Mutual Respect Supports Creation of Promising Private Conservation Reserve

Tranquilo Bay’s path to regeneration has been a winding trail with ups, downs, and spills. We didn’t start our business with a defined intention to set up our space within the vocabulary we find in regeneration now, and yet – we did.

Our approach has been more about being a permanent part of the community in which we live. We believe this colors all decisions one makes. When you begin with a permanence mindset and know you are in for a long haul, you make different decisions than if you expect to be around for a season of life.

Because we planned on making Bocas del Toro our home, we took steps to manage our relationships with our neighbors and our community from the beginning. When we completed the survey for the land we were purchasing, we walked the boundaries. We made sure the surveyor drew the survey lines correctly. We spoke to each of our neighbors to ensure we had the limits right. We confirmed that no one else had a stake in the land we were purchasing. We got to know our neighbors, and we began a relationship of mutual respect in these types of matters.

Conservation Reserve Infographic

Dr. Brené Brown tells us that “when we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” We didn’t want to feel used or mistreated, nor did we want our neighbors to feel that way. So, we set appropriate boundaries and became contributing members of our community.

We applied our values of taking care of your immediate neighborhood to our new home. All our adjacent neighbors became our immediate neighborhood.

Laying this groundwork has been an essential part of the foundation for our business. Mutual respect rather than an assumption of privilege makes for a far better long-term relationship.

What does mutual respect look like? How do you know if it is present or if you are pursuing it?

For us, it meant making sure we knew where the boundaries lay. Then we knew where we stopped, and our neighbors started. It meant we were responsible for our side and not crossing onto their side.

It meant structuring land deals so that both parties had a long-term benefit and relationship. In Bocas del Toro, many people sold their land only to be without cash in a short time because the money came and went. If we were purchasing a piece of land from someone that wasn’t a part of their primary residence, we would buy it straight away because there was no concern about the community’s trajectory. However, whenever we purchased land that was a part of someone’s residence, we took a different path.

We structured a payment plan that worked best for that person and transaction. Structuring it this way gave each party a benefit. The party we were purchasing from had an extended source of regular income. We gave them a sufficient down payment to have a cash bump. They could do something like make significant improvements, buy a boat, or provide a dividend for each of their children. In return, we were able to pay for our investment over time.

Some of the payment plans were based on a set value for the property – those were paid out over a shorter period. Others were based upon a much longer payout where we guaranteed a half-salary for them for many years or until death. While we didn’t know the ultimate price for the land under this setup, we believed it was the right way to support our community.

Come Along On The Awesome Whisper Ecological Trail Adventure

Mangrove Creek Isla Popa

Following breakfast, we will leave the facility in a support boat. We take a 15-minute ride across Bastimentos National Marine Park over to the backside of Isla Popa.

In kayaks, (although we skipped them in this video) we will meander through the glassy calm waters of Enrique’s Creek through lush green vegetation. We will paddle through a mangrove creek over to the Whisper Ecological Trail, following the jungle’s edge. The mangrove forest we glide through includes Red, White, and Tea mangroves.


The Tea Mangrove or *Pelliciera rhizophorae* belongs to the “true mangroves” and is fascinating, endangered, and rare. This location is one of the last coastlines in Central America to support this magnificent and unique mangrove. It is called Tea Mangrove because of its leaves which contain tannins and other substances found in tea.

At the beginning of the Miocene Era (about 23 million years ago), Pelliciera rhizophorae had a wide distribution in the Caribbean. Its distribution was reduced by the early Pliocene Era (about 5 million years ago). This reduction in range appears to be related to changes in soil salinity within the mangrove ecosystems, rising seawater levels, and increasing competition from other more tolerant species. There are genetic differences in the leaves and flowers between the Tea Mangrove growing along the Pacific Coast and the same species in the Caribbean.


Poison Dart Frog Isla Popa

Many birds feed near the water’s edge. This jungle is home to trogons, toucans, rufous and green kingfishers, and various frogs and reptiles. As we walk, we listen to the soundtrack for this adventure that includes relaxing nature sounds, soothing water sounds, and birds singing.

Family at waterfall

We find insects, endemic amphibians, and rare reptiles along the trail. It leads to waterfalls and we traverse through rocks up to a small creek. After wading through the spring water, we make our way back to our kayaks as we check out both the flora and fauna this trail offers.

Our support boat will be waiting at the creek’s mouth to return to Tranquilo Bay.