Tigre, San Blas Islands, Panama
We were to depart at noon for Isla Tigre with Tomas
& Federico. Isla
Tigre is an island that remains one of the most traditional Kuna
villages in all of Kuna Yala. We
were interested in seeing one of the ceremonies performed by the people
with music, dancing and a traditional feast.
We learned that this would not happen.
You just have to luck upon an upcoming festival and request to be
a part of it, but they would not be putting on a show for us.
That said, we were still very excited to visit the village and
see a Kuna village looking much as it must have centuries ago.
Federico & Tomas arrived by 11:30am and
Federico was in rare form! He
had been drinking and partying all night and the first thing he
requested was a beer. We
gave him 2 which he quickly downed before we realized the state he was
in – Drunk! Federico rode
the bow of the cayuco and we all piled in for our “15 minute” ride
to Isla Tigre. It was a bit
windy this day and our “15-minute” ride turned into a 45-minute
bouncy and wet ride. The
best part of the ride was seeing all of the beautiful deserted islands
along the way and watching Federico get splashed over and over as he
tried to sleep one off on the bow while the rolling waves crashed over
We arrived on Isla Tigre right about 1pm and tied
up to a small pier. Federico
took us straight to the office where we were to check in and pay our $3
per person for visiting the village.
We paid in and then sat down at the restaurant to relax for a
while and order some food before heading out into the village.
We had a few drinks, ordered some lunch and went to the village
with our local Kuna guide, Leonard.
Leonard knew that Federico was drunk and decided it was best for
him to enter the village with us to keep us from having any problems.
The village was fenced in and separated from the area where the oficina/restaurant
was – it was clear that the restaurant and cabana rental operation was
private and separated from the village.
They had cabanas for rent for $10 a night, a beautiful sandy
beach, and expedition style sea kayaks lined up ready to be rented.
Leonard told us all about the kayaking trips that were offered
and showed us a magazine article where they were written up in an
We entered the village called “Digir Dupir” in
Kuna Yala. There were lots
of bamboo huts as we had seen before and kids running everywhere. The local men and boys were playing some very competitive
sand volleyball - they were having tryouts for an upcoming tournament
against teams from the other Kuna Yala islands.
They were really talented. We
checked out the livestock cages on the beach, checked out some of the
local Molas and took pictures of the locals.
One thing that was unique about this village was that there were
some rules that we had to be aware of while we were visiting.
Our guide, Leonard took us aside before heading into the village
and told us that we must not take pictures of anyone unless we first ask
their permission, and if we wanted to take a picture of a child, we must
make sure that the parents approved first.
In most cases, he said, they would grant you permission, but
would ask for one dollar in return.
He also said that we must visit with the Chief first, before we
toured the village, and Leonard took us there first and introduced us
all, one by one, to the Chief, who was very cordial.
The most special thing we came across inside of the
village was a ceremony for a young girl.
She had just turned 12 years old and was now heading into
explained that it was something like a puberty ceremony, and that part
of the ritual was that the girl was to stay inside of a special area in
the Cultural Center that was made especially for her by the local men.
The men had specially created bamboo and palm frond walls that
enclosed the area she was to sit in as the celebration continued for
about a week. All of the locals, who on this island numbered in the
hundreds, would gather each morning for coffee & chocolate to
celebrate. There were
dances and ceremonies held throughout the week for the young girl, with
the goal of making her feel very, very special.
During the celebration, the family of the young girl provides all
the meals for everyone who attends, so we soon realized that it was a
very expensive proposition for the family of the young girl.
Walter wanted to film this event so badly.
We asked Leonard if it was possible to take any pictures inside
of the center and he said absolutely not, that it was a sacred ritual.
But, he did talk to the grandmother of the young girl who was
footing the bill for feeding the entire tribe and she said that if we
bought a Mola from her that we could film and take pictures.
Walter promptly bought a Mola, and let the tape roll.
The children inside the Center flocked to Walter and the video
camera. When he played back
the footage for the young children they crowded him even more. They loved being on camera and they were hamming it up!
As we were leaving we headed down the pier to the
cayuco and passed some Kuna children who were fishing for an octopus
that we could all see in the water.
They were making great sport of throwing a fishing line and hook
towards it, trying to snag it with the hook, but they kept missing.
The octopus, which was probably 2 to 3 feet across, kept creeping
along the bottom, away from the pier, but he was headed closer to shore.
The kids started screaming as they saw one of their parents come
walking over. The man saw
what was happening, walked into the water and deftly grabbed the octopus
by the head. The octopus
squirted ink everywhere and tried to get away, but the man had a good
grip and pulled the octopus from the water.
The octopus tried to fight back by grabbing the man’s arm with
the tentacles, but it was no use – the Kuna ripped it’s head apart
with his bare hands. He
removed the tentacles from his arm, put the octopus back in the water
and swished it around to clean it up – Dinner!
We had all seen octopus on the menu at all of the restaurants
where we ate - in Spanish it was called “pulpo” - but it was pretty
amazing to watch that Kuna make short work of what to us was a pretty
intimidating creature. That
was the perfect end to a great day and we motored back to Nargana in the
now calm seas.
Federico on the bow of our cayuco which took us to Isla Tigre,
that is the island where the Tradicional Kuna Village was located
The Office at Isla Tigre, the Traditional Kuna Village where you
had to pay an entry fee of $3 per person and there were many rules once inside
They had a restaurant on Isla Tigre and this was the part of the
island where anyone could go, but to get inside the village you had to be
escorted by a Kuna guide
They had cabanas for rent for $10 per night and also a week
long kayak trip to several remote islands with a couple of guides and a
A local boat and a cabana on Isla Tigre
The entrance to the village was fenced off and the island was
called Isla Tigre "The Tiger" the actual village was called Digir Dupir
in the Kuna language
Cabana for rent
These were the shelters where you could tie up hammocks for
sleeping, Kuna people also make gorgeous hammocks
The Kuna Church on Isla Tigre
The office & restaurant, they had wonderful service and
food, and Leonard was a terrific guide!
We got plenty of practice speaking Spanish
Capt Mark caught napping on Isla Tigre
Federico & Mike
Another picturesque island of San Blas
The beach behind the cabanas
Every coconut in San Blas has an owner, even this one!
The village has been written up in many adventure magazines
for the kayaking trip and the tradition of the Kuna People
Inside the village Digir Dupir
Some huts were quite large, you can see all of the coconut
husks gathered on the left hand side of the hut for fire starting
Some huts had elaborate trees, flowers and plants all around
These flowers looked just like lantana
Hibiscus were very popular also
Banana Palm Trees were very common
Inside of the cultural center there was a celebration going on
for a young girl moving into womanhood, almost like a batmitzva, we got special
permission to take pictures inside of the celebration
A traditional Kuna Mujer in the native dress
Mike grabbed this gorgeous shot, notice the key around her
neck, it was most likely the key to her front door
We had a great time in Digir and had an excellent guide,
Walter in Digir
The welcome sign at Digir Dupir
This is the hottest new style in Kuna Yala Land
Volleyball at Digir
We happened upon a volleyball tournament
These guys were no joke, they were fierce competitors
Sand Volleyball was played here, but on Nargana it was an
Kate checking out the livestock
The little piggy
The children always wanted to see their picture these 2
introduced us to their family's pig & dog
Rows of piggys and chickens
Chuletas or "Pork chops"
A baby pig or "cochino" on Isla Tigre or as the Kuna
would call it "Digir Dupir"
Perro on Isla Tigre, this dog did not like getting his picture
Another ham sandwich on Isla Tigre or as the Spanish would call
him Pork Chop or "Chuletas"
A green parrot, most likely a pet of one of the Kuna families
Kids playing on a new foundation near their brand new school
on Digir Dupir
Banana Palm Tree
Kate no more Molas!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Walter checking out more Molas, the locals were upset if you
did not purchase one
A green parrot
The younger kids practicing for the real volleyball court
These kids were good!
Kate, Leonard, Capt. Mark & Stuart, our guide into the Traditional
Kuna Village was Leonard
With Federico, Stu & Capt Mark up front the ride back from
Isla Tigre was much smoother
Mike & Kate on the way back from Isla Tigre
Sailing a Cayuco
Our little Mola ladies, they came back to the boat at least
twice selling Molas and some Kuna people only speak a little bit of Spanish so it was
difficult to communicate at times
These ladies were beautiful and so cute always laughing
Every person that came to the boat to sell us something left
with either a soda and or juice and cookies
See the juice and cookies in the front right of the screen,
there is a smug look on her face because we did not buy any Molas this time
There go some Kunas
They were some of our favorites
Sunrise at Nargana