Friday, July 29, 2011

San Blas/Kuna Yala

For our last stint in Panama we flew and boated to Yandup in the Kuna Yala province. Here is the tiny island we stayed on, from the window of our even tinier airplane:

The Kuna Yala (also known as San Blas) includes 365 islands that are run by the Kunas.  The Kunas won their independence from Panama in 1930, and continue many of their traditional practices today.  No foreigner can own land in the region, which is amazing as I'm sure the Kuna have been offered millions for real estate in this exquisite environment.  There are no hotels or high rises; the only accomodations offered are in Kuna-owned traditional formats.  Our room (solar powered lights and fan available at night):

Every morning the Kuna men head out in dugout canoes to fish and lobster hunt.  It was so peaceful to rise from bed and sit on our porch, watching the men head to work. 

The only motor (or any loud noise) we heard during our stay was on the boat owned by our lodge, which shuttled us about to isolated islands.  Here are a few of the beaches we visited:

Our lodge (Yandup Island Lodge), also took us to visit the nearest Kuna community.  It was fascinating to see a village so removed from modern conveniences, self-sufficient and full of pride and joy.

Question:  What modern convenience would you hate to give up?  (Vitamix for me!)  


  1. I think to live a life like that, embraced by nature and loving community every day, I could give up all of them. There are ways to blend and pulverize foods by hand - yes they take more energy and time - but without the necessity of going away from home and sit in some office for 8 or 10 hours per day, you have time. Look at all the brilliant colors and the amazing handicrafts - they have time to do that because they aren't off in an office cubicle for 8 to 10 hours a day. I can't imagine they don't express their creativity in the way they serve food also.

  2. What a beautiful world, and what a different world! It's amazing that you got a slice of that, and it sounds like it's set up so that you get to experience it without 'intruding' much.

    I lived for a while with almost no modern conveniences, in HI, and I think I could probably do without everything--but no pen and paper would be pretty tough for me!

  3. wow, that place looks amazing!

  4. @Mindy

    Good points, Mindy. It was cool to see the men heading off to work in their canoes, and the women working on their embroidered molas.

    As for the food we ate, it was pretty basic, but very healthy and fresh. I loved eating the local grown fruit and fresh harvested seafood.

  5. @Ela

    I am so impressed by your former Hawaiian lifestyle, Ela. Very different, and yet similar in some ways, to your life now, right?

  6. @kelli

    It was amazing, Kelli! I'm still thinking about it.

  7. Dear KT,
    The Paris-based art gallery, Le Pré au 6, is organizing an exhibition on the Mola of Panama. In light of this event we will be publishing a small catalogue (limited to 150 copies), accompanying the exhibition. Would it be possible for us to use one of your photos for this purpose?

    The link for the exact photo is :

    Please contact me with the details as soon as possible.
    Thank you so much in advance,

    Maria Ribadeneira
    Le Pré au 6