We entered the canal via the Gatun locks on the Atlantic side. An intricate set of locks create a three-step process that lifts vessels 85 feet above sea level onto Gatun Lake. The complete transit would lower the ship 31 feet at the Pedro Miguel Locks and another 58 feet at the Miraflores Locks before exiting into the Pacific. We opted for a partial transit that sailed on Lake Gatun for the day and then made a U-turn back through the Gatun Locks to the port city of Colon. We entered the Locks at sunrise. The journey from the Gatun Locks to the Lake took about two hours. Once upon the lake we tendered to shore for an excursion to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Nestled at an intersection of the Canal and the Chagres river, the resort boasts 340 acres of luxurious pools, restaurants and gardens. The surrounding pristine rain forest hosts an incredible 525 species of birds, 105 species of mammals and 124 species of amphibians and reptiles. After a scenic drive we arrived at the amazing resort and enjoyed a coffee before heading into the forest. We saw an amazing array of color and beauty at a butterfly sanctuary. Local turtles, crocs and snakes were on display at an animal sanctuary along the jungle route. As we ventured deeper we were greeted by an adorable wild coati that entertained the guests for food. Our destination was an aerial tram in the heart of Soberania National park. After exploring the rainforest on foot, we boarded the tram for a 20-minute ascent through the canopy. At the summit we enjoyed spectacular views of the jungle, river and canal from an 85 meter perch. Being in such a dense jungle gave us a healthy respect for the time and effort required to complete the Panama Canal (more than 25,000 people died during the construction).
We quite enjoyed our trek through Panama and would definitely recommend seeing this engineering marvel up close. The partial transit was budget friendly (about half the price of a full transit cruise). The weather is always warm and the people we met were friendly and informative. Adios Panama, we hope to make it back some day!