A wilderness destination that fits the bill for social distancing and a meaningful connection with nature, reports Venetia van Kuffeler
The summer has endedwith so many of us unable to travel home to see friends and family, as well as others simply left pining for long-distance travel. Now we’ve hit autumn, the only thing left to do is think about the holidays that we will take once it is safe to do so. Various themes have emerged: we hope to be somewhere different from where we quarantined, with the people that we’ve missed, and if we can lounge next to a beautiful pool or beach while we’re doing so, all the better! Or if that’s not a possibility, we can still dream…
Furthermore, as lockdown measures are eased over the upcoming year, travellers are also expected to seek wilderness destinations that suit social distancing as well as meaningful trips where they can connect with the destination. Fantasy island Sweet Bocas certainly fits the bill. The ultimate in seclusion, it sits on a private island in a UNESCO World Heritage Site archipelago known as Bocas del Toro in the northwest of Panama.
The ultimate private paradise for travellers seeking to unplug, Sweet Bocas strikes the perfect balance between sustainable travel and absolute luxury. Since the first outbreak of COVID-19, the staff and island have had a number of strict regulations and initiatives in place to prevent infection arriving on the island.
Sweet Bocas is a 15-acre estate with a majestic seven-bedroom villa sitting on stilts on Panama’s Caribbean waters with additional accommodation on the island. Self-sustainable, it has the second largest freshwater lake in the archipelago and a fully functioning permaculture farm. Founded by Canadian-born Annick Belanger (who was raised in Africa), she wanted to create a destination where guests experience luxury sustainably and more authentically in absolute privacy.
The remote archipelago of Bocas del Toro is located on the north western Caribbean shore of Panama, close to the Costa Rican border. Characterised by diverse ecosystems, from mangrove shallow water to coral reefs and sea grass meadows, it consists of more than 68 small islands and mangrove keys. Their neighbour, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Bocas del Toro Research Station, attracts scientists from around the world to study the species-rich marine and terrestrial habitats.
Sweet Bocas appeals to guests seeking to unplug by reconnecting with nature, culture and themselves. Each guest has the opportunity to leave a positive mark through sustainability, cultural exchange and life changing experiences. They can choose from marine conservation of local habitats in the mangroves or reefs, volunteering with local communities, teaching opportunities or cooking and farming experiences. Education is one of the cornerstones of Sweet Bocas and the team is dedicated to supporting local non-profit organisations that provide education and community development to local indigenous tribes that have populated the area for centuries. For example, local charity Give and Surf provides education and community development to local indigenous tribes and welcomes volunteers to surf while they give back.
Elevating the farm to table experience, Head Chef Wilmo Ordoñez is dedicated to sustainable farming and cultivation, growing the food in alignment with his incredible culinary vision. Each day a new menu is prepared inspired by guests desires and the daily harvest of the estate’s farm and green house. Chef Ordoñez and his team work closely with local communities to source ingredients and bring knowledge and more awareness to better farming practices, organic produce and good nutrition.
The Sweet Bocas overwater villa is constructed entirely out of Panamanian teak connected to the island with a 130-metre dock. Seven suites with en-suite bathrooms, are furnished with polished tropical hardwood floors, vibrant furnishings and artwork, and serve as a backdrop to the stunning panoramic ocean views. The property is fully staffed with housekeepers, chefs, surf and yoga instructors and a masseuse. Two ‘glamping’ bamboo structures located around the freshwater lake are designed to allow guests to sleep under the stars. The island also has an ocean front swimming pool, gym, tennis court, pergola, tented reception and outdoor lounge areas. The Sweet Bocas team are on standby to ferry guests around the archipelago on the estate’s 30ft motor yacht.
A surfing mecca, Bocas del Toro has some of the best surf breaks in the world. Guests are guided by world champion pro surfer Terry Sims and taken to the undiscovered local spots. If surfing isn’t your thing, there are a host of other activities including paddle boarding, scuba diving, tennis, fishing, yoga and more. Many guests, however, prefer to do very little but enjoy the rare quiet, relaxation and solitude.
Sweet Bocas is accessible via a short private boat transfer from Bocas Del Toro International Airport. The team takes care of arranging flights and paperwork prior to arrival to ensure swift transfer through Panamanian customs.