More than 500 species of birds, over 100 species of mammals, and some 125 species of reptiles “coexisting peacefully” in 50,000 acres of dense rainforests. Multiply these numbers by the population of each species of the birds and animals found in these complex ecosystems, and you will know why we have highlighted the words peaceful coexistence. It is a riot of colors, smells, sights, and sounds out there. The wealth of flora and fauna trapped in the jungles around the Panama Canal is overwhelming and unaccounted.
The Panama Canal Rainforests is as diverse as they come. In these deep woods, we have a lesson or two to learn about genetic diversity, natural balance, evolution, social behavior, conservation, and more. Add to that this pristine paradise is nestled away in the neighborhood of one of the well-exploited port towns in the Americas. Because of its accessibility and resilience, the Panama Canal Rainforests offer many incentives to both the research community and the adventure seeking tourists.
A remarkable feature of the Panama Canal Rainforests, also known as Soberania National Park, is the element of surprise they will throw at you each time you visit them, in spite of the fact that the jungles are quite close to Panama City. Every visit to these tropical woods is a sublime experience dominated by the desire to know what else is hidden in the impenetrable forests. The sense of mystic charm just refuses to die out. It is said that the experience of visiting the Panama Canal Rainforests is equivalent to, and at times better than, the aura, surplus, and unpredictable nature of the rainforests in the Amazon basin. There is not a boring moment in the woods.
The appearance of flourishing vegetation, terrestrial abundance, and calm waters may paint a deceptive picture of the life under the water. It will only take a few crumbs of bread thrown into the waters while you are dining at the Rainforest Resort to allay your doubts. You will be surprised at the variety of aquatic animals that will respond to your trick–fishes, water birds, crocodiles, turtles, and other marine forms showing up dutifully to grab a lion’s share of the food. If you want to see them up close and personal, then it is time to undertake exploratory trips to the coral reefs.
Birding and fishing are among the most popular activities in the Panama Canal Rainforest. If you have been dreaming about catching a dozen fish in a day, then head straight for Gatun Lake. This lake was created when the engineers working on the Panama Canal started damming the Chagras River. The Chagras River is itself sought after for rafting.
The Panama Canal Rainforest can also be explored on a kayak. There are organized kayaking tours on both Chagras River and Gatun Lake.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) is setup on the Barro Colorado Island in the middle of the Panama Canal. Tropical research and conservation activities are underway in these living laboratories unhindered by the barrage of ships and containers snaking through the Canal Zone. Tourists planning to visit these restricted areas should book well in advance with authorized tour operators.
At the Monkey Island, you will be astonished to see several types of simians going about their business. You may perhaps decide to wind up after visiting the local zoo that is home to about 15,000 tropical birds and animals.