Narrowly Avoiding a Drug Boat on the San Blas

If you’re traveling south, at some point around Panama, you’re going to hit a major roadblock. That major roadblock is called the Darien Gap; an un-patrolled, dense jungle between Panama and Colombia, known for harboring drug traffickers, criminals, and other undesirables.

Some people do make the attempt to cross the Darien Gap on foot, but foolhardy is a nice word for these incredible adventurous types. We may eventually cover a crossing, but for now, lets talk about the more…eh… desirable way of getting to Colombia: The San Blas.

If you, like most normal human beings on this planet, happen to like pristine Caribbean waters, lobster dinners, palm trees, and breath-taking sunsets, then sailing the San Blas to Cartagena may be for you!

Getting a ride down to Colombia from Panama City or the surrounds *can* be kind of tricky, however. You see, there is considerable drug trade ocean traffic between Central and South America, as you might imagine. Many backpackers just find someone who is headed down south, or headed northward, and they just catch a ride with them, pay them a couple hundred colones and that’s the end of that.

The danger this move represents is hard to qualify, unless you’ve found yourself randomly apprehended for being aboard a drug trafficking vessel! You might be tempted to believe this is a myth, but it happens more often than you think. So, going through a reputable group is essential.

But, once you make it onto a good boat, you and what are likely to be a bunch of very cool strangers, get to ping pong your way down the island system, sunning yourselves, snorkeling, diving for lobsters, swimming with dolphins annnnnnnd… even meeting the Kuna Indians.

Kuna villages are stilt villages, built on the water, just off of the shorelines of some of the San Blas Islands. They usually move about in hollowed out canoes, and live off of the sea and the land. There is a bit of a tourist racket, and official tours can be somewhat pricey, so have cash in hand if you want the full experience.

Dinners Usually look something like this.