Panama, Day 6

Up until this point in the trip, all of our dives have been fairly close to shore, on fringing reefs generally within a quarter of a mile of land. Well that changed today, when we had the amazing opportunity to take a half hour boat ride offshore to dive a Cobia farm. This farm consisted of an octohedral shaped net (think two pyramids aligned base-to-base) that stretched a good 75′ tall, from 15′ feet at the mooring line to 90′ at the bottom, where a series of chains anchored it to 2-ton cement blocks at the ocean’s bottom, in 150-160′ of water. Inside the net were countless masses of Cobia, schooling around and feeding off a central support pillar–apparently over $1 million worth of fish were contained within that cage. We descended it in a ripping current and swell, crawled/slid down the top pyramid, then flipped over the side and descended, hand over hand, down the overhang of the bottom half–when we later watched the footage I had shot, Terrence remarked how we all looked like a group of howler monkeys descending down a massive jungle gym (it certainly felt that fun!) Our evening was spent relaxing after the strenuous (but thoroughly enjoyable) dive; at one point Ray, our go-to guy for just about everything at the hotel, produced a set of acoustic guitars and he, another student on the trip, and myself made our way through a series of songs, from Hotel California to Wish You Were Here, while other group members joined in on vocals and even bongo drums. Who knows, maybe at next Saturday’s live music night, the Tropical Ecology Class of Texas A&M might be playing a set or two for the patrons of this wonderful establishment!