Sunday, September 13, 2009

Isla Paridita -- The Lost Island of Baru

OK...I didn’t exactly get videos of humpback whales breaching out of the water, but I did hear a very satisfied male humpback from Antarctica groaning after coupling with his girlfriend. Yes, Isla Paridita and Kristin Rasmussen (the research whale biologist who was our guide) provided high adventure for 2 nights & 3 days. After meeting Sandy and Dan Shepherd from Boquete (who joined Pauline & I), we left Boca Chica at 11 a.m. on the small boat named “Baru” (after Panama’s tallest mountain/volcano). Pauline & I planted ourselves on the front of the boat (our favorite spot) to enjoy the 40 minute ride to the Island. From the moment we stepped onto the white sand beach we were certain this was paradise. Isla Paridita (125 acres with 5 beaches) is the only island in Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park where accommodations are provided. We got settled into our Swiss-Family-Robinson style palapa on the beach then went for a walk with Jeff (the host extraordinaire of Isla Paridita). What a lovely island... complete with 2 lagoons, 2 kayaks and loads of hiking trails. After our hike, we showered in hot water while overlooking the ocean. And them I saw them... 3 humpback whales! They were very close to our palapa and appeared to be a cow, calf and one lone male (a distance from the cow and calf). They were playing (especially the calf)... smashing tails (also called flukes) and pectoral fins into the water and generally having a good time. We had a lovely dinner that included roosterfish (somewhat tough like sword fish), rice and veggies. The next morning (9/9/09...hard to forget that date) we left on Kristin's whale research boat about 8:00 a.m. and headed toward Isla Ladronas (Thieves Island). Very soon, Kristin dropped her hydrophone into the ocean, and we heard the lovely songs of male humpbacks (only the males sing). We saw a total of 9 whales throughout the day (the group previous to us saw 21 whales!). Often we followed whale "footprints" (slick circles on the water where whales dive) or looked for iridescent blue pectoral fins. Humpback whale pectoral fins are usually white and 1/3 the length of the body (the longest appendages in the animal kingdom). I found it very odd that pectoral fins turn iridescent blue when they are just under the surface of the blue Pacific ocean. After watching and recording whales for 5 hours, we stopped at Isla Gamez for swimming and lunch. A rainy, tropical storm was brewing, so we headed back to Isla Paridita and hot showers. What a fabulous trip! We returned to Boca Chica and Playa La Barqueta the next day. I can't wait until I return to the island with my next "company".
Footnote: The three lovely whale pictures at the top of this blog were taken on our trip by Kristin with her mega telephoto lens (thanks for sharing your pictures, Kristin).

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