Isla Coiba National Park, Panama
The rumble of the anchor chain signaled our early morning arrival in Isla Coiba National Park, one of the largest marine parks in the world. Outside, flashes of lightening danced across the horizon, while thunder rolled slowly overhead. During breakfast, the tropical storm passed over us, and had mostly cleared, leaving only dramatic cloudy skies and a few raindrops behind for our morning’s exploration.
We began our expedition day with a landing at the rarely visited Isla Jicarita (“Little Gourd”). We found ourselves on a pristine beach, a classic tropical isle, lined with palm trees along the edge of the rainforest, looking across to Isla Jicaron (“Big Gourd”). Bromeliads, ferns, and orchids dotted the trees. Low tide had revealed a large area of tide pools to be explored. Any pause on the beach was punctuated by the skittering of hermit crabs. As we’d take a step, they’d duck inside their shells pulled down tight for cover.
As we reached our afternoon landing spot, on the diminutive Isla Granito de Oro, the “little grain of gold,” the water was twinkling with light as the sun slowly burned through the high clouds. Here we had both a lovely beach to explore as well as kayaking and snorkeling. While the name may be derived from the island’s small size, the underwater world may hold another meaning to the island’s name. Gardens of beautiful golden coral were full of a great variety of fishes. Snorkelers saw many classic reef fishes — king angelfish, Moorish idol, reef cornetfish, trumpetfish, puffers, damselfish, and parrotfish. Everyone was excited to see a white-tip reef shark patrolling the rocky edge.
Meanwhile, while others were peacefully paddling kayaks around the coast, hermit crabs were busy going about their business on the sandy shoreline. Endlessly entertaining, they were captivating to watch and photograph. It was a lovely day, and we all are looking forward to tomorrow, our first day in Costa Rica.