ucked in between Mexico and South America is a small cluster of countries known as Central America. Actually a part of North America, this region comprises Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
The isthmus of Panama is the umbilical cord joining South and Central America. It borders Costa Rica to the west and connects to South America at the Colombian border to the east. Panama’s arched shape reflects both its role as a bridge between continents and as a passageway between oceans. At its narrowest point, it is only 50km (30mi) wide, but it has a 1160km (720mi) Caribbean coastline on its northern shore and a 1690km (1048mi) Pacific coast to the south. The famous canal is 80km (50mi) long and effectively divides the country into eastern and western regions.
Although Panama’s western neighbor, Costa Rica, has the lion’s share of the world’s attention in relation to ecotourism and fantastic wildlife, Panama in fact has more varieties of both flora and fauna. It also has more land set aside for preservation and much less tourist travel. Panama has a saying that in Costa Rica, there are 20 tourists to look at one bird, while in Panama there are 20 birds for one tourist to look at. There is much truth to this. An article in an Audubon Society Magazine rates this country’s Canopy Tower as one of the top eight nature lodges in the world.
As author Carolyn McCarthy put it in Lonely Planet, “In a world where wilderness and native cultures are disappearing, Panama – against all odds – continues with its essence intact. Trekking through rainforests, watching Congo drumming and sailing between pristine tropical islands offer wonder and delight. The wildlife viewing is astounding both in expected places, like the waters of Isla de Coiba, and in patches of preserved forest just outside the capital. For me Panama is a confluence – an explosion of nature, cultures and beliefs in that messy, musical arrangement that’s everyday life in Latin America. All that energy feeds you, and you see the world in new ways.”
Perhaps there is no better place to explore the natural wonders of Panama than the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, an RCI-affiliated resort tucked away in the heart of the rainforest overlooking the Panama Canal. Gamboa Rainforest Resort is an unexpected luxury destination resort, with a great number of attractions and tours found right on the property. If you love nature and the outdoors it will never be easier (or more comfortable) to explore the rainforest than it is there.
In what is one of the most unique of partnerships, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) has teamed up with the resort in the development of its educational exhibits and tours. In addition to providing information for the exhibits, STRI also helps train the guides and assists in the resort’s mission to increase conservation awareness. The resort’s exhibition spaces will also be research sites for resident STRI scientists and will provide an opportunity for the public to observe the results of their work.
To help you better understand the complexity of this remarkable ecosystem, Gamboa Rainforest Resort and STRI have created several exhibits to showcase the vast diversity of the rainforest’s flora and fauna. Strolling along the pathways and trails located throughout the resort, you’ll discover a variety of educational exhibits, each one designed to explain a different element of the rainforest. You can visit the frog research pond, freshwater fish aquarium, orchid and botanical gardens, butterfly nursery, turtle and iguana nesting areas, a reptile exhibit, historical and cultural displays, or sign up for various nature and observation tours.
For a bird’s eye view of the Soberania National Park and Panama Canal, climb aboard their specially designed aerial tram and glide quietly through the rainforest canopy where you’ll encounter plants and animals rarely seen by visitors on the ground. But your appreciation of this tropical environment doesn’t have to stop at the forest floor. Their first class marina provides tours of the Chagres River and Lake Gatun, sport fishing trips for peacock bass and other exotic freshwater species (catch and release only), kayaking trips, and tours to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island.
The accommodations at the resort consist of 164 rustic-elegant rooms and suites featuring private balconies and hammocks which include 48 one- and two-bedroom air-conditioned, renovated villas. The villas, originally built in the 1930’s and 40’s, are the former residences of Panama Canal administrators and their families that were refurbished to capture the ambiance of the original buildings. The main hotel facility offers spectacular views of the Chagres River and the surrounding Soberania National Park.
In addition to the resort’s landscaped pool and waterfall, amenities include a spa, three restaurants, complimentary Wi-Fi, flatscreen satellite televisions, 24-hour room service, eco-tours and adventures that include zip lining, night safaris, kayaking across the Panama Canal and more. There are two rooms specially equipped for persons with disabilities and the entire hotel is designed to be wheelchair-accessible. Also, the Aerial Tram is wheelchair accesible. In addition, the resort offers 24-hour paramedic attention and ﬁrst aid is free of charge.
Gamboa and the surrounding Panama Canal area have been protected and preserved for over a century, and large tracts of tropical rainforest, rich in biodiversity, are host to thriving plant and animal populations. Panama is a country with a long and interesting history and fascinating cultural heritage. It is the newest alternative travel destination in the Americas and an excellent choice for your exploration of the world.
Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Don’t forget its name.
Photos courtesy of GamboaResort.com and Wikimedia Commons
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.gamboaresort.com/ –The resort’s website
- http://stri.si.edu/ss/gamboa.php –The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Gamboa
- https://www.lonelyplanet.com/panama –Lonely Planet Guide
- http://www.panamainfo.com/ –Very thorough site
- http://www.thepanamanews.com/ –An outstanding bi-weekly publication English with both a print and an online version. The best place to find the latest news about business, tourism and what’s happening in Panama.
“On the Road”” is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, timely travel deals and events, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of this section is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Premier quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out– enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!