We completed the Gatun Locks and were on our way to Gatun Lake, the world's second largest manmade lake. In the fading light of the afternoon, we motored past the new Agua Clara locks and set anchor across from the Gatun Yacht Club where we would spend the next three nights aboard the Discovery.
Gatun Lake, created between 1907 and 1913, is 164 square miles and 86 feet above sea level. The lake is located in the valley of the Chagres River. The river was widened and deepened by constructing the Gatun Dam and thus creating this lake, integral to the movement of ships across the Panama Canal. Because this area was once a tropical jungle, old stumps of mahogany trees can still be seen rising from the water. Submerged snags present a hazard for small vessels that wander off the marked channels. We learned the National Geographic eco-tour ship is the only other ship allowed to anchor in Lake Gatun. That was pretty exciting news! From our position we could see the Tiger Islands where we would motor the next day to find the fabulous flora and fauna of this area.
We spent a total of three nights on The Discovery anchored in Gatun Lake. During this time we went to Agua Clara to learn about the new locks, took small boat tours to see the birds, monkeys, sloths and all manner of wildlife, had kayaking opportunities, listened to howler monkeys in the mornings and enjoyed the quiet and peaceful lake as we watched huge container ships slowly pass by us on the canal.
Among the many sitings over the course of both boat tours that late afternoon were the Geoffrey Tamarind Monkey, Howler Monkeys, a Spider Monkey, two Brown-throated Three Toed Sloths (they have a black mask on their face and the male has a brown stripe). I could make out their long tails and the black mask but they were not easy to see. In the middle of the rainy season these guys can get green moss on their fur! The Two Toed Sloths were further away and not apparently sharing a habitat with the two-towed guys, but curious fact: they have the longer fur and can eat bird eggs in addition to leaves. Plus don’t bet on the Three-Towed sloth in a race, the Two-Towed sloth would always win. This Two Toed Sloth was eating the Cecropia tree leaves, the search for eggs must have tired him out. The Two Toed White Sloth is the one you will find in captivity. The elusive Jesus Christ Lizard, (or Common Basilick), and the Spiny Tailed Iguana sat and watched us from their perches on logs until cameras came out and they decided to disappear.
Magnificent Frigate Birds and Red Crowned Lord Parrots flew overhead while the Mangrove Warbler, Great Egrets, Southern Lapwing, Tropical Kingbird, Rusty Margin Flycatcher, Social Margin Flycatcher, White Ringed Flycatcher, Bare Crowned Tiger heron, Grey Hooded Wood Rail, Yellow Crowned Parrot, Tropical Mockingbird, Yellow Backed Oriole, Great Kiskadee, White Ringed Flycatcher, Boat Billed Kiskadee, Giant Cowbirds, Greater Ani, Pale Vented Pigeon, Chestnut Headed Oropendola, Brown Pelican, Neo-tropic Cormorants, Snail Kite, Osprey, Mangrove Swallows, Blue Morpho Butterfly, Yellow Orbed Spider, Green Spiders, Purple Galinule, Great Necked Woodrail, Red Crowned Woodpecker, and Ruddy Ground Doves populated the trees and jungle. Phew. What fun!