Photo Credit: @juandediosphoto
'I Rented A Private Island In Panama And Invited My Friends For My 30th Birthday'
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘go big or go home,’ and BJ the Traveler did just that earlier this month on a private island in Panama. The Black expat decided that for his milestone birthday (October 13), he wanted to do something outside the travel norms. So, he rented a private island and invited a group of his closest friends, family, and IG fam.
BJ started the planning process early to ensure everything went off without a hitch for the actual event. It all started around this time last year. He initially wanted to visit the world’s largest cave, Hang Sơn Đoòng, in Vietnam, but COVID-19 restrictions quickly took that off the list.
“I’ve always been into competition and relay games since I was a kid, so I came up with the idea to host a Survivor-style competition, but the only question was where to do it,” BJ told Travel Noire. “I just knew I wanted to go abroad.”
He did a Google search for affordable private islands to rent, the key word being affordable. His research led him to Urraca Island in Panama. He reached out to the island’s owner, and the rest was history.
“I contacted her, and she was very accommodating. I saw that you could rent bungalows or the entire island if you had a large group. After walking her through my vision, she let me know that it was all possible to do.”
From there, BJ reached out to his closest friends, family, and even people he had only become friends with through IG. Like most people planning large group trips, he was worried that the group number would dwindle down once it was time to pay, but that wasn’t the case.
“When I sent out the message about the deposit back in March, everyone that I invited paid it on time. It was initially 14 of us, but literally days before we were set to fly out, Panama changed some of their entry rules, requiring travelers to be vaccinated or face a mandatory 10-day quarantine. So, a few people had to drop out. But it still ended up being 10 of us, which was perfect for our teams.”
BJ arrived a few days prior to his guests to finalize all the details. Travelers had to take 2 flights plus a 45-minute boat ride before arriving at the private island. But from the photos, it was well worth it.
Once everyone arrived, BJ went into bartender mode to help break the ice for those who didn’t know each other. The real fun would come on Day 2 when the Survivor games began.
“I had this long list of games that I wanted to play and in working with the owner, she even arranged transportation to a nearby island since Urraca is only the overwater bungalows surrounded by mangroves. There were some land relays that I wanted to do, and that required us going over to the other island.”
Games included, kayak relays, tug-a-war, volleyball, sack races, and more.
Along with the overwater bungalows, Urraca Private Island also arranged a chef and meals for the group— including daily 3-course dinners that included lobster and other fresh seafood.
Overall, BJ is happy with the outcome and said planning and getting everything arranged was pretty smooth. So much so, he’s already planning a part 2.
“It was just dope because people literally came as strangers and left as friends. We had real, genuine fun, and that’s not something you often see when people travel.”