While researching our Panama trip, I came across the Biomuseo, Panama’s biodiversity museum. Although it wasn’t on the itinerary for our first tour day, we asked Saul, our driver to take us there after visiting the Panama Canal. Situated along the Amador Causeway, with stunning views of the bay, the museum is a delight to view and to visit.
This building is the only one designed by Frank Gehry, the renowned architect (think Guggenheim in Bilboa, the Walt Disney Concert in LA, or the Millennium Park in Chicago), in all of Latin America. The museum was opened in 2014 and is easily accessed from the Panama Canal area. With metal rooftops that are brightly colored and very inviting, the central atrium is open and airy, allowing amazing ventilation with great views of the water and the skyline across. The galleries themselves were the brainchild of Bruce Mau.
The area that is today known as Panama evolved over three million years ago, creating a connection between North and South America. This divided the Atlantic and Pacific oceans over time, changing oceanic current patterns, temperatures and climates. It allowed for the migration of animals from the North to the South and vice versa, allowing for some to survive and others to perish. It also created a land that is amazingly diverse in its flora and fauna.
As with everywhere in the world, several different species of animals, birds and plants are slowly becoming endangered or extinct. Despite its massive biodiversity, Panama is no different. The main concept of this museum is to educate people about the evolution of Panama as a land mass, its geographic influence, biodiversity, fragility and what we can do to protect and preserve our environment.
The opening galleries talk about ecosystems and their interdependence. There is a large wall gallery featuring species that are either thriving, endangered or facing extinction (The Biodiversity gallery). Further ahead, a whole gallery is dedicated to the Earth before the existence of Panama (a vast ocean between two separate continents), the subsequent development of the land bridge that is Panama, and how its evolution has changed the Earth as we know it (The Bridge emerges).
The Great Exchange features 72 life-size animal sculptures representing the mass migration between the two connected continents. I thoroughly enjoyed this room as it felt full of life and gave a glimpse into what has gone before. But what we, as a family, enjoyed the most was the short film on Panamanian ecosystems called Panamarama. With ten large screens covering us on three sides and above, the film just swept us away with its color, the beauty and the sights and sounds of nature! We lay on the floor, stretched out, allowing all our senses to be captivated and enthralled.
There are restrooms and a small cafe elsewhere on the premises. I was glad we went after lunch as it gave us respite from the afternoon sun. We used the free audio guides in English for detailed explanation of the galleries.
Here are some photos from our visit to the Biomuseo. In my opinion, a few hours spent here during your next trip to Panama are well worth the effort. Read more about the Biomuseo here.