Paradise Won!
Jinja Island Boathouse

Paradise Won!

Case and I were picked up by Ian in the morning on his little blue and white speedboat, the Sea Nile, a 1970s Luger – hilariously carpeted, as were all things in the 1970s.

Ian even let me drive!
Ian even let me drive!

Ian gave me a go on the run over to the his island… sorry, MY island… at least for a year… welcome welcome to Jinja Island.

Jinja Island Boat House
My first garage!
Jinja Island House
My First House!!
My first garden!!!
My first garden!!!
Jinja Island From The Air
My first island!!!!

No sooner had we dropped off our bags than we were whisked over to Jean’s place in Dolphin Bay (around the back of Jinja) for lunch. Jean’s a local guy with a lovely palapa-style restaurant which sits out on the water… inspiration for Jinja, methinks!


The burgers were bigger than Casey’s head.

Now THAT'S a burger.
Now THAT’S a burger.

That night we chilled in the warmth of our new home. Ian and Vanessa were good enough to give us the master bedroom while they slept on the couches downstairs.

Jinja Island at Twilight
Night night Jinja Island 🙂

The next day, the initiation began in earnest. Ian showed Case and I around the island, explaining how to maintain everything – the solar set-up, the water system, the composting toilet (that’ll have to go).

Jinja Island Wine Delivery
The wine can stay.

Sunday we went to Rana Azul – a little restaurant hidden away in nearby Terra Obscura bay – something of a weekly tradition for the ex-pats around these parts. On the way we met Ernie from the episode of New Lives in The Wild featuring Ian’s island. Once at Rana, Case and I learnt how to make cocktails as we would be replacing Vanessa and serving in the bar come next week. We met the regulars – Bill and Janis, Jane and Peter, Tony and Marilyn, Linda and Wayne, Cathy, Lyn, Axel, Captain Ron, Captain Ray… and of course Joseph, the Austrian guy who runs the place.

The Rana Azul Massive
The Rana Azul Massive

Then it was back to Jinja. Ian and Vanessa stayed at Bill and Janis’s for the night, giving Case and I our first night alone on the island. An island!!! This is mental.

Graham and Casey
I’m grinning a bit much there, aren’t I?

The next day I started work – I had a crazy idea that it might be intelligent to remove the many tree stumps that littered the island. It would be a few months later that I would discover that the tree stumps kinda keep the soil together – it would be better to just dump soil all around them. But hey-ho, I was having fun with my pick-axe.

Okay, I'll admit to being a bit crazy.
Okay, I’ll admit to being a bit crazy.

Case meanwhile was busy befriending Campesino, the surprisingly well-trained island dog, and the nine chickens that would be our early morning alarm clocks for the next year.

Casey and Campesino

Ian and Vanessa left the country on the Tuesday… and thus Jinja Island was born.

Jinja Island Hammock Heaven
Shall we hammock now or hammock later?

Case and I spent the next week getting to grips with our new environment – the chickens, the geckos, the exotic birds, the boat, the long trek to town, the VHF radio network (our secret codename is BEN 63), Dolphin Bay… it was a steep learning curve. Casey made a lot of smoothies.

Cos she's a barmaid now, for some reason.
Cos she’s a barmaid now, for some reason.

It would be less than a fortnight when we got our first proper deluge – the weather here is either sunny or monsoon, with little in between. I made a mental note to buy some willies.

Jinja doing its best impression of Venice.
Jinja doing its best impression of Venice.

We then scooted off to Rana Azul to serve some drinks.

Would you like ice with that?
Would you like ice with that?

That week we got to see just some of the spectacular sunsets that Bocas is famous for.


We marvelled at the bananas growing out the back, and fell in love with the baby coconuts and the tiny geckos running all over the shop.

All our geckos are called Gordon.

All our geckos are called Gordon.

They're so CUTE!!
Baby coconuts! They’re so CUTE!!

I cracked on with my anti-tree stump campaign afterward we chilled on the hammocks.

Casey on Hammock
Stop! Hammock Time!!

It had only been a few weeks before we got our first visitors – Ed and his buddies. Ed was a friend of a friend who was travelling through Bocas. It was a bit of a panic to be honest, we had barely got to grips with the place, and here we had four people descending on us… six people in a house that’s about right for two.

CouchSurfing Jinja Island
Our first CouchSurfers!!

But they were a good bunch, they introduced us to Cards Against Humanity (which will be a running theme throughout the year) and we drank a good amount of alcohol.

We also took them to our “local”

At the end of the month we were invited to fellow Brit-Gringos Peter and Jane’s place at Split Hill, 10km south of Jinja.

"Neighbours... everybody needs good neighbours..."
“Neighbours… everybody needs good neighbours…”

We caught a lift there with Bill and Janis, our wonderful neighbours from the US who have kinda adopted us. They’re like the coolest neighbours EVER. We love them.


It’s a great little community down here in Bocas Del Toro. I like it. I think I’ll stay.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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