Travel Experience Made!

Home/Uncategorized/Travel Experience Made!

The sun had just crept over the horizon when the buzz of Rutilio Milton’s faded blue lancha sounded out over the water. It was barely 6 in the morning but the day was already shaping up to be a hot one. The water lapped up against the twisted roots of the mangrove as crabs of all sizes scuttled from place to place. His boat creaked to a stop against the wooden dock at Bahía Honda.

“Ñan toro,” he announced himself in the dialect of the Ngöbe.”

“Ñan toro,” we replied.

There are certain times in life when you have to take a step back and ask yourself, what exactly led me to where I am? If I could go back in time 3, maybe 4 years and explain my current situation, would I believe me? Could I picture myself standing on the edge of an old dock, waiting on a Ngöbe elder to take me out into the mangrove to teach me about his people?

Our group boarded Rutilio’s boat and he led us off into the bay. He explained that we needed to find sardines to use as bait. As he navigated the clear blue water, he told us to keep our eyes out for pelicans. “They can smell the sardines,” he said. The boat suddenly veered left, taking us into the direction of the rising sun.

Soon, a small island of mangrove came into sight. He cut his engine, handed me an old splintered oar, telling told me to get us close to the trees. I struggled to steer the boat, fully loaded with 7 people, but eventually got us in position. From the front of the boat, Milton cast a ragged old net over the water. As he pulled it on board, three or four tiny fish fell out on the hull.

Disappointed with the small catch, Rutilio explained that the sardines were already hiding from the sunlight deep in the mangrove. “We might not have much luck today,” he conceded, staring intently toward the shadowed roots.

Just then, his ears perked up and he let out a long, muted call. Within a moment, the same call sounded from across the mangrove. I peered through the mangrove and saw a small cayuca floating toward us. The traditional Ngöbe boat is made from a single piece of wood, found deep in the jungle. Over the period of a week, the small boat is meticulously carved from the trunk of a fallen tree. It’s pilot was Nelson, the father of one of the children in our kindergarten class at Bahía Honda. After he and Rutilio exchanged words in their native tongue, Nelson graciously produced a rusted bowl full of sardines. Our fishing lesson was back on.

“Ja toida,” we went our separate ways.

We made our way to the deeper water, our guide on point, Eli, our gap year volunteer and newly appointed boat captain, steering. Rutilio used the color of the water to navigate – to my eyes, it was all the same, to his, it was like reading a map. His hand eventually shot up, signaling Eli to cut the engine. The anchor broke through the water and Rutilio got to work preparing the line.

The water was perfectly flat – no wind to speak of. The sun, shining off the water like a mirror, made it difficult to look out over the tangled mangrove. The boat rocked gently as Rutilio demonstrated how to bait the hook. “You have to stick it right through the eyes,” he explained, “That way the bait won’t slip off.” His line was wrapped around an old mossy chunk of balsa wood worn from years of use.

With a spool of 0.6mm line, a small weight and a baited hook, I cast out. Straining for the first few moments, I tried to distinguish between the slight motion of the boat and the potential bite of a fish. Minutes passed with no success. I pulled my line up only to find an empty hook, the sardine gone. Determined to catch my first fish, however, I cast out once more.

Within a few moments of throwing out my line, the boat jolted as Rutilio pulled his own up from the water. Without saying a word, he smiled, holding up a small red snapper. Just then, I felt activity on my own line. I immediately yanked the line up and felt something struggling on the other end. I did my best to pull the line up quickly and, within moments, held a fish of my own.


With luck on our side, we pulled up an additional eighteen fish, all red snappers. Eventually, Rutilio decided that twenty fish would do so we packed up and made out way back to Bahía Honda. We spent the rest of the day preparing a traditional Ngöbe dish. Using a base of handmade coconut milk, we cooked the fish along side a number of vegetables and herbs Rutilio collected from his farm and the jungle surrounding the community.

For me, it is experiences like these that make travelling worth it. I have come to live by the motto that you cannot truly experience land divorced from the people who call it home. You cannot understand a place without understanding, at least to some degree, the lives of its people. Like navigating through the mangroves, I would be lost if it weren’t for people like Rutilio. I have come to make sense Bocas del Toro through the time I have shared with the Ngöbe. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Dylan Vahradian


Girls of WOMP, Women's Outreach Mentorship Program, taking the podium during the inaugural COPA Féria Del Mar hosted by @bocaspaddlingcluband and held this past weekend in epic 🚣conditions! #wompbocas #giveandsurfWhat a beautiful day spent in Old Bank with the community thanks to program director Zuleika and her band of supporters! 
The day was presented with ❤️ to raise awareness of bullying and support the Aguilas Doradas, a character building program focused around expression and creativity! #giveandsurfVolunteer Story Time PART 3 with Taylor Love, @taylorklove, from the USA and volunteer from July 15th-August 15th 
What would you say to someone considering coming down here? 
GO! It’s a professional organization that truly serves the local people. The staff here are true leaders in the community! #giveandsurfVolunteer Story Time PART 2 with Taylor Love, @taylorklove, from the USA and volunteer from July 15th-August 15th 
Most memorable experience?

Too many favorite memories! My favorite was reading this animal book to the kids in BR. We all acted out every animal and I laughed until it hurt. #giveandsurfVolunteer Story Time PART 1 with Taylor Love, @taylorklove, age 27 from the USA and volunteer from July 15th-August 15th 
What drove you to come here?

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity in Central America. I found Give and Surf on the internet, did some YouTube research and decided I would love to volunteer with this fantastic organization. #giveandsurfNever lose touch with your inner child, the innocent part of you that thinks you will pop every bubble in sight! @sunshineheroesfoundation #giveandsurf ...
#panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanks #gratitudeKids discovering happiness in education is an everyday affair at Old Bank's community center thanks to our dear partners and supporters of @sunshineheroesfoundation who not only funded the build of this beautiful center, but also the staff and program expenses to run a summer school, after school program, and more that never existed before a year and a half ago! #gratitude #giveandsurf¡Bailando! Gotta get the wiggles out somehow with these energetic pre-schoolers💃🏼❤️❤️#panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback #nonprofit 
#nonprofitlife #volunteerlife #volunteer #grateful #surfing #surf #nonprofitorganization #travel #explore #givethanks #volunteerabroadSending immense gratitude to Rose Johnson, @rose_grace2406, an intern this past summer who worked her tail off with Emilie, @emjstreet, to develop programs for our new community center on Isla Cristobal! 
She has this to say to anyone considering a volunteer or internship opportunity with us!

That it is an unbelievable experience and unlike most volunteer experiences and internships, Give and Surf allows you to have a deeper connection with the community. As an intern I was pleased with the fact that Give and Surf gave interns real responsibility which I think is rare within the internship world. Give and Surf is also a lot of fun and Bocas is a great place to work and play. #giveandsurfProud to announce that we have co-created ▿INDIGO BENEFIT FESTIVAL▿@indigo_festival a day of music, art, yoga, documentary, and more to celebrate life and raise money for education in Bocas Del Toro! 
The day features a gang of amazing musical performances and creatives from near and far who will convene on Encinitas to celebrate life under the Indigo sky!

Music Lineup ↠↠↠↠↠
Rambo []
Feather and Dot [@featherdotmusic] 
The Verigolds [@theverigolds]
Todo Mundo [@todomundoband]
The Moves Collective [@themovescollective]
Wicked Monk [@wicked_monk]
Andre Gallardo [@renchmonkey]
Grayson Schreiner [@thegreatsilversun] ▵Yoga and Market Lineups to come!▵ Made possible and supported by our favorites at
Culture Brewing [@culturebrewingco]
Eve Encinitas [@eveencinitas]
Ironsmith Coffee Roasters [@ironsmithcoffee]
Harvest Peace [@harvestpeace]
Head over to Facebook and search events for Indigo Benefit Festival or visit website

Don't be there, be here! #indigofestivalFeeling the stoke last month at Bluff with Alonso, an active, surf stoked member of our SOMP: Surf Outreah Mentorship Program led by none other than @guacamole13 #giveandsurfClass 🤡 ing around with our Bahia Roja preschoolers is a volunteer favorite! Make sure to express yourself and the infinite capacity of your imagination through humor this Monday! #giveandsurf

Stay Connected And Join Our Newsletter!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest Give & Surf news

You have Successfully Subscribed!