… No, we don’t see the Hope Diamond, but we see and learn about something even more precious…
January 10th, 2013, Bocas del Toro, Panama
On a dinghy excursion near Saigon Bay, we pulled up at a nice dinghy dock and what looked like a dive shop. A security guard with a gun came scurrying over to us and explained that we had arrived at the Bocas del Toro Research Station of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
The Smithsonian has been active in Panama since 1923 when it founded a field station in the Canal Zone. The Bocas del Toro research station in now one of a series of tropical facilities run by the Smithsonian.
The security guard turned us away but told us we could return the next day at 3 pm for the visitors’ tour. This we did and enjoyed the tour very much.
The guide, Marlon, was a local boy who had gone to Panama City for university but was happy to return home and work public relations at the Institute. He did a very good job showing us around the facility. I’m sure he’s a big hit with the school children who are an important part of his outreach job.
However, the highlight of the trip was listening to one of the scientists (Dr. Candy Feller) describe her work on mangroves. We were all affected by her enthusiasm and knowledge and intelligence. (Almost made me homesick for academia.) Fifty percent of the world’s mangroves are gone; 35% have gone within the last 25 years! She also told us that shrimp farms are a particular cause of mangrove destruction.
There was some good animal spotting at the institute. We saw iguanas and monkeys and birds. Again, Pete proved to be the best wildlife photographer:
When our tour concluded, we confused everyone again by leaving via the “back door”, i.e. the dinghy dock instead of the main entrance on the road.
This is my last post about Panama. Next, we go to San Andrés, Colombia.