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Get the NatGeo Lowdown on Travel in Central America

Article Summary:

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Geographic (NatGeo) presented “Go Blue Central America,” an interactive map on the internet designed to promote tourism in the Isthmus. Bocas del Toro, Panama and Roatan, Honduras make up the guide’s first two destinations. Visitors to NatGeo’s site will encounter firsthand descriptions on visiting and discovering featured spots.

Photo Credit: NatGeo

Original Article Text From NatGeo:

Go Blue Central America-NatGeo GeoTourism Map Guide

About Bocas del Toro, Panama
The Bocas del Toro Archipelago is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea in northwest Panama. The archipelago remains relatively undeveloped; Isla Colón is the only island with any roads or vehicles. This leaves visitors to enjoy the clean air, the sound of the waves, and the exotic noises of the jungle—home to monkeys, sloths, toucans, and a spectacular variety of medicinal plants and exotic fruits.

The sea is also full of life. Elusive manatees, endangered sea turtles, playful dolphins and vivid reefs fill the waters of the region. The opportunities for diving and snorkeling are endless, and the waves crashing over these reefs draw surfers from across the globe. The Bastimentos National Park encompasses one part of Bastimentos island and the Zapatilla Cayes. This park includes rich mangroves and over 57 different coral species.

Bocas´ remoteness means that unique species have emerged – such as the emblematic poison dart frogs, whose jewel-like skins have evolved into different colors on each island and the mainland. Likewise, the region’s diverse cultures – from the indigenous Ngöbe and Naso, to the Afro-Caribbeans and Latinos – have retained their own languages, beliefs, and customs through the centuries, isolated as they are by water and impenetrable jungle.

The province of Bocas del Toro used to be home to a number of banana plantations operated by the United Fruit Company. Many buildings in Bocas del Toro reflect the rich history of Bocas del Toro, such as Hotel Bahia (the former headquarters of the United Fruit Company). There are many aspects of cultural life in Bocas del Toro that are of interest for tourists—such as local festivals, performing and creative arts, cuisine, and local handicrafts. In Bocas Town, restaurants and bars provide cultural entertainment in terms of music and dancing, and a wide variety of lodging, from backpacker hostels to high-end eco-resorts.

About Roatán, Honduras
Roatán is the largest and most popular of the Bay Islands in Honduras. About 64 kilometers (40 miles) long and just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide at its widest point, the island is surrounded by over 97 kilometers (60 miles) of living reef, making it a paradise for divers and snorkelers. Part of the world’s second largest barrier reef system, Roatán’s waters are teeming with colorful coral and marine life. Dozens of world-class diving and snorkeling sites are accessible from idyllic beaches around the island and through numerous tour operators, primarily located in West End village.

Today, tourism has overtaken commercial fishing as Roatán’s top industry with an increasing number of cruise ship passengers, a large second home market, and diving enthusiasts. Roatán is also a popular stop on the traditional Central America backpacker route.

The main strip of the island is the coastal beach town of West End which also doubles as the islands main tourism hub and its center for diving. West End features a wide variety of bars and restaurants ranging from Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Argentinian, Mexican, American, Jamaican, Honduran and local island style cuisine. Because of these various different cultures West End offers some of the best dining, not only on Roatán but Central America as well.

Roatán is also home to the Roatán Marine Park (RMP) is a grass roots, community-based, non-profit organization located on Roatan. The organization was formed in January 2005 when a group of concerned dive operators and local businesses united in an effort to protect Roatán’s fragile coral reefs. Initially, the RMP’s goal was to run a patrol program within the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR), to prevent over exploitation through unsustainable fishing practices. Over time, the organization expanded the scope of their environmental efforts through the addition of other programs to protect Roataán’s natural resources, including patrols and infrastructure, education, conservation and public awareness.

English is the first language of all native islanders regardless of race and Spanish is spoken second, whereas mainland Honduras is primarily Spanish speaking. It remains this way because of the islands past as a British colony as well as all islanders being the descendants of the British Isles.

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From NatGeo

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