Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Day 6- Boquete and the Highlands

View of Panama City as we flew to the Chiriqui Province

We flew into David (Dah-Veed) on a local Panamanian airline and had incredible views of Panama City and the Boquete highlands. Lunch at a roadside cafe was an opportunity to experience the local cuisine of beans, rice, chicken, avocados, and plantains. Simple but hearty, delicious food! 

                               Lunch at a local roadside restaurant. Claudio made sure we tasted the local coffee.

From David we traveled to Boquete. Boquete (pronounced Bo-Kate-A) is in the Chiriqui Province. It is a small town located in the midst of mountains with crisp cool air and a mild temperature year long, one of the reasons it is such a popular retirement place for Americans. The town is also home to the world’s best specialty coffee, Geisha coffee, and both shade and sun grown coffees are grown throughout this highland region. We stopped at the Visitor Center to enjoy the view and check out the exhibit on coffee growing. 

On our way back to the bus, we spotted several coati mundi in the parking lot (Panama's version of raccoons). What could be funnier than a photo of Claudio taking a photo of Jim taking a photo of a coati!

The Valle Escondido Resort, Golf Club, and Spa was luxurious. We relaxed in the hammocks and put our feet up, swam in the pool, strolled through the exquisite gardens, imbibed with delicious mojitos made with local limes, drank the local beer, and were treated to gourmet cuisine. It was an afternoon and evening of complete and much needed relaxation.
     The Valle Escondido Resort
                                                   Putting our feet up in Bouquet!

We had a pre-dinner talk about Bees, Butterflies, and Biodiversity by a biologist who specializes in pollination and owns the coffee and honey farm we would be visiting the next day. 

Some of the points made during her talk were:

Why is biodiversity important? 
1.   Provide oxygen- large number of plants packed into a small space
2.   Regulate climate processes
3.   Breakdown wastes and recycle nutrients,
4.   Filter and purify water
5.   Buffer against flooding
6.   Maintain soil fertility
7.   Purify air
8.   Buffer for disease and natural disaster- ensure some survivors
9.   Provide natural resources
10.  Medicines and future medicines

Our knowledge of all the vast possibilities of the rain forest and how it contributes to human life is still relatively untapped.

Panama- only the size of Delaware with 11,484 known species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and vascular plants.

Because biodiversity is about variability- Panama wins big time! According to the Smithsonian, in species composition,  Panama’s tropical forests are greater over distance than in the Amazon.

Over 10,444 plant species including 1200 orchid varieties, 678 ferns, 1500 variety of trees. Such diversity of plants first depends on diversity of pollinators.

When the Isthmus of Panama was first formed just 3 million years ago, it closed the Atlantic from the Pacific, changed water currents (Gulf Stream) and thus climate, and accelerated evolutionary change.

Birds are a primary indicator of biodiversity and Panama takes the grand prize with 972 species, more than the US and Canada combined

More diverse honey production than anywhere in the world!Produces 40 different types of bio diverse honey from just one species of honeybee- and many more with other species!

75 species of native honeybees and many many more solitary bees.

Bees drive biodiversity. Each flower attracts a different type of bee. Half the pollinators of tropical plants are bees. Butterflies are the #2 pollinator. Panama is home to around 1500 species of butterflies.

Areas rich in butterflies and moths are rich in other invertebrates. They have been widely used by ecologists as model organisms to study the impact of habitat loss, fragmentation, and climate change.

After the talk it was time to hit the bar for local beer and some of the best mojitos I have ever had made with local limes (and no straws)! Glad to see Panama is working toward banning plastic straws, especially because of the impact on marine organisms there. We also saw signs throughout Panama asking people not to accept or use plastic bags, especially because of the impact on sea turtles in Panama not to mention how plastic blows around and creates unsightly litter even in the most pristine places. Hoping this becomes a world wide movement. Dinner was delicious and we all slept well that night!