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Discover the Panama Canal from a Unique Point of View

The Bridge of the Americas signals our arrival at the Panama Canal, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic, this waterway has been a key conduit for international maritime trade since it was completed in 1914. As we approach, be out on deck or up on the Bridge to witness the distant silhouette of Panama City, with its modern skyscrapers, as it replaces the vista of tall rainforest trees. We’ll hold our position as the canal pilot boards. His job is to navigate the vessel through the series of locks, come wind, fog, or rainy season. It’s a challenging, delicate job in one of the busiest waterways in the world, where ships come in close proximity to each other and to the walls of the lock chambers. Millions of gallons of water power our transit—no pumps, just gravity. Get Inspired By Photos, Videos, Webinars, Stories, And Exclusive Offers. Sign Up


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As we cruise through to the Miraflores Locks, the Centennial Bridge frames the entrance to the Gaillard Cut. Though the construction of the canal began as a French project, it was overtaken and completed by the U.S. in 1914. Thousands of workers, innovative engineering technology, and sheer force of will created one of the greatest engineering marvels of the last century. The Panama Canal has since been expanded in a project finalized in 2016, making room for larger vessels carrying more cargo, known as Neo Panamax ships. Experience a piece of human history at work as we traverse this storied passage connecting two oceans.

Technically the canal itself was a masterpiece in design and construction. From the time they were first put to use the locks performed perfectly.
—David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal: Aboard National Geographic Quest


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A One-of-a-Kind Canal Transit Followed by Panama

Sailing through the canal with Lindblad-National Geographic offers a unique perspective. Rather than completing the 8-to-10 hour transit in just one day,  National Geographic Quest lingers overnight in the Canal Zone, allowing our guests the opportunity to take in eye-level views of the locks’ intricate workings by day, and to witness the spectacle of the canal’s dazzling illumination after dark.

As we make our way through the canal over a 48-hour period, we’ll take in the thriving wildlife in the Bay of Panama as well as on shore. Just beyond the gates of this engineering marvel, we experience a dramatic change in scenery. The concrete walls of the canal stand in sharp contrast to the surrounding leafy jungles, where flora and fauna have thrived thanks to preservation efforts aimed at sustaining the health of this vital ecological corridor.

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A mantled howler monkey feeds on leaves on Barro Colorado Island.

Step ashore at Barro Colorado Island to visit the Smithsonian Research Station and learn about the lush lowland tropical forests that have drawn biologists from across the globe to Panama since 1932. On a Zodiac excursion to the tiny “monkey islands,” get a wild greeting from the curious primates that approach our vessels as we navigate the shoreline. Or, walk along the elevated boardwalks of the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center trail, through a canopy that harbors a rainbow of some 400 bird species.

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More than a century after its completion, the Panama Canal stands as a critical achievement in commercial and engineering history. Transiting this storied passageway aboard the National Geographic Quest means learning about a modern wonder from the inside out—and gaining an in-depth understanding of its economic, mechanical, and political impact.