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Sea Stories
Panama - the Gamboan Rain Forest & Resort

There are so many interesting things to see in Panama. One could stay two months and still not take it all in. In December of 2007 I visited three areas - Panama City & the Canal; Achutupu in the San Blas Islands & the Kuna Indians; and the Gamboan Rain Forest & Resort.

The pictures on this page are cropped from a full size picture which gives a better perspective to what is being shown. To see a picture full size, simply click on the picture and it will appear full size in a new browser.


Click on picture to see an enlargement. The French originally attempted to build the Canal led by Engineer Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower fame. They almost went broke once and went broke the second time. There were trials for corruption in France. Each cross in this memorial represents 100 Frenchmen that died building the Canal. Eventually the USA completed and operated the Canal.

The one railroad which crosses Panama parallel to the Canal dates back to the mid 1800's. It was used by many to travel to California for the Gold Rush. The price was $15 by train or $5 to walk the tracks by foot.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. This unique one lane bridge crossing the Chagres River, which feeds the Canal, looks old enough to be from the 1800's. The trains ride on the left side and one lane, one way vehicular traffic rides on the right side.

The bridge is quite narrow and does not look very sturdy, though several large trains and many trucks and cars use it every day.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The Gamboa Rain Forest Resort consists of three new large buildings and 20 or 30 smaller wooden "barracks" looking buildings. The resort was a military installation during the administration of the USA over the Canal. It now is a five star resort. I highly recommend it.

Why build a gingerbread house when you can build a ginger bread village? This is the largest gingerbread village I have ever seen, complete with electric model train.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. These are quite popular everywhere you go in Panama. They are very detailed animals, insects, birds and fish carved out of stone and painted.

The view from the room was breath taking. We could see the river, the swimming pool complex, the tennis courts, the "barracks" and the marina. If it is this green in December, does it become any greener in July? Could it be any greener?

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The interior of the main building was elegant with ample use of marble. When you consider this is in the middle of the rain forest, it really is luxurious given its location.

There were all kinds of surprises in the main building such as these huge statues of birds flying overhead.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Some sloths are not very shy. Here Diane is feeding a "wild" sloth a grape. This is at the base of the tram up to the observation tower. I'm sure he's used to being fed by guests here.

We rode the tram up a few thousand feet to an observation tower. Looking down into the rain forest, you realize what real project clearing the forest and building the Canal must have been. We saw many wild animals and birds during the ride.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. At the top of the tram it was a few hundred yards walk to the tower itself which stuck up well above the canopy of the forest. My guess is that this was some type of military observation post when the USA occupied this land.

Looking south from the tower you can see the Chagres River in the lower left feeding the Canal extending from the lower right to upper left in the picture. This is the river that flows under the one lane bridge, which you can also see in the picture.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. While we were in the tower, we watched them deepen the Canal by using explosives. The explosives caused the water to spray up in the air some thirty or forty feet. They then used a dredge to pick up the broken pieces of rock off the bottom.

This is one of the inland Indian villages. They are located near the observation tower. I wish I had visited one of the inland tribes - next time.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Access to the observation deck is provided by 20 or 30 inclined ramps that wrap around the tower.

Looking down into the tower, you can see the multiple ramps that wind around the tower. This tower was made in the middle of a dense jungle on top of a tall mountain. It took a lot of work to haul the material up here and assemble it. There are a lot of engineering marvels in Panama. It's hard to believe it was built for tourists.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We saw so much wild life in the forest. Can you make out the Toucan in the picture or the enlargement?

The guide (on the left) was very knowledgeable and very pleasant. We are descending into the lower tram receiving station.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. There were several "museums" on the property - aquarium, reptiles, butterflies, orchids, and others. The aquarium display was extremely well done. These are some of the fish that are indigenous to the rivers of Panama.

These are two fairly good sized snooks on display.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The tanks themselves are quite large. Behind the tanks in the same building is a display of crocodiles and turtles. Outside you can see the river passing nearby.

The butterfly enclosure was huge containing several hundred butterflies. Here the guide has caught one and is having him spread his wings for a photo op.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. There were many of the beautiful dark blue butterflies. However, I never could get a good picture of one. This one is very beautiful though quite common.

These two were having a big discussion about something.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Literally thousands of orchids and other flowers and plants were being grown in the Gamboa Resort Orchid Nursery.

This is the plant from which Panama hats are made in Ecuador. Yes, believe it or not, all Panama hats are made in Ecuador.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Nothing like a large hammock on the balcony overlooking the river and the swimming pools for relaxation. Not much of a sea breeze here but the temperature was still very pleasant.

The resort is definitely five star with two large beds in each room.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Everything about the resort was delightful. The Gamboa Rain Forest Resort is definitely a must see if you ever go to Panama.

The bathroom was enormous with modern fixtures and elegant appointments.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We are underway in a small power boat with eight people for the Monkey River tour. We are motoring down the Chagres River passing under the one lane rail and vehicle bridge. We then turned north in the Panama Canal.

Here is another Toucan taken with a full zoom. Pardon the fuzziness of the picture, but you get the idea.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We saw many two toed and three toed sloths in the trees, which look like a big ball of fur on the tree. Rather than show you that, here are pictures from a book the guide had which shows the animals of the forest.

There were many little islands in the tributaries and coves off the Canal that had these little picnic table huts on them. They had to be covered due to the rain. If you maintained the island and the hut you could use them for lunch or dinner parties. We ate at one of them.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. This ant nest is over four feet long and almost a foot in diameter at the top. There is a wasp nest next to it. The wasps and the ants help mutually guard their respective nests. The guide banged on the ant nest a little bit to cover his hand in ants. He ground them up with his hands proclaiming that the resulting Phosphoric acid juice was the best insect repellant there is. When the wasps came out to protect the nest we had to travel at high speed for five minutes to get away from them. It was almost too much excitement.

This Trogon Colinegro is just one sample of the many variety of birds we saw during the day.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We saw fifteen to twenty of the Howler Monkeys.

In Panama they didn't scream at them and bang on the tree to make them holler. This is more environmentally friendly than in Belize.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. These were the picnic huts where we stopped and had lunch. Several folks in the group would wander off to take pictures and would return covered in ants, which we had to brush off of them.

Food always tastes great out of doors. We had roasted chicken and sweet mustard, fresh fruit and a variety of salads along with a variety of beverages. It was a very memorable lunch.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. When it rains, it pours in Panama, thankfully not very often, but often enough to provide enough water to meet the 52 million gallon of water requirement for each ship to transit the canal.

Some little boys from one of the inland tribes are selling their hand made goods. Again, you can tell that these inland tribes are not real big on wearing a lot of clothes.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We ate dinner at the marina on a porch built out over the Chagres River. The marina is part the Gamboa Resort. The food was excellent.

The waters of the Chagres River were teaming with fish and turtles which ate the bread the guests though over the rail to them. There were also a few crocodiles chasing some birds which made it even more entertaining.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. As we ate our meal we spotted a large iguana up a tree about 100 feet away. I was surprised the picture came out so clear given the large zoom I used.

Fish on wood is definitely the most unusual dish I ate during the trip. It was really good. It was covered in avocado and cheese and sat on a big block of wood. I didn't eat the wood and I question how hygienic this manner of serving is. It was very different; maybe the Indians use pieces of wood as their plates.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement. The resort has a world class spa staffed with professionals. They offer a variety of treatments.

And, of course, they also offer a variety of lotions and potions. To find such a unique resort and beautiful spa set in the middle of nature in the raw, a Central American rain forest, is truly a treasure worth experiencing.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement. Here is a different view of their gingerbread village. There is so much detail and work that went into building this village.

This is the main lobby of the hotel complete with Christmas tree. We were here during high season because of the Christmas and New Year holidays. I wish we could have stayed for some of their holiday parties. I bet they were world class.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. This is a photo of some of the tours they offered. The picture is of a capucine monkey. We saw a couple of them on the tour but I never was able to take a good picture of them. I guess Dustin Hoffman was wrong in "Outbreak". These white faced monkeys come from Panama, not Africa.

This is one of the largest molas I saw. There is so much detailed handiwork in it. It is hanging in the business office. I couldn't believe they charged by the hour for the internet. But that was the only negative surprise I had there, which is pretty darn good.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The USA built and operated one of the most famous jungle survival training schools near Gamboa. All astronauts have to go through this school. Why astronauts need jungle survival training is beyond me, but there you are. Here is a picture from the 60's of a group going through training. The school is still in operation.

Evidently the local Indian tribes play a role in the survival training. Maybe they are guest instructors since they truly know how to survive living in the jungle.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. This definitely gives new meaning to the term monkey bars.

The Monkey Bar in the resort is a beautiful hand carved mahogony bar.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. This is a view of the swimming pool complex and the Chagres River taken from the main lobby of the hotel. Quite magnificent, isn't it?

And this is view of total relaxation on the balcony of our top floor room. The stuffed monkey eventually became known as Poopsie.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Large jacuzzi bath tubs provided the setting for some of their more exotic spa treatments. There was one about bathing in chocolate which was pretty unique.

There was also your usual large jacuzzi hot tub. There was one in the ladies dressing room and one in the men's. They offered just about everything a first class spa could offer.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Of course the meals were wonderful. There were buffets morning, noon and night offering a variety of entrees, salads, starters, breads, beverages, and killer deserts.

They also had special stations for making waffles and hot cakes to order or carving stations. In short, the quantity and quality of food were superb. They also had an elegant dining room with a very complete wine list if you preferred a more formal setting for your meals.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The staff was very professional and very friendly. The service was top notch. We really enjoyed the resort immensely and would love to return.

These little creatures roamed the grounds eating nuts. They are much larger and more rat like than our squirrels. I don't recall their name.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

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Captain Gregory C. Daley
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