Shelter Bay Marina, where Beatitude is docked for lightning-strike repairs, is out in the middle of nowhere. This is bad when one needs something from town. But, it’s good if one wants to be close to nature. And… close to nature we are!
Shelter Bay Marina is built on the site of a former American Military Base, Fort Sherman, which was constructed in the early 1900s to defend the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. It’s counterpart on the Pacific side is Fort Amador. Both bases were turned over to Panama in 1999. Over one-half of Fort Sherman was jungle, and therefore, the fort was the center for US Jungle Warfare training for some time. The jungle, which surrounds Shelter Bay Marina, is now called San Lorenzo National Forest.
So, here at Shelter Bay, we are enclosed by Panamanian Jungle! Almost every day, from our salon aboard Beatitude, we can hear the cacophony of howler-monkey screams. On each of the last two days, Cindy and I have taken two-mile hikes up into the jungle along the old military roads. I’m glad I don’t have to clear our way through the jungle with a machete to experience it. It has been amazing! We hear the howler monkeys in the distance along with other jungle noises from unknown sources. The howl of the howler monkeys is almost other-worldly. Cindy says it sounds like we are walking in Jurassic Park. I felt like I was on the set of Lost.
On our walks, we’ve seen several toucans each day, usually flying away after we’ve alarmed them, but occasionally sitting in the tree tops. Today, we had a group of about 15-20 anteaters amble across the path in front of us! Yesterday, we ran into a cute howler monkey which obliged us by sitting in the limbs of a nearby tree for a little while. And, today, we saw twenty or so capuchin monkeys leaping from branch to branch, stopping nervously to make sure we were not aggressive creatures. Occasionally, one would become alarmed and let out a warning call to his neighbors. And, perhaps my favorite animal encounter was with the Brown-throated three-toed sloth hanging from a branch behind the old church!
It is a remarkable experience to walk out in the jungle and see all these creatures that are usually only seen in a zoo! Fortunately, we did not meet up with a couple of other Panamanian jungle inhabitants on our hikes, the jaguar and the puma. It’s okay if we don’t.
Here is a short 1-minute video which features the howls of the howler monkeys and a few other monkey shots: