Barro Colorado Island and Gatun Locks

Jan 11, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Today we woke up in the middle of Lake Gatun, looking at one of the most important research stations in the tropics, Barro Colorado Island.

For almost a century this place has been preserved to further the understanding of tropical rainforests and take samples and inventory of plants, birds, mammals, soil, and all the components that form the tropical rainforest.

We took our guests on different hikes and Zodiac cruises around the island, and nature rewarded our guests with some good wildlife sightings.

Howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, American crocodiles basking on the shorelines of the island, and many tropical birds were spotted around the perimeter of this spectacular place.

In the afternoon, after a great lunch onboard, we sailed to the anchorage point and got in the line to cross the Panama Canal. We got lucky to do a daylight crossing as we shared the locks chamber with a vessel almost the same size as us.

Seeing the Panama Canal, and the Panamanians running the waterway, is one of the most interesting feats to appreciate and we were able to see the new locks receiving the Neo Panamax vessel carrying twice more cargo than the vessels over the original locks.

We descended the three chambers on Gatun Locks 85 feet down to the Caribbean Sea.

Moreover, we put an end to a great week in Panama and Costa Rica. 

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About the Author

Gabriel Ortiz


Gabriel grew up in the outskirts of Panama City and became member of the Panama Eco tourism family back in 2007.  He has led many expeditions in Central America and South America working as a naturalist.  His expertise in natural history has inspired travelers to understand and appreciate travel to the neotropics, an area he considers a gift, as one of the most productive parts of the planet with vast arrays of traits and interactions among species.

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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