Barro Colorado Island and the Panama Canal

Feb 02, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

On the last day of our Central American Journey, the National Geographic Quest anchored right in front of the research facilities of Barro Colorado Island inside the Gatun Lake.  Turned into an island when the lake was formed to create the Canal, BCI as it is most popularly known, is one of the most important Neotropical research stations.  Anything from phenology, ecology, ethology, entomology and many more branches of biology are studied within its few square meters.  Since 1923, the island has been run by the Smithsonian Institute, as a means to learn about the tropics.  Many famous scientists have walked the same trails we walked today.  We could do three things, walk the BCIs trails, take a last Zodiac ride along the lake or visit the Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre on mainland.  Whatever outing we took, we all came back with good sightings and fun stories. 

Later in the afternoon with our third pilot on board, we headed to the final section of the Canal crossing.  We moved from the middle of the lake towards the northern exit of the Gatun locks.  Three sets of locks awaited to finally descend into the Caribbean Sea.  A splendid way to end our trip, conquering one of the wonders of the modern world.   

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About the Author

Isabel Salas Vindas


Isa Salas is a Costa Rica born biologist, who loves her country and teaching about it.  Known for her professionalism and experience in the field of animal behavior, Isa earned her master's degree in biology from the University of Costa Rica, where she also engaged in research for the chemistry and biology departments. Isa has carried out specialized projects on mantled howler monkeys for Costa Rica’s National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio), and is one of the country’s experts on howler monkey sexual and social behavior. 

About the Photographer

Carlos Calvo Obando

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Carlos is a freelance wildlife photographer and photography instructor from Costa Rica. Passionate about travel and education, he also works as a certified naturalist guide on the beaches, jungles, and mountains of that beautiful tropical paradise. With 20 years of experience leading groups and making images and portraits of Costa Rican creatures and landscapes, he loves to share his knowledge and tricks with enthusiasm, simplicity, and a good sense of humor.

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