First Impressions of SFS Panama

Posted: February 14, 2013

Flying into the Bocas del Toro Province was truly breathtaking. I had never seen such lush green forest islands adjacent to beautiful turquoise water. After a week my excitement has only grown as the history of the region and incredible biodiversity were unveiled through interactions with the local people and the incredible staff. I’m sure this experience will provide me with amazing opportunities and the skills to fulfill my personal goals over the next three months as well as my long term career-oriented dreams. – Nathan Freedman (University of Connecticut)

After departing crowded and busy Panama City, descending down upon the hundreds of small islands and turquoise waters of Bocas del Toro was like a breath of fresh air. The station here is perfect for what we’ll be doing over the next three months; set on a hilltop in a tropical rainforest and only a fifteen minute walk from one of the best snorkeling spots in the region, the biodiversity in the immediate area is inspiring. But the best part of the program is our courageous friend Morris, our pet cat who protects us from the local armadillos. – Jeff Baldock (University of Washington, Seattle)

Our first week in Bocas del Toro has been completely mesmerizing. Our field station is equipped with odorless composting toilettes, rainwater collectors, grey water evaporation fields, and furniture made from local wood. Fifteen minutes away is a small cove with translucent waters, teaming with more colorful flora and fauna then I could ever have imagined. When homework involves snorkeling through these waters to identify the organisms you’re living around for three months, you can’t help but be excited when you get up in the morning. – Niko Alexandre (Vassar College)

So far, Panama is more amazing than I could have ever imagined.  We spent the first two days in Panama City before taking our flight to Bocas del Toro. When making the descent, you could see islands scattered across the ocean like freckles, and the fact that we’re about to spend a semester surrounded by tropical rainforests, coral reefs, and a new culture became reality. After a taxi from the airport, a water taxi across the ocean, and a hike up the trail, surrounded by mango trees and coconut palms, we finally arrived to our new home, Isla Solarte. It has only been one week since my arrival in Panama, but I have seen and learned so many things already. From classes so far consisting of hikes through the rainforest, snorkeling by mangroves and coral reefs, and nights sitting down by the docks and looking at all the stars, life on Solarte is pretty neat. Hasta luego!  – Nina Rembert (University of Wisconsin-Madison)