From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Costa Rica and Panama
Jan 3, 2013 - National Geographic Sea Lion
Gulf of Panama Islets and Canal Transit
Today we woke up ready to admire and explore the deepness of the Golfo de Panama, in which we would get to see two islands: Bona and Otoque. Although small, they store within a beautiful seasonal forest of various shades of green, brilliantly colored yellow flowers and many cacti covering the steep rocks that rise against the bright blue sky. Just at the entrance of the islands, we could see a great amount of seabirds flying everywhere and mixing with each other in a very graceful manner.
Almost to the end of our trip it seems there are still so many things to look for in the luxuriant Panamanian forest. Frigatebirds, brown boobies, blue-footed boobies and brown pelicans suddenly surrounded our Zodiacs; all of them brought in by the enormously rich waters of the Gulf, which in turn store schools of fish, calamari and crabs that make the birds´ diet. Soon we find out interesting facts about those species, like their way of nesting upon the rocky mounds and how each species has different behavior. Frigatebirds, driven by their magnificent wingspan and great ability to calibrate precise movements across the ocean, are heavy harassers of boobies, who at the same time try to escape from their vicious neighbors. Sudden flashes of red act as a ¨macho-man¨ signal when male frigatebirds inflate their pouches in order to attract the female into their territory.
Brown pelicans seem to go with the flow, and from time to time they scoop fish around the busy crowd of seabirds. Brown boobies are spotted more often than the blue-footed boobies; the latter don’t have the same bright coloration as those found in the Galápagos Islands. Some iguanas were also spotted, just laying on the top of the mounds hoping to capture the sunlight to warm their cold-blooded reptile bodies.
After a light lunch it was time to get a glimpse of Taboga Island or, as people on the ship like to call it, “Erasmo´s Island,” where our hotel manager Erasmo is from. Old-time architecture, tropical colors, ornamental flowers covering each corner along the street and the second-oldest church in the Americas comprise this little fisherman´s town. The entire environment seems to have survived the passing of time and nourishes the visitor with religious images of virgins and Catholic symbols. It was then a moment of culture and human contact.
We weighed anchor, and suddenly on the horizon the marvelous man-made Canal de Panamá appeared. It is one of the highlights of the day and we will dedicate our time to cross through its set of locks, starting at Miraflores Lock. The shared history of the United States and Panama is conveyed in this intricate piece of engineering. Now is the moment to stand facing towards the development of one of the greatest treasures of Panama and just enjoy this important learning experience as we contemplate the very modern Panama City as well as the Americas Bridge in the distance.