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Exploring Panama's Diverse Marine Biology


Jackie Hedgpeth, Marine Biology Theme Host

My first journey to the Panama Canal was in December 1997. I was on a medium sized cruise ship providing lectures on the history and construction of the Panama Canal. I was also the Naturalist giving presentations on the marine ecosystems of the two oceans and the plants and animals of the tropical rainforest.

Jackie Hedgpeth

I have made several trips to Panama since that time and have witnessed the changes, growth and development during these past years. I have also championed the concerns for ecological management and protection of the vast and diverse marine and terrestrial environments in Panama.

Scuba diving in Panama

The Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean offer two very different marine ecosystems which I am excited to explain and explore with the guests sailing with me on the Marine Biology theme cruise aboard the Safari Voyager on July 28, 2017.

The snorkeling and kayaking adventures will afford us a firsthand look into the interactions of the organisms that inhabit these different marine biomes!

Guna Yala Islands Panama

I am especially excited about the snorkeling in the islands of Guna Yala, as this is one of the most pristine places in Panama.

Schools of colorful reef fish, soft and hard corals, rays on the sandy bottom and several types of sea turtles are just a few of the creatures to see.

Snorkeling in the Guna Yala Islands, Panama

These species all benefit from the nearby mangrove swamps and lagoons which serve as reproductive and protective locations for many reef inhabitants.

When we transit the Panama Canal, we will have the opportunity to observe the freshwater ecosystems of the Chagres River and Lake Gatun, with its diverse cast of characters such as birds, reptiles and fish.

When we enter the Pacific Ocean upon exiting the Panama Canal, we’ll immediately see the dark blue water from the deep drop-offs punctuated by several volcanic formations.

Panama Canal

These formations are covered with coral outcrops which serve as the home for butterflyfish, angelfish and parrotfish as well as over 700 other fish which must keep a watch out for cruising reef sharks and other pelagic predators.

Other frequently sighted fauna may be humpback whales, orca, dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays, and maybe even a sailfish!

I can’t wait to hop on the Safari Endeavour and explore Panama. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on July 28!

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