Barro Colorado is a fascinating place, and it made our final day on board National Geographic Quest quite memorable. Our journey began in Cartagena six days ago, and we finished by exploring two important sides of the canal.

Barro Colorado is an artificial island created during the construction of the Panama Canal. The island’s isolated habitat has made it very important for ecological research. During the last 100 years the island has provided important scientific data, contributing to the understanding of biodiversity in the tropics and the connection of all life that lives there. National Geographic Quest is the only vessel with permission to drop anchor in front of the island. Our guests had the opportunity to explore the island and walk the different trails it offers.

In the morning, our first group visited an area in the central part of the Panama Canal called Gamboa. The rest of the group went to the island for various activities; some guests enjoyed walks into the rainforest, while others took Zodiac cruises around the island and spotted some of the wildlife. During the walk we discussed the mycorrhiza in the tree roots; this topic was very well explained by one of our local guides, Nathalie. Her PhD thesis was based on the process of how the plants acquire the fungus, the genetics involved, and how that helps them grow. We also spotted various animals such as howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and spider monkeys — some in large troops of fifty individuals.

After this amazing walk we returned to the ship to finish our transit through the canal and then anchored in Balboa.