Otherwise known as Dolphin Bay, Laguna Bocatorito, formed by the east side of Isla Cristóbal and an odd-shaped peninsular blob that juts from the mainland, starts about 10 kilometers south of Isla Colón . A labyrinth of shallow channels formed by mangroves screens its northern entrance, helping to make it a kind of giant natural aquarium, six kilometers across at its widest.
Day trips to Laguna Bocatorito are popular because of the possibility of spotting bottle-nosed dolphins close up. The best chance of seeing them is from June to July, when rough seas drive them into the calm waters of the bay. They tend to hang around an unusually long time, which isn’t surprising when one considers what a smorgasbord the bay offers them: The mangroves act like a kind of net, drawing fish into the bay.
Sadly, I can no longer recommend this tour. It’s become too popular, and groups of boats now swarm around the dolphins, terrifying and sometimes hurting them.
If you must do this tour, only do so with a responsible, eco-oriented group like Ancon Expeditions (tel. 269-9414 or 269-9415, fax 264-3713, www.anconexpeditions.com ), which will keep a respectful distance. If your captain gets too close, don’t hesitate to speak up.
There are also three Ngöbe communities—Bocatorito, San Cristóbal, and Valle Escondido—on Isla Cristóbal, though as usual they don’t have much to see. There are also a couple of rustic places to eat.