Picture of the students on a bat cave tour

No one can hear you scream in a bat cave…

Three weeks ago, a stranger told me over dinner about a mythical sounding hole in the ocean reef where I could discover a world-class snorkelling spot.  Last weekend, I headed off to find it.

I should have known things wouldn’t go to plan as soon as I was unable to hire my trusty orange bicycle I’d used on previous occasions.  The bike I used instead suffered a puncture after 25 minutes.  In the absence of a repair kit, I left the bike by the roadside and carried on by foot, eventually reaching the vague location of the recommended spot.

Sure enough, in the intermittent sunlight there was a narrow gap on a deserted beach where the seawater was a bright turquoise in contrast to the darker water over the reef.  Intrigued, I made my way out through the shoulder-width sandy passage.  Unfortunately, the growing swells around Bocas – surf season will begin any day now – meant that the water clarity was poor and there were few fish to observe.

Location of the fabled hole in the reef

I began to head towards the shore when I realised I could no longer find the narrow passage I had entered through.  The sun had gone in and the water resembled a dark, opaque mass.  Worse still, the waves had suddenly seemed to double in size.  As I struggled to get back over the reef, I picked up a couple of small cuts.  As the water drew back each time to form a new wave, it occurred to me that small cuts might be the least of my worries.  Thankfully, the freak waves soon subsided.  I made my way onto the beach and bought myself a drink.  Information about several of the excellent waterfront bars in Bocas del Toro can be found in an article I have written while studying at Habla Ya Spanish school.

Enjoying a beer at Skully’s

This week I joined my fellow students on a trip to Nivida Cave.  We took a boat to Bastimientos Island and travelled through dense mangrove forests, before disembarking at a small cacao farm.  We passed monkeys and red frogs on our way to the cave and, as we entered, we were advised to keep our mouths closed in case we startled the bats…

 

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the creatures and as we walked through the cave and looked up at the hundreds of hanging bats, I wasn’t the only one who struggled to keep myself, and crucially my lips, together.

Rain over the previous days had raised the water levels in the cave and we were soon wading through chest-high water that was shockingly cold compared to the balmy temperature of the Caribbean Sea.  We continued walking until we reached a jumping-off point into a deep underground pool, before heading back through the narrow passage until we could see natural light again.

Cloudy sky over the water
The journey back to Bocas Town

Next weekend a university friend is coming to visit me so I have spent much of my time making sure I’m up to date with my class work.  This week it has predominantly involved understanding the present perfect and the past perfect subjunctive.  You can see how I’m getting on in my most recent video progress report.

Last but not least, on Friday we learned that Panama, in their first appearance at the World Cup, have been drawn to play England on 24th June next year.  Although every Panamanian I’ve met here has written off their chances, the draw has caused genuine excitement.  I’ll now have even greater reason to watch the match closely – wherever I am in the world!

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