Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Boat to Monkey Island

Monkey Island is located in Gatun Lake and is easily accessible from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.  Of course, the monkeys were a blast to see, but the ride itself across the Panama Canal and into this vast lake, was also a thrill.  Gatun Lake is the second largest man made lake in the world.  (Lake Mead is Number One.)  Damming the Chagres River to form this lake was part of the over all strategy for ease of transit across the isthmus.  This reservoir of water is vital to the operation of the canal locks at both ends of the lake.  This is the water that pours in and out of the chambers to lift or lower the ships.

We saw three species of monkeys.  The mischievous White-faced Capuchin and the Geoffrey's Tamarin had learned to come down to the boats for food--not exactly the same as seeing these creatures in the wild, but better than seeing them in a zoo.  The larger howler monkeys stayed in the trees.  We heard them long before we spotted them.

  Our boat ride was over far too soon.  I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing.  I got an A-Plus in Tourism that day, but felt oddly dissatisfied.  The naturalist in me felt cheated.  Am I getting jaded?  I have seen monkeys swinging from tree to tree in the jungles of Malaysia.  I had an entire group of capuchins follow me through a rain forest in Costa Rica.  But as we once again entered the beautiful green waters of the Chagres River, I was able to shake off my disappointment.  The magic was not in the wildlife that day, but in the water.  I stared down at my reflection.  I have just crossed the Panama Canal.  How amazing is that?

Relief flooded over me.  I am not jaded.  I hope I never will be.
Geoffrey Tamarin

White-faced Capuchin
Howler Monkeys

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