Guna Yala

The San Blas Islands or Guna Yala, Panama, has played in our imagination since we first heard about it from a fellow sailor 15 years ago. “It is paradise, a bunch of untouched islands inhabited by the Kuna Indians” he mused in his French accent. We put Olivier’s words in the back of our minds, filed under: “Places to visit”, and now, Easter day, 2018, the time had finally arrived.

The San Blas archipelago, 340 islands in all, boarders Colombia on the Caribbean side. It is an independent territory, ruled by the Guna Indians.  The Gunas have been able to preserve their culture and the environment, limiting development and tourism to a minimum.

We arrive in Chichimi after a two-day sail from Shelter Bay Marina, blissful to have six weeks to chillax. We move at a leisurely pace from one palm clad island anchorage to the next; Yansaladup, the Lemon Cays, Kuanidup, East Hollandais,  Coco Banderos, and Waisaladup. Each islet is paradise, picture perfect, ,a tousle of palms  bordered by  white sand beaches surrounded by breaking reefs.

Rainy season arrives and thunder rumbles over the high misty mountains stretching like a dragons tail along the mainland (the Yala).  The winds are light or non-existing shifting in all direction throughout the day. A typical day starts out with sunshine and ends with afternoon squalls.

We take advantage of the sunny part of the day to drift-dive with our dingy in tow. The underwater world exhibits the healthiest most diverse coral reefs we have seen this season. The colors, textures and aquatic life are breathtaking, pulling us in to a multidimensional fantasy.

Day follows day like a string of prayer beads and an otherworldly sensation covers us with a star dusted quilt.  We enter dreamtime and loose count of the days, the moon fills and vanes and except for the soft lapping of the sea silence reigns.

Most anchorages are half- empty this time of year. There are scattered cruisers doing the rounds like we are, and a few old timers who have spend the past decades in the San Blas and lost the desire to return to civilization their anchors buried deep in the sand. 

The Kuna Indians are busy around us, fishing from dugout sailing canoes, “ulus” and zooming by with boats full of day-tourist. Many islands have huts where a family lives their day-to-day lives; cooking, fishing, and improving their thatch roofed huts.  Some will cook you a meal of fried fish and coconut rice and some have hammocks set up for accommodations.

 The Gunas are welcoming and love to talk and connect, living in close-knit, extended  families. A few ask us if we are not sad to be away from ours.

Most Days Kuna vessels pull up alongside Miraj offering produce, lobsters, crabs and fish.  The fruit and vegetables harvested from farms in the jungles are fresh, local and organic. The pineapples, papayas and mangoes, are the sweetest and juiciest we have ever had.

After six weeks we wake up, back in Shelter Bay Marina, faced with the task of preparing Miraj for summer storage.

It is hard to believe we are about to leave the tropics, returning to Sweden. In a week , pines and birches will surround us. We will be wearing socks and shoes, and best best of all, we will be in the midst of our family.  I know the Gunas’ are happy for us.




  1. Just read again your last few posts as I sit on our Andalusia terrace with a warm wind from the Mediterranean sea blowing up the valley, rustling the tree leaves. A big group of swifts dart around below me catching insects and a lonely dog barks over and over in the distance.
    Looking out to sea it is seldom we see any seafarers. A few fishing boats, sailing boats near the coast and large freight boats on the far horizon. We see the moods of the sea. Flat and grey, blue with white horses, sometimes a clear contrast to the horizon. Sometimes a diffuse mix with far off north african clouds.
    I am not brave enough to face that sea on a small boat for months like you two.
    Safe travels back to family and friends.
    You are really experiencing life at it's best.

  2. Bill and Ninni...just caught up with your blog for the first time in a long time. We’ve loved following your soul-soothing adventures....a perfect time for them, for sure! I just retired from 29 years of teaching....and am personally unwinding but not on a sailboat! It is quite like sailing, though...with new third-life adventures including a new grand baby (5th!) who is the joy of our lives. Kids grow up way too fast! Everyday is Saturday for us now with new adventures to come! Sending you guys our best wishes for whatever the next year brings you!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Rudder Cay and a Bahamian meal

Cruising with family in the Exumas

January, cuts, cold fronts and our arrival in George Town