Born in Canada and raised in Africa, Annick Belanger had no idea she would end up working in the tropical jungle of Bocas del Toro, Panama – one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world recognized by UNESCO.

After selling her restaurant and traveling the world for a few years, she told herself she had to create something to be extremely meaningful in life and be able to make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. Having witnessed her father changing thousands of people’s lives, she was at a point in her career where she too, wanted to do the same, in her own little way. Education is key for the creator of Sweet Bocas. Raised by a father whose vocation has been educating people all over the world for over 40 years and the founder of hundreds of vocational programs, she has made it her own mission and objective to give the community she is creating the most powerful tool anyone can ever have; education.

Throughout her life and ever since she was a little girl, creating has also always been very present but what she has always loved most and still does to this day, is to create environments in which people can live and feel a different and authentic experience. An unassuming host who loves to entertain, she thrives on creating environments where people feel good and authentic about themselves and are able to exchange their thoughts and ideas among others.

When visiting the surroundings where Sweet Bocas is located, it was love at first site. Because of her relationship with water and swimming having saved her life, but also because of the energy, aura and ambiance there was. It’s simply unexplainable. It’s one of these: “Have to live and experience it, to understand it”, kind of moment. She knew right then and there, this was going to be a place where she could definitely create something very special.

The villa is exactly the way she had envisioned it from the very beginning. The estate on the other hand, came about when she met a permaculture professor who told her in a nutshell that they could revive life to a complete organic and natural ecosystem in order for the community she was building to become self- sustaining.

However, in order to do that, there needed to be extensive excavation done to evaluate what materials were underneath the existing swamp connected to the villa with a 130 meter dock. That’s right, you read correctly, a swamp filled with ugly frogs and chitras!60 feet of depth later, they found layers of beautiful coral under rich black soil which they brought on top of it to create the earthworks over the course of 44 months. (see pictures of before and after below)

Once the earthworks were completed, it was  a matter of propagating plants and planting trees over the course of 36 months, hundreds of different native species as well as thousands of plants and trees were planted. Sweet Bocas now has its own fruit forest, vegetable gardens as well as a pond to cultivate fish and seafood and its own pristine fresh water reservoir which happens to be the second largest lake in the archipelago. 

One of our missions is what the founder of permaculture, Bill Mollison once said: “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter”.