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Day 12 - October 2, 2009 - Granito De Oro

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 07°35.597’N, 081°42.725’W
Weather: scattered clouds with a few showers
Air Temperature: 29°C
Sea Temperature: 28°C
Wind: 5 – 10 knots

It was another marine biologist’s day in heaven for me!

This time, we were on a small island called Granito de Oro (translated as “Little Grain of Gold”). Since the ship was only arriving at our destination at mid-morning, everyone had a nice slow morning with a relaxed breakfast in The Restaurant.

There were two options planned for the day. Firstly, the Expedition Team was setting up all water activities on the Granito de Oro – this was to remain open all day long for the guests to come as go as they wanted. This was going to be my location all day – heading up the snorkeling activities! We also had the sea kayaks onshore for anyone wanting a more enthusiastic activity.

The other activity was a guided walk up the well-known Monkey Trail at Isla de Coiba – a location just across from the operations at Granito de Oro. Hans-Peter (the botanist) and JJ (the birders) were the principal guides on these walks.

While the first group of walkers left the ship at 10:30, a handful of guests came across to the beach. This little beach is really gorgeous – a half-moon white sand beach covers one side of the island and the entire island is surrounded by turquoise blue waters. As we arrived off the Zodiacs, one of the first things to grab your attention was the thousands of small hermit crabs crawling on the beach. The sand was alive with the scurrying little animals. I had to giggle on occasion as I stood talking with guests and several of these little hermit crabs would crawl up and over and between my toes!

Since the tide was coming in, there was quite a strong current moving across the island, which actually allowed us to do some fantastic drift snorkels. We’d enter the water at one end of the beach, drift along the coral reef, and have Jarda, the Assistant Expedition Leader (who was in the safety boat) pick us up at the other end. She would then drop us back at the beginning and we would drift down again. This has got to be the most relaxing way to snorkel! Just float and watch all the beautiful fish pass by!

Later in the day, as the current slackened, we were able to snorkel around a cluster of rocks off to one side of the island. This is the best location for seeing fish. As one guest described it – it was “like fish soup”. There were fish of every shape, colour and size that you could imagine! We even saw a white tip reef shark that was patrolling the area.

While the small group of us enjoyed the morning on the beach, the majority of guests were exploring the tropical rainforest on the Monkey Trail across the way. JJ’s group was fortunate enough to have a few white-faced monkeys doing whatever it is that monkeys do (monkey-business?) near the shoreline. Then, they headed into the forest where they were able to hear heaps of tropical birds. Thanks to JJ’s sharp eyes, they spotted several species unique to the area, including a king vulture.

After lunch, many more guests showed up on the beach for the afternoon. Even the Hotel Department got into the spirit – setting up a portable bar on the beach with champagne, beer, mixed drinks and tropical fruit snacks.

Probably the most hilarious sights of the trip so far was that of the butlers, with full butler uniform from the waist up, but shorts on instead of long pants, wading into the ocean to serve the guests drinks! And, to top it all off, a friendly hawk, perched in the palm tree above us, sat watching all this fanfare from above. What a wonderful party atmosphere!

During the evening Recap & Briefing I showed a lot of the photos that I had taken during my 6 hours in the water with my little snap-and-shoot digital underwater camera and tried to identify as many of the fish as possible. JJ then reviewed the birds that his groups had seen on the walks, and Hans-Peter talked about the tagua palm and the jaguar plant. Robin finished off the night with a description of the activities at Casa Orquideas for the next day.

But, the day wasn’t over. After dinner we gathered in the Panorama Lounge for a game of Liar’s Club – a fun-filled night with plenty of humor and teasing. The idea of the game is that there is a panel of four Expedition Team members (of which I was one) that have a list of obscure words. Each panel member then gives his or her definition of the word, and the teams of guests have to choose which panel member is telling the truth. Some of the definitions were hilarious, with lots of jeering and jabbing between team members. It was a good laugh and a great way to end the day!

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