We had an excellent jungle boat tour with “Barefoot Panama Tours” on Lake Gatun near Gamboa, Panama. This is part of the Panama Canal water complex. The Panama Canal is only 30 minutes north of Panama City. The canal requires a vast rainforest watershed to feed water to its lock system, which uses millions of gallons each day. For this reason the canal has to preserve its watersheds, making for plentiful pristine rainforests. Our guide Ross was a knowledgeable and engaging gentleman. He has a love of nature, culture and the history of the country of which he shares in a very enthusiastic and entertaining manner. He picked us up early in the morning from our apartment in Panama City and before long we were in the rainforest amongst the sights and sounds of the jungle. A Capuchin monkey tribe was all around us in the trees, some carrying their clinging babies. On prominent display in the foreground, amongst the constant chattering and shrieks from his family as they leaped and climbed the vine-covered jungle forest, was a large dominant male. Each group is usually between 15-30 monkeys.
Continuing our peaceful boat trip, we wound our way through grassy reeds, the strong sun rays seeping through the many layers of jungle foliage.
We stopped again to marvel at a large troop of tiny Geoffrey’s Tamarin Monkeys found in Panama and Columbia. They are black and white with a red, brownish nape with a white triangle shape patch on their forehead. They excitedly chattered and danced in an enormous tree next to our boat on the water, some coming for a brief visit on board.
We saw many beautiful multicoloured iguanas both large and small while howler monkeys made their low basal calls close by.
We stopped at a small island where Glenn did aerial drone photography for Ross’s company. He took off from the front of a pontoon boat with a compact space cleared out at the front. Our guide Ross proved to have very steady nerves and hands as he agreed to hand catch the drone on its return. We then made our way through the Panama Canal for several miles to reach the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. We then transferred to a narrow, flat-bottomed boat for the quick trip to visit a Wounaan Indigenous tribe’s nearby village.This incredible adventure can be see by video on the link below.
A young boy from the tribe picked us up at a unique spot. We got on the boat, and a could feel the heat, mist and steam from the forest amidst tropical bird sounds. A toucan flying with it’s significant long beak caught my eye. We arrived at the village for an extremely educational experience!
“The Wounaan are a Panamanian group based originally in the Darien region. They are also known as the Wounana, Wound Meu, Noenama and by the homogenizing name Choco used to group together numerous Indigenous groups. They are a sub group of the Embera-Wounaan people, have a population of approximately 6,800 and speak Wounaan dialects originating from languages of the Chocoan family. Most Wounaan specifically inhabit villages within or just outside two Embera-Wounaan Comarcas. A Comarcas according to the dictionary, is an administrative region for an area with a substantial Indian population. Outside of these Comarcas some still live along the Darien rivers.Traditionally the Wounaan are/were semi nomadic people and lived by hunting, gathering and practicing swidden agriculture to grow bananas, corn and roots amongst other crops. Wounaan people are particularly well known for their bowl haircuts and elaborate body painting achieved using woodblocks. The Wounaan are also famed crafts people, creating intricate basket work and carvings. The goods produced by these talented artisans provide an important source of economic income. We had a detailed explanation with translation from Ross about their traditional life.
We then did a hike through the jungle with a knowledgable explanation of tree,plants and medicinal herbs from the chief of the tribe with Ross expertly translating.Shown with me is the water tree.
I bought a beautiful colourful hand dyed sarong purple and pink and turquoise and a basket which I will always cherish.
My next blog will be about the expat beach town Coronado. From there we will go to El Valle, and then continue to travel the expat communities in Panama.