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Archive for December, 2008

Carnival Queen

Carnival Queen

Carnival 2009 promises to be another exciting event on enchanting Taboga. Carnival is safe and fun on this little island of beaches, quaint candy-colored homes and lush green hilltops. So close to Panama City you can see it, but so far away in terms of hustle and bustle.

SCHEDULE: Friday February 20th will be a warming up to the year´s biggest party, Carnival. The celebration lasts from the 21 – 24 Feb 2009 and ends day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. Lent in 2009 will start on Wednesday, the 25th of February and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 11th of April, the day before Easter which falls on April 12th this year.

SOME BACKGROUND:
Because of its excellent harbor, Isla Taboga was founded even before Panama City by the Spaniards, and prior to that there were numerous races represented on at least a transient basis: it was a favorite pirate port hosting such infamous pirates as Captains Morgan and Drake, and it is said that Asian and Pacific island fisherman would travel to Taboga after crossing the ocean in search of the big catch, or caught in a Pacific storm. Evidence of indigenous people can be found in several caves on the island. Its rich history gives it a depth and traditions that many communities don’t possess. Carnival, among several other holidays during the year is very important to this small island of less than 1000 inhabitants.

I have been told that Taboga Island hosted the first Carnival ever in Panama. Panama City and Las Tablas host the biggest, wildest events while Taboga is popular because it is much more laid back. The music pipes out until the wee hours of the morning so luckily our B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical is set far several streets away from the main drag.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO: The festive spirit on Taboga seems to last for days. Music and dancing on the streets, and daily carnival parades. I cannot forget to mention the daily water fights… as passers by walk along the streets buckets of water are thrown, kids spray water from their pistols or throw water balloons, trucks pass by with more buckets! So expect to get wet. Many people come to simply get away from the city carnival to relax at the beach with their family and friends.

The different days of the carnival often have their own themes but Taboga is a small village so parades are in proportion and except for the costume changes, one is not greatly distinct from the other, but all are enjoyable and FULL of great photo ops. There are parades scheduled at day and night. Since Taboga is a laid back island visitors cannot rely on the schedules or starting times much. When it happens, it happens.

MUSIC ON THE STREETS: There will be a typical Panamanian folkloric band (a Murga) and that is always fun. A Murga has been compared to a Dixieland street band with followers… they often compete against each other… groups from Calle Arriba y Calle Abajo…basically up town and down town…with brass and drums; Murgas are often followed by a truck with water as well, hosing the party-goers.

CARNIVAL ON THE WATER: There is a tradition of people taking their boats in a parade around the island, always a cool way to spend some time and take a break from the street party!

THE GRAND FINALLY: As Ash Wednesday dawns, the celebrations draw to an end, with the symbolic burial of sardines at the beach (and many partygoers who are still in the festive mood, jump in the sea as well).

Look forward to latin dancing, cold beer, parades, and relaxing at the beach during Taboga Island Carnival.

For rooms during Carnival, contact B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical. Email: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com, Tel: 6489-0074

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I borrowed this from Sam Taliaferro´s Panama Investor Blog where you can subscribe to his regular newsletter, very informative on Panama events from a business perspective.
http://primapanama.blogs.com

Excerpts from La Prensa

The Canadian airlines currently offering charter flights to Panama may start providing regular flight services during peak travel seasons.

Canadian Transport Minister John Baird announced that Air Transat would operate two flights a week from Tocumen, while WestJet reported it would schedule a single flight each week. Flights will operate between November and April.

Representatives for Air Transat, which has offered two weekly charter flights Montreal, Quebec, and Panama City, Panama, since 2003, said the new service will be similar to that currently offered.

As of September, some 33,649 Canadian tourists have arrived in Panama, according to the Tourism Authority of Panama.

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Snorkeling on Taboga Island

Two weeks ago we booked a “round-the-island” snorkeling trip to scout locations for our guests.

Parrotfish

Parrotfish

I am a retired PADI instructor and have taught and guided excursions in Australia, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, and wrote a dive guide book for the Tourism Bureau of Curacao N.A. — I am critical of dive and snorkel sites for my guests, and don´t impress easily. Here is what we found.

Pacific snorkeling is quite a different than the Caribbean. Expect more current, less coral, and lower visibility. Don´t attempt offshore snorkeling unless you are a strong swimmer with your own fins, a buddy, and a guide.

Snorkeling by Panga, Playa Hobo Taboga Panama

Snorkeling by Panga, Playa Hobo Taboga Panama

We set off 8 am on a sunny day with a local guide in his panga, accompanied by a friend and guest from Australia. Conditions were almost perfect, visibility good at 15-20 feet with plenty of tropical fish around to entertain us including a very large parrot fish. We spotted a number of large brain coral and plate coral. Find an excellent coral guide at this link: http://coralpedia.bio.warwick.ac.uk/.

Snorkeling Buddies Taboga, Panama

Snorkeling Buddies Taboga, Panama

Because of the strong current present the panga drifted with us as we snorkeled; “drift snorkeling” we dubbed it. We then headed off in the panga to the wild back of Taboga past the Brown Pelican Preserve and afterward to snorkel a shallow hull from a wreck by Isla Uraba. On the way back to Taboga our guide slowed and followed a large green sea turtle. We were thrilled, and strained to see the big guy who surfaced to check us out. A brown pelican was following so the turtle didn´t stay up long, giving us just enough time to snap a couple of photos. Almost back to the beach I asked to see the coral gardens nearby. There was a large area of coral, some clean but other parts unfortunately covered with algae or bleached due to the changing conditions in the area.

Sea Turtle Underwater, Taboga Panama

Sea Turtle Underwater, Taboga Panama

Back at the beach settling up, the trip took a total of 2 hours and we all agreed worth the effort of getting up early on a Sunday morning. $50 plus tip for 4 people without snorkel gear.

While Taboga is not the best area I have experienced, it was entertaining, at times challenging, and we enjoyed snorkeling amongst the island´s thriving ocean life.

To enjoy snorkeling by boat around Taboga island, Panama, contact B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical. We organize trips for our guests with local guides.
Email: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com
Tel: 507-6489-0074

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