A LIVING FOSSIL
Camouflaged into the rocks, a closer look reveals a community of chitons. Found all around the world Chitons reside in the intertidal zone on rocks and tidal pools needing water for survival. They have changed little since they appeared during the Cambrian era approximately 550 million years ago; this was a period famed for an explosion of abundant and diverse life forms. Chitons have played an important part in our ecosystem cleaning rocks from coraline algae, diatoms and bacteria with their sharp teeth. So sharp, the teeth can scrape glass. These small marine mollusks are characterized by having 8 hard calcareous dorsal shell plates protecting their soft body. Although they look like a fossil, close observation will reveal them moving slowly. Chitons attach themselves to rocks so good that it would be near impossible to remove without hurting them, so don't try. The sea creature has primitive rock crystal eyes that can detect light and shapes.
THE BEST THINGS ARE OFTEN NOT PLANNED
Curiosity is how we discovered Cayo Paloma, one of the most beautiful islands I have ever visited. Heading back to Bocas del Toro from Escudo de Veraguas, this particular island stood out from all the ones we passed on our way back. Uninhabited, the island has a raw beauty to it. We explored the rocky edged coast, pristine and covered in tropical jungle with white sand beaches. On a small canoe a family, the only other humans. Time had not visited this island, it stood still, unchanged by man.
SEARCHING FOR DEPTH
We found enough depth to do some basic training here. We where going down 15 meters on one breath. It was our final training session and we would be done with the introductory freedive course. Swimming down and swimming up. Repeat. Each time the same delightful pleasure. The deep green water surrounds me and a glimmer of sunlight far above. I find peace in the most unusual of places: under the surface of the sea. While many are afraid of what lurks beneath, they must explore it to fall in love with its magic.
AN OASIS OF WATERFALLS, PALM TREES AND INTERTIDAL POOLS
A waterfall trickled down the rocks into a shallow pool that formed on one of the sides of the island. We all jumped out of the boat and swam to it. Small fish in between yellow corals contrasted with the greenish water. At the waterfall we discovered a kaleidoscope of colors. Multicolored rocks in shades of pink, orange, purple and red covered in Chitons, a fossil looking marine creature. Tall green palm trees surrounded the rock pool, we had discovered a beautiful island. Far from any civilization, I wondered how many had been here before us. Panama's beaches are rarely crowded, this is one of our luxuries. One can always find empty islands to enjoy nature at its purest and we had just been rewarded.