Panama Canal and Barro Colorado Island

Mar 20, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

Our tropical journey, on board National Geographic Quest, began last night with the crossing of the first set of the Panama Canal Locks, the Gatun Locks on the Caribbean Sea side.  This first segment took us directly to Gatun Lake, formed by the damming of the Chagres River in 1923, which also created the first – and one of the three most productive – research stations in the Neotropics, Barro Colorado Island (BCI).  With segments that include part of the mainland, BCI is nowadays declared a Natural Monument, and we got the chance to explore this amazing site three ways: a walk on the mainland site known as the Discovery Center, another one on the original island, or via a Zodiac cruise, exploring the island’s edge.  Whatever we chose to do, we were rewarded with great sights of various animals like black throated and slaty-tailed trogons, spectacled owls, golden-orbed spiders, howler and white-throated capuchin monkeys and many more.  This is just the beginning of our week’s journey through Panama and Costa Rica.

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About the Author

Maguil Céspedes


Although Maguil was born in San Jose, he was raised in the countryside of Costa Rica, and it was this experience that provided him with a deep knowledge of and a profound love for the rural life of Central America.  It was this passion for nature that led Maguil to study biology at the University of Costa Rica, where he received his master’s degree in 2002. His thesis explored the genetic structure of big leaf mahogany, an endangered species of tree that is commercially extinct in much of Central America.

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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