Punta Valiente Community Project

Punta Valiente is a beautiful area in the indigenous comarca of the Ngobe Bugle people. We take guests over to hike the lovely terrain and spend time on the beaches when the weather permits. It is a unique experience that our guests truly appreciate. This excursion is a bit farther a field than most that we do, but it is well worth the boat ride.

Audrey Blocker, the current Peace Corp volunteer on Punta Valiente, has applied for a loan from the Peace Corp programs to build a bridge for the community. She explains the process herself in this open letter to the community: http://bit.ly/eDMzOY

What we like about this process is that the community must participate and put forward at least 25% of the funding for the project. We have found that the projects which really make a difference in the long term are those where the community has buy in from the beginning. These projects where the community must either participate in the construction of or the funding of the project have a much greater return on investment than those where the community is a recipient of a gift.

I made a donation on behalf of Tranquilo Bay. It takes very little time. You can donate $5 or more to the project. The community is providing over 50% of the overall cost of the project through their own labor. The project needs around $3600 to begin the bridge. Thanks for considering this project. Please forward this information to anyone who might find this project interesting as any donation helps. Thanks.

Internal struggle

Right now I am struggling with really understanding the concepts of sustainability and geotourism. This is a good struggle. I believe one should constantly be learning and improving. I have had the good fortune to be in a position to work on two different efforts relating to sustainable tourism here in Panama.

APTSO (www.aptso.org) is the Panamanian Sustainable Tourism Association. APTSO is a non-profit association directed by a group of pioneers in the fields of tourism, science and development that intends to spread sustainable tourism across both the private and public sectors in order to improve the environmental and common development of Panama. It is open to any person, company, institution or organization that wants to support our commitment to conservation of the environment, preservation of our cultural heritage and local economic development across tourism.

The second effort is the development of a destination management organization (DMO) for Bocas del Toro, Panama (www.discoverbocasdeltoro.com – not active). As of yet it does not have a name, but it is guided by National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations definition of Geotourism. Geotourism is tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.

In order for Bocas del Toro and Panama to really succeed in the long term as a tourism destination I believe that we must be guided by both of these principles. I haven’t found that either principle actually competes with the other. I believe them to be complementary. We must conserve and protect all of the cultural and natural resources within this country.

One set of resources is predominantly national. The other is facilitated by an international group but will ultimately belong to local players. We need to learn from the experience of others throughout the world and apply what we learn to our local and national situation. This is not easy. It does not happen overnight. However, it is necessary. We must begin and continue making improvements little by little. The benefit of doing so is huge. So we press on…and we do it together.

volunteer work @ bastimentos national marine park

Tranquilo Bay volunteered to do some dock repair work at Bastimentos National Marine Park. In recent months, in two different places, trees had fallen across the elevated wooden walking trail named Sendero Interprativo El Boque Detras del Arrecife on Zapatilla Key (translated as forest path within the coral reef). With permission from Hernandez Bonilla, ANAM’s Chief Park Engineer (which makes him the head of all protected areas here in Bocas del Toro for Panamas equivalent of the EPA), and coordination efforts from park employees, Blanford Constantino, Samuel Jimenez and Richard Hinz the date was set to make the repairs.

Our employees, Enrique Robinson, July Robinson and Adalberto Baker gathered up the necessary tools to fix the broken walkways and we set off in one of our boats for the Zapatilla Cayes. Upon arrival at the park we were met by Samuel and Richard. Samuel went about his regular duties of collecting park entrance fees and Richard accompanied the volunteers and helped with the repairs.

The first damaged spot was the worst. Four posts had been driven over a foot down into the soil by the weight of a fallen tree. Two car jacks had to be used to return them to the correct level. The lumber that was used to make the walkway is called Nespero. This is a particularly hard wood and much time was spent just pulling nails out of it and putting new ones in. About six nails were bent to each one that got put in. The first repair was finished at about 12:30 pm.

No one had expected the job to take so long and we still had another spot to fix. Coconut milk and coconut meat served as lunch.

The second damaged area was not as bad. Only two posts had been pushed down by a second fallen tree. The pulling and driving of nails was still a problem, but in the end the walkway was returned to its original state.

The crew packed up and headed back to Tranquilo Bay at about 4 pm.

Mr. Bonilla was coming out the following day to meet with his employees and have a look at the repairs.