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Panama and Costa Rica Through the Senses


By Sherry Ott from Ottsworld.com 

Looking out on the horizon, my eyes focus on the water.  The Safari Voyager is moving stealthily through the waves, my hair blows in the wind, and I take a deep, long breath.  I was sitting on the bow and soaking in the start of my vacation. Even thought we were moving forward towards our destination for the day, my world was slowing down.  

As we approached land and we were getting ready to drop anchor, I looked at all of the trees. It was one big band of green that melted into the turquoise water. Green. It was as if I had just entered a world of green, or put on green-tinted glasses. I don’t ever recall seeing this much green before, or caring about it either. 

When time slows down, our senses speed up.  

I think that’s what my ‘green moment’ was all about; it was my senses speeding up after I let my body slow down.  It was such a great feeling of awareness though that I decided to try to experience my entire Panama and Costa Rica cruise through all of my senses.


Our first stop in Costa Rica was for hiking.  We split into groups and I made sure to be in a group with our visiting biologist, Victor.  UnCruise often has specialists they have brought aboard to further enhance the experience with a theme departure. Victor was a biologist from Costa Rica, and I knew he would be a wealth of information on our hike!

Sure enough, Victor’s ability to spot and identify things was incredible. We hiked through the lush vegetation, and suddenly he reached out and grabbed something off a leaf.  He had snatched a miniature frog about the size of his fingernail. As he held it in front of us, I kept wondering how he even saw it on the leaf!

Victor spotted howler monkeys in trees, spiders, raccoons, deer, and an unthinkable number of birds hidden in the trees.  Many times I couldn’t even spot them once he pointed them out to me.  

In addition to the animal sightings, Victor also introduced us to the incredible array of colorful flowers and fauna in the rainforest.  It was like a rainbow of flowers and orchids growing everywhere. Victor certainly was a big part of why the sights of Costa Rica for me were so exciting. 


It’s a good thing that UnCruise expeditions are full of adventures and activities because you will need to get exercise after tasting all of the delicious food on the ship! The food and drink started the moment we stepped on the ship when we were handed a glass of champagne and strawberries. Throughout the week we had fish, BBQ ribs, lamb, prime rib, and an inordinate amount of colorful, fresh vegetables. 

However, since I have a sweet tooth, I was most excited to learn that there was a pastry chef on board. Every morning Catie would bake up fresh bread, scones, rolls, or muffins and I couldn’t pass them up.  Really, does anything taste better than fresh baked goods? No. 

So be prepared that your tastebuds will be on overload during your time on the ship, and be sure to say yes when they offer a longer kayak or a ship-to-shore swim, because it means you can then have another delicious cinnamon roll. 


When you think of touch, you normally think of reaching out and touching something with your hands. However, as I stood on the beach watching the waves crash on the shore, the water rippled over my feet and I was suddenly very aware of the ocean water touching my feet. You spend a lot of time barefoot on this trip, so many of my sensations of touch were associated with my feet. 

One of my favorite things to do was simply stand ankle deep in the water. My feet sunk into the ocean floor giving me the feeling of sinking in quicksand.  And I loved every early morning spreading out my toes and grounding myself on the spongy yoga mat getting ready to do a balancing move. I learned that doing morning yoga on a moving ship takes a lot of foot/mat connection and core muscles!


Whenever we did excursions and lined up to take a skiff ride or go ashore, there was always a flurry of activity as everyone put on their PFDs, grabbed their snorkel gear, and lined up to listen for instructions from our expedition leader, Megan. Among all of that activity rose the smell of sunscreen. There’s something about the smell of sunscreen that triggers happiness in our brains, knowing fun must soon be on the horizon. For me the smell of sunscreen is associated with the beach, and that seemed fitting—when we did get off the ship, it was normally to go to the beach!  

Among that familiar smell of sunscreen you could also get whiffs of lemony citrus as people sprayed bug spray around their ankles. UnCruise graciously provides sunscreen and bug spray to all the passengers by placing big bottles of each out on the deck as we board the skiffs. The smell of sunscreen and bug spray just added to my excitement about our adventures to come. 


From the howling monkey that would send shivers through my spine to the sound of the anchor dropping, to the flag flapping in the wind, the cruise was an orchestra of sounds. However, it was the sounds of the Panama Canal that stuck with me the most.  

The "mules" that pulled the ships through the locks had a very specific hum to them. They are electric locomotive engines that controlled the process along the canal by ensuring the lateral position of the ship as it motored through. They even communicated with sound. Bells communicate with the canal pilot who is in charge of the ship's passage. After going through the first two locks, I knew that when I heard the now familiar ding, it meant that we were going to start slowly moving again. 

VIDEO Link – https://youtu.be/M8rXM17zhBE 


By focusing on traveling with my senses I think I was much more aware and had a deeper experience overall. It brought the countries to life for me. I know that whenever I put my feet on a yoga mat, smell bug spray, hear an electric engine, see a rainforest, or smell fresh baked muffins, it will trigger the memories of Panama and Costa Rica. And those are wonderful memories to relive over and over.

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