Day 5 |
Oct 25, 2011

Isla Coiba National Park, Panama

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 07º35’34”, W 081º42’45”
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: 28ºC
Sea Temperature: 26ºC

This morning was one at sea, and taking into consideration the value of lecture time on this voyage, two presentations were scheduled. The first one by Patricia Silva was entitled “Birds in Human’s Life”. This informative lecture was for anyone who is aware of birds, and for those intrigued by the artistic forms that humanity has created around them. She provided our guests with some basic tools to allow the identification of different birds in the region, as well as some tidbits regarding their ecology and foraging strategies.

After a coffee break, Robin Aiello gathered our guests again in The Theatre for her “Not Just a Pretty Fish - Fish Shape, Form & Function”. This presentation was full of beautiful colourful photos of fish from around the world that demonstrate how fish shape is directly related to lifestyle - where they live, how they feed and what they eat. This talk was punctuated with fabulous, and often humorous, stories about Robin’s life amongst the fish and the amazing ways in which fish survive and reproduce.

Shortly after midday, the Silver Explorer dropped anchor at Isla Coiba National Park - one of my favourite stops in Panama - and the Expedition Team went to work. We had two different localities to ‘set up’ for the afternoon’s activities – firstly, we were offering a long 2-hour walk and a shorter 1-hour walk on Isla Coiba. This island was World Heritage Listed by UNESCO in 2005 for its unique flora and fauna – and untouched beauty. The reason that this island has remained so undisturbed for so many years is because it used to be a penal colony for Panama, and access was strictly limited. As a result, the animals and plants have flourished and there are many rare and endangered species that live here.

While the hikers were exploring the jungle, I was assisting with setting up the water activities on the nearby little island called Granito de Oro – translated as the “little nugget of gold”. This is a stunningly beautiful little oasis, with a quaint little white sand beach on one side, and a rocky headland on the other. You can actually walk all the way around the island in about 10 minutes. This was going to be our own personal beach haven for the entire afternoon. We were running a non-stop shuttle between the ship and the beach all day so that guests could come over to snorkel, lie on the beach or sea kayak whenever they wanted to.

I love watching the expressions of our guests when they first arrive at the beach. When they slide off the Zodiac and feel their feet sink into the soft sand, they always smile – it just feels so very good. But, there is another surprise waiting for them – the small ‘pebbles’ that are strewn all over the beach start to get up and walk around! These are, in fact, not pebbles at all, but small hermit crabs. There are thousands of them. So many, that it is impossible to walk without stepping on them, or standing with them crawling up between your toes (which always elicits a giggle from the toe’s owner!).

Hermit crabs are funny creatures – they have a regular crab’s head and claws, but the back end looks like a raisin. Because their have soft bodies, they must find something to protect them, so they use dead snail shells.

After a while we started picking up the hikers and bringing them back to the beach. Soon the beach was full with guests heading out to kayak and snorkel. The Hotel Department had set up a beach bar, which was a lot of fun. Robin Aiello took several people out on snorkel tours to see the amazing fish life! They saw large green and yellow parrotfish (males), yellow pufferfish, giant damselfish with their bright blue fins, sergeant major fish, triggerfish, long skinny cornetfish, and many, many more.

It was amazing how fast the time flew – and before I knew it we were packing up the gear and heading back to the ship to get ready for the Venetian Society Cocktail Party & Dinner.

The Party was wonderful - and our Venetian Society Representative on-board, Daniil, presented the top cruisers for this voyage.

A perfect finale to a perfect day.