Waking up to the blow of the conch horn at 7 A.M. may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee), but for us it signals the start of the day’s adventures. Scrambled eggs and papaya are the perfect fuel for treks through the Bocas del Toro rainforest and snorkels through the diverse marine habitats.

Once our drybags are stuffed to the brim with snorkel gear, mud boots, and copious amounts of trail mix, it’s time to pile in to the boat taxis alongside the friendly faces of our enthusiastic drivers. After the 15-minute ride through the breathtaking archipelago, Totito, Edward, and Filiberto dock the boat on Isla Solarte so we can split into groups and tackle our terrestrial and marine studies.

As one group of students and staff boats out to the day’s snorkel destination, the other half ventures into our biodiverse classroom. As we scribble observations into our field journals, it’s hard to miss the splash of the red Oophago pumilio poison dart frog. Lucky for us, our professors encourage us to catch and examine these beautiful little amphibians.

Meanwhile, with masks down and fins up, the other half of the group gets familiar with the nooks and crannies of our coral reef classroom. While our eyes are glued to the abundance of life below us, it is not uncommon to be ushered over for a hands-on experience with a sea cucumber or sand dollar urchin.

After a full morning of classes, it is necessary to unwind with a dip in the pool and a quick volleyball match before a lunch of arroz con pollo. Already covered in sweat, bug spray, and salt water, our day is just getting started!