From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Panama
Dec 20, 2010 - National Geographic Sea Lion
Islands of the Gulf of Panama, Panama
A light mist greeted us this morning on the National Geographic Sea Lion as we anchored off a small group of islands in the Bay of Panama. Having sailed 22 miles from Panama City, we entered the Gulf of Panama which contains hundreds of islands. The trade winds here push away the surface water, allowing cold nutrient-rich waters to rise to the surface providing an abundant food supply for marine birds. The islands have few predators making them an ideal location for large colonies of nesting seabirds.
After breakfast, the skies lightened and we went off in Zodiacs to explore these lush islets. The variety of birds was amazing! Male magnificent frigate birds had their bright red gular pouches inflated, a behavior that is part of their mating ritual. Frigatebirds, also known as “pirates of the ocean”, maneuver to steal food from others. Their feathers do not have adequate oil, keeping them from getting in the water and never underwater. Brown and blue-footed boobies, white downy brown booby chicks, turkey and black vultures, belted king fishers, brown pelicans and spotted sand pipers were all seen. Spotted sunning themselves on the rocky cliffs were Sally Lightfoot crabs and green iguanas. What a beautiful morning!
We had our first opportunity on this trip to swim in the Pacific Ocean, and it was wonderfully refreshing. Many of our younger guests enjoyed boogie boarding and body surfing, while the rest of us walked on the beautiful sandy beach on Otoque Island. Here, we discovered thousands of tiny hermit crabs scurrying about and following the turtle tracks coming out of the sea to their nesting areas.
After lunch, we started navigating our way another 150 miles up the coast to our next destination, Coiba Island National Park. Sunny warm weather and calm seas enticed us to sit out on the sundeck and relax, enjoying the lazy afternoon. We sailed around the Azuero peninsula, one of the oldest peninsulas (geologically speaking) in Panama while Naturalist, Margrit Ulrich, gave a talk on “biodiversity of the tropics”. We had a delicious dinner to end our fun-filled day.