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“This Ecotour was one of the best day trips I've had on any vacation ever”

Reviewed 10 September 2011

A friend and I spent a long weekend in Panama and did this tour on our last day there. Could not think of a better way to have ended our trip!

We met Carl, our guide, at the Gamboa Boat Ramp. There were about a dozen others going on the tour too. Off we went on a 2-hour boat ride, watching tall ships go by the canal, learning about the ecosystem, and stopping by Monkey Island where a handful of Capuchin monkeys scurried about our boat for a bit. That was a thrill! And this was just the beginning.

We then pulled up to an anchored house boat where we had a hot lunch and then relaxed in hammocks, where a few of us had a cocktail while others took a quick nap. Then we broke into two groups. Some went fishing, and the rest of us took a short kayak trip to an inlet with a waterfall where we swam and splashed around for a good, long while. We never felt rushed. It was a slice of paradise.

Back at the house boat, some relaxed in hammocks while some of us jumped into the water to swim some more. Then, it was feeding time. A number of creatures live on this house boat and we loved meeting them. I got to feed fruit to a night monkey. We all got to feed a toucan. Most of us took turns holding a Colombian boa. And we also enjoyed pulled up on shore near the house boat to admire little Tamarin monkeys running through the trees.

Then, we got on the boat back to Gamboa, relaxed and all smiles. Carl was a lively, informative, and wonderful guide. It was an incredible experience!

5  Thank Danaeve
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviews (33)
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"gatun locks"
in 2 reviews
"naturalist guide"
in 2 reviews
"high speed"
in 2 reviews
in 2 reviews
"capuchin monkeys"
in 4 reviews
"panama canal"
in 11 reviews
"overnight stay"
in 2 reviews
"capt carl"
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25 - 29 of 33 reviews

Reviewed 28 July 2011

Panama Marine Adventures (PMA) provides a unique week-long, small ship eco-cruise experience unparalleled in our many world travels. We explored the Panama Canal and environs from the Caribbean Coast to the Pacific Coast, and the Bay of Panama, in a 121 foot, modern, air conditioned catamaran, Discovery, from which we took many shore excursions in inflatable Zodiacs, kayaks, and in a panga (large seaworthy skiff) up the Sambu River into the Darien Wilderness. We leisurely traveled by train from Panama City to Colon, toured Porto Belo, and saw all of the Chagres River from its mouth in the Caribbean to Gatun Dam. After passing through the Canal's Gatun Locks, we spent a night in Gatun Lake, and took a tour of a Smithsonian Research facility on Barro Colorado Island. The next day we exited the Canal, refueled in Panama City, and proceeded to the Pearl Islands archipelago, where we anchored off Contadora Island, which we explored on foot and by Zodiac. The next day was another trip highlight, when we traveled by panga about 10 miles up the Sambu River in the Darien Wilderness of SW Panama for a day long visit-of-a-lifetime with the remotely located Embera Indians. These happy, friendly people graciously received us, danced and played music for us, provided a tribal history, gave us a village tour (~360 population), showed us how they lived off the land, offered some unbelievably high quality arts and crafts for sale, and a few of us got some temporary arm tattoos with an indelible "home-made" ink. The last day was spent at another Pearl Island snorkeling, swimming, beachcombing or just relaxing.
For those readers, who are used to taking large ship cruises, which have very expensive shore excursions, and fees for many other things, PMA offers this week-long, pleasure adventure for one all-inclusive price with all land transportation (including coast-to- coast railroad, vans and buses), excellent food, all beverages, a very personable, attentive crew, and a very knowledgeable Panamanian naturalist guide. All spoke good English. Even though birding and wildlife was not particularly advertised, as a bonus, we saw more than 60 species of birds, and sloths, crocodiles, Howler and Tamarin monkeys, iguanas, lizards, a non-poisonous water snake, turtles, and flying fish. Discovery holds a maximum of 24 passengers with a crew of 14. On our trip, we had only 11 travelers and, by the end of the week, we were all spoiled rotten! (smile) We would unequivocally recommend to anyone interested in a unique, pleasureful, learning adventure! It far exceeded our expectations!

18  Thank kenaisoki13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 May 2011

What a great way to feel immersed in Panama. We did the overnight trip. Consider the trip luxurious camping. You stay on the houseboat with average size rooms, and comfortable beds. Nothing fancy and a chemical toilet in the back. The location is in a small cove hidded in Lake Gatun. Picked up at a small dock in Gamboa, you get to dodge huge container ships as you head out. On the way we spotted sloths and howler monkeys. At the housebout we ate a delicious chicken lunch with a tamale, beans, a rice dish with fruit and nuts, and fresh fruit. Onto the kayak to a short hike to jump in the waterfall. Back to the housebout where the rum, beer or wine come out. Either enjoy the hammock, the menagerie of animals on board, fish, swim or kayak until dinner. We swam, then caught fish for dinner. In an hour 4 of us had about 15 fish. Dinner was fresh fried fish, pork, local vegetables, and beans. I cleaned my plate. Then off for a night safari. Carl caught a Caimin for us to look at, we saw fireflies, and a sloth eating in the trees. Once back, we visited with the other guests and Carl on the veranda with a dozen hammocks, enjoying Rum and cola. We got up in the morning and Kayak'd around while breakfast was being prepared. Then it was back on the boat to the trip back to Gamboa. An incredible array of activities crammed into one day.

4  Thank Napafoodie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 April 2011

I went on this tour with some friends not really knowing what to expect, and was blown away.
Many tour operators offer tours that take you around the canal and to the monkey island, but nowadays it gets crowded. But with Captain Carl, a funny and charismatic guide, it is totally different.
Rather that just taking us around the canal and to monkey island, we were taken to his private (self-built) boat house, where monkey's abound, uncrowded by other boats.
After arriving and eating a delicious panamanian lunch, we drank beers and hung out on hammocks until our next adventure started. We took kayaks through an artificial path through the canal rainforest to a natural spring waterfall that we all jumped off of, simply amazing.
To top it all off, Carl let us hold and take pictures withhis snake and crocodile, and introduced his tucan and night monkey to us all.
This is by far one of the best tours in panama, don't miss out!

2  Thank TheRegis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 28 February 2011

My husband and I periodically visit our old friends in Panama on trips to Latin America. They suggested we try a day tour on the Panama Canal and recommended Capt Carl's house boat as one of the better nature adventures.
We were not disappointed. Not only did he give an informative visit to monkey island ( I'm sure the creatures there know him well as they respond to him as he calls out each of their names) but we enjoyed a magnificent visit to waterfalls in a beautiful, unspoiled jungle setting. The meal on the house boat was pleasant.and close up encounters with all the animals was exciting. My only regret was being too ' chicken' to be photographed holding the large Boa Constrictor.

Our next visit will certainly involve the overnight stay. Another couple on our tour stayed overnight and couldn't stop talking about the beauty and sounds of the jungle at night.
The Captain gave us a new website if you are interested.

5  Thank AlyssaN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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