This half day tour takes you up close to some of the Caribbean Sea’s most dramatic wildlife
Culture & People of Bocas del Toro
The people of Bocas del Toro are as diverse and colorful as the landscapes. The distinct ethnic groups—with their own languages, cultures and ways of life—remain unique thanks to the region´s isolation from the rest of Panama.
Inhabiting most of the province, the Ngöbe-Buglé are Panama´s largest indigenous group. They can be seen fishing in their traditional cayucos; these dugout canoes are still their most common form of transport. The Ngöbe people speak their own language as well as Spanish, and still maintain many of their ancient customs: subsistence farming; gathering medicinal plants from the forests; and producing crafts such as handwoven chacara bags.
Bocas del Toro’s 3,500 Naso, or Teribe, live on the mainland, and have the only surviving monarchy in the Western hemisphere. They live in traditional wooden huts on stilts, usually without electricity or running water, and speak both Naso and Spanish. They travel the rivers between their villages on balsas – small, precarious-looking rafts, which they push along with poles.
The town of Old Bank on Isla Bastimentos is evidence of the slaves brought by colonial settlers, and the Jamaicans and West Indians who traveled here to work on the banana plantations. Old Bank moves to the sound of reggae and salsa. The local creole language – Wari Wari – is a mind-bending medley of English, Spanish, French and Ngöbe, suggesting the diverse cultural past of the province.
Bocas town itself is a lively mix of Latinos, Chinese, resident gringos, and cheerful tourists whose cultural influence is apparent in the town’s international cuisine, well-stocked supermarkets, Latin rhythms, comfortable hotels, lively hostels, and yacht-filled marinas.