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“Eco Canal Tour was fantastic”

Xplora Panama Day Tours
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: We offer small or large group tours with a focus on culture, nature, and adventure. All our tours are guided by local Panamanian guides with 10+ years of professional experience leading safe and informative tours in Panama. In them you will find a great sense of responsibility, safety awareness, and a keen interest to offer every single one of their guests a top quality personalized experience.
Reviewed January 11, 2012

We had a fantastic, very personal Eco Canal Tour with Briant on Jan 6, 2012. We had white faced monkeys on our boat, Briants lime trick was a site to behold. Also got close and personal with howler monkeys, a 2 yr old crocodile, toucans, leaf cutter ants, frogs, bats and sloths.

Do not miss this or other adventures with Xplora Eco Adventures aka Briant!

3  Thank DarrenRoss
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"cave tour"
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"guide alex"
in 13 reviews
"bayano cave"
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"hidden waterfall"
in 4 reviews
"rock formations"
in 3 reviews
"day trip"
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"poison dart frogs"
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in 4 reviews
"boat ride"
in 11 reviews
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in 3 reviews
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in 3 reviews
"beautiful country"
in 4 reviews
"different species"
in 4 reviews
"small group"
in 5 reviews
"soberania national park"
in 4 reviews
"amazing trip"
in 3 reviews
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Reviewed January 4, 2012

I don't mean the title of this review to sound like I didn't enjoy Panama City. I did, but it is like many other capital cities in developing countries around the world (noisy, crowded, busy, expensive, etc.), and there is just so much more to see and experience in this relatively small country, once you leave the capital behind.

We arrived in Panama City on December 23rd, and stayed in Casco Viejo for a few days of R&R before setting off on our adventure tour. Casco Viejo is well worth a visit, and quite unlike anywhere else that I've ever visited. About 20% of the buildings in the UNESCO World Heritage Site have been beautifully restored, a further 20% offer low-income housing and the remaining 60% are boarded up and falling apart. What makes it stranger is that you'll find all 3 categories on just about every block.

We stayed in a beautiful one-bedroom apartment (Los Cuatro Tulipanes - http://www.loscuatrotulipanes.com/index.php/casco-viejo-apartments/1-bdrm/monjas-1b/). There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance, but we found the majority of them disappointing for the prices they were charging. What we did love was to walk down to the fish market and buy fresh ceviche.. we just couldn't get enough of it.

On the night before the tour started, Luis came over to meet us for a drink and to get to know more about our likes / dislikes, and what we were looking to get out of the trip. I really appreciated his attention to detail, and that was a constant throughout the whole tour.

After changing hotels and moving downtown, we kicked off the tour proper by driving out to a lake, where we explored a cave, following it all the way back to a beautiful waterfall. Luis told us in advance that there might be areas where we'd be wading, or even have to swim. As it was, the water level in the cave was very high, so we had to swim most of it, with sections that were more akin to bouldering. In one section, we could reach up and touch the stalactites above our heads and we then realized that we were sharing the cave with probably 2 or 3,000 bats. I turned over to float on my back, and just marveled at wave after wave of bats flying all around me.

The following day (12/28), we headed out to the Miraflores Visitors Center, to see the Panama Ship Canal in action. My wife and I had done the Partial Panama Canal Transit a couple of days earlier, so it was interesting to see the workings of the locks from a different perspective. After that, we got back in the LandCruiser and drove to Santa Fe, where we stayed in a very simple hotel (i.e. no hot water) with breathtaking views. After checking in, we set off for a hike up Cerro Tute, which is the highest point in the area. It was quite a climb, and was very windy as we neared the top (they’ve been trying to build a wind farm, but as it is on the edge of a national park, progress has been slow). It was the ‘golden hour’ as we got to the top, so we were able to really use the light to capture some great pictures.

The following morning (12/29), we were introduced to Panamanian Fry Bread or Hojaldras, which is a fried dough. Both Luis and the hotel manager, Les, told us that they were the best in all of Panama, and I do believe that they were right. After breakfast, we set out on the first of two hikes, which Luis (ever the master of understatement) described as being a little muddy and slippy in places. It was definitely muddy all right.. the sort of mud that grabs on to your boots and threatens not to give them back. Once we all got over our aversion to getting dirty, it was a lot of fun.

In the afternoon, we followed the source of a river, back along the riverbed. Again, Luis had made it sound like we’d be walking by shallow water, or maybe getting wet up to our ankles. The reality was that we swimming in pretty strong currents in parts, and quite a lot of bouldering was involved. There was a wall of water at one point, and he gave us the choice as to whether we stooped there or went on. We chose to go on, and it was exhilarating. I really liked the way that he encouraged to go past our comfort zone. Needless to say, that night I slept like a baby.

The following day (12/30), we decided to ask Les for extra hojaldras to go. He warned us that they only really stay fresh for up 2 hours or so. We looked at each other and assured him that that wouldn’t be a problem… that we’d eat them way before then. After such an exhausting day, the day before, it was to be a very relaxing day at the beach in Las Lajas. The setting for the hotel was perfect, right beside a long beach running east to west (we got to see the sun rise and set over the ocean), with soft, soft sand. The beach is one of those that remains shallow for a very long way, and so we all played in the waves before settling in for some serious cocktail consumption.

New Year’s Eve, and we headed to Boquete, which was picked by Forbes as being one of the top 5 places in the world to retire. We went out bar-hopping quite early, and took in a lot of people-watching as we made our way around the town. We saw in the New Year at a local dance bar, and headed back to our hotel by 1am.

(1/1) What better way to shake off a thick head than by going white water rafting? The river ran parallel with the Costa Rican border, and was formerly class 3 / 4, until a recent hydro project has really started to slow the river down. Even so, it was a lot of fun, and I have the bruises to show for it. There were a lot of local kids and families relaxing by the river bank along the way, and it was nice to wave and say “Ola” as we floated by.

On our last full day (1/2), we had another early morning, as we headed out to the Kotowa Coffee Farm to go ziplining – “a high speed adrenaline ride through 3.5kms of steel cable divided in 12 different segments with heights of up to 60 meters”, as they describe it on their website.” We were up over 6000 feet in the rain forest, so it was pretty chilly, but the views were spectacular.

Overall, we tried lots of new things on this trip and enjoyed all of them. Luis started out the trip as a great guide, and ended it as a good friend. We’re encouraging him to come and visit us in Delaware, with the incentive being that we’ll take him to see our own local ‘indigenous people’, the Amish!

1  Thank Brittle_61
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Luis C, Tour Guide at Xplora Panama Day Tours, responded to this reviewResponded January 20, 2012

What can I say, epic review, thank you very much my friend, see you in Delawere!

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 27, 2011

We spoke to Briant about aranging a last minute tour to Fort San Lorenzo. Although that did not work out he put us on to Xplora for transportation to an from the cruise ship in Colon. The driver arrived on time at the hotel and was early at the ship on the return to the airport. The vans were clean, well air conditioned and comfortable. Overall a great and reliable service in a country where not everything happens as scheduled.

Thank srscmh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 23, 2011

Very well organized,! Our guide, Luis, showed up on time and took us through a great day. He was also very helpful and friendly prior to the trip via email. I would highly recommended this tour company.

Thank Aria H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed December 13, 2011

I had originally wanted to go on the Cave Tour, but unfortunately I puttered around too long and by the time I wanted to book it, that day was already booked by a family who wanted to do the Panama Canal ecology tour. Since there are only 2 tour operators in this outfit, you do have to book as soon as you know what you want to do. My friend and I were flexible so we elected to do the Canal tour. It is nothing like the partial Panama canal tour in which you go through the locks. I did that as well and they were completely different. It was nearly all by boat, the only strenuous part was walking up a 10 minute path which isn't that steep, but can be muddy during the wet season. We found things to talk about along the way, so there were frequent breaks. Briant was very enthusiastic about his profession and his country so it was a good tour. We only saw one of the three types of monkeys in the area and got to feed them. The vegetation on the tour was incredible...especially for someone who is not typically interested in plants! Overall it was money well spent and makes me want to come back to Panama just to do the Cave tour with Briant! FYI: Briant is very flexible. He has send that they can customize the multi-day tour time permitting. Also the other family that was on the tour wanted to do some fishing so after he cleared it with my friend and I, we went fishing in the Lake! We didn't catch anything, but it was a fun experience and underscores how flexible Briant is!

Thank Sue33388
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Luis C, Manager at Xplora Panama Day Tours, responded to this reviewResponded December 15, 2011

Thank you for taking the time to write this review, and for pointing out things that could be helpful to other travelers. Looking forward to hear back from you to do the Cave Tour :)

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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