What’s the cutest animal in the world? Chimp? Koala? Cutey wutey bunny wabbit? I can’t decide, but I saw starfish and sloths in Bocas del Toro, Panama and they should both be right up there.
I stopped by Panama en-route to Bogotá, Colombia. My first impression of Panama City was that it was blander than a pancake in a world without maple syrup so I jumped on a domestic plane about the size of Mr Burns’ Spruce Goose, to Bocas del Toro, the island province off the north coast of Panama.
Bocas is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Panama and I can’t recommend it enough. I took a bus north from the main island and headed to Bocas del Drago. There were two other tourists with me and the rest of the minivan was full of local folk, but I could only stare at one of them. He was an old man with one eye and severe facial disfiguration carrying a jerry can of gasoline that dripped onto the floor. He was like Two-Face, if Two-Face had a wife and kids to get home to after a long day at the mill. I admit I became more relaxed when he got off, which I mean literally, not masturbatorily.
The minivan took us along a dirt road, periodically stopping to let people off at untidy, self-built wood and corrugated iron homes nestled among the trees. Then the road turned into sand and we bumped along another few hundred meters. The ocean was about ten feet away to our right with patches of beach divided by bundles of drooping palms, with more rough structures to our left that may or may not have been inhabited. We stopped again and I got off having been told this was my stop. I was at Cabanas Estafany Turistico. This was my home. It consisted of a main building with a reception, kitchen, small lounge area with a chess board, and a dining area; three mini-houses which were private rooms; then a dorm area with communal showers and bathrooms. I checked in and was told electricity only worked in the bathrooms/dorm area for six hours a day. The dining/reception area always had electricity but it was dark now and the lights weren’t on: “Ah yes-a, I’m-a sorry about that-a. We are-a waiting for-a – how do you say-a? – gasoline, to arrive-a” (the owner was Italian so most of her words came with an unnecessary syllable).
I woke up several times in the night because of horrendous rain. In the morning, I woke up because of more horrendous rain. I dashed through the sand to reception and asked if there were any boat trips leaving that morning. The Italian lady looked at the torrents of rain pouring off the roof and looked at me like this:
But she politely said, “The captain will call-a at 10am. We’ll-a find out then-a.” In the end, there was a boat. Myself, a Dutch couple, and a German couple were driven to a few different places. I don’t recall the captain’s name so I’ll call him Captain Jack. There were a few highlights.
One of them was to Captain Jack’s house. I’m not sure what specific reason there was for visiting (everyone spoke in Spanish but all I could do was nod and smile and get sporadic translations from the Dutch guy), but it was interesting.
After saying hello to his wife and kid, and petting the probably-flea-infested dog, Captain Jack took us on a 30-minute jungle ride straight out of Heart of Darkness. Crabs and spider devils and darkness and spindly tree roots and branches scuttled and darted in our peripheral visions. It could’ve been an H.R. Giger scene. Then we saw two sloths, a mommy one and a little baby one, and omg they were like so cute.
While staring at the sloths I let my guard down and I didn’t notice a branch that brushed my shoulder. I yelped like a little girl. Captain Jack grinned. I stopped staring at the sloths and watched out only for the things that were an immediate danger to my survival.
When Captain Jack had finished tormenting us, and perhaps as a apology gesture, he took us to see starfish. We went snorkeling, which looked like this:
That was fun, but way less awesome than other snorkeling I’ve done, so I was left a little underwhelmed. And we didn’t have enough snorkels so we had to share, like big boys and girls, and if I said I didn’t want to share, the other boys and girls would scream, “Mommy! Mommy! Chirpy won’t share! Waaaahh waaah!”
After saying goodbye to our Captain Jack, that afternoon I went to Playa Estrella (Starfish Beach) with a couple people. Here starfish came right up to shore for some reason. I’m not sure why. They’re pretty, harmless, and docile, and humans are cruel, so it’s no wonder there were beach staff walking up and down making sure people weren’t picking them up and taking them out of the water.
Instead, I got up close and personal with a few of them. They’re more like plants than fish because if you pick them up they don’t shrink or curl up or shoot venom in your eye; they don’t do anything apart from perhaps make an eye-rolling motion in their brains.
Then I left them alone to do whatever it is starfish do for fun. I went home to my electricity-less hostel and had a cold shower. I thought about sloths and starfish and which was cuter, and my conclusion was that I still couldn’t decide. Sorry. You’ll have to tell me what the cutest animal in the world is.