LOCATION: Housesitting in Panama City, Panama
WEATHER: Same – hot and humid. Showers in AM
Today’s excursion was a trip to see jungle animals. We got up early and met the tour guide at 7:00 AM. Supposedly, the tours that start earlier in the day get to see more animals. The tour was nice and small again, with a Canadian and a couple from Guatemala as our tour mates.
We drove about 30 minutes from the city. I sense a little rivalry between Panama and Costa Rica, for eco-tourists. Our guide today pointed out that unlike San Jose, Costa Rica, where the rain forest is several hours away, the capital city here in Panama is right on the edge of the rain forest. It is everywhere here!
We drove along the road where there have been more bird species found than anywhere else in the world.
Then, we got on our little boat and sped away across Gatun Lake, which is part of the Panama Canal. The river feeding into the lake used to be called Crocodile River. We donned life jackets, but the guide pointed out that if we sink, we would be gobbled up by a crocodile before the life jacket ever helped us!
We dodged big ships going through the Canal, like this oil tanker being guided by a pilot boat.
Before the Hoover Dam was built, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world. They essentially flooded part of the rain forest. Now, the tops of some of the former mountains are small islands that dot the lake. The wildlife on these islands have been partially relocated, and some still live on the islands. So, off we went to see what wildlife we could see on some of the islands.
At our first stop, several white-faced Capuchin monkeys heard the boat coming and jumped through the tree branches to greet us. Our guide pointed out that generally a firm rule in eco tours is to NOT feed wild animals. Here, though, the animals depend on this food, as there is not enough food on these islands to sustain them. So, the monkeys know that food is coming when they hear the boats.
This guy jumped right into our boat to welcome us.
They are very bold. We each had grapes to feed them.
We went to another island where another species of monkeys, the smallest in the world, live. They are shyer, as the bigger monkeys are their predators. Here we fed them some bananas, and even got to see one mother with 2 babies latched on to her.
We saw huge iguanas hanging in trees and many kinds of birds, including the beautiful toucan.
Then, back across the lake. We passed this huge container ship. It has more than 10,000 containers. It costs this size of ship about $1 million to go through the canal, but the ship companies see this as a bargain as it takes about 10 hours to go through the canal, versus 20 days going around South America.
On our way back home, we stopped to look at this sloth. Hurry, before it moves! 🙂
We took a short hike through the jungle canopy, stopping at a waterfalls. We saw some coati in the bushes, and several beautiful birds.