Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Gamboa Rain Forest

We flew to PC the day after Christmas and arrived at a very basic B&B called La Estancia on a hill outside of the city in what used to be officer housing for canal workers from the US. It is very interesting looking at the Canal Zone which used to be a little america and has now all gone over to Panama. We said goodbye to grandpa after dinner and the kids were devastated. We crammed together in a little room for the night and early the next morning were picked up by the bus of Ancon Adventures for our splurge - a jungle boat cruise of Lake Gatun. Lake Gatun is a natural lake that the canal goes throug and is amazing because you can see massive canal boats up close plus incredible wildlife. We were in a small boat with 10 other people. We saw 2 and 3 toed sloths, howler and white faced monkeys (climbing around right above our boat), 2 crocodiles, iguanas, perigrine falcons, kites, toucans, parrots and tons more birds that I cant remember. Then we´d cross the wake off a Panamax boat and be in almost white water! The kids loved it. Then we got dropped off at a hostel in Gamboa (town by the lake) which houses Smithsonian researches. There are two super fancy hotels there but the kids loved our super basic rustic room with no hot water. They had a blast running around with the caretakers 1 year old, Jesus. They cooked us dinner (for $10 for all of us) since there arent any restaraunts we could afford (only ones are at the resort). We saw Agoutis (very large hamster like animals) and coati mundi outside the dining room and a herd of Capybaras (pig sized rodents) in a field nearby. The next morning we went for a 2 mile hike along the pipeline road, which is one of the most famous birding spots in Panama. We saw a javelina and morpho butterflies but not much else (lots of birds the kids didnt give us time to identify). It was hot and muggy and the kids fell apart so I took them to the zoo and dave went back to the hostel to regroup. The Summit Zoo in Gamboa is very basic - it has more playgrounds than animals practically which was perfect for our age group. It off and on poured rain on us but our kids are so used to rain at this point that they hardly noticed. The high point of the zoo hands down is the harpy eagle - which is the national bird of panama but is extremeley rare. It is as big as Cassidy and has a 7 foot wing span! The other animal that made an impact was the jaguar who walked back and forth in front of the kids growling and licking his lips. With the state of that zoo i was slightly nervous that he would be able to get out and eat them as he clearly wanted to! Another odd thing was the coati mundis that would ¨paint¨with their noses. They seemed mostly interested in putting the paint on their tails and licking it but the paper did get covered in some way! I have a video of it if you are interested!
Then our Gamboa taxista picked us up and took us to the ferry dock in PC where we caught a ferry to Isla Taboga 12 miles out from the city in the Pacific.

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