River Tubing in Santa Fe

It's a good thing we met a guy with a go pro because if there weren't pictures of this you wouldn't believe it...or at least you might not believe that I tubed down a river in the middle of panama, or that I let my kids do it.

The lonely planet guide says that at a local swimming hole a guy named William rents inner tubes and life jackets, which "allow you to float idly down the river". Because it is the rainy season...and it stormed last night pretty hard...there was absolutely nothing idle about this float.

I am a little more anxious than most, and preparing to get in the river was no exception. The kids were super excited....

The current was very fast, and although I don't know anything about rapids, Luis thinks they were class 2 rapids. We got all of the survival instructions in Spanish...while I can last that I can get around a country with my simple Spanish, I wasn't prepared to translate how to survive the rapids in an inner tube. Luckily we have met a cool family, a father traveling with his nephew and daughter, who are Dutch but the dad speaks fluent Spanish because he has lived here for 14 years. So we had that going for us anyway.

Wedged into a large tube, not knowing what the hell I was getting myself into, we launched ourselves off the river bank.

I am not kidding when I say we had to dodge rocks. Well we didn't actually doge them, more like ricochet off them and slam into another one, spin 360, shoot backwards into the next rapids....don't forget to lift your bum up or it will get whacked into a rock.

Launching into the next rapids area, I got turned around and so was heading backwards into rough water..the thing I was most worried about was slamming my helmetless skull into a boulder I wouldn't even see comming. I know what a pinball feels like.

Speaking of seeing...William had my glasses in a waterproof bag because they definitely would have fallen off in this river. I couldn't see a damn thing really, and I most defiantly could not see my children. We were all quite separated, in fact there was no way to hold on to each other.

It's probably a blessing that I couldn't see....because then I couldn't see when Maya fell out of her tube. She fell out of her tube in a swift river in panama. She fell out. She. Fell. Out.

Since William was close behind her he grabbed her and they caught up to her tube somehow. Like I said, I didn't see a thing. I only came upon the scene after it happened and they were standing closer to the bank catching their breath. I didn't know how scary that was for her until the end when we came ashore and got into a waiting taxi and she said "wow, that was really fun, but my heart is still racing from when I fell out of my tube!"

Jack said it was awesome and wanted to do it again. Maya said she'd do it again, but not today. As for me, I wouldn't do it again because I think we got lucky once, and we might not get lucky again. Excuse me while I take some Tylenol. My bum is starting to ache from slamming it into submerged boulders.


  1. OMG Polly! I read this, all along saying OMG, OMG, laughing and crying at the same time! The thought of doing that in a tube is scary enough, but without glasses.....Oh. My. God!

  2. After getting mor of the story from maya I realize how lucky she was ....when she fell off her tube the guide came past her and told her to grab onto him. She did, but slipped and went under his tube getting a little stuck and had to swim her way out from under it in the swift river. When I came upon them they all looked cool as a cucumber. Now I know she was a little in shock.