What do 150 foot water slides, the only castle for sale in Central America and 2 guys from Calgary have in common? Bambuda. The Bambuda Lodge is your mid-range priced waterfront getaway from Bocas Town, yet still close to town and nestled in the jungle of Solarte in front of a massive reef and equipped with said 150 foot water slide. And the only castle for sale in Central America? More details on that shortly. Where did it all begin? This is the Bambuda story…
Tom Oman and Dan Adelman were childhood chums from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In 2013, Tom was finishing school and Dan a 3 year long tour around the world when they started thinking about how they wanted to live the rest of their lives. They decided they wanted to collaborate on something that would allow them to leave the cold Canadian winters and corporate rat race behind while building a lifestyle business around the idea of spending their time on this earth having as much fun as possible.
Dan had visited Bocas in May of 2013 and it stood out as the number one candidate for their new beginnings. He and Tom planned to convene in Bocas in September of that year. After many days of boat rides to a number of prospective locations with multiple realtors, they had all but given up on Bocas when they did one last Google search and stumbled on a property that happened to meet each one of their criteria: ocean front, great snorkeling reefs, in the jungle but close to town and a swimming pool. What the guys found on their computer screen would soon become their baby and so The Bambuda Lodge was born.
Tom and Dan thought it would be easy: borrow a bunch of money from a good friend for a non-refundable down payment on a property that required a bunch of remodeling experience they didn’t have, to open a hostel in a country they had barely visited, in a place they knew nobody, where they couldn’t speak the local language, all so they could start a new career in which something they had no experience. Bold moves, Bambuda boys.
The property had sat for over 3 years so when they first arrived, there were trees growing in the pool, rotten wood everywhere and plenty of remodeling to convert this private residence into a hostel with 22 dorm beds and 11 private rooms. The remodeling that they imagined would take 3 months actually took a year, but it was a learning experience they wouldn’t trade for the world. They soon got their crash courses in construction, plumbing and electric and learned the lay of the land. “A big part of it was getting to know the Bocas community and realizing how willing people are to help you out with little things. Perfect strangers; but it’s really kind of how the community operates. There’s not a lot of us out here. We’re all a bit isolated and everyone realizes its good to help each other out,” remembers Tom. So after 9 months of hard work and receiving good advice from their neighbors, they were ready to start receiving some guests. They officially opened 3 months later in December of 2014. It was then that Tom and Dan started refining the Bambuda concept.
The Calgary boys are seasoned travelers. Although they were new to hospitality management, through their travels they knew what worked and they knew what kind of accommodations they wanted to provide for their guests. To them, Bambuda has always been a “destination-accomodation”; a place where you can go that has everything you need and most importantly: you are there for more than your dorm bed. You are there for the experience. They sought to provide accommodations surrounded by the natural beauty of the outer islands but that was still close to town and affordable for the backpacker to mid-range budget traveler. They wanted to build an 150 water slide into the ocean and have really fun dinner parties every night. And that’s exactly what they did. All of that.
The communal dinners are a big part of the Bambuda experience. After a day of lounging at the pool or venturing out on the endless excursions that Bocas can offer you, Bambuda guests gather for a 7:30pm dinner. There are generally 4 options, all between $8-$14. The dinner parties are a great opportunity to get to know the other guests and often end in a bit of party. On any given night there could even be a group excursion planned- anything from Catamaran night cruises or a trip to the main island to enjoy Bocas’ bustling night life. There’s also a lot to do during the day if you don’t feel like going far. Aside from the pool, water slide and bar, you can kayak or paddle-board around the island of Solarte in about 2 hours, stopping at some of the best reefs in town and having some lunch and drinks at the Blue Coconut nearby. Even though Solarte is what many guests have described as an “untouched gem,” there are still over 9 miles of well-kept jungle trails for you to explore. But sorry, no day-trippers are allowed. The Bambuda Lodge amenities are for guests only (all the more reason to stay there!)
Stay tuned for Bambuda round 2. The boys divulged in the interview that a second Bambuda will be opening in nearby Boquete. They’re hoping it will be as epic as the first Bambuda and epic it most likely will be- considering it’s a castle on a hill over looking coffee plantations and the Baru Volcano. It happened to be the only castle for sale in Central America, so logically they bought it and are turning it into the Boquete Bambuda. It also comes equipped with a jacuzzi and indoor heated pool with a swim up bar. Stay updated on the two locations via their Facebook page “Bambuda Lodge” or Bambuda.net
Tom and Dan ought to be proud of themselves. They had a dream and it’s safe to say they’ve accomplished it thus far. Dan puts the whole experience in perspective: “The whole reason why Tom and I did the project was we had just decided about a way we wanted to live our lives. Bambuda is the manifestation of how we wanted to live our lives. We did this because we wanted to have fun.” Fun indeed. Fun times await you at Bambuda Lodge.