After completing the transit of the Panama Canal on Day 6, we anchored last night in Panama Bay at Fuerte Amador.
Today we went on an excursion entitled “Monkey Watch & Lake Gatun Cruise”. We took a tender from the ship to the bus which drove us to a small marina just off of the canal where we boarded a small high speed boat. We spent the next 2-3 hours touring the inlets/islands of Lake Gatun looking for monkeys and other wildlife.
Lake Gatun is a huge man made lake. It’s was created during the building of the Panama Canal by damming the Chagres River. Apparently this River was well known for an abundance of crocodiles and caimans. So it was no great surprise that one of the first animals we saw was a crocodile! Our guide told us to make sure we keep our hands out of the water. Everyone thought that was a good idea.
Next we visited the monkey locations. We saw and heard some Howler monkeys but they were too well hidden to get any good pictures.
The most brilliantly colored monkeys we saw were the Geoffroy’s Tamarin monkeys. Our guide was able to coax one of them from the trees with a little bit of banana. The tamarin has a vibrant brown and white coat with white above it’s face. We also saw a mother and child up on a branch, but with the light behind the monkeys, they looked like a dark blob in our photos.
At our next stop there were Capuchin, or white-faced, monkeys. They were the smallest of the ones we saw and the most friendly. Our guide tried to coax one to the boat with a bit of banana. However he wasn’t satisfied with just a bit. He jumped onto the boat, grabbed the whole banana and ran with it. To add insult to injury, he sat on a branch near the boat and turned his back to us while they ate. I guess he was camera shy.
We also saw a lot of birds: white cranes, blue cranes, kites, and black vultures.
All in all it was a good day for viewing animals.
A couple of side notes, as we drove to the marina, we passed by the prison where the dictator Noriega was held. We also passed by the new canal Visitors Center. Hundreds of tourist and Panamanians come here to watch ships pass through the Mira Flores locks on their way to the Pacific.