Although it's a mere 10-minute boat ride from the town of Bocas del Toro, Isla Bastimentos is a different world. The northern coast of the island is home to palm-fringed wilderness beaches that serve as nesting grounds for sea turtles, while most of the southern coast consists of mangrove islands and coral reefs that fall within the boundaries of the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos.

The main settlement on Bastimentos is the historic West Indian town of Old Bank, which has its origins in the banana industry. Here, you'll hear Gali-Gali, the distinct Creole language of Bocas del Toro Province that combines Afro-Antillean English, Spanish and Ngobe-Bugle. The island is also home to the Ngobe-Bugle village of Quebrada Sal, which is separated from Old Bank by a huge swath of jungle.

Unfortunately, the face of Bastimentos is changing rapidly as construction has already begun on the controversial Red Frog Beach Club (p232) . Although the development project is outside the confines of the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, it will completely transform the face of island and set a precedent for future development projects in Bocas del Toro.

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