A protected rain forest since 1923, and one of the world's first, Barro Colorado, Panama, is located 30 mi/50 km northwest of Panama City. It is the largest island (6 sq mi/15 sq km) in Gatun Lake, a man-made body of water created during construction of the Panama Canal.
Barro Colorado is managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute as a biological reserve and is recognized as the leading natural laboratory in the world for the study of tropical biology. STRI offers limited tours of the island, where agoutis, monkeys and other creatures can be seen. It can be visited by reservation only. Book as far in advance as possible. The trails are steep and tough going in places and not suitable to travelers with infirmities. Phone 212-8026. http://www.stri.org.
A 45-minute boat ride along the canal from the small town of Gamboa takes you to Wheeler Cove on Barro Colorado, where you can observe the flora and fauna from the comfort of the boat. After landing on the island, an easy walk along the 2-mi/3-km Cima nature trail shows you the incredible diversity of bird, insect and plant life that thrives there. Look for howler monkeys, toucans and slaty-tailed trogons.
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