The rural communities around Dolphin bay in Bocas del Toro have had no, or very limited, access to medical care for their animals due to COVID-19. So hearing that there was a vet cruising around the area an impromptu “clinic” was arranged. Before poor Russell realised the bit of “helping out” turned into 15 dogs and 5 dog spays being booked in for treatment and operations.
“Where” I asked. “There” he pointed, “what that tiny bamboo shack on water?” “Er, yes apparently”, responds Russell. We both laugh a bit nervously with images of dogs jumping into the water to escape. So we’ve delayed sailing to the next bay until the clinic is done. The chocolate guys (Gary & Carlos) have kindly offered the use of their boat dock for the clinic, so Chloe and I have taken the opportunity for school on land too for maximising the breeze, WiFi and space to work. Huge thanks to the chocolate farm guys again, such an amazing and generous couple.
The first dogs arrive in dugout canoes heading for the clinic in the the thatch gazebo thing in the photo. Not your normal parking arrangement outside a vets practice!
A makeshift table, drip bags held by string on bamboo and me holding a torch. Everyone acts like it’s normal, it’s rather surreal. The dogs waiting are feet and inches away from the dog being operated on. No wonder there is not a peep of sound out of them. I’d be terrified too!
All goes well, 20 dogs successfully treated and if the action wasn’t exciting enough a sloth descended from the tree beside the pontoon to lower its derrière into the water to go to the loo. Great end to a busy day 🤣
We were kindly invited back to the chocolate farm to help Carlos and Gary make chocolate. Our boys were to be the little oompa-loompa workers and it turned out we all had a role to play.
We started by walking through the plantation (think overgrown jungle here) and cutting down the cocao pods from the trees. Slightly easier said than done.
You appear to wave a long piece of bamboo with a knife on the end in the air and detach the ripe pod, which has no desire to fall off. Meanwhile we attempted to catch them or avoid being knocked on the head by them falling or dodge the bamboo pole flailing around…
Together we collected around 200 and then began removing the beans. The deftness with a machete for cutting them open was best left to the locals so we stood and admired the white goey beans which was lovely and sweet to eat.
The beans were then laid between banana leaves to ferment whilst we went to the forest “kitchen” to roast some beans and make nibs from beans already fermented and dried.
The home made roaster (from a gas canister) had stopped spinning so Russell the now-I-can-fix-anything-due to living in a boat, took it apart and created a new vaguely safe switch to allow the gas canister to spin and roast the beans. Phew, and it worked much to Carlos’s delight.
We sorted the good beans for roasting and set it going. Forty minutes later we sampled the freshly roasted beans, delicious! It all smelt like a chocolate factory now.
The boys helped to crush the beans so make nibs and the process was complete. We sampled a handful of scrumptious nibs. Pure cocao, it was truly yummy.
Another fantastic day in paradise and huge thanks to Gary and Carlos for being the greatest hosts and letting our junior oompa-loompas have full reign!
We sailed to Dolphin Bay in Bocas del Toro to visit the chocolate farm and also to see the dolphins. As we sailed into the bay we were greeted with dolphins and as we set our anchor they played alongside us, to complete the stunning view.
On Sunday, Gary and Carlos, aka ‘the chocolate guys’ showed us their amazing 30 acre property with 3000 cocoa trees alongside a stunning botanical array of trees and plants.
Gary was incredibly informative and the boys learnt so much about everything they saw from green poison dart frogs, golden orb silk weaver spiders (whose webs are used in bullet proof vests) to variations of wild ginger and cacoa trees.
He patiently answered the boys myriad of questions and we all completed the tour much wiser and in awe of everything we had seen, including the rustic home scale chocolate factory.
No trip to a chocolate farm is complete without a tasting and Carlos duly treated us to everything from chocolate tea made from the nibs, chocolate fudge, an assortment of dark chocolate, chocolate rum and chocolate baileys. This was all before lunch, no hope of getting anything sensible down us or the boys after that lot!
We had the most amazing time and have bought a large stock of dark chocolate, chocolate tea and chocolate nibs to keep us going for awhile. The boys were very excited about finding somewhere to spend their pocket money. Happy crew! Huge thanks to Gary and Carlos for the amazing day. If you are in Bocas Del Toro, you must visit Green Acres Chocolate Farm, it’s a treasure and a delight.