I just got back from Panama a few days ago. I stayed at the lodge for 5 nights with a few of my cousins and uncle. We had a blast!
We opt'd for Shane's VIP travel package which was incredible. Once we landed in Panama City, we were greeted by airport staff which ran us through customs, helped us get our bags, allowed us to rest in the lounge, and brought us to the front of the line for our connecting flight. I could get used to that kind of travel!
Once we landed in David, Shane was right there waiting for us. We requested a quick trip to a local market to grab some coffee for the wives and he happily obliged. (Consider this may be your only chance to get some souvenirs outside of the airport). We then drove a few minutes to the dock where the Top Cat was already purring and ready to take us out to the island (Isla Parida). Our bags were all taken care of and all we had to do was grab a seat.
It took us about an hour to get out to the island. The trip was mostly smooth with a little choppiness for a few minutes while passing some tidal junctions. Capt. Shane was clearly skilled at maneuvering Top Cat and always did his best to communicate when to hold on throughout the trip.
When we arrived at the island, we were greeted by a tonga boat which rowed us to shore. Again, we didn't need to deal with our bags at all which was great! Once we got to shore, you simply jump out and you're on the beach. Keep in mind, your shoes could possibly get wet, so consider changing beforehand.
The lodge is a short 7-minute stroll from the beach. It sits a top an acre of beautiful ocean front. The sunrises are absolutely stunning and beautiful here. The house we stayed in has a comfortable main room with a couch and two chairs. The adjoining bedrooms each had two sets of bunks each. The bathroom was pretty cool as the shower is outside!
There is an outside deck which was the picture perfect spot to eat our afternoon snack. Drinks and food were more than abundant throughout our entire stay and we ate like kings! The lodge had everything you could think of - suntan lotion, bug spray, bath towels, shampoo, etc.
Dinners were served in the dining room next to the kitchen. Chef Eric and his assistant Jaylene were definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Their impeccable service and delicious food were more than I could have asked for (notice my food pictures are as plentiful as the fishing ones!). Apparently, Chef Eric used to cook for Manuel Noriega. His laugh is also super infectious... you'll see.
We had 4 full days of fishing here with Shane and his first mate, Juan. We woke up at 6:15am most days and were on the beach ready to board the boat by 7am. Breakfasts were delicious and you can have eggs cooked anyway, pancakes (blueberry, macadamia nut/banana, etc.), sausage, bacon, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, and home made bread!
The fishing was fantastic. It started out a bit slow the first couple of days but quickly crescendoed into a trip of a lifetime. You see we were pretty intent on finding some yellowfin tuna to take home with us. It wasn't until the third day that we came across them, but boy when we did, it was off the hook!
Shane tirelessly scoured hundreds of miles of open ocean looking for them. Our persistence paid off and we had huge smiles. Upon returning to the island, we created a mini assembly line to package and seal the fresh meat. (Quick note, plan to give some of your catch the staff (~20%)). Chef Eric did some amazing things with all of the fish we caught throughout our stay. Tuna = carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, cut rolls, seared, etc. I should also note that we caught some grouper the first couple of days and those were incredibly delicious as well!
Anyhow, if you plan to take back fish to the U.S. like we did, consider bringing a cooler or cooler bag. You'll want to check your airline's baggage policy because they vary from carrier to carrier. A couple of us were on Copa Airlines and we weren't supposed to take back any perishables during August. However, we brought cooler bags (Yeti and AO Cooler) and stuffed them with 30lbs of fish each, and just carried them on. It was a bit cumbersome but well worth it.
Back to the fishing... the setting in Panama is gorgeous. The water is a wonderful deep sea green in some areas, and deep blue in others. Life was flourishing all around us. We got to see countless dolphins, birds, fish, and even humpback whales! Although we were targeting the tuna, we hooked up on a dozen other species of fish while we were there. I really loved the cool looking rooster fish, which ended up being my final landed fish for the trip... a perfect way to go out in style!
Shane and Juan worked well together moving the boat, communicating about the fish, tactics, etc. Juan is an amazing first mate. He was constantly moving getting the poles setup, hooking us up, helping us to land our fish, releasing them back unharmed, or filleting our keepers with skill and poise. I can't say enough good things about the fishing portion of our trip.
Thank Shane! You've got a world class experience at the lodge. Your attention to detail (even having Internet on a remote island) is phenomenal. For anyone on the fence thinking about doing this, you NEED to do this at least once in your life. A+++
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge is a boutique offshore tropical island sport fishing lodge located on Isla Parida in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama. Fly into the city of David, in the Chiriqui Providence, travel by boat 12 miles off the Pacific coastline and you will find Isla Parida....an untouched jungle paradise that is a protected national park. Our private island lodge is inside Panama's Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park and is truly "off the grid." No roads, no concrete, just jungle and white sand beaches. Sportfishing, snorkeling, sea kayaking, hike, or just hang out on one of our deserted beaches. Sportfishing here in the Gulf of Chiriqui is legendary! Black Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna are encountered offshore at Hannibal Bank, Coiba, and Isla Montuosa all only minutes away. Inshore prey such as Cubera Snapper and Roosterfish are caught in the water right in front of the lodge! We specialize in an upscale sportfishing experience with great food, personalized service, accommodations, and highly maintained boats and equipment. ... more less