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Day 7 - October 18, 2008 - Granito De Oro, Isla De Coiba, Panama

By Robin L. Aiello, Marine Biologist & Ecotourism Specialist

What a fabulous morning! The clouds had cleared and the sun was shining as the Prince Albert II anchored off a small volcanic rock island called Granito de Oro (meaning: “small nugget of gold”). And what a treasure it was! It is a very small island that you could walk around in only a few minutes. One side was covered in volcanic boulders, while the other side was nothing but a beautiful white sand beach.

The transfer from ship to shore on the Zodiacs took only a few minutes. The guests smiled for joy as they stepped off the Zodiacs and their toes sunk into the soft white sand. They were amazed to see thousands of what they thought were small ‘pebbles’ on the beach moving – they were, in fact, small hermit crabs. There were thousands of these comical animals covering the beach! If disturbed, they would pull back into their shells and wait for danger to pass.

Robin West (divemaster) and I were waiting for the guests on the beach to help them get into the water and snorkel. Some of the guests took advantage of a one-on-one snorkel lesson with me before heading off on their own to explore this little reef.

The marine life underwater was spectacular! Most of the seafloor was covered in healthy bushy hard coral and small fish darted in all directions. There were thousands of black-striped sergeant major fish darting to and fro catching plankton from the water, while larger neon blue jacks (trevally) cruised past in the deeper water. Closer to the rocky headlands there were many colour reef fish to watch, including dark blue and white spotted pufferfish, bright yellow pufferfish, red checkerboard hawkfish, green and blue parrotfish, yellow and white butterflyfish and neon blue striped damselfish. Much to our delight, we even had a couple small white-tipped reef sharks cruise slowly beneath us along the fringes of the reef.

Other activities for the morning included sea kayaking, and some of the guests ventured off for a leisurely paddle around the island. As they glided smoothly over the surface of the calm seas, they were fascinated by the antics of the large majestic frigate birds gliding overhead.

After all this activity, it was wonderful to come back to the beach and just laze on the soft sand soaking up the sun.

We were back onboard the ship in time for the usual delicious lunch, which we enjoyed as the Prince Albert II sailed away from the lovely little island. Later in the afternoon, JJ, one of our naturalists, gave another fascinating lecture entitled “A Natural History of the Isthmus”. This lecture was a general overview of the Isthmus of Panama and Costa Rica, from the point of view of its unique geographical position and geomorphology and the reasons why it is one of the world’s most biodiverse areas.

After the lecture, and before dinner, we were invited to the Bridge for the Captain’s Cocktail Party. It was a beautiful evening for sailing and sharing stories form the day’s adventures as we drank colourful cocktails and watched the sun set.

Afterwards, the Expedition Team gave another entertaining Recap & Briefing. I showed the guests some of the underwater photographs that I took during the morning snorkel; Claire, our Archaeologist, spoke about the history of pirates in the region, including a couple of female pirates from the 18th century that roamed these seas on pirate ships - dressed like men and fully armed; and JJ, as always, gave us the most entertaining of Recaps about being a Zodiac driver and the four-page memo on the use of "Towels"!!!! By the end of his recap, he had all the guests rolling with laughter.

All in all, it was another fantastic day onboard the Prince Albert II.

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