Red Frog, Police, Chocolate & Parrots

Over the last few days we have been doing some traveling around the area, getting to know the islands, people and boating routes.  We headed over to Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos from our house off of Dolphin Bay in Tierra Oscura, which is about a 35 minute boat ride, since I don’t know my way around the mangrove, rocks and coral yet.

The Red Frog public dock.

There was a sloth at the entrance of the park.  Last time I was here in January there was a sloth here too, but it obviously infected with a disease called Leishmaniasis, which is transferable to humans.  It is a nasty disease and requires ten days of IM shots of a chemotherapy drug.  I have met many people in the area who have had the disease and still have the scars from it.  Needless to say, we do not stick around sloths very long.

After a ride through the jungle on a very rusted out truck, we arrive at Red Frog Beach – the kiddos are excited.

The beach is awesome for kids, it has long shallow area, with pools, cool rocks, fish and crabs.

Incredibly clear water.

A married couple that we found… entertaining.  ;)

Ethan loves the beach.

Ethan loved being pushed through the water like this, he would paddle, kick and belly laugh uncontrollably.

Oh happy day at Red Frog Beach.  Off in the distance from the Caribbean was what I like to call, an angry sky, dark black clouds headed our way.  When they got near we decided to head over to a restaurant on the beach.  As soon as we got there is started to pour, pour buckets, like Noah and the flood rain.  The rain here is awesome!  God’s amazing power displayed in creation!  We love the rain here, you get soaked through your underwear in less than a minute if you get stuck in it, and the best part is, its warm.   The water temp is between 85-92 degrees, air temp doesn’t typically drop below 70 degrees and most days are around 80, and when it rains its simply refreshing.  We also love the fact it fills our water tanks and Marine showers get a little longer.

Headed out of the public dock at Red Frog we were pulled over by the Panama Marine Police, who don’t have their own boat, they ride in water taxis and pull people over.  He wrote us a ticket for life jacket violation and improper registration.  The only thing is, we were all wearing our life jackets, and yes, the boat is not registered.  The previous owner attempted to register the boat three times over the six years he was here, he eventually gave up.  The boat registration process here is mostly a scam against the gringos.  Most of the gringos here that have registered their boats have had the process take about two years, the rules changing constantly, more money here, more money there.

After Red Frog we headed into Bocas to run errands and get some groceries.

After Bocas, we headed home – and the boat made it!  Right before docking at home we decided to make a stop at Ernie’s, a little convenience store on the water near our house.  We really want to get to know the locals and we thought we’d buy an ice cream or popsicle.  Well, we didn’t know it, but there was quite the party at Ernie’s for Semana Santa (Holy Week).  Free beers and hanging out while listening to Colombian radio.  We were the only gringos (white people) there.  It was so packed it was hard to find a place to park the boat, we had to shift some cayucos around to make room, the locals were quick to help us out.  I felt as though they were all surprised to see us there, I don’t think the gringos ever really hang out with them, just buy stuff and take off.  We stayed for quite a while, Shirlene blogged about it in her post, we drank a pop, a beer, and Ethan was a dancing machine.  We had fun and it was great being with the locals.

After Ernie’s we headed home, about a five minute boat ride.  2.5 minutes in the boat motor started to sputter out, dropping the RPMs down to 1000, well we made it home at idle but I’m really starting to not trust the boat.

The next couple of days we stayed around home, exploring the jungle, picking tropical fruits, making lemonade from the abundance of lemons and working on the boat.

Easter Sunday we had planned on heading into Bocas for an Easter service we were invited to.  Sunday morning weather had different plans for us.  It was pouring.  Shirlene and I turned to each other and knew what we were thinking, if it was just us, we’d do it, but with kids, oh man, not fun.  So, just to confirm our decision, I put a call out on the radio to get some advice from the man, Brent, who rescued us in the boat.  He confirmed our decision and said, if it doesn’t look good, its not, if you don’t have to go, don’t go.

So, we finished reading the crucifiction and resurrection story out of Matthew and we watched the Passion of the Christ.  Praise you Jesus for what you did for us on the cross.

Around noon we headed over to Rana Azul, a restaurant owned by and Austrian couple pretty close to our house, to have a special dinner (at noon) with a bunch of other gringos.  The weather pretty much cleared at this point.

Rana Azul (Blue Frog), a gringo hang out.  Each Sunday many gringos in the area come to hang out with each other.  We’ve been twice, the average age is probably about 62 and our kids are the only kids – except this time, there was another kid – will wonders never cease?  The people are really nice here, sharing tips and hints on living in this area.

Ethan looks for any excuse to eat sauce, dip, or dressing.  This poor fried fish took a dive in the sauce many many times.

A nice woman came by to give this flower to Bella, Bella loved it.

Heading back home after four hours at Rana Azul – we have such great kids.

Monday I headed into Bocas to take care of business with the Police, to work out my ticket.  I decided to take a different way to Bocas this time, through open water where I didn’t have to navigate around so much coral.  It was fine, but pretty rough and windy, I was glad I was alone.  One nerve racking thing is finding a place to dock the boat.  There is no public dock, just private homes and businesses.  If you park at a business you have to buy something and you can only park there for a little while.  The place I wanted to park was full, I just ate breakfast and didn’t want to eat again so I ended up parking at a place that I knew of but I was not a client of.  I sheepishly went inside to ask if it was ok to park there.  She followed me out to look and said no, you can’t park there.  I said, oh, ok.  She said, you need to move over, that one is a rented spot.  I said muchas gracias and moved my boat over!

I met Tyson in Bocas, he said he’s help me out to get the boat registered.  We headed to the office and met with the chief.  The chief took a look at my ticket and said I have a felony and there would be a fine.  I asked for what?  He said no life jackets – I told him we were all wearing them.  He moved on to boat registration and explained the process is very long and difficult but once we start the process we won’t receive any tickets for registration problems.  I said great, lets do it.  He said I couldn’t start the process until the boat has a name, it is painted on both sides, pictures are taken, 32 stamps are purchased, the bill of sale is notarized, the original docs are copied, the boat is measured, etc.  Anyway, we left on good terms but the process sounds quite involved, we’ll see what happens.  Oh, and by the way, the chief just got rid of the ticket.  Tyson said that’s common, they wanted to know if I would fight it or not.

After that I shopped, met people and tried to figure out what stores have what and who has the best prices.  I made multiple trips to the boat because I couldn’t haul everything around, I dropped off stuff into the boat hoping someone wouldn’t steal it.  After about four hours I was done, spent, and headed home.  I went another way home this time, it was good, hit a spot of heavy rain but no big deal without kiddos.

When I got home, I unloaded, ate and headed out to hang out with Alvaro, our ground keeper.  I’ve been talking with him about learning from him.  He’s been teaching me about the animals, insects, plants and boats here.  Today I was learning about plantain, banana and yuca.  How to tell the difference between banana and plantain is not obvious, but in summation, the leaves of the banana plant are longer, bananas grow up, plantains grow down – beyond that they really look the same.  Harvesting yuca is quite easy and replanting is incredible, just gently pull the stock of the plant, the tubers come out, break the stock off and shove it in the ground.  It grows new tubers in no time.  There was a ton of yuca on the property but in the two weeks between Danny leaving and us coming, someone stole most of it, along with most of the other fruit.

After that Alvaro and I cleaned the boat, the bottom was filthy and Alvaro jumped into the water with his jeans, rubber boats and my snorkel and scraped the bottom of the boat that was loaded with slime, barnicles and shrimp – tons of tiny shrimp eating what was on the bottom of the boat.  I’m amazed at how fast stuff grew on the bottom, Danny just scraped, sanded and repainted the bottom two months ago.  One nice thing is after cleaning the boat, its 5 mph faster at the same rpm, this is pretty significant, I got her up to 30 mph, which is a nice cruising speed.

Now that brings us to today.  Today we went out to the official Dophin Bay to Green Acres Chocolate Farm, we were not sure exactly where it was but thought we’d head out and see if we could find it.  We found it and were greeted by the owners, who we previously met at Rana Azul.  Within a couple of minutes there was another boat there with people to join our one hour tour of the chocolate farm.

Dave, otherwise known as Willy Wonka, the chocolate farm owner.

Beautiful ponds along the trail through the jungle, full of fish and eels, naturally.

Awesome fuzzy ivy.

Monkey don’t climb tree, the whole trunk is spiked.  We also have some of these on the farm we are staying at.

On this little cart sits a seed pod that when heated, explodes and shoots seeds everywhere.

Find the toad in the picture.

Each island in the area has different colored poison dart frogs.  On this island, really mainland, they are green.  On Bastimentos they are red.

Bella posing next to the cocoa pods, where chocolate comes from.

Baby cocoa pod forming.

Thousands of empty cocoa pods with beans removed.

Heading down to the chocolate making area.  Yummy.

Cocoa seed fermenting and drying area.  There is a tin roof on rollers and is pulled over the beans when it rains.  Off to the side on the right is a covered area where the beans are fermented and drained for a few days, then moved to the drying rack.

Dave and Linda Cerutti – Green Acres Chocolate Farm.  Very sweet people.

Saying goodbye to the chocolate farm.  But with plenty of chocolate in hand – ya baby!

Tough day boat riding, hiking, talking, eating chocolate and now nap time on the ride home.

In the afternoon Ellie wanted to have a time outside on the deck as a family to drink lemonade, eat some mild lemons we have, read the Bible and praise God for calling us to Panama.  She said she felt that God wanted us to give Him praise for His calling.  It was a good time as a family, God spoke though scripture, things we need to pray through.  We are blessed.

Later on today I went to talk with Alvaro.  He emerged from the jungle with two baby parrots.  I believe they are Blue-Headed Parrots.

Alvaro said the tree their nest was in fell down and he found them on the jungle floor.  He said something would have eaten them tonight.  After the girls spotted them, I knew there was no going back.  Ellie and Bella now have pet parrots.

Of course now the one of the things we hear quite a bit is, my parrot pooped on me, oh well, I don’t care.  Then the other one says, my parrot doesn’t poop on me.  This happens back and forth, kind of funny actually.  Tonight we prayed together and our prayers were we would be good parents to our new pets.

Praise You Jesus for Your protection, provision and creation.


  1. Mom
    Apr 11, 2012

    Love to hear what you’re doing there. The beach looked beautiful! I’m so glad you finally got a chance to get in the water and play!
    Love seeing all the photos! Miss you all so much! Praying often for your safety, good health, and God’s perfect Will in your lives.

  2. Matt
    Apr 11, 2012

    Is there any money in chocolate farming or is it just a “Gentlemans farm”?

    • Bobby
      Apr 11, 2012

      Kind of both. Its a lot of work to turn cocoa into chocolate but they do it with the help of two full time Ngobe employees. They sell cocoa nibs and chocolate at their farm, in Bocas and Panama City, they say they can hardly keep up. Dave mentioned that he was hoping to get rich but says that didn’t happen but it pays the bills. ;)

      • Bonnie C
        Apr 11, 2012

        I’d be plenty happy to ‘just pay the bills’ if my source of income was from doing heartfelt, passion-work. Good for them.

  3. Bonnie C
    Apr 11, 2012

    QUESTION: What do they do with the empty pods? Is there a second life to them? Potential ‘art?’ I’d be interested to know.

    • Bobby
      Apr 11, 2012

      They pile them up where they attract a huge amount of flys, bees and wasps, which in-turn attract huge amounts of beautiful green frogs that sit around eating insects to their heart’s content. I suppose if the pods were properly dried and then sealed they would last but around here the humidity does them in and they rot pretty quick.

  4. Debbie Skinner
    Apr 12, 2012

    It is such a treat to see all the pics and read your stories! looks Like the kids are adjusting well, and now God has blessed them with new pets! praying that all is well with you and He uses you mightily there!

  5. Bon
    Apr 12, 2012

    Thank you for sharing, fun to hear all the adventures and see the beauty of your surroundings in your photos! :) Not to mention the great medicine you provide, keeping us howling in laughter! ;) Keeping you close to our hearts and prayers continually.
    Say, Jessica would like to know what names the girls gave to their parrots? :)
    Love each of you… and keep us posted, we Wood addicts need our fix! ;)

    • Bobby
      Apr 13, 2012

      No names yet for our new, parrot family members. We’re taking suggestions. ;)

      • Brenda Pritchard
        Apr 13, 2012

        How about Azulito and Verdeito :) for the parrots? Having lived with pet doves for so long you get pretty savvy as to when they decide to ‘go’. I’m sure the girls will figure it out. How I would delight in learning about the flora and fauna of that area! It’s great you have a teacher, Bobby, for such things. 30 mph is really trucking in a boat – that must have been fun!
        My greatest prayer for you guys is for a perimeter of protection. Also, as I read your post, for trusted friends there. Sending love and prayers…

        • Bobby
          Apr 13, 2012

          Funny you should talk about them deciding to go. The girls were feeding them banana this morning when I hear them both saying, daddy, daddy, Bella’s just flew away. We found it in the top of a coconut tree, I shook the tree and the parrot flew off, met its mommy (we think) in the air and landed in the mangrove trees. We’re down to one… who knows for how long. ;)

    Apr 14, 2012


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