Exploration of the beautiful and diverse Bocas del Toro archipelago continues during our third program week. Besides visiting the locals in their communities and getting to know the forest on Solarte Island, we started to explore the coastal ecosystems which border the island at the interface of land and sea and continue underwater.

White and red mangroves border the coastline of Solarte; with the latter species extending its ‘prop roots’ well into the sea and thus creating a habitat for all kinds of associated organisms. Two species of seagrass are found underwater: turtle grass and manatee grass are right off the dock!

After an introduction to those important and interesting coastal ecosystems in the classroom and an exciting hike through the jungle, we stepped on board a small boat to explore the island’s diverse south side. The boat tour led us among numerous small mangrove islands which form part of the Bastimentos Marine National Park, which extends all the way to our neighboring island. Seagrass meadows in the shallow channels and along the coasts of Solarte are another major ecosystem which we will be exploring with mask and snorkel during the next few days.

At the end of our excursion, we tied the boat to a mooring line at the coral reef and put on our masks, snorkels, and fins. After hiking and exploring the surroundings of the island by boat, we jumped into the warm waters and took a look beneath the surface. Large coral heads, parrotfish and Caribbean Reef Squids made our day complete and gave students a first impression of what lies ahead to explore next week: coral reefs!