The Soberania National Park along the Eastern side of the Panama Canal is reached in only 30 min. from Panama City and gives you a tremendous and easy opportunity to experience lowland rainforest and the Canal.
We offer wildlife observation, birding, rainforest walks and hikes and kayak tours in Soberania National Park.
On our Canal Boat Tour on Gatun Lake you will pass close to the ships transiting the Canal and observe wildlife at the shore of the rainforest bays and islands. If wished, explore the area by kayaking.
Our tours take you on a drive paralell to the Canal from Panama City to Soberania National Park and Gatun Lake (about 45 min.). Here we offer you a great variety of activities which you can combine according to your interests:
– Rainforest walk or hike (easy walking or trails of moderate difficulty): 2-6 hours
– Birdwatching Tour
– Canal Boat Tour with wildlife observation on Gatun Lake: 2.5-3 hours
– Canal Boat Tour with wildlife observation on Gatun Lake by kayaking: 4 hours
– Kayaking on Chagres River (part of Gatun Lake) in Soberania National Park 2-3 hours
– Visit Embera village in Soberania National Park 0.5-2 hours
– Canal sites of the former Canal Zone 2-4 hours
– Miraflores Locks 1-1.5 hours
Standard tours are of 8 hours. Shorter or longer tours can be arranged according to your wishes.
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Starting in Gamboa we explore by boat Gatun Lake for wildlife. Half of the Canal’s waterway is a big artificial lake serving as well as a water reservoir to feed the locks at the Pacific and Atlantic side. At the shore of the many forested islands and bays we have the opportunity to observe some mammals such as Mantled Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchin monkey, Two- and Three-toed Sloth, birds such as Osprey and Snail Kite, and reptiles like Green Iguana, Jesus Christ Lizard, River Turtle, Spectacled Caiman and American Crocodile. Bypassing ships are a contrasting addition to this excursion. Observe the expansion works of the Canal, widening and straightening the waterway along the former Chagres River. Picnic lunch on an island in the Canal.
Get close to nature and explore by kayaking the shores of islands and bays adjacent to the Canal. Smoothly you glide next to the dense rainforest vegetation admiring some flowering vines and listening to the sounds the rainforest. You might discover a variety of birds, monkeys and other animals. All of a sudden you see around a corner of an island a big ship passing by and disappearing behind the trees.
Our experienced fishing guide takes you further out on the lake than the Canal boat tour to the best fishing spots. The main fish is the Peacock Bass an exciting and challenging fighter. Since it is an introduced species, we don’t impact the native fish fauna. Another often caught and also introduced fish is the Oscar. There is also some big native fish but more difficult to catch such as Tarpon (will be released) and Snook.
Look out for wildlife along the rainforest shores and be impressed by the big ships you will encounter on the way.
This national park is only half an hour away from the City and forms together with the Parque Metropolitano and Camino de Cruces National Park a forest-corridor in the former Canal Zone between the Pacific and Gatun Lake. Several trails and gravel roads are excellent for nature observation, birding, walking and hiking. Here some examples:
The Pipeline Road is world famous for bird observation and offers excellent opportunities to see rainforest mammals. It is an easy walk on a gravel forest road. We usually walk slowly to observe wildlife, going around 2-4 km in and back.
On the historic Camino de Cruces you can hike a bit more than 10 km on a small sometimes rugged trail for 6-7 hours through the rainforest. At many places you still can see parts of the road with cobblestones of the colonial times. This was the main connection of the Americas to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific side, going the Chagres upriver and continuing on the Camino de Cruces to the Pacific. Coming from the Pacific side on our hike through the rainforest you will see at the end of the Camino the Cruces trail the ruins of the colonial town Venta de Cruces. Here we cross the Chagres River by boat or if wished by kayak.
Our adventure tour in the rainforest takes you on small hardly used trails to remote places. In a forest stream you can cool off. Option: overnight in tents (dry season).
With our birding tours in the canal region you see a high variety of bird species in a small area: from the drier Pacific side to the evergreen Caribbean side, from the lowlands to the foothills, in the Western region more Central American species and in Eastern region some species from South America. Around Gamboa are many very good birding spots in addition to Pipeline Road. Just in the area of Gamboa over 450 bird species have been registered of the over 1000 species found in Panama. We offer half day to five day tours in the canal region (Pacific, Gamboa, Caribbean, Eastern and Western foothills) with a specialized birding guide.
The Chagres River flows with hardly any current through the Soberanía National Park reaching at Gamboa the Canal where it has been transformed to the artificial Gatun Lake of the Canal. It is the main provider of water for the Canal and the only river in the world that flows into two oceans. On our single or double kayaks you explore this upper part of Gatun Lake and the transition zone of lake and river. Look for wildlife along the rainforest shores, observe water fowl and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the tranquil waters with its patches of floating vegetation. You can also explore the rainforest ashore by walking on a little side trip.
The Embera village in Gamboa lies on the banks of the Chagres River in a distance of 5 minutes boat ride or 40 min. walk through the rainforest. The Emberas live in palm leave thatched houses on stilts. You can choose to have just a short visit the village or interact with its people to learn about their culture, their traditional and daily life, production of handicrafts and have a presentation of Embera dances.
On the way from Panama City to Gamboa you drive parallel to the Canal and will see Canal sights such as Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, French Cemetery, Centennial Bridge over Culebra Cut of the Canal, and Canal Dredging Division at the former Canal worker town Gamboa. Combine it with the Canal sights close to Panama City: View from Ancon Hill, Administration Building, Causeway, Bridge of the Americas over the Canal. (4- 7 hours)
On the way back to Panama City we can stop to observe the ships entering the Pedro Miguel Locks or visit the Miraflores Locks where you can observe on a platform the passage of the ships. In the Interpretation Center you learn how the Canal was constructed, how it functions and how it is being expanded.
On the 1500 hectares (3800 acres) research island Barro Colorado in the Lake Gatun of the Canal you find the best researched tropical forest and of the best protected rainforest of the region. On a 40 min. boat ride from Gamboa you reach the research station. A naturalist guide (English or Spanish) from the Smithsonian takes you on a walk to explain the functioning of this ecosystem and how scientists from all over the world unravel the ecological connections in the rainforest. Usually several rainforest mammals and sometimes birds such as great Tinamou and Crested Guan can be seen. A visitors center informs you about research projects and achievements of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (Full day tour, including pick up from your hotel in Panama City, if wished.)