My sister and a colleague of hers decided to visit me in Panamà. Still being busy with the investigation, I did not manage to find a lot of time for travel during the week. However, on the weekends, we managed to make some small trips. One of them lead us into the jungle near the village of Gamboa.
Gamboa once was one of several canal zone townships built to house employees working at the Panama Canal and their families. Later (due to a shortage in housing in the US military base) there were also soldiers living there. The architecture of Gamboa has been preserved with lots of love and nowadays you can find hotels there. The rise of tourism has not damaged the rural flair the least.
We arrived at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort – the main hotel in the region. Besides booking a room, you can also sign up for some tours. From wild canopy tours to relaxed fishing trips and guided jungle adventures there are a plethora of things to do – as long as you have the money. A Pierce Brosnan fan might also appreciate the place. In the opening shot of The Tailor of Panama Andrew Osnard, played by Pierce Brosnan is staying at the resort. Pop culture references aside, we decided to go on a guideless rain forest hike first and then follow up with a guided tour on the aerial tram through the jungle. What I discovered during my countless trips into the Panamanian interior is my love for ants and the structures they build.
It really is fascinating to see such large parts of the undisturbed rainforest. The wide variety of bird species, caymans, crocodiles, and iguanas also explain why you can find stations of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute there. Their employees (mostly researchers) also give tours and explain interesting facts about the flora and fauna of the area surrounding Gamboa and the Panama Canal.
The impressions were just amazing. The fresh air was a nice contrast to the contaminated city air. Also, there are only a few places in the world that offer the tranquility and at the same time vividness of the rain forest.
From a wooden outpost at the top of the aerial tram, you can also see the vastness of the surrounding area unfolding in countless silhouettes until it reaches the foggy horizon, while ships make their way to the locks on the main part of the canal. In the lower right-hand corner you can also see the famous single-lane bridge that is the only way to access Gamboa by road.
All in all, Gamboa is a nice place to visit. Public transport there is not that great, so try to make contact with some Panamanians that own a car before and go there together! If you plan some guided hiking or canopy tours, make sure to bring enough cash. While the views are beautiful and the money is absolutely worth it, a student will have to save some weeks beforehand to be able to afford it. Here, have a sloth.