Startup Nomad Interview with Marcella Chamorro

This week’s Startup Nomad interview is with Marcella Chamorro, the Founder of The Perpetual Vacation and Devise. Marcella grew up in the United States but comes from a Nicaraguan family and has since returned to the small, Central American country to live and build her businesses.

Check out her interview and let me know your thoughts below.

Catamaran Sailing from Colombia to Panama

It’s the final week of my suggested travel bucket list for you ūüôĀ Not to worry though, I’ve still been traveling and I will have some more posts for you as well as some tips for how to make the most of your travel and how to get the best travel deals.

Anyway, back to the bucket list. In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

This week I’ll talk about¬†sailing from Colombia to Panama on a catamaran.

Instead of flying back to Panama to wrap up my journey at the end of last year, I decided to sail there on a 52′ catamaran from Cartagena, Colombia. The journey was 5 days and took us through open ocean as well as through the San Blas islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama.

For more details and info about how to do it yourself, check out my original post about the experience and take a look at this video of the journey:

Superman Zip-lining in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest

Continuing on with my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had and would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about¬†the¬†Zip-lining in Costa Rica’s cloud forest.

Zip-lining in Costa Rica is a pretty well-known activity for visitors to the Central American country, deservedly so. There are tons of options for you to take a zip-lining tour and you can do it as a single activity or combine it with other tours. Basically, you head up into the rainforest, get strapped into a harness, and fly through the canopy of the rainforest. Not only is it fun to whiz across the zip-line itself, but also you’ll get some great views of the rainforest from up above.

I did a post on this earlier in the Where in the World? blog, which you can check out here for a bit more detail on exactly what I did. You can also watch the video of it here:

One thing that’s important to note, however, is that you want to be sure to choose a tour that offers the “superman,” because this isn’t offered on all of the tours and it’s one of the coolest experiences. This is when you are strapped into a special harness that allows you to be on your stomach in a superman position as you zip through the canopy and it’s the closest thing to feeling like flying that I have ever experienced (though I have never sky-dived or used one of those flying suits, but this works for the fainter of heart).

Sailing from Colombia to Panama

While I am an avid traveler and am pretty relaxed about most of traveling’s annoyances, sometimes I hit the wall and cannot deal with another airport. That’s how I felt when it was time to leave Colombia to head back to Panama so, instead of a quick flight, I opted for a 5 day sailing aboard a 52′ catamaran and stopping in the San Blas Islands.

The first time I was in Panama I heard quite a bit about San Blas but never made it out there and, as a former cruise ship worker, I love being out on the open ocean so I thought the sailing would be a great way to see the islands while giving me a welcome break from the airport.

I booked through¬†http://colombiapanamasailing.com/¬†aboard the Santana and then headed off to Cartagena to meet the ship. Now, I am not a backpacker but this was a backpackers’ sailing so it was quite a bit more rugged than I am used to but I had an amazing time. While I was sailing solo, I especially recommend it for couples as the open ocean and sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous and romantic. The living quarters are cramped and there is nothing to do but enjoy the view, swim, tan, and snorkel so be sure to bring a good book, but if you like the water you will have a fabulous time relaxing on this trip because you are completed disconnected.

You start in Cartagena and meet the boat’s captain and the other passengers the day before you set sail. Then your journey begins with 2 days of sailing before you arrive in the San Blas islands and get to swim, snorkel, and explore a number of different islands in the area as well as a ship-wreck. The last morning you’re up early and dropped off in Puerto Lindo where you can catch a bus to Panama City.

Check out the video below to get a quick taste of the ship and the sailing:


 

Jungle Land Panama Tour with Captain Carl

The Jungle Land Panama tour I did with Captain Carl was the highlight of my time in Panama. I 100% recommend it to anyone visiting Panama. I was picked up by a shuttle in Panama City and taken out to the boat dock about 45 minutes away. From there we jetted out into the Panama Canal where we got to see ships, tug boats, dredges, and a host of other machines and activities related to the Canal’s operations and all pointed out and explained to us by Captain Carl – the owner of Jungle Land Panama and our tour guide for the day.

After we left the main Canal waterway we explored into the jungle learning about some of the native (and surprisingly not native) flora and fauna from Captain Carl and even stopping to feed some wild monkeys!¬†As you all know, I’ve been traveling in Latin America for quite some time now and before I took this tour with Jungle Land Panama I had been in Central America for nearly two months and was just a few days away from heading to South America. If any of you have done research on vacationing in Costa Rica or Panama you know that everyone talks about the abundant monkey population and how unafraid of humans they are. Well, with t-minus 4 days and counting until I left, I had yet to see any monkeys until I took this tour and THANK GOODNESS this tour changed all of that!

I know this video is a little bit long but that’s just because there was a ton of amazing stuff on this tour so please watch it to the end to make sure you see all of the cool animals you can meet and fun activities you can do if you ever make it to Panama and do this tour.

Eventually, we arrived at the floating lodge where we got to feed another type of monkey and then enjoyed our own tasty and satisfying local lunch including free non-alcoholic beverages and $1 beer and wine. The lodge is literally built on a dock floating in Gatun Lake but with a slightly separated area that Carl claims is free of crocodiles and other critters that might eat you alive while you’re swimming. The top floor has a host of hammocks and an area where you can lay out and enjoy the sun or take pictures of the jungle and lake. The middle floor hosts the eating area and some of the overnight rooms and the bottom floor has the bathrooms and equipment for water activities.

After lunch we were given the option of a kayaking tour, fishing in the lake, or just relaxing at the lodge – none of which cost any extra. I opted for the kayaking and we ventured deeper into the jungle and eventually made it to a secluded waterfall where we could jump off the edge into the water below. After the activities we hung out a bit more at the lodge, met a few more animals (which you’ll see in the video) and then headed back to civilization.

All in all this was an amazing tour and I would definitely do it again.

 

 

The Panama Canal

Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal
Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal

Of course, anyone who goes to Panama has to visit the Panama Canal. Located within Panama City itself, the Miraflores Lock is probably the most visited and that’s where I headed one of my first few days in Panama.

Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal
Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal

The Miraflores Lock isn’t right in the downtown – it’s out near the Ciudad del Saber or City of Knowledge but can be reached on your own if you have a rental car, by public bus (I’m not sure which bus, I just saw the bus stop), the Hop-on-Hop-off bus, or in a taxi. You’ll have to purchase tickets before entering and you can choose to visit just the observation deck or visit the observation deck plus the Panama Canal Museum and watch a movie about the Canal’s history and construction. It was unclear what the price of each section was because each sign I saw showed different prices for the various combinations (Panamanian vs. foreigner and observation only vs. observation and museum and movie) and when we actually purchased our tickets the total price didn’t match up with any of the signs. My friend and I paid a total of $5 for one Panamanian and one foreigner entry to the observation deck only (at all of the tourist attractions in Panama foreigners will pay quite a bit more than Panamanians).

Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal
Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal

I got lucky and was there while some ships were passing through so I was able to see the changing of water levels and the opening of the lock system’s gates. An employee explains over the loudspeaker what’s going on and a little bit about the history and operations of the Canal (in English and Spanish) while the whole process takes place.

Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal
Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal

While it wasn’t the most exciting tourist attraction I’ve ever seen, it was fun and worthwhile and something you should definitely do if you make it to Panama City.

Panama Startup Overview

I had a fabulous time in Costa Rica but I have to keep moving along on my journey through Latin America’s startup hubs so next I am headed to Panama City, Panama.

Panama is very unique within Latin America in that it is the home to the Panama Canal – key to international maritime trade because it connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the isthmus of Panama saving ships the hassle, time, and expense of traveling all the way around South America. The Canal was operated by the United States for nearly 100 years, so Panama uses the U.S. dollar – a distinct difference between it and the rest of Latin America. Additionally, the city’s feel and culture have a visible U.S. influence and the country is well-accustomed to international business people and investors. It’s also a central travel hub throughout the rest of Latin America and into the United States.

While it seems like the atmosphere is ripe for a startup hub, I honestly didn’t find all that much going on (if you feel otherwise, please respond and let me know why). Searching for meetups and activities I could only find 1 startup group and it didn’t appear to be all that active. Speaking with entrepreneurs in the space I was told that the climate is more competitive than collaborative and that nepotism is a force to be reckoned with.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor¬†(which has only kept stats on Panama since 2009), entrepreneurship was starting to tick up a bit from 2009-2011, but it’s since started declining again. Take a look at the graphs below to get a feel for what’s going on in Panama versus the United States:

Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA)
Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA): Percentage of 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business.
Established Business Ownership Rate
Established Business Ownership Rate: Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently owner-manager of an established business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than 42 months.

¬†Next week we’ll jump into the interviews with entrepreneurs to hear their takes on what the entrepreneurial ecosystem is like in Panama City.

Isla Tortuga – Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica I stayed in the capital city of San Jose, which is not on the water. However, since Costa Rica is known for its beaches, I did take a few trips out to the Pacific coast to see what it had to offer. One of those trips was a visit to Tortuga Island.

Those who want to visit Tortuga Island, which is a small, semi-private island where you can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, bird-watching, or just lounging on the beach should take a ferry or a catamaran from Puntarenas. You’ll have to book this as a day tour and you’ll be provided lunch on the island by your ship’s staff. The lunch and a few tickets for basic drinks are included. Alcohol and any of the other activities like kayaking and snorkeling will cost you extra and I recommend trying to haggle with the activities vendors.

Having worked on cruise ships, I’m a little hard to impress so I wasn’t swept away by the entertainment or the beach’s beauty, but it was definitely an enjoyable day and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to have some leisure time and see beyond Jaco or Puntarenas.

You can check out the ferry ride and the island in the video below: