Bona & Otoque Islands / Panama Canal

Dec 13, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

After navigation around the Azuero Peninsula, National Geographic Quest dropped anchor in the choppy waters of the Panama Gulf, within the Archipelago of Otoque & Bona Islands. These waters are very rich in nutrients due to the upwelling effect that the north trade winds created as they blow the warm surface waters away, letting the cold nutrient deep waters to arise. These rich nutrient waters formed a whole sea life ecosystem by providing enough food for fish, dolphins, whales, and seabirds.

The explorations today were via Zodiac rides, no need for walking…all there was to see was flying. These islands’ isolation, lack of land predators and rich ocean waters are the perfect ingredients for an incredible number of seabirds. Their silhouettes were up in the clouds, overwhelmed the sight of our guests.

The slick arched wings of the magnificent frigate birds, with their red inflated gular pouches, were looking for a free lunch from the boobies. The chubby heavy body of the friendly brown pelicans was resting on the rocks or sitting on the water surface. How about the torpedo shape from the boobies, which dart their bodies at incredible speeds to reach depths of 40 feet!

The day was not just birds and islands, but also the magnificent Panama Canal crossing. Right after sunset while we were enjoying cocktails up on the sundeck, National Geographic Quest was making its way across the Pacific Locks.

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About the Author

Margrit Ulrich


Affectionately called "Machita" ("Blondie"), Margrit is one of our most cosmopolitan guides with a family that hailed from Switzerland, France, and Germany before settling in Costa Rica's capital city San José where she was born and raised. Hence she blends the well-organized, perfectionist, and detailed personality of a Swiss watch with the easiness and effervescent enthusiasm of a simple tropical girl.

About the Photographer

Joshua Hall


Joshua Hall was born in Panama City and raised in the highlands of the Chiriquí province.  He studied ecotourism at a university in Panama and is currently pursuing a degree in tourism business administration.  His love of nature can be attributed to a lot of time spent traveling with his mother, a nurse at the Social Security Hospital.  In 1983, a foundation called Abundant Life was created in Panama.  The foundation was made up of a group of doctors and nurses with a passion for helping those in need.  They were pioneers in going to communities in Chiriquí, sometimes hiking more than 12 miles, where they took medicine, meals, and other needed items, often opening up trails guided by the indigenous residents.  Joshua participated as a child with his mother and developed a love for nature, rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs and the indigenous communities of Panama.

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