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.
National Geographic Quest
I love my country. I love its people and food and more than anything else, its natural resources. After 29 years as a guide for Central America, especially Costa Rica and Panama, traveling widely around the world with the work I do (I am also a tropical biologist), the Osa Peninsula is my uncontested favorite. Not a single time in my life have I come here and not be wowed by its lush forest, green waters, blue mountains and unmatched biodiversity. Our itinerary was split between two destinations: This morning we disembarked onto Caletas Bay, owned by our friend Banbam (Enrique), and in the afternoon we went to one of the Estacion San Pedrillo ranger station. Choices this morning: A wonderful horseback ride to Rio Claro, a two-mile hike to Agujitas River, a longer paced hike through the forested trails of Caletas Wildlife Refuge, or a casual tour of the wildlife refuge’s gardens. We loved all, coming back with unforgettable wildlife sightings, including a mother three-toed sloth with her baby, a bird eating snake straight from the trail, and a lot of bird sightings such as riverside wrens and black-hooded antshrikes. With the afternoon came the icing on the cake: Corcovado National Park. Again, more opportunities: walking the longer, more strenuous trail to the San Pedrillo Waterfall, and a waterhole to come with it or the Pargo River trail to explore the lowland forests. What a way to finish our trip! From army ants, to basilisks, to pale-billed woodpeckers, howler-, spider- and white-throated capuchin monkeys, to the very scarcely seen Central American Tapir. We could not have asked for a better last day in our trip, and an amazing way to say farewell to Central America, for the time being.