Sunday, 24 April 2016
Aboard MS Expedition: Survivor and the Panamanian pirate islands
Mogo Mogo and Chapera Islands, Archipiélago de Las Perlas (Pearl Islands)
Friday 22 April 2016
Well, it's easy enough to deduce the origin of the name since a mighty 32
carat number was produced from the molluscs who still inhabit these shallow
waters south of Panama.
But the islands are full of stories of intrigue and skulduggery even to this
day. Pirates of the like of the 17th Century English privateer, Henry
Morgan, operated in these waters during the English/Spanish conflict of the
time and would have almost certainly have used the Pearl Islands as a
hideout in between looting galleons and trashing Panama City.
Our activities were far more sedate. Zodiacs took guests ashore at both the
uninhabited Mogo Mogo and adjacent Chapera for swimming and lazing about.
The latter has been in the media in recent times for a number of reasons.
Many believe it was a drug staging point for the infamous Noriega prior to
his arrest by US authorities and soon after the island was purchased
outright by another drug baron, the Colombian Nelson Oriega. The figure of
1.5 million dollars was mentioned. He then built a sprawling beach house on
a point overlooking the two islands but had the entire package confiscated
after he annoyed someone in the Panamanian government. Oriega spent seven
years in prison on a hastily concocted money laundering charge and is
currently suing for the island's return.
Many will remember the island as the setting for one of the early 'Survivor'
TV Series and the producers of the evergreen reality TV show are currently
in the process of building a new set for a return installment. Our Zodiacs
stumbled on the crew at work and gained some unwelcome stares from the set
builders and their burly, shirtless security thugs. Secrecy would seem an
impossible task as the waters just offshore make a popular route for
yachties. That and the nearby populated island of Isla Contadora with its
many elite mansions would make the activity hard to conceal. So, you heard
it here first, Survivor returns to Panama! Location: 8.60, -79.03
* ex-pat expedition guide, Brandon, relives an episode of Survivor at Mogo
* The former drug lord's mansion on Chapera, now occupied by the Panamanian
* Dirty looks from Survivor TV series security as their new secret location
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