I wake to the sound of rain. Palm fronds brush against my window pane as the sweet, dewey dawn breeze breathes new life into my still slumbering room. I slowly come to my senses: savoring first the scents of the jungle. Citronella, trod and moistened by precipitation; hibiscus, blooming into sugary perfume; earth, fertile and rich with all the elements necessary for the formation of life: all of these component parts come together to form a wild, naturalistic sensation pulling me deep into the adrenaline soaked rain-forest. 

Thus energized I slowly ease my eyes open and see… nothing. Darkness still clings to the trees’ branches. It is cut only by the silvered dawn mist. 

With this nascent illumination I begin to be able to see my hand when I stretch it out before me and so I tune into the cool morning air, so delightfully full of moisture, seeming to wash over me like the icy waves of the Atlantic. As the Sun grows so too do the loons’ cries wafting across grey, morning mangroves. 

Today I leave the comfort of this tropical island, with its lack of predators and constant yearly temperature and head to the mainland, the heart of northern Panama. I have been assured that we will not be seeing Jaguar which leaves me somewhat relieved although I must admit a slight disappointment at not seeing these nocturnal hunters. 

Rays of morning sun are just starting to crest the horizon as I step off the pagoda-style dock onto the fiberglass hull of the lodge’s luxurious fishing vessel. This VIP experience is a far cry from my previous nautical journeys aboard the local lumber boat which is itself carved from a single, massive tree-trunk and somehow powered by a 50cc motor.

We take off at full speed toward the rising sun. The water has taken on a rosy hue, the entirety of the calm bay is transfused by warm light. Salt spray strikes my raised face. A feeling of vigorous joy fills my being as  wind whips across the bow pointed toward silhouetted peaks. 

We arrive in Almirante just as the light transitions from rose to gold. This sleepy fishing village sleeps still, only smoke rising from stone chimneys indicates the presence of other human beings. Water buffalo graze in fields of long swamp-grass and frigate birds cry hunting calls as they begin their daily search for fish in the shallow bay. 

We board a van which advertises air-conditioning, comfortable seats, wi-fi, and drinks with the addition of an inexplicable advertisement decal which holds the silhouette of a woman and reads “sexy”. This confuses me even further as the driver’s door opens to display a balding, middle-aged Panamanian man. Sexy? Maybe. As advertised? Not so much.

Confusing decals are soon forgotten as we begin our journey deep into the mountains. We arrive at a waterfall rushing from the rocky heights to land at the green carpeted forest floor. I pause, trapped by the majesty of these raging, crystalline waters. As I stand, watching, a slight movement captures my eye. I look closer at the purple flowers bordering the falls. There lies a seeming impossibility, a butterfly, but with wings completely transparent. I see kaleidoscopic greens and purples and blues through this lens and marvel at its size and ability to blend completely into its surrounds. It’s iridescent blue body seems to shimmer as the light changes combining perfectly with the ever-shifting jungle canopy. 

After re-boarding the bus we continue on empty roads to a reservoir wreathed in mist. In the distance forested mountains climb high and a silvered sliver of Caribbean waters is just visible on the horizon.

My companions are entirely absorbed by the great variety of song-birds and raptors constantly present in the skies above us. I am interested but cannot even attempt to take my eyes from this perfect vista.

Costa Rica has little claim to Latin American perfection when compared to the wild beauty of Northern Panama.      


  • Daniel Taliaferro Dickinson
  • : Language is my obsession. I recently graduated with a BA in Linguistics and plan on continuing this study of language and its systems throughout the rest of my life. I speak Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian and love traveling to any destination possible. I enjoy documenting these experiences as well as meeting new people and learning about their lives and philosophies. I find writing and Arabic calligraphy to be perfect creative outlets and am constantly on the hunt for a career based in these disciplines.
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  • : This is the first time this story has been published.