SFS Panama is an interesting program because the students really get to know their professors by doing pretty much everything together. In the early morning everyone staggers sleepily into the dining area for breakfast. Once everyone has finished their banana pancakes and their fresh cup of coffee, it is time for the day to begin.

If we are not getting in a boat taxi for one of our many field trips, we are gathering our notebooks for a lecture in our classroom over the water. These lectures prepare us for what we are about to go study in the field. Our trips into the field are accompanied by two fantastic boat drivers, Totito and Eduardo, who can navigate the area with their eyes closed (but don’t, of course!). We have learned that when taking these boat rides you do not stick your hand in the water while the boat is moving because you will splash Totito; also, make sure to grab a seat in the back so you can hang out with his rad dog, Patacon.

The recent trip to beautiful Isla Zapatillas incorporated three of our five classes during our time in the field. For the first half of the trip, we were split into two groups. One group followed a boardwalk through the rainforest, while the other group explored the coral reef in snorkel gear.

After everyone had done both excursions, it was time to eat our packed lunches in the rainforest next to the beach. The second half of our day was spent interviewing any English-speakers we could find to learn about tourism on this small island, surrounded by a marine protected area. Once we learned about why people came to Zapatillas, we got a chance to be tourists ourselves.

Eventually, the day wound down to an end and we packed up for our boat ride back to the Center. With a small amount of time before a wonderful dinner prepared by Dama, Susie, and Marga, a soccer sesh took place as it often does. After dinner the rest of the time is open for us to do what we want.

→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Panama