1. About boating and water sports
1.1. Is previous experience in sailing and boating at sea necessary for the trip?
During our voyages we use the sailing yacht as merely a form of transport and accommodation, which serve to carry our guests short distances between related locations on the itinerary. Therefore the emphasis is not on sailing, but rather on entertainment, relaxation, letting go of your worries. Our boats are completely crewed, which means that our passengers need not undertake anything to do with sailing. On the other hand, if you feel the urge to join in, the captain will happily accept help and will gladly show you some important points of boating.
1.2. Do I need watercraft or boating license?
Not necessary. See 1.1.
1.3. What if I cannot swim?
It is not absolutely necessary for travellers to be capable swimmers, although some minimal confidence in the water would not be bad. There is a lifevest for every passenger, which enables those who are not good swimmers to take part in water sports, like snorkel diving, kayaking and fishing from motor boats. During most of our sailing time, we will be travelling on calm seas where it is possible to walk about on deck quite safely.
1.4. Must I bring diving equipment or snorkelling gear?
We ensure for everyone during their whole time with us a good-quality diving mask, snorkel tube, and flippers. If it is easier for you by all means bring your own equipment. There is no reason for you not to bring them onto our boat, although for sailing it is worth trying to keep your luggage as light as possible. That’s why we recommend you rely on us for the extra diving gear. For diving, only equipment fitted to you personally, where it matters that it very comfortably suits your size, is really worth bringing from home, because we will have a range of sizes and fittings for all necessary items.
1.5. Are there dangerous animals in the sea?
The shallow sea bays we will explore can sometimes hold smaller sharks, rays, eels, and jellyfish. The chances of meeting them are small, since they are frightened of people and avoid us. If you meet these kinds of animals, under no circumstances should you irritate or annoy them. If you stay calm, the chances are very high they will quickly leave the area. In general we can say that the dangers in the sea here are no greater than during a summer holiday in Croatian waters.
1.6. Must we take part in steering or navigating the boat? Are there tasks which passengers should carry out?
None of these are necessary, but it is possible to take part if you wish. Our priority is for you to leave your worries behind – whichever helps you relax best. See 1.1.
2.1. How much time do we spend in the hotel, and why?
During our dream voyages we spend three nights altogether in hotels. The reason for this is that we need a base where we can leave luggage not needed on board the boat (for example items bought while shopping in Panama City), and where after some nights in sailing cabins we can relax in more spacious surroundings. On each day of travel you have the chance to sleep in a hammock on an island instead of on the boat, or to spend the night in a hut on the beach. On the two-weekend dream trip we spend three nights in a hotel and the other two nights in a beachfront bungalow on the San Blas islands.
2.2. How comfortable is the hotel?
We choose our hotels so that they help with relaxation and time off in every way. Not only in the size of the rooms, and how well equipped they are, but also we pay attention to the location of the hotel. Due to the lack of infrastructure on the San Blas islands we take care to ensure the best circumstances for our travellers. Although it is not possible to count on the comforts and conveniences of city life, we hope however that the beauty of the islands more than compensates for any small difficulties there.
2.3. How comfortable are the cabins on the boat?
We strive to ensure the greatest comfort during the boat journeys also. Naturally, you cannot count on a spacious room, but despite the small amount of space available every cabin has a combined flushing WC and shower, a double bed (perhaps an extra bed also in an adjoining booth), and a wardrobe. In addition every cabin has separately connected lighting and fans.
2.4. Will I be able to recharge my computer, telephone, use a hairdryer?
Every one of our guests is ensured mains access. However, it is important to make sure that your equipment works on the American 110 – 120 Volt and 60 Herz mains power levels. With our boat generator and renewable energy resources we can ensure electrical power 24 hours a day. The boat might have temporary restrictions, but you can count on mains power being provided.
3.1. What will the weather be like? How much will it rain and how much sunshine can we count on?
Panama’s climate is a tropical equatorial climate marked by small fluctuations in temperature, making it very pleasant for foreign tourists. There are two seasons, the dry and the rainy seasons, which locally take the place of summer and winter. The dry season lasts from the end of December until the beginning of May, and the rest is the rainy season. However in the territory between the Caribbean coast and the Pacific Ocean quantities of rainfall differ substantially from month to month. This makes it possible for the country to be comfortable for tourists to visit for almost the whole year, within predictable patterns of weather. After sunrise in every season and every part of the country in general the sun shines. After sunset the whole country experiences cool breezes. It being the dry season does not mean that it never rains and likewise in the rainy season it is not permanently raining. In general during the rainy season the number of sunny hours is high. After rain the sun soon comes out and there are rarely long periods without sun. The humidity content of the air is extremely high, sometimes reaching 70%, which is due to the influence of sea currents.
3.2. Which season is it worthwhile booking the tour?
The European summer season is the rainiest in the areas we visit, but by September the weather is much more pleasant. Even in the rainy season heavy downpours are rare, generally one or two hours after which the sun is shining again. The driest season is from December to April, but sometimes the serious heat is relieved by a brief cooling rain storm. In truth, almost the whole year from September to June it is well worth visiting Panama.
3.3. What happens if we run into a storm?
Because of Panama’s geographical position bigger tropical storms, including hurricanes, generally avoid the area. At the same time we plan our journey routes so that, with the exception of shorter periods in the island groups, we keep to the protected bays. From this follows that we rarely go on the open sea, and the less protected parts of the voyage are never more than a couple of hours. We strive to minimise any inconvenience originating from any of this. Because of the short duration of these storms, any brief interruptions to calm sailing will hopefully just be a short adventure to remember later.
3.3 What will the temperature of the sea be?
Panama is the warmest country of the Central-American isthmus. Thanks to its location in the tropics, the surface waters of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea fluctuate between 20 and 30 degrees Celcius all year round.
4. Other dangers
4.1. What kinds of diseases need to be avoided in this region?
To start with, you should not be afraid of tropical diseases. Given that your meals are provided for the entire trip, where we pay particular attention to hygeine, there is little likelihood you will have any stomach problems. As far as food you buy yourself we suggest you make sure to choose carefully. Follow the advice of your tour guide. In most cases any discomfort will come from your system not having yet become accustomed to local conditions. The risk of catching malaria in the capital city and in the neighbourhood of the Pacific Ocean is extremely low, but on the Caribbean side somewhat higher. There is no way of innoculating against malaria. We suggest you consult your doctor and decide on what medicines to bring. The danger is not worth getting too concerned about. People live here, it is possible to live a whole life without catching a serious disease. Using mosquito repellants and wearing long-sleeved shirts at dusk significantly reduces the risk, which is already low. It is a good idea to refresh any tetanus inoculations, besides also injections against typhus and hepatitis A and B, diseases which occur in Europe also. Yellow fever exists in Panama, but doesn’t occur in the areas we will be visiting. Travellers to this region are responsible for deciding on and ensuring their own inoculations and medicines, and must by Panamanian law inoculate against yellow fever before coming.
4.2. How dangerous is Panama?
The parts of Panama we will be visiting can be regarded as safe. Panama City, like every large city, has less recommended quarters. Rely on your tour guide for information about this. During your sightseeing and walks around the city you only need to be normally alert and keep your wits about you, no more than on any European street. In the rural parts you will meet basically friendly people. Here you only need watch your valuables, just as anywhere in the world.
4.3. How dangerous are the San Blas islands on the border with Columbia?
The San Blas islands are one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and part is on the rather notorious border with Colombia. While there is a problem with the drug trade here, the area where tourists visit is a huge distance away, at least 300 miles (400km) from the large inland region where drug transporting occurs. We have not heard of a documented case of any atrocity against a traveller in this locality. In San Blas itself crime is an unknown concept. The greatest danger is that someone is watching in case you forget something on the beach which another tourist might take.
4.4. How friendly are the local people?
During the journey you will meet either tourists or friendly local people. People in Latin America are by and large very gentle with each other. However, on the streets of the capital and other larger towns it is necessary to be a little wary – nevertheless this doesn’t mean you need to avoid local people. Your tour guide will talk about local customs, unwritten rules, which will help you orient yourself in the country. During periods travelling by boat, we will see more closed cultures isolated from civilisation, where not everyone is used to the appearance or behaviour of tourists (such as their habit of photographing people or localities). Their reaction to our assertiveness can seem like shyness or even aggression. In every case we recommend that you follow your guide’s advice and stay respectful of the people living there. However simple the conditions they live in, never forget to see them firstly as people.
5. Other questions
5.1. What kinds of edible items am I allowed to bring into Panama?
It is forbidden to bring in fresh vegetables, fruits, and animal products. In any case, since all meals are provided, it is not worthwhile bringing in any fresh food products. In the case that you need special food items, you can bring in canned or processed food items into the country without any difficulties.
5.2. What is worth buying in Panama?
Because of the Panama Canal, there is a great deal of dumping of goods in the country. It’s possible to get many goods significantly cheaper than at home in Europe – for example clothing (even slightly cheaper than in the US) and technical goods (slightly more expensive than US prices, but still somewhat cheaper than in Europe.
5.3. Is it possible to shop for necessary equipment before getting on the boat?
If there is no exceptional change to the programme, the first day you arrive is available for doing this. By the next morning you have already embarked on your adventure voyage, so it is worth getting ready for your journey while still at home. There is a chance to go shopping on the final day before travelling home.
5.4. Will I be able to use my telephone in Panama?
In most cases there is no problem with service providers and all the major European mobile-phone company cards are usable in Panama. We suggest you enquire about your price package possibilities and prices with your provider before leaving home. The main obstacle with mobile communication is likely to be gaps in coverage. When we are at sea we are often in areas without coverage where there is no way to make phone calls or to use the internet.