We immediately noticed the fliers for Palmar Tent Lodge, Casa Verde’s sister hostel. The flier depicts an adventurous alternative to hostel life: beautifully furnished safari tents set back in the jungle only meters away from a pristine and secluded beach. Wow was this up our alley. The flyer called it “Glam-ping” which we figured to mean “glamour camping”. Finally, I thought, the kind of camping a girl can get use to. I might not even have to pretend to enjoy this.
If you are going to rough it, might as well be in style.
We hopped in a water taxi set for Bastimentos island, but there was a slight hitch. Our driver had never heard of Palmar Tent Lodge. That’s weird, we thought, since there had to be only a few hostels on the entire island. Determined to get there and convinced that our driver was clueless we decided to press on.
He dropped us off at a rather unfriendly looking dock, overgrown with jungle vines. As walked through a trail, our only option, we noticed “No trespassing” signs everywhere. Crap, we are so lost. Man, I wish we would have thought to bring some water in case we get stranded. After a very unnerving hike, I heard the crash of ocean waves and in no time we were on a beautiful beach.
Tibu, the beach wonder dog greeted us with a friendly bark and we saw the “Palmar” sign leaning up against a palm tree. Chris and Kristin, the couple who operates both Palmar and Casa Verde, told us that the Palmar wasn’t “officially” opened yet. Ahhh, no wonder no one had heard of it.
But said we could stay. They even offered us a private Safari tent for 30% off since the main lodge was still “Under-construction”.
This was a true “Eco” lodge, unlike the Eco Yoga Park we stayed in Argentina, Palmar produces all of it’s own power in an environmentally responsible way, by the sun. All of their power is solar power, from the fans in our tents to the lanterns lining the walkways to the refregerator in the main lodge.
Fresh water is scarce on the island. In an effort to preserve the fresh water and make guests more aware of how much water they are using, all the sinks have a foot pedal you have to pump before any water comes out. The kitchen sink had a pump and so did the conch sink by the restrooms. All of the private safari tents, like the one Ben and I stayed in, had a solar shower.
We spent our first day exploring Bastimentos Island. We followed the jungle trail in search of what this island is know for: Red Frogs.
We finally found them with a little help from the locals. These frogs were tiny, about the size of my largest finger nail and cuuuute. It’s hard to remember that these little guys are a type of poison dart frog, getting that name because Indigenous tribes use their secretions to poison the tips of there spears.
We soon encountered more red creatures on our walk.
We also spotted my all time favorite Latin American friend, the sloth.
Ben enjoyed his 28 birthday at Palmar on Red Frog Beach. Even though we were on a practically deserted island, void of bakeries or even a grocery store, Ben got a birthday cake. I planned ahead, something I’m not known for, getting cake mix and frosting before we left Colon and asking ahead of time if there was an oven and baking pans at the hostel. I even tried decorating it, using M&Ms to write out “BEN”. It just looked like a bunch of M&M randomly placed on top of his cake. I don’t recommend using M&Ms to spell out words on baked goods.
This place was definitely not a bad choice to spend a birthday.
That night we swam in the ocean, Ben’s favorite Red Frog Beach activity. We spent our time body surfing and disturbing the grow in the dark plankton. To do this, we rapidly move our arms under the water. The disturbed plankton created a fluorescent glow that trailed our arm movements. Nature’s very own glow stick.
Palmar was hosting an all day Earth Day celebration. Ben and I had ever celebrated Earth Day before. I had always thought of it as just a yearly reminder to reduce, reuse and recycle. I never thought of it as an actual day of celebration. We decided to stay, curious as to how to celebrate it.
It says: “We are one Global family: All colors, all races, one world united. We dance for Peace and the healing of our planet Earth, Peace for all nations, Peace for communities and Peace within ourselves. As we join all dance floors across the world, let us connect, heart to heart. Through our diversity, we recognize unity. Through our compassion, we recognize peace. Our Love has the Power to transform our World. Let’s send it out NOW.”
Ahhh… to party with purpose, I love it.
They had all sorts of activities planned: yoga on the beach, belly dancing and hula hoop lessons, a potluck lunch and the main event, an hour long prayer for Peace. The prayer was where we all joined hands, sending our peace loving energy out into the world. It was all very hippie and idealistic, but fun and refreshing. After all this was the ideal setting (of people and nature) to dedicate a day of thanks to Mother Earth. Hmm…I wonder if we can add Earth Day to the list of special occasions that are appropriately celebrated with an annual pub crawl.
We ended the day gathered around the fire pit to cook dinner. Ben and I put fish, butter, garlic, potatoes and onions in tin foil and threw it in the fire. It’s called a Hobo Dinner and it’s the only trick I learned during my family’s only camping trip that lasted just one day. Everyone in the circle was salivating over our dinner. A British guy even offered $50 USD for mine. I told Chris and Kristin that they should start a new tradition at Palmar: “Tin foil Tuesday”.