The Panama Canal is arguably one of most important structural achievements ever built. Apart from cutting a slice through a mountain, construction of the canal also involved flooding a river to form a gigantic lake. When planning our trip to Panama, it had never occurred to us that Panama Canal kayaking was just one of the activities available on the canal.
How could we resist?
The easiest way to arrange this is with one of the companies that organizes daily trips out onto the canal. The Jungle Land Experience is one such company which offers 1-day tours that take you through the canal onto lake Gatun.
But the trip involves a lot more than just a boat ride.
Picking us up from our Occidental Hotel in Panama City at 8am, our guide Lewis started the tour. We were driven by minibus out of the city and past the Miraflores locks to the Gamboa jetty.
After waiting a while at the jetty, we joined Captain Carl and around 50 other guests. We were all loaded comfortably into 3 boats and set off down the canal.
Captain Carl is a wealth of information and humerous anecdotes about the history of the canal, as well as the local fauna and flora.
His dry humour is pretty much guaranteed to keep you entertained as he simultaneously navigates the boat from the Gamboa public dock through the canal and finally to a floating lodge hidden deep in the tropical forest.
On several occasions we stopped to get a closer glimpse at some of the wildlife.
Along our route we encountered a variety of birds, reptiles and monkeys. We stopped a few times to feed the more audacious monkeys with nuts and bananas.
Our destination was a floating boathouse set in a secluded area of the lake.
The location of the floating boathouse looks very similar to the one used for the shooting of the movie Anaconda, which starred John Voight and Jennifer Lopez (before she developed her ‘booty’).
Here we ate a tasty Panamanian lunch, while we decided which activities tickled our fancy.
Fishing on the lake or kayaking 2km up a narrow channel to a waterfall?
For us it was a no-brainer.
Kayaking along a narrow channel through the undergrowth, sometimes less than 2 meters wide, makes for a real Panamanian jungle experience.
It took around half an hour to reach a small rocky clearing and the promised waterfall. We spent half an hour there swimming under the waterfall.
The more adventurous souls climbed the surrounding rocks from where they could jump back in.
After this we headed back to the boathouse. Following a few more drinks there, we all returned by boat to the Gamboa jetty.
The total cost for this day out was $115 per person, including hotel transfers, lunch and soft drinks. Alcohol is also available at reasonable prices.
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