Today’s expedition through the isthmus on National Geographic Quest started with groups traveling to the Rainforest Discovery Center and Barro Colorado Island, a monument to research in tropical ecology.
We experienced nature, landscapes, wildlife, and one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World as our expedition started, setting high expectations for the coming days. But there is no need to worry because Panama and Costa Rica offer a variety of experiences.
Barro Colorado is an island in the middle of the Panama Canal that formed from a hilltop after Gatun Lake was flooded to create a source of water for the canal. In 1923, the Smithsonian Institute founded the Research Station, which has been providing information on life in the tropics for 100 years. Some researchers joined us today to explore the trails and tell us about past and current projects.
Some guests traveled to the Rainforest Discovery Center to walk Pipeline Road towards the protected area and trails.
Among a wide variety of species, we observed two- and three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, agoutis, rufous and green kingfishers, scarlet-rumped caciques, cinnamon woodpeckers, blue-capped manakins, and white-necked jacobins. These observations made our day.
Pangas were our method of transportation to navigate inside the Panama Canal. We went around some of the islands and spotted green iguanas, the American crocodile (crocodilus acutus), howler monkeys, snail kites, a limpkin, and wattled jacanas exploring the surroundings. We also observed enormous vessels traversing the canal.
We went back to the ship and started our traditional recap. We talked about the photos we took and the natural history of some of the species observed. A discussion of climate change indicators created an awareness about the importance of protecting all that Mother Nature allowed us to discover. For example, the sex of crocodiles is determined by the temperature of the nest. Studies show an inverse relationship of males and females in some populations, which causes violent fights among males during the mating season. Global warming could be a leading cause of this stress.
The galley presented a Ceviche Fiesta on the sundeck as we started our transit through the locks of the Panama Canal. Yes! The same canal that was built over a century ago is still in full operation; it is one of the most important components of global trade. My respect to the builders for their legacy to the world!
It was an amazing day in beautiful Panama.