Gatun Lake, Barro Colorado Island & Gatun Locks
From the Sea Voyager in Central America
After an exciting evening transiting the first set of locks, we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over the pristine waters of Gatun Lake, the waterway connecting the two great oceans and home to the oldest and world renowned tropical research station on Barro Colorado Island. One of the lead research biologists, Egbert Giles Leigh Jr., came aboard our vessel and gave an overview of the scientific research being done through the Smithsonian Research Institute there, and provided a lead-in to our morning outings – two different trails into the forest, or zodiac cruises along the coastline of the island.
As if a welcoming committee, four splendid keel-billed toucans sat high in the trees and chatted away as we made our way to the drop-off point with local research hiking guides. Ours had his particular interest and research in tropical ants, many of which are represented on this rich island. We were able to see first-hand the industrious leaf cutters, intimidating, large, and very poisonous bullet ants, as well as army and golden ant varieties. The Central American spider monkeys seemed to be getting their dose of “wellness” jostling with each other and demonstrating some super acrobatics while we tried to catch them with cameras and attentive eyes. The Zodiac riders had good views of howler monkeys, iguanas and the well-represented resident crocodiles in the bays and coves around the island. The long hikers were rewarded with a look at the largest specimen and grand dame of trees on the island and all of Panama, the cuipo, and a spotting of the bright red full breasted trogon bird.
Another steep walk up to the gift shop provided a unique shopping experience, helping support the research station as well as local artisans. Once back on board, we were served a lovely lunch of seafood and chicken paella in the lounge, so to continue our viewing through the canal and the Gatun locks ahead. A very satisfying day indeed, visiting a very important protected area and tropical research station, as well as learning more and seeing first-hand the marvel of engineering in the Panama Canal!
Susan Weber, Wellness Specialist, Sea Voyager