Our boat slowed. We could hear the waves gently crashing on the white sandy shore. The smell of saltwater and paradise was in the air. We looked at each other excitedly, expectantly, anxiously.
Here we were. We’d made it to San Blas!
I’ve wanted to visit the San Blas islands ever since I heard about them. More islands than days in a year. Only the Kuna people could live there — and they did, managing to essentially preserve their traditional way of life. The people and islands seemed mysterious and promising. A step back in time, and a step into my dreams.
These islands seemed almost too good to be true and I didn’t think we’d actually go there.
But here we were. We’d finally made it to the far flung place that doesn’t even make it onto a world map.
As you could probably see, Franklin’s Island was small. It would take about 2 minutes to jog around. About 5 seconds to walk across. But you don’t need a lot of ground space when there’s an entire underwater world to explore.
The island is actually divided down the middle: half Franklin’s, half Senidup’s. All the travellers use both sides of the island, and it isn’t a problem. For the Kuna people, it’s a different story. The two families do not cross the line down the middle of the island. They haven’t spoken to each other in 7 years.
The island was almost beautiful. It was dotted with palm trees, and rimmed with turquoise water and coral. The thatched huts with sand floors were charming and authentic. The Kuna people sleep with the sand on their feet and live each day with the sand beneath. So too would we.
I say it was almost beautiful because there were hideous bits. Garbage left behind on the beach by a group of selfish girls. Cigarette butts buried shallowly in the sand. The constant unce-unce-uncing of music blasting from a group of obnoxious arseholes.
And the toilets, oh god the toilets. It wasn’t the half finished nature of them, or the lack of toilet seat on the bowl, or even the fact that you had to use a pail of sea water to flush. The latter reminded me of Thailand and I thought it was endearing. It was the fact that people didn’t bother with the pail of sea water. Big turds from obnoxious arseholes were left in there, covered with gobs of toilet paper. Who did they think would have to flush it!? The toilets improved immensely when the arseholes left.
It was the blatant disrespect for the Kuna people and their home from other tourists that made me sadly hate paradise. And made me embarassed to be a traveller.
When we were looking at reviews of islands to go to, there was a common complaint amongst visitors: the hosts were not friendly.
Now I know why! Some people are just so disrespectful. I’d be unfriendly too!
Maybe you’re thinking that I should’ve just ignored them, looked past their antics. But I couldn’t. I can’t. Because how they acted was wrong, disgusting.
I believe that you need to travel with respect for the land, the people, and for other travellers. Do no harm. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints…that kind of thing. And when you’re on a tiny desert island and people don’t have the same beliefs as you, it’s frustrating to have their selfish ways thrust in your face. It’s a stark reminder of what the world is up against when young travellers are littering on a beautiful desert island.
To read about how we got to Franklin’s from Panama City, click here.