Dec 23, 2012 - National Geographic Sea Lion
Barro Colorado & Panama Canal
This morning the National Geographic Sea Lion anchored off of Barro Colorado Island in Gatun Lake, one of the largest manmade lakes in the world.
As our Zodiacs approached this important biological reserve, managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, we saw a troop of howler monkeys in the trees in front of us. The island is home to 110 species of mammals, 118 species of trees, and 136 species of plants. This incredible amount of diversity in only 5,000 square acres attracts scientists and graduate students from all over the world. They observe animals at night by setting up special cameras, and have photographed pumas and jaguars in this way. They swim to the island for a visit, but are not permanent residents.
As we walked along the trails we marveled at the beauty of this second growth forest and were lucky to discover many of the creatures living here.
Watching howler monkeys swinging from branch to branch and even seeing a female with a baby clinging to her back was great. We had an exciting spotting of a rarely seen monkey, the small Geoffroy’s tamarin. Another tree branch held an anteater and as he woke up and looked down at us, camera shutters clicked rapidly. Seeing a bright red bird against the green trees, we learned that it was the beautiful slated tailed trogan.
Looking downward we watched a millipede crawl along the ground and also saw a long line of army ants. Our BCI guide informed us that sometimes you can come visit this dense tropical forest and don’t see much activity and we realized that we were very fortunate today.
After lunch our Panamanian pilot boarded our ship and we began our south bound transit towards the Pacific Ocean. We went through the Culebra Cut, the narrow, rocky section that proved to be an extremely difficult and dangerous area in the building of the Panama Canal. Pedro Miguel was our first set of locks and we watched as land handlers secured ropes to keep us in the center of the locks. Our last set of locks were the Miraflores locks and we were lowered a total of 85 feet to sea level. The skyline of Panama City could be seen in the distance. We had successfully completed the transit of the Panama Canal!