The fourth stop on the ship’s May tour of Central America was the region’s largest urban center: Panama City. After docking just west of the capital in Fuerte Amador, participants took off to see the Miraflores Locks of the famed Canal, visit an Embera village and explore the unique wildlife of the region.
Rife in birds and tree-dwelling mammals, Panama’s rainforest is a popular spot for birding and other eco-activities—not to mention a quick and easy drive from the city.
While raptors are many—often prowling the skies above—if you peer closely enough into the treetops, you’ll spot a number of small bird species, many as interesting and beautiful as their larger counterparts.
Enrichment participants saw toucans and hummingbirds, parrots and kingfishers.
Some even stumbled upon a few lazy sloths lounging high up in the trees. Both two-toed and three-toed sloths are common sightings in the Panamanian rainforest and move at such a slow, deliberate pace they make for great photo opportunities.
Another rather unusual-looking mammal, the coati—a member of the raccoon family and a species native to Central and South America—peeked out its curious head to watch passersby.
Panama was a favorite port of many due to its diverse offerings, and those sailing on the December 2012 Enrichment Voyage will have the unique opportunity to explore its natural beauty at depth once more.
If you’d like to see more frequent updates from the voyage, please follow our Facebook page where we post regular snapshots from activities around the ship.
While in Colon, Panama, some participants visited Gatun Lock, the largest and most comprehensive of the Panama Canal locks.
Walking up to the Gatun Lock visitor center. On the right are two versions of the pilot vehicles that pull ships through the canal. The black car, on the left, was the first. Next to it is the second version. Today a third generation vehicle is in use.
Part of the wonder of the Panama Canal is the mystery of how it works. Water enters and exits the chambers unnoticeably, filling and draining from below the ships. The only indication the lock is operating is a rising bubble of water around the vessel and the surprise when, after a few minutes passes, that instead of looking around at trees, the line of sight has dropped over ten feet to a view of a solid cement wall. In addition, no pumps are used to fill and drain the chambers, gravity does all of the work.
Two Panamax vessels (the maximum size ship that can fit through the canal) crossing simultaneously. Many ships are built to this specification for the express purpose of transiting the canal. These vessels are carrying large cargo containers. The gates of the canal are the same that have been used since the canal was completed in 1913.