Tassio and Isabelle rowed over and jumped in with their masks and snorkels to try and get a better look, but the whales soon decided to move on.
Later that day we invited our new friends on Yoyo to join us in some snorkeling and free diving. As we were crossing the bay to one of the other islands, we came across the mama and calf whales again. We got about as close as you would want to get to them, as the adults can be 40-50 feet in length. Our little 10 foot dinghy would be no match for the whales.
We got a few more free diving trips in the next few days and Mike tried his hand at spearfishing. Although he didn’t spear anything, we had a great time checking out the large schools of fish. We also saw some dolphins, a turtle and a huge ray.
But, all was not lost on the fishing front as our new best friend and expert spearfisherman Tassio kept us fed in fish for days! He speared a red snapper, white sea bass (corvina) and sierra, not to mention the amberjack. We were very grateful for all the fish!
We’re now looking forward to moving on to some of the other islands here in the Perlas, and hopefully will have some more fun with the diving and fishing. It’s nice to be back in the water.