Finally, chance to write about my Panamanian adventures…
First, I’d like to thank Richard Cattabiani from SUNY Ulster for providing me with the opportunity to join their Tropical Ecology course. I’d also like to thank Dr. David Lemmon for sharing his knowledge and experiences, as we worked with students and travelled around Panama. Moreover, David is responsible for organizing the trip, and ensuring that the students experience the biology, culture, and essence of Panama. Lastly, thank you to Roberto Medina for being an excellent naturalist and guide for our trip down there. Roberto is not only an amazing naturalist, but he’s also a stellar dude. For folks who wish to plan trips and tours in Panama, I recommend that you contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org (P.S. – Roberto was also featured and recommended in the latest Lonely Planet guide; you can pick up a copy, or get more contact details here).
In a nutshell – After an epic flight from LGA, with a transfer in Atlanta, and arrival in Panama city after midnight on January 3rd, we slept for a couple hours to a morning in Gamboa, which is situated along the Panama Canal. Our first three days consisted visits to national parks around Panama City, such as Parque Nacional Soberanía and Parque Nacional Chagres (the latter of which we visited an Embera village). We then travelled down to Pedasi, and spent the following day at Isla Iguana (with a stopover at a local rodeo). Aside from magnificent frigate birds, black iguanas, and Pacific coral reef, we were able to play a game of football with the Panamanian police, one of whom I managed to help re-injure his calf. Return to Gamboa, and prepared ourselves for an extensive tour. We left for the San Blas Islands, stopping off at Carti, Big Dog (Perro Grande) and Little Dog (Perro Pequeno) Islands, and mingling with the Kuna Yala. Then, was the trek to Chucanti – two days up, and two days down. Back down for an evening in Casco Viejo, and the bittersweet journey home.
We had a wonderful crew of students, and I suspect they may have become friends for life. The trip, not to be too cliche, was clearly transformational for many of us, and certainly one that I hope ESC can continuously be a part of in the future.
P.S. – we saw amazing biodiversity. I’m a terrible photographer, and hence have no great pictures of fauna. Also, in a flurry to pack my gear on the morning that we left, I brought the wrong camera lens, and suffered. Thank goodness for mobile devices – not for their ability to communicate with others, but for the resolution of their built-in cameras. I’ll have to ask the kids or David for some photos.
On the shores of Pedasi, overlooking Isla Iguana and magnificent frigate birds.
Isla Perro Granda – one of the 370+ islands in the San Blas Island archipelago, and home to the semi-autonymous Kuna Yala
Cloud forest atop Chucanti (~4800 meters), on the border of Panama and Darien provinces
Crossing the ridge, and overlooking the trek up to the summit of Chucanti
Fish market in Panama City. P.S. – they have excellent ceviche.
In Casco Viejo – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
There and back again – A biologist’s tale (jaded, but not broken from my trek up Chucanti and back down to the lodge)