This tour begins with hotel pickups starting at 7 am. We know it sounds crazy to get up so early on your vacation, but if you really want to see the wildlife you need to do it when they are most active. Starting this early we can beat the crowds and see more wildlife in cooler temperatures.
To start this tour, we will follow the Panama Canal north to the town of Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the canal. We will begin our wildlife viewing from a boat on the waters of the canal and Gatun Lake. We will ride along the waters of the Panama Canal right next to the ships passing through as well as an up close view of the the abundant wildlife on its shores. We will visit the famous Monkey Islands where we can see capuchins, howlers, and tamarins. Once we finish with our canal and lake boat ride (around 2 hours), we will head 45 minutes north to the Caribbean side of Panama. We will visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center to see the new expansion locks working up close. Located on the west side of the brand new Agua Clara Locks, the Agua Clara Visitor Center allows you to observe transiting vessels from a scenic lookout point and learn first hand about the various operations of the Panama Canal, the history of its construction, its participation in the world markets, and the importance of its watershed. An observational deck lets you watch the ships pass through the Agua Clara Locks on their way to the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. Once we finish up at the locks we will cross to the other side of the canal and travel to a scenic and quiet spot beneath the Gatun Dam and have a picnic lunch at the confluence of the old French West Diversion Channel and the Chagres River. The next stop will be a visit to San Lorenzo National Park where we can visit a remote rainforest full of flora and fauna, followed by a tour Fort San Lorenzo. A 400 year old Spanish fort on a scenic cliff overlooking the Caribbean, here we will recount the many attacks by pirates and privateers that happened at one of the most historically important places in Panama. The Fort of San Lorenzo, located on an 80 foot (25m) cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the estuary of the Chagres River, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with the fortifications of the city of Portobelo. It was part of the defensive system for the transatlantic trade of the Spanish Crown, and is a fine example of military architecture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Fort of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest fortresses in Spanish America. Here we will recount the many attacks by pirates and privateers that happened at one of the most historically important places in Panama. Once we finish our tour of the fort, we will return to Panama City for hotel drop off.
DAY 2 – Embera Village & Jungle Tour
This tour will start with central Panama City hotel pickup and transportation to the Chagres National Park. Once we arrive at Puerto Corotu on the banks of Lake Alajuela, our Embera friends will be waiting to take us up the Chagres River aboard their version of a dugout canoe. We will visit a beautiful waterfall before we are brought to the village where our hosts will be waiting. We will witness a presentation about their culture along a traditional dance. We will have the opportunity to walk and explore the village. A light lunch of fried fish, plantains, and fresh fruit will be prepared by our hosts. We will then have opportunities to buy handicrafts and receive traditional “tattoos” which will fade away after a few days. We will then load back into the canoe for our return to Panama City for hotel drop off.
DAY 3 - El Valle Zip-line & Mountain Tour
This tour will begin with hotel pickups starting at 7:30 am. We will head 2 hours to El Valle de Antón, where a small village sits in the bottom of an extinct volcano crater up in the mountains. We will go on a short hike and then go zip-lining at the 230 ft El Macho Waterfall. The zip-line is not very intense but the views and environment are incredible. We will then visit the Butterfly Haven. At the Butterfly Haven you can immerse amongst the beauty and tranquility of many hundreds of living jewel colored butterflies in their 1,500 sq. feet flight house. We will then head 40 minutes east up to Altos de Campana National Park, a biological reserve boasting an amazing vista of craggy peaks and deep valleys stretching out to the Pacific Ocean. We will have a picnic lunch on a mountain lookout where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Pacific coast that stretches 100 miles while you eat. We will take a walk through the cloud forest where we can view Panama’s highland creatures and experience Panama in its coolest climate. I am a huge fan of Altos de Campana because no tourists ever visit there even though it offers some of the best views and birdwatching in Panama. We will finish the tour with return to Panama City for hotel drop off.