Upon arrival to Panama the group will be met in the Tocumen International
airport by the Tour Leader and an interpretive guide and escorted to our
accommodations located in the town of Gamboa, the epicenter of the Panama
Canal. This evening we will host a “Get Acquainted” event with food, drinks,
and a briefing of what’s in store for the next week.
Ancient and Modern Panama City
Now that we’ve all met, let’s get acquainted with
Panama! We’ll first explore the ruins of Old Panama founded in 1519 and the
first Spanish settlement on the Pacific side of the Americas.
This ancient city of Panama was the gateway for
Peru’s gold and silver and the silks of the Orient. Our guide will lead us
on an exploration of what remains of the cities original convents and
seminaries, which were looted and destroyed by pirates in 1671.
Our next stop will be
The historic center of Panama City. It is a
quiet, charming district of narrow streets overlooked by the flower bedecked
balconies of two and three-story houses. At its tip lies French Park, a
monument to the French builders who began the Panama Canal, and the lovely
French Embassy. As we meander through the area we will see the remaining
ruins of the convents and seminaries, the famous Flat Arch, which reportedly
helped convince engineers that Panama was earth-quake-proof and the
beautiful Cathedral with its mother of pearl covered spires.
After lunch we will move on the Panama Canal and the
Miraflores Visitor Center, an expression of the permanent commitment of the
Panama Canal Authority to strengthen the public’s knowledge of the Canal.
Located on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, the CVM allows the visitor
to observe transiting vessels from a distance of only a few meters and learn
firsthand 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.
From the observation platform, you’ll watch in
awe as ocean-going ships are tendered through huge locks with only inches to
Meals Included: B,L, D.
Chagres River and Emberá Indians
This is a perfect opportunity to visit an indigenous
village in the midst of a wonderful natural setting that supports the
harmony of their lifestyle and traditions. Early in the morning guests are
picked up at their hotel and transferred to Port El Corotu on the shores of
Madden Lake, the main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama
and Colon. Madden Lake also supplies 40% of the water required for the
operation of the Panama Canal. Here, we board a motorized piragua (dugout
canoe) and travel up the Chagres River to the Embera indigenous village of
Embera Drua or Tusipono.
The boat journey takes us through the rainforest
of the 320,000-acre Chagres National Park, which is the largest of the
National Parks protecting the Panama Canal Watershed.
At the Embera village we will be greeted with dancing and music. We will
learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be
handcrafts available for sale and we will have a chance to be painted with
the traditional jagua, a natural dye the Embera use to adorn their bodies.
After a lunch of fish , plantain, and fresh fruit served in traditional
style by the Embera, we visit the nearby waterfall where we can take a dip
in the crystal-clear waters of the Chagres River before heading back to
Meals Included: B, L, D.
The Wild Side of the
combines the thrill of encountering wildlife in their natural habitats
while passing in the shadows of the mammoth cargo ships transiting the
with a surface area of 423 square-kilometers, was
created in 1914 as the main waterway for the canal and
contains many small islands (former hilltops) that provide protected natural
habitats for many of the animals that live in the region.
From the comfort of our expedition boat
allows shoreline access to the rainforest covered islands we will search for
white-faced capuchin, mantled howler monkey, central american spider monkey,
and Geoffrey’s tamarin. We are likely to spot green iguana and three-toed
sloth resting on tree branches, crocodile napping on beaches, osprey hunting
for peacock bass, snail kite, and keel-billed toucan. At mid-day, we will
enjoy a picnic lunch on a small island with extraordinary views of the
Panama Canal and the natural surroundings.
Meals Included: B, L, D
From Coast to Coast
Portobello and the Caribbean Sea
This morning we head out on the newly opened Isthmian
highway for the town and forts of Portobello.
Famous for its trade fairs during the 17th
century, Portobelo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During colonial times it
was one of the most important strongholds of the Spanish Main in the
Americas. We will visit Forts San Geronimo and Santiago de la Gloria as well
as the Church of San Felipe famous for its black Christ.
After strolling through the ruins of Portobello
and participating in a scavenger hunt challenge, we will board a small boat
that will take us to a hidden Caribbean beach and spend the afternoon
swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and enjoying a picnic lunch.
Meals Included: B, L, D.
Hiking the Camino de Cruces Trail
As we follow the remains of the cobblestone path
through the forest, the sound of howler monkeys in the distance, it is hard
not to imagine the first people crossing the isthmus. The Camino de Cruces
Trail is possibly one of the most important historical trails in Panama.
Used in addition to the famous El Camino Real, the Camino de Cruces was
integral to supporting the bourgeois population of Spaniards that came to
Panama in the 16th century. With all the gold and silver
from the mines of Potosi in Peru crossing the Isthmus of Panama by mule on
its way to Spain, a population associated with wealth took up residence in
Panama City. While El Camino Real was dedicated to the transit of the
bullion, the Camino de Cruces was used to transport textiles, spices,
furnishings, essentially everything a high class member of society required
that could not be obtained in the tropics. Famous pirates such as Sir
Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan used this trail in their attempts to sack
the city of Panama. Fast forward to the 19th century and
one imagines The Gold Rush and the 49ers transiting the isthmus on their way
Today, the trail winds through Soberania National Park, connecting Venta de
Cruces at the Chagres River with Camino de Cruces National Park.
Following the path one not only experiences a historical journey, but also
enjoys the presence of many bird and diverse flora and fauna.
Meals Included: B, L, D
Metropolitan Nature Park, located only ten minutes from downtown Panama City
is the only Tropical Forest Park within a capital city in all of Latin
America. The area has remained largely undisturbed for the last 80 years and
is a great place to experience dry, deciduous, lowland tropical forest. What
makes Metro Park so unique is that it is adjacent to the Panama Canal
watershed land that consists of 552,761 hectares (1,365,902 acres) of
national parks and protected reserve land. Within the 265 hectares (655
acres) that make up the park you can find up to 267 species of birds, 3
species of monkeys, two and three-toed sloths, many reptiles, and much more.
They don’t know they’ve entered the city limits!
From the Mirador, the park’s highest point located at 150 meters above sea
level, one can see the Bay of Panama and the islands of Perico, Naos,
Flamenco, Taboguilla and Taboga. One can also observe the Panama Canal
entrance on the Pacific side, the Bridge of the Americas, and Ancon Hill.
On this day we’ll enjoy the park by conducting a
personal or small group investigation into something about the rainforest
that intrigues you.
When we return to the lodge we’ll spend the
afternoon preparing and sharing our findings.
Meals Included: B, L, D
Today we’ll say farewell to
this enchanting country and return home, where you’ll be eager to share your
incredible Panama experiences.
Meals Included: B