Barro Colorado Island and the Gatun Locks

Nov 30, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Today, the last day of our journey, we woke up to the soothing call of howler monkeys and parrots as we anchored right in front of Barro Colorado Island’s (BCI) research facilities. Run by the Smithsonian Institute and formed by the creation of Lake Gatun during the construction of the Panama Canal, this 15-square-kilometer island is home to one of the oldest tropical research stations in the world. For more than 100 years, established in 1913, every year many scientists visit this living laboratory to study biology, ecology, evolution and animal behavior. We had the chance to explore it via Zodiac or walking the islands famous nature trails. Those of us, more birdwatching oriented, decided to take the third option, a visit to the Rainforest Discovery Center in Gamboa. The late afternoon and early evening, we spent crossing the last section of the Panama Canal, the Gatun Locks, which lead us into the Caribbean Sea.

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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

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

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