TCC field courses, and research and outreach programming, in Panama take place in the province of Bocas del Toro, and residing in Boca del Drago, Isla Colon. Boca del Drago is one of two main towns, the other being Bocas del Toro (aka Bocas), found on the north end of Isla Colón in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago.
This archipelago is found in the western Caribbean region of Panama, and is made up of six large forested islands with hundreds of small mangrove cays.
Coral reefs fringe these islands and the mainland coast of the Bocas del Toro province, giving it the second largest reef surface area of the Caribbean of Panama, and one of the largest in the Caribbean. While the closure of the Isthmus of Panama around 2.8 Ma gave way to the Great American Biotic Interchange as a land bridge between North and South America, it also interrupted ocean circulation in the Tethys Sea by creating a marine barrier, and giving rise to what we today call the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This unique history is represented in the diverse biota found on and around the islands in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, with some claiming it is the “Galapagos of Central America”.
Besides being biologically diverse, the region is also culturally diverse with a mix of Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous Ngöbe. Spanish is the official language but English is spoken. Many Ngöbe speak only their native dialect. The colonial history of this region is captured by Isla Colon, which is named after Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) who came to this region in 1502. Isla Colón is the most populated island in the archipelago, with the majority of people living in the town of Bocas del Toro on the south end of the island. There are only two roads on the island, both originating in the town of Bocas. One road travels along the eastern margin of the island to Bluff Beach and the other cuts through the island’s interior to Boca del Drago, where our facility is located.