4) $PLATFORM=1; else $PLATFORM=2; } elseif (preg_match("/MSIE (\d)/i",$HTTP_USER_AGENT,$v)) { $browser="msie"; if (($version=$v[1])>4) $PLATFORM=1; else $PLATFORM=2; } elseif (preg_match("/Mozilla(?:\/|\s)(\d)/i",$HTTP_USER_AGENT,$v)) { $browser="navigator"; if (($version=$v[1])>4) $PLATFORM=1; else $PLATFORM=2; } else { $browser="other"; $version="unknown"; $PLATFORM=2; } } ?> We're Back From...Panama

We’re Back From … Panama

Mention Panama and the first thing that once came to our minds was the Panama Canal, the Pacific-Caribbean channel that took 250,000 workers to construct.

Now, however, our first thought of Panama is nature. From monkeys to sloth, toucans to crocodiles, this land is an environmental wonderland that’s less discovered than neighboring Costa Rica.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort was our luxurious home for our Panamanian stay.

As the sun rose, we headed off on our first excursion into the rainforest.
The white-faced capuchin monkeys are the most visible inhabitants of Monkey Island.
The Gamboa Aerial Tram takes visitors high above the jungle canopy for a bird's eye view of the region.

Our home base for our trip was Gamboa Rainforest Resort, a 340-acre spread in Soberania National Park and located beside the Panama Canal. For the next four days, it became a luxurious base from which we explored the surrounding rainforest.


We arrived in Panama City at 9:40pm after a flight from Miami, met by Robert, a driver from Gamboa Tours. It was an easy 45-minute ride out to the resort. And, although we both love practicing our (all-too-limited) Spanish, it was a relief at such a late hour to find that not only our driver but the front desk employees (and, in fact, everyone we would later meet at the resort) spoke fluent English.


We were in Panama as part of a group of five journalists; because of our air connections from Texas, though, we were arriving a day before the others. That meant we had the following morning free, time to explore the resort, enjoy the spa, and cool off in the expansive pool.

Soon it was time to get to work, though; when the other journalists arrived, we were off on a tour of the resort including some buildings dating built as housing for civilian workers during the construction of the canal. Today those buildings have been transformed into villas, favored by families as well as couples who want a home-away-from-home experience.

That evening, we headed off on a pontoon boat for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as the boat captain scanned the water’s edge looking for eyes in the darkness. Soon he spotted a caiman, like a slightly smaller crocodile cousin, lying low in the water.


That was just a preview of what awaited us the next day on a three-hour nature cruise and hike. Leaving just as the sun was peeking up at 6:30am, we were soon out on the lake and headed for the more remote areas of the Panama Canal. This was the biggest surprise of the trip: that you can be in one of the world’s busiest waterways and, with a detour down a quiet inlet, suddenly be deep in a wildlife-filled jungle.

For the next three hours, our expert guide, Nodiel, led the group on both a water and land safari, pointing out two- and three-toed sloth, howler monkeys, toucans, and parrots. We hiked up to the ruins of a radio tower operated during the US military days, a concrete building now being overtaken by the jungle.

Soon we headed out for Monkey Island, where a family of white-faced capuchin monkeys reside (and were anticipating our arrival, or more importantly, the arrival of our bananas.) From our boat, our guide tossed the tiny monkeys a few bananas then they went back on their way.

On the cruise back to the resort, we learned an important lesson: into every rainforest, a little (or a lot of) rain must fall. After our wet trip back, we quickly changed clothes and soon headed off for the next leg of our day: lunch above crocodile-infested waters at the resort’s Los Lagartos restaurant.

Los Lagartos means “the alligators” but the toothy residents of the surrounding waters are actually crocodiles. They lazily float just below the decks of this open-air restaurant where we enjoyed delicious pumpkin soup and Panamanian-inspired dishes.

Reenergized by our meal, we were soon off to the Gamboa Aerial Tram, a quiet ride high in the jungle canopy, just us, another two journalists and Carlos, an expert birder who pointed out both feathered and furry species along the way. At the top of the tram ride, we disembarked and climbed a 10-story tower (all with gently sloping ramps) for a bird’s eye view of the jungle and the Panama Canal.

That night, our group enjoyed a private dinner in the resort’s Capibara Disco, designed to look like the interior of a cave. (It’s a subterranean look so convincing that one year the producers of Lost – our favorite TV show – opted to host the Latin American launch of the show here, with star Dominic Monaghan on hand to promote the series.)

>>continued on page 2 Through the Panama Canal and Into the Rainforest