5. Panama: Monkey Island, Sloth Sanctuary and Panama Canal Tour
Explore a rich variety of ecological attractions on a guided trip from Panama City to a butterfly farm, a frog exhibition, a sloth sanctuary, and an orchid garden. Ride a boat into the Chagres River and into the Panama Canal, watching large cruise ships sail by. Meet your guide at your hotel, starting the tour early to see more monkeys before their bellies are full from other visitors feeding them. As you begin the 40-minute drive, see colonial American neighborhoods that served as homes for the Canal construction families and pass the Culebra Cut. As you arrive at the shores of Lake Gatun, be greeted by the dense rainforest and all its intriguing sights and sounds. Embark on a boat ride into the Chagres River, which will lead you into the artificially created Gatun Lake, which is a hotspot for biodiversity. Spot wildlife such as the coati, howler monkeys, squirrels, and sloths, as well as beautiful birds like the toucan and parrots. Take a path parallel to the Panama Canal and into Soberanía National Park on your way to the Gamboa Public Docks, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal. A couple of minutes into the boat ride, enter the Canal and take a quick ride past the Dredging Division's facilities and along the shipping lane toward the Monkey Island area. With Panama’s abundant biodiversity, a bit of luck, and your boat captains’ sharp eyes, keep an eye out for wildlife. As you land on Monkey Island, listen for the different primate sounds and the rustling in the trees as monkeys jump amongst the branches. Prepare for monkeys to come up to you and inspect your clothes, hats, and bags. Next up, visit the Sloth Sanctuary located inside the Gamboa region, nestled within the lush rainforests of Panama. As you arrive at the sanctuary, find yourself surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Upon entering the sanctuary, be greeted by passionate staff who will provide you with an introduction to the world of sloths. Listen to interesting facts about these slow-moving creatures, their behaviors, and their importance in the ecosystem. Next, visit the Orchid Gardens within walking distance from the sloth sanctuary to admire wild species native to the country, including some miniature ones and Panama’s national flower. Then explore the Frog Exhibition, home to hundreds of frogs native to tropical America. For your last stop, head to the Butterfly House to observe the endemic butterflies that live in the Panamanian rainforest such as the colorful Blue Morpho Butterfly. Finally, make your way back to Panama City.