Yesterday I went with my family on an amazing day trip up the Panama Canal and into interconnected lakes and rivers in the tropical rainforest. It was the most amazing experience and I recommend it whole-heartedly to all visitors to Panama, and all Panama residents also.
The full trip was just over 6 hours. Bring swimming costumes/shorts and shoes you can get wet to enjoy the full range of activities on offer.
We were picked up (I think 17 of us in all) by Capt Carl in his boat with comfortable dry seating and a giant sun roof. Carl explained everything that we saw along our Panama Canal journey and into the secluded jungle of Lake Gatun and other river tributaries. His repartee is extremely informative and very witty - he is a top class entertainer.
We learnt about: the canal expansion programme; the functions of all the construction equipment we saw on the way (floating and land based); the cargo ships, Panama Canal Authority boats and private yachts that we passed; and the history of the Panama Canal Railway.
We then entered the jungle areas where he pointed out the wildlife and knew every animal and plant and their habits and life-cycles. Most professors of biology would come away filled with fresh information, and the lecture is delivered in a very humorous manner - if only university classes had been such good fun - I might have done better. Although packed with information, he held the attention of our four year old for long periods of time. On the way he stopped to give a banana to monkey that he knew. When arriving at his base we also stopped at the island opposite where he handed out some bananas which people broke into grape-sized pieces. Tiny little monkeys then scurried along the wood structure of his jetty and cautiously looked around before taking the offered fruit.
His base is a floating hotel. It is beautiful - an ideal natural retreat and I would love to spend a week there. It would suit many people to stay there and take a day trip to the city, instead of the other way around. It would make a very memorable honeymoon location. He is busy expanding at the moment to make more bedrooms. There are rooms with private bathroom and balcony.
The lunch was delicious and typical Panamanian flavours (included in trip fee). After lunch he brought out an anaconda which several people held and had photos taken.
Capt Carl took us out on kayaks after lunch. The group were asked if there was anyone who would like to go fishing but we all wanted to paddle My wife and little daughter and a few others stayed to enjoy the environment of the hotel and to talk to the Toucan and the Parrot. The kayak journey, on very stable boats, was an amazing experience. We paddled along narrow winding openings in the giant rafts of floating vegetation that form a large part of the jungle wetlands, along small winding rivers and past open lake areas. We saw water lilies, hawks, wading birds and butterflies on our way to our destination, which was a small waterfall with a pool at it's base. We climbed up the rocks and leapt off the waterfall into the pool below. The pool was a little cooler than the water in the rivers and lakes and was fantastically refreshing.
Back at the hotel people fed a little monkey, the Toucan, and some people held a baby crocodile. Everybody on the trip was very happy with their experience. We would like to go again someday soon.
A fantastic day !! Thanks Carl and crew
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