Navigating Toward Sustainability

Bocas del Toro takes a radical step toward protecting its marine wonders by empowering the conscious captains of the islands with valuable conservation knowledge.


After the Bocas del Toro archipelago was chosen as one of Mission Blue’s hope spots, the Bocas Hope Spot Coalition quickly obtained the necessary funding to pursue one of their main goals—education. Thanks to their dedicated efforts, the coalition was able to successfully organize and conduct the first-ever conscious boat captains course in Bocas del Toro; Boteros Conscientes.

The Bocas Hope Spot Coalition—a remarkable alliance formed by Mother of Corals, The School for Field Studies, Cacao Blessings, Kawi Voyage, Ankay Conservation, Caribbean Coral Restoration, Bocas Mariculture, Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Mar Alliance— marked a significant milestone in the preservation and sustainable management of the archipelago’s marine environment.

Paula Sills, Cristy Almendral, Krista Shoe, Dr. Cinda P Scott, Holly Hummel, Sophie Garcia

Left to right: Paula Sills, Cristy Almendral, Dr. Cinda P Scott, Krista Shoe, Holly Hummel, Sophie Garcia

The course was made available to captains in Bocas del Toro free of charge to ensure that boat drivers, regardless of their financial means, could access valuable training. The curriculum included two comprehensive modules, each focusing on different topics. Multiple sessions of both modules were conducted throughout the month of May for those who may have missed the course initially. Classes were held at the Palma Royale Hotel, providing a comfortable environment for the captains to learn and engage in the course material.

In the first module, captains learned about sustainability and how it relates to tourism. They also received specific guidance on how to interact with marine life, including dolphins. Omar Abrego, a captain at Ngabe Tours, explained that even though he had always tried to keep a safe distance from dolphins, the course further reinforced the importance of this practice. Last but not least, module one emphasized the importance of customer service as an integral part of creating exceptional tour experiences. The captains were trained to engage and educate tourists about the marine environment of Bocas del Toro.

Boteros Conscientes instructors, left to right: Gilberto Abrego, Krista Shoe, Dionicio Elington, Joanna Almendral and Erudipcia Odera

The second module included additional subjects such as marine protected areas, risks and emergencies, and the impacts of climate change. Through this complete training, participants gained a deeper understanding of the significance of preserving marine ecosystems, effectively managing potential risks, and mitigating the effects of climate change. The course served as a transformative educational experience, equipping boat drivers with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the waters of Bocas del Toro responsibly and sustainably.

Taught by passionate instructors and marine enthusiasts, the conscious boat drivers course empowered the participants to become ambassadors for change, both within the community and among visitors. Through interactive sessions, hands-on exercises, and insightful discussions, boat drivers and tour guides developed a profound appreciation for the importance of sustainable practices in protecting Bocas del Toro’s unique ecosystem.

Congratulations to the graduating Conscious Captains!

The course ended with an epic graduation ceremony in Buena Vista, where the air was filled with excitement and celebration. Graduates proudly received their well-deserved certificates, marking their dedication to becoming conscious boat drivers. And that’s not all—they were also equipped with a snazzy kit, complete with a first aid pack for any unexpected cuts or bruises, a bottle of vinegar to serve both as a remedy for jellyfish stings and cleaning agent for their boats, a whistle, reef-safe sunscreen and laminated notes with emergency contacts and handy tips for responsible boating.

QR code for boat captains for passengers to provide feedback

As an innovative approach to gathering feedback and promoting accountability, the captains were equipped with personalized QR codes. These QR codes will allow clients to conveniently rate their tour experiences, providing valuable insights for continual improvement and enabling a strong feedback loop between captains and tourists.

The Bocas Hope Spot coalition and Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue have left an indelible mark on the boat drivers of Bocas del Toro. Together, they are paving the way for a future where conscious boat captains play a vital role in preserving the archipelago. By empowering boat drivers with knowledge, skills, and a deep sense of responsibility, they are nurturing a community of conscious individuals dedicated to preserving the natural wonders of Bocas del Toro for generations to come.

Article by Nicole Ortiz

SUPPORT THESE CONSCIOUS CAPTAINS! Visit this page on Hope Spot Bocas del Toro website listing all of the graduates of the Boteros Conscientes courses. Looking for a tour or a water taxi? These are the guides and captains that have the knowledge and experience that will be navigating our community toward a more sustainable Bocas del Toro. Check out @hopespotbocasdeltoro on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated with this program.

To enroll in future Boteros Conscientes courses, contact +507 6555-9954. The next opportunity will be in October 2023.

Bocas Hope Spot members posing at Buena Vista restaurant in the the night time

Boteros Conscientes bocas del toro graduation ceremony with the captains taking pictures with their certificates and gifts for completing the course

Navagating Toward Sustainability - Boteros Conscientes




The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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