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Speaking at the Live and Invest in Panama Conference

Speaking at the Live and Invest in Panama Conference

I was invited to speak at the Live and Invest Overseas Conference a while back in Panama City. The Conference was very well organized by Kathleen Peddicord and Lief Simon; attendees flew in mainly from North America for from several days to several weeks to explore Panama.

My subject this conference (I had spoken a number of times for previous International Living Conferences) was “Opening a Business in Panama – Our Experience”. We also set up an information table about Taboga Island and our B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical.

Conference Table for B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical

Conference Table for B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical

People often ask me, if not for financial gain, why do I speak publicly at these types of Expat / Investment conferences?
My answer is quite simply, I love the challenge of speaking to a large group, and the opportunity to speak about Taboga Island.

Expat

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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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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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Playa Honda

Playa Honda

Thank you to Matt Landau for allowing me to repost this story he wrote about his weekend getaway on Taboga Island at B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical, and for the glowing review.

Weekend Getaways Reinvented in Panama, by Matt Landau of The Panama Report
View the original story here on The Panama Report

As a child, weekend getaways were epitomized by long car rides which left us so tired and cramped that, by the time we arrived at our vacation destination, none of us wanted to speak to one another. Our trips were long because, in suburban America, nothing is close. Close was the diagonal drive across the empty parking lot from Linens ‘n Things to Best Buy. The trip to the beach took four hours.

We’d usually break up our trips up by stopping at convenient stores where cheap sunglasses, beef jerky, and the burley men who bought both of them at once acted as exotic distractions if only for a few minutes, before we realized that we still had three hours to go. Our trips would take us on big highways where the only scenery was a blurry mass of metallic exit signs and generic forested wasteland.

Forbidden from owning a Gameboy, my brother and I resorted to various intellectual games as methods of self-diversion. We enjoyed word puzzles, brainteasers, and the popular road trip game I Spy, our contents of which were a tribute to America’s trashy consumer suburbia. “Something red…” I’d ponder. “Is it the Red Lobster sign? How about the McDonalds drive through overhead?”

Somewhere on one of these trips, I learned there were roughly nine million people that live in the sixteen main precincts of New Jersey, which meant that, if my family and I planned it carefully, we could visit all of them before we turned twelve hundred years old. Weekend trips required so much planning that, before we knew it, Monday would arrive and we’d be left another week to yearn.

B&B Inn cerrito tropical

B&B Inn cerrito tropical

In Panama, the concept of weekend getaways is reborn.

The amount of interesting destinations within a several-hour drive of almost anywhere in the country is enough to keep any tourist or local entertained for some time. One of my favorites is the literal hop over to Isla Taboga. Ridden with stories of pirates and conquistadors, the island of Taboga was founded back in the 1500s and is as rich in history as it is in sublime relaxation. It’s a low-key vacation option, located about 12 miles off the coast, which reinvents, for a kid from penny loafer New Jersey, the concept of a weekend escape.

The city has a way of depleting you. Traffic, pollution, noise, phones: it’s a hodgepodge of activity common to any large city that, over time, slowly sucks the energy and innovation from your bones leaving you robotic and dull as if just going through the motions. It was the kind of sunny weekday morning that inspired me, upon waking up around seven, to drive to the Amador Causeway and catch the Calypso ferry to Isla Taboga ($11 round trip) to get some of my mojo back by the beach.

I arrived on Taboga and was greeted by the caretaker- chef of a local hotel where I’d made a last minute reservation. The man, a longtime local named Aristedes, offered to take my backpack which I told him (citing the relationship between wit and leisure) was better left on my back considering it was filled with a team of baby turtles.

He walked me (and my turtles) through the town of Taboga, a narrow labyrinth of cobble-walkways and dangling bougainvilleas, then up an inclined path to B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical, my new favorite Taboga hideaway. The hotel itself is situated on a hillside higher than most establishments on Taboga and, while within walking distance of town, is blessed with its own serene Caribbean-like mountainside quietude. Cerrito Tropical is a beautiful retreat with a Creole ambiance offering both bed and breakfast rooms and vacation apartments: not the sort of thing that’d be out of place in Martinique or any other Caribbean isle. The place oozes relaxation.

My days on Taboga consisted of rigorous activities such as eating fried fish, downing cold pineapple juice, and relaxing on what amounted to my own private beach which was once a pirate´s hang out . I wandered up to a clifftop lookout that afforded a spectacular view of the same Panama City skyline I left not long before. I even went for a snorkel on the opposite side of the island, which is protected and offers a much improved water quality.

Aristedes, who I took to calling “A” (which in Spanish sounds more like “Ah”), is also the private Cerrito chef who prepared everything from ceviche to grapefruit salad from scratch. When I wasn’t eating his food or hanging out on the beach, I took full advantage of B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical’s wireless internet connection (having brought my laptop) and picturesque upstairs balcony which I converted into a temporary office complete with breezy palm fronds and lazy hammocks. Although work wasn’t something I had planned on accomplishing during my stay, to say that the atmosphere was conducive to intellectual stimulation would be an understatement.

The weekend jaunt to Isla Taboga was a far cry from the over-planned vacations I used to take as a child. There was comparatively very little organization and the trip in its entirety cost less than $150.

B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical Bed & Breakfast Inn plus Vacation Apartments
Tel: 507-390-8999: Cell: 507-6489-0074
http://www.cerritotropicalpanama.com

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Calypso King Ferry to the Taboga Island Beach for Vacationers in Panama

Calypso King Ferry to the Taboga Island Beach for Vacationers in Panama

Day trippers heading to the beach, or vacationers heading to Taboga Island on the Pacific side of Panama for a few days to de stress, hike, lay on the island beach, go fishing, take a boat tour, eat fresh fish, sleep in the hammock… Now can enjoy the convenience of the Calypso King ferry, a reconditioned larger ferry now sailing from Panama to Taboga Island. The trip was 1 hour in the Queen, but in the King we were back in the city in 30 minutes yesterday. The lower deck is air conditioned, while on the upper deck travelers can watch the ships waiting to pass into or out of the Panama Canal while they travel to Taboga.

The ferry leaves from Amador Causeway. Check the FERRY schedule on our Bed and Breakfast website B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical: http://www.cerritotropicalpanama.com Telephone for Calypso Ferries: 314-1730, 390-2403

We do not yet have the permanent schedule for the King which holds over 200 passengers. It will probably run on weekends and National Holidays-they will not likely send it when there are not enough people to fill it.

On a personal note: I still love the other open air ferries, they are slower and lull me into a relaxed state of mind coming from the crazy city to the much slower paced Taboga Island.

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Press Release
Source: Cerrito Tropical, Taboga Panama
October 17, 2008

PANAMA CITY RESIDENTS NOW HAVE A NEW CASUAL EVENTS LOCATION TO TOTALLY RELAX & UNWIND – CLOSE TO THE CITY ON TABOGA ISLAND.

RANCHITO del CERRITO is now open and ready to book Events or Casual Meeting Retreats. Offering Ocean and Garden Views from the Ranchito* as well as friendly, experienced, service personnel (remember, it´s not New York, this is kicked back and relaxed “island style”).

*Ranchito: An open area with a roof usually located in the countryside similar to cabaña, gazebo or palapa. Nowadays “ranchito” is often used as a name for casual restaurants.

This past weekend Ranchito del Cerrito held its special opening event. Ranchito del Cerrito is the newest addition to B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical Panama on Taboga Island. Created to offer more opportunities for guests and event hosts to enjoy the relaxing side of Panama while still having the flexibility of being close to Panama City. Groups can charter a private boat from Calypso to take them to Taboga, enjoy time at the beach and end their day with a private BBQ party before returning to Panama City. Or some guests may choose to stay over and vacation at B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical.

Relax and unwind by the beach in B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical on Taboga Island Panama.

Relax and unwind by the beach in B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical on Taboga Island Panama.

RANCHITO del CERRITO during a final construction meeting.

Ranchito del Cerrito Event Area during a construction meeting on Taboga.

Ranchito del Cerrito Event Area during a construction meeting on Taboga.

Reducing the stress in the hammocks before the opening BBQ event.

“Ranchito del Cerrito Recommendation for Stress Management:
Relax and unwind by the beach as guests of the B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical on Taboga Island Panama. Travel by scenic Calypso Ferry trip in 1 hour from Panama City. The local islander´s attitude for life: “No Stress, Amigo!””. B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical

Relaxing at RANCHITO del CERRITO on Taboga.

Relaxing at RANCHITO del CERRITO on Taboga.

The opening event lasted well into the night with music and great food. Attendees feasted on Guest Chef Fred´s 100% Homemade Southern Smoked BBQ and continued the next day when Private Chef Aristedes prepared his specialty, fresh corvina with signature creole sauce, coconut rice, and flan de la casa.

RANCHITO DEL CERRITO Opening BBQ, featuring Fred´s 100% homeade Southern smoked BBQ.

RANCHITO DEL CERRITO Opening BBQ, featuring Fred´s 100% homeade Southern smoked BBQ.

To hear more about the possibilities for any event, retreat or reunion you are planning let Cerrito Tropical know and they will customize a package to suit the occassion. To learn more about relaxing on a quaint Pacific beach island, check: the Cerrito website which has much more info on Taboga, Panama, thier B&B Inn, accommodation, activities, Calypso ferry schedules, and more.

NOTES FROM THE LITTLE HILLSIDE (CERRITO): “Many people write and ask us: What is Taboga Island Panama Really Like?
Here´s our view from Cerrito:
Taboga can be compared to a relaxed, stress free, Caribbean beach island blended with a Mediterranean fishing village, then picked up by the island gods and dropped into the Pacific only 1 hour from Panama City. Even many of the Caribbean Pirates made Taboga their Pacific base!” B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical

VISIT: If visitors or future event organizers are interested to check out Ranchito del Cerrito, reserve a lunch with Private Chef Aristedes to check out the RANCHITO personally, B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical (Tel:6489-0074). Prices from $6 – $10 pp for lunch or dinner.

For more information on events, fiestas, relaxing, Day Packages, and a no stress vacation, check the website: www.cerritotropicalpanama.com.
Tel: 507-6489-0074; 507-390-8999
Email: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com

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Calypso Ferry pier undergoes maintenance repairs on Taboga Island this week

Calypso Ferry pier undergoes maintenance repairs on Taboga Island this week

NOTICE: A new adventure on Taboga. They started today to repair the Taboga pier, work will go on until next week and people are transferred from taxi panga boats from the ferry Calypso Queen to Playa Honda beach.

As B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical´s regular service for their guests, they send our man Aristedes to help people with their bags.

Brought to you by B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical on Taboga. “Feel at home in our B&B Inn on Taboga Island Panama- enjoy your vacation: Relax by the beach and unwind with nature, hillside ocean views, and friendly local people” For RESERVATIONS call: 6489-0074. http:www.cerritotropicalpanama.com

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