Panama Canal – Ocean to Ocean

During our trip to Panama City, we decided to take a tour with Panama Day Trips – Canal Eco Tours. Since the Miraflores Visitor’s Center museum and restaurant was still closed during our trip, I picked a tour that was Panama Canal focused, so we could experience Canal at the fullest. Their Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Panama Jungle Tour took us from Panama City, which on the Pacific side, all the to the Caribbean Sea.

Our tour started off with a boat ride in Gatun Lake, a large freshwater artificial lake that makes up most of the Panama Canal. The Lake ranges 21-miles (33-km) and is where most of the large ships travel through in between transit of the Canal locks. The lake’s main function is to hold water in the Gaillard Cut for canal passage. It was really neat to be able to be in the Lake right next to the large shipping containers that we would see go through the Canal locks later in the day.

During our boat ride, we were able to spot a bunch of wildlife, including toucans, two different monkeys, and tiny little bats. We saw the Panamanian White-faced Capuchin as well as the Geoffroy’s tamarin, also known as the Panamanian red-crested or rufous-naped tamarin. The boat drivers are really good at spotting the wildlife and Panama Day Trips is adamant about not feeding the monkeys, as any human food is either too biologically engineered or too sugary for the monkeys. I really appreciated this and felt good about giving them our money.

Panamanian White-faced Capuchin
Panamanian White-faced Capuchin
Panamanian White-faced Capuchin
Geoffroy’s tamarin
Geoffroy’s tamarin
Geoffroy’s tamarin

After our boat tour, which departs from Soberania National Park, our driver spotted a brown-throated sloth!

Our next stop on the tour was the Agua Clara Locks Visitor Center, located in the town of Colón. The Agua Clara Locks opened in 2016, as part of the Panama Canal expansion project, which doubled the capacity of the Panama Canal by adding 2 new locks on each end of the canal. The Visitor Center offers a panoramic view, including the ships coming in from Gatun Lake and through the 3 chambered locks of Agua Clara. As ships enter the locks, narration with facts about the Panama Canal and Agua Clara Locks are offered in both Spanish and English. This was really cool to watch, albeit a bit of a slow going process. A true wonder of human engineering!

The last stop of the day was the San Lorenzo National Park, where we had a picnic lunch by the Chagres River, followed by a tour of the San Lorenzo Fort by our guide. The Fort is a 400-year-old Spanish fort on a scenic cliff overlooking the Caribbean and has seen much pirate activity in its lifetime. They are currently restoring a lot of the fort, so visitors will be able to continue visiting and learning about its history as a Spanish fortification.

The tour was absolutely fantastic. Our tour guide, Enrique, was super knowledgeable and peppered the day with interesting tidbits and fun facts about the country and the Canal. We never felt rushed and really enjoyed just having someone else drive us around for the day. If you’re in Panama City and want to take a tour with a knowledgeable and responsible company, I highly recommend Panama Day Trips!

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