Panama – Islas Secas
I'm trying to stick to the facts but i'm finding it difficult to not sound like an infomercial.
Last Week Ali, Brant, Mikey and I headed to Panama to see what Captain Carter Andrews has put together on Islas Secas.
Half of us flew to Panama from Florida and the other half from California. I flew Copa airlines and I was pretty happy with the flight. Lots of leg room, free cocktails and food.
We were all greeted at the airport by Islas Secas staff with signs ready to whisk us through customs and put us in cabs headed for the Veneto casino and hotel.
We spent 2 days in Panama City playing tourists and losing money at the casino. Food was pretty good but we never experienced anything over the top. We got a cab driver–Archie, who seemed to be a virtual google and flooded our heads with more knowledge then we could probably digest. The Panama Canal was a cool site and anyone visiting Panama should give it a go.
The view overlooking Panama City is pretty cool, as well seeing all the ships and barges waiting to make the passage through the canal. We didn't have enough time to make the trip across to the Atlantic ocean side but we heard it's an interesting trip.
After a good nights sleep we headed to the airport and then off to David, where again we were greeted by Islas Secas staff to transport us to Boca Chica, where we would take on the last leg of our entry to the fishing side of our trip.
Our driver seeing us off, I'm positive he could not wait for us to go after an hour plus drive.
Nothing would have prepared me for my first look at these private islands that we would be spending the next week on.
After a 45-minute ride from the mainland we arrived at the dock where we were greeted by the island staff extending chilled towels and fresh beverages to us.
The introduction made me feel like I was royalty–I’m pretty far from it.
Soon they had our luggage delivered to our Casitas. For those expecting A/C and a Disney World experience, this is not it. Truly this is an adventure from start to finish.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be on a private tropical island, this is it. If you are active and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to share again this IS IT.
Amazing air plants, orchids and Bromeliads growing from the tops of trees.
The waters surrounding Islas Secas are crystal clear, perfect temperature and are loaded with Pacific fish and coral of all sizes. The first day we snorkeled at a nearby island maybe a half mile from the resort and swam with rays, grouper, tropical fish, jacks, snapper and turtles.
Tons of life close to shore.
Brant – "I'll make you a star"
As we made our way back from our diving adventure we drank cold beers and watched the sunset over a giant population of frigate birds.
As you tour the island by boat there's a lot to see such as blowholes, empty beaches, bird and marine life, amazing rock formations and more. You really need to be prepared to take it all in.
As I said we made the journey to fish with Carter Andrews
. He has built a bad ass fishing fleet in Islas Secas. It's what he does if you know his track record! The resort is the closest island to almost all the major fishing areas. Not only that but he has two fully loaded, fast center console SeaVees
to get you there in a hurry.
Juan, his mate, is a hard worker and they are using the finest equipment on the market.
Everything is well kept, rigged and ready to fish. The boats were impressively clean.
So weird to be in such a remote place and have every piece of modern equipment you could need or want, including fly options!
Pacific Cubera Snaper–Not large but it's a first.
Lots and lots of casting if you fish inshore. Carter rotates the guys so you don't get fatigued.
I think by Panama's standards fishing was slow but for us but it was still all you would want, smaller cubera snapper, mullet snapper, jacks, roosterfish, blue jacks and plenty of dorado up to 30 pounds. We did some trolling but do to the offshore fishing reports complaining of it being slow we stuck to fishing the reefs and rocks with poppers and live baits.
The usual suspects.
My first mullet snapper. I'm a species geek so variety counts!
My first blue jack.
Ali and a plug-caught roosterfish. Man we missed some hogs on poppers!
Pacific barracuda on a live bait.
Carter is very conservation minded and was insistent that all the fish we caught not going to the dinner table would need to be quickly photographed and returned to the water. My feeling was his determination towards this proved the point that he's in it for the long run and he's set towards preserving Panama's bounty for years to come.
Eat your Wheaties–fishing in Panama is physically demanding. I got may ass handed to me several times by large cubera snapper.
My biggest blue jack of the trip.
We did try to catch a marlin each morning, we had a couple things working against us. The bite had been slow and the black porpoises were on us hard. Most of the baits we put out were quickly found and destroyed by "CRUSTY".
Barred pargo above. During one of our fishing trips we were trolling an edge for sailfish and dorado when Carter noticed a turtle struggling on the surface.
As we got closer we all noticed it was hooked on a long line so we all pitched in and did the right thing.
After removing a large circle hook from the corner of his mouth we set the green turtle free and HE TOOK OFF leaving a rooster tail!
Having Mikey Torbisco on hand to capture all the action above and below the water was awesome... I'm looking forward to seeing the final cut of our trip as seen through his eyes! The dude works too hard and honestly it kills me to know how much he loves to fish and he can only hold the camera.
Brant's "Mouth Hooked" dorado.
This is actually a huge Mullet Snapper Ali caught.
We had fun at night checking out all the island critters. Mikey is Cuban – he's wondering if the crab is good to eat.
Service on the island was excellent. Each morning we would get a wake up call with hot coffee at our Casita.
Accommodations - These are not some beachbum Casitas. They are green, high-tech rooms with solar, gas, on-demand water heaters that scorch water right away, and even solar powered flashlights, a fridge that they fill with Moet Champagne, drinks, and cold towels. Although we did not partake, they also have a full service spa.
View form Brant's Casita.
The first day I went fishing I came back to find they had unpacked my clothes from my suitcase and had them all folded in drawers and my shirts pressed and hanging!
Each evening after fishing we would meet up for cocktail hour at the Terraza and share fishing lies until they seated us for dinner.
All the meals were excellent consisting of the days catch and other local seafood, roots, fruits, herbs and a assortment of fresh Panamanian foods.
Many items we ate I had never tried before! Eric our host and the chef were incredibly friendly and eager to please.
Alcohol was included in our package so each evening after desert we continued our story telling with plenty of libations.
Each morning we had a big menu of items we could choose from for breakfast and the boats were also loaded with QUALITY lunches, not run-of-the-mill sandwiches.
View from beach looking up at our dining and drinking area.
Plenty of iguanas on the island. They mean no harm but they will startle you at night. Especially after a couple cocktails.
I wish that I had more time to explore! The last day Brant and I paddleboarded several of the bays and small islands. The abundance of marine life was amazing to see from that angle. If you haven't paddleboarded then you need to.
It is easy as a beginner to get good at it and as far as exploring goes you are virtually silent gliding over reefs, underwater rock formations, turtles, rays and fish of every size, shape and color.
One of the highlights for me was paddling along the rocky shore and having several skipjack tuna chasing baits around my board. I have only ever seen skipjacks offshore.
All in all it's hard to explain the experience at Islas Secas. It's a deserted island adventure with a host, chef, captain, mate and staff waiting on your every need.
My opinion is you should be in good health and somewhat fit because there is a lot of hiking and exploring – making the walk back and forth from meals and to the boat can be taxing at times.
The walk to the Casita.
Even the fishing can be strenuous to some degree do mostly to the sheer size and volume of fish.
This is not an amusement park ride with A/C. It's a real adventure in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with an incredible staff guiding you through it. Embrace it and be ready for Mother Nature to show you one hell of a show!
Some Travel Info: Travelers to Panama must present a passport valid for at least three months. Travelers entering Panama as tourists will be charged $5 for a tourist card when they purchase their travel ticket.
Panama City has some good private hospitals and clinics but private medical facilities outside the capital city are limited. It’s very important to find out before you travel whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas for emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation? In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip
Malaria and dengue fever are common to parts of Panama, including in some outlying areas of Panama City.
I didn't have any problems with bugs but I'm from Florida.
Tap water is safe to drink in Panama City and major cities such as David and Colon. We never had any issues...I guess no more than normal.
Panama does not print bank notes, so since 1904 the U.S. dollar has been the legal tender and U.S. coins interchangeable with Panamanian coins of the same denominations, similar sizes and metals are used. The dollar bill is called the Balboa, cents are centavos. Prices are often written with $ sign or B/. before the amount.
We had no problems spending US currency in Panama City.
Stay away from any establishment that starts with GOLDEN. Prostitution is legal.
The use of major credit cards such as Visa, American Express and Mastercard is widespread throughout the major cities of Panama, David and Colon.
I used my credit cards with no issues.
Spanish is the official language, however English is spoken and understood in Panama City and most hotels in major cities such as David.
I wish I spoke Spanish especially when ordering fast food at Burger King. Brant pulled through.
The Casitas at Islas Secas are powered by individual solar arrays and are equipped with several 110-volt power outlets which can provide power for small appliances such as cell phone chargers and camera chargers. Any appliances with higher power consumption such as hair dryers, laptop chargers, video camera chargers, etc. would have to be charged at the Terraza area.
The country code for Panama is 507 and phone numbers are 7 digits long. Cell phone coverage is available throughout most of the country.
I never used my cell phone but Ali and Brant did I think.
Panama enjoys a tropical climate and average daily temperatures during the day are in the mid to high 80s Fahrenheit, with slightly cooler temperatures in the evening. The average humidity is about 80%. Caribbean side (Bocas del Toro) is more humid and rainy than the Pacific.
Length of day is 12 hours year round because Panama is near the equator. Sunrise is approximately 6:20 a.m. and sunset is approximately 6:20 p.m. year round.
Panama never goes on Daily Savings Time as all days are the same length. Panama is also lucky in that it is out of the hurricane belt and therefore never gets hit by hurricanes.
The rainy season is from late May to early December, while the dry season is from late December to early May – nearly exactly the same seasonal weather pattern as South Florida, except for the complete absence of hurricanes. The rainy season does not mean continuous rain. Usually mornings are sunny, with intermittent heavy rain in the afternoon. Continuous overcast and drizzle are not the norm except sometimes in the rainiest months of October and November. Local micro climates vary widely. Annual rainfall in the city of Panama is about the same as Miami at 8 feet per year. The dry season can be extreme in some areas on the south side of Panama in March and April.
Panama’s seasons are opposite of the U.S. Winter in Panama is known as summer up north and vice versa. Winter in Panama refers to the rainy season (May-December) and summer in Panama refers to the dry season (December-May). This means that in the cold months of winter time in the north when many people are seeking relief in warmer climates, Panama is having its summer with the highest temperatures of the year.
Weather was perfect for us the entire trip, smooth seas, a little warm going to bed but needed covers in the morning.