The family-owned Yandup Island Lodge is located on a private island across from the remote Playon Chico community on the Caribbean coastline of San Blas, Panama. The eco-lodge offers two tours a day: a visit to a beach on one of the archipelago's deserted islands and a cultural tour that connects guests to the local Kuna Yala indian community.
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Comarca Kuna Yala Fishermen
The Comarca Kuna Yala, also known as the San Blas Archipelago, is a remote group of nearly 400 islands strung along the Caribbean coast of north-eastern Panama. The Kuna Yala are a semi-autonomous Indian group who inhabit the area and most of their communities are only accessible by boat or plane. During our visit, it was not uncommon to see men paddling or sailing around the islands, searching for the best catch of the day.
Molas are cut-out textiles that are sewn as reverse-appliqués and worn as panels over the blouses of traditional Kuna Yala women after they have reached puberty.
While staying at the Yandup Lodge in San Blas, we had the opportunity to watch molas being constructed and learned how many of the designs are inspired by nature as shown in the bird and triangular leaf patterns above.
Yandup Island Lodge is located on a private island off the Caribbean coastline of San Blas, Panama. The lodge's electricity is supplied by entirely by solar panels. The homes at Playon Chico, the village community an island away, are also powered by individual solar panels mounted on poles. This method is helpful in a remote area that is only accessible by plane or multi-hour boat ride.
The Kuna Islanders that inhabit the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama, near Colombia, are said to be a bit reserved and certainly camera shy. I did not find that to be the case on my visit to the islands. I found the Kuna to be outgoing and very sociable. Although the Kuna did not partake in my group's consumption of alcohol, they did join in on our festivities and volunteered to have their photo taken with our empty bottles. They were quite amused with the image of themselves on the back of my camera. In addition to sharing their islands, we were fortunate enough to eat locally caught seafood that they prepared and to purchase their handmade, vibrantly colored molas. Molas are colorful, knitted squares featuring abstract forms of nature and ideology. I believe the key to a positive experience with the Kuna is to interact and even contribute to their livelihood through purchasing food and handicrafts from them, instead of simply enjoying the islands and overlooking the people that have lived there for centuries.