Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Jungle Adventure....On Lake Gatun

As the boat dropped anchor and we cast out our lines, the raw, rowdy sounds of Howler monkeys rustled through the trees.  Our tiny boat floated in the middle of 164 square miles of water, surrounded by thick, tropical rain forest.  With no other humans in sight, it felt as though we transported back in time onto the movie set of Tarzan. 

Going on a jungle adventure

In the rear, our guide, then
our friend Phil and in front Phil's sister Phyllis and husband Al

Blowin' in the wind

Entry into winding path, that the boat took through the jungle

Deep in the jungle

Today's journey began early in the morning, at the docks of Lake Gatun.  This man-made lake was formed almost 100 years ago, by flooding a valley to form an aquatic bridge between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  The lake provides water for the Panama Canal, allowing ships to pass from one sea to another, saving one month of travel time and bringing billions of dollars into the economy of Panamá.

Canal dredging boat

Our local guide arrived in a boat to take us and three friends on a journey along the waterways of the Panamá Canal.  Our speed boat skipped over the water at high speeds, for an exciting high spirited ride to a floating lodge, in the middle of nowhere.  This tropical oasis owned by Captain Carl, is known as Jungle Land Panamá. With all the comforts of home, this secluded boat turned island, rocked gently to the balmy breezes.  Besides a kitchen, guest rooms, bathrooms and a dining room, a cluster of comfy hammocks swayed in the breeze on an open deck.  With a panoramic view of the jungle, the vessel moved in a simultaneous rhythm with nature, making us feel one with the jungle. 

Captain Carl's Floating Lodge

Nap on a hammock, anyone?

The gang's all here hangin out
After meeting with Captain Carl over a cup of coffee, he gave us a tour of the facility before we headed out for a day on the water.  The five of us jumped into a small boat for four hours of lake fishing and solitude.  With perfect Panamá weather, the sun permeated our bodies while the wind rocked our little boat.  The finicky fish just nibbled at first, but by the end of the morning we had bagged four pounds of peacock bass between us.

They made me smile for the camera

He was small, but a fighter

Phil caught one of the larger
of the Peacock Bass

Our guide filleting fish

Our Panamanian guide took us back to the lodge for a lunch of chicken, tamale, rice, cole slaw, bread and pineapple.  After we filled our bellies we hopped into an even smaller boat for a ride to a waterfall.  The cold, clear refreshing water felt good after spending four hours in the hot sun fishing.  I couldn't convince Clyde to swing on a vine like Tarzan, over the falls for a photo opportunity through.  Perhaps he gave up those adrenalin filled moments when he retired from the fire department.  Back to the lodge again, we picked up a few tandem kayaks for a jaunt around the lake.  I should have known from previous experience in a tandem kayak, that clever Clyde likes to sit in back on me so he doesn't have to paddle.  Before leaving the lodge for the day Captain Carl showed us his menagerie of exotic animals to include a small nocturnal monkey, caimans (small crocodiles), a toucan, parrot and snakes.  It was cute when we walked up to the parrot's cage and it said "hola" right on cue. 

As we apporched the cage it looked us right in eye and said "Hola."

A Toucan, they are native to Panamá and can be seen in the jungles

Phyllis with a "night monkey"

Close up of the monkey

Phil trying to look cool

A pet caiman

But our adventure wasn't over yet, as we still had more things to see and more creatures to meet along the way.  We hopped in yet another boat that slowly wound it's way through narrow, jungle passages.  As the boat squeezed its way through the jungle, the tree branches and leaves reached out, caressing the side of boat like an unwelcome invader. With the murky water just inches from the top of the boat, we spotted a crocodile, three-toed sloth, large lizards, turtles, exotic birds and of course monkeys.

Now this is Panamá

Near the waterfall

As the boat nudged it's way into the shoreline of Monkey Island, the rustling of trees led to a fast and furious attack of Capuchin monkeys that held us captive.  These rambunctious furry friends, figured out we had peanuts to entice their taste buds.  These stars of the show, quickly took over the boat coming to visit each and every passenger aboard.  Perched just inches away from us, they gently took the peanuts right out of our hands, opened the shell with their mouths and dropped the shells on the boat floor.  One monkey must have spotted the neat-freak in me as he attempted to put the empty shell back in my hand.  The alpha male watched carefully from a nearby tree, making sure we didn't attempt to touch any of his clan.  One passenger did touch a monkey by mistake, and it screamed directly at her expressing its disapproval before heading back into the trees. 
A capuchin monkey


Up close and personal

They work for peanuts

Just hangin' around

Our guide took us to nearby islands where we spotted other Capuchian monkeys, along with the larger, louder Howler monkeys high up in the jungle canopy.  The boat reved up its 150 horse motor for a wet and wild, bouncy ride back to the docks.  We bid farewell to our guide and thanked him for a fun filled day of fun in the sun.

Headed home along the canal

A passing ship

Panamá is a beautiful country surrounded by lush, tropical rain forest, rolling hills, mountains, coastline and so much more.  Whether you're here for a vacation, or a lifetime, take advantage of all that it has to offer.  Get out and experience the real Panamá with the help of someone like Captain Carl and Jungle Land Panamá.  Although its name makes it sound like a theme park, the experience is real Panamá.  We're thankful to friends who invited us along, on another unforgettable experience.....along the gringo trail.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent blog. Like you I am considering Panama for my retirement in the next couple of years. Your photos and the way you describe your experiences are quite valuable. Keep it up.


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