Cruising past large ships in the famous Panama Canal, hand feeding wild monkeys, kayaking through the jungle and jumping off a waterfall are just some of the exhilarating things you can expect if you book a day tour with Jungle Land Tours in Panama.
To celebrate the completion of my intense Spanish classes, the Casco Antiguo Spanish school highly recommended taking this tour. The school offers a discounted rate for the tour for $100. The price included transportation from my hotel, boat ride, a tour to the monkey islands, lunch/ drinks, and a choice of kayaking or fishing. Because I was traveling around rainy season, it meant less crowds and I was placed on a tour with a family of six. In peak season you can expect to share your day with forty people or more, so my timing was perfect! From what I kept being told, April is one of the best times to experience Panama.
Everything about this adventure was seamless. My driver met me punctually in my hotel lobby and I enjoyed a private van to myself for the 40 minute drive to the boat dock. It was here that I met the other guests and boarded the boat.
Our friendly tour guide James, was a British biology student, volunteering with the company as part of his studies. For that reason, he had in depth knowledge about the animals we witnessed, the different plants and trees and delivered a solid history about the Panama Canal.
We encountered ample wildlife throughout the boat ride; everything from toucans to crocodiles to monkeys. James shared bananas and peanuts with us, which we used to attract monkeys into our boat. Watching adorable monkeys (mostly howler monkeys and tamarins) eat right from our hands was a definite highlight and I definitely appreciated seeing the animals roam in their natural habitat and coming to the boat only as they wished. Everything in that respect was very ethical and considerate of the wildlife.
The monkeys provided plenty of smiles, entertainment and excellent photo ops. Once we’d fed some monkeys, it was our turn to be fed and the four storey floating lodge in the middle of the canal was the perfect place to enjoy a delicious traditional Panamanian lunch. The lodge had a rooftop deck, ample hammocks and even bedrooms should guests wish to book an overnight stay.
We also got to meet the lodge and tour owner, Captain Carl, who to me was like an American Steve Irwin; laidback and rugged. He explained the history of the lodge and shared some of his experiences as an American living in Panama. It was fantastic to understand how the tour and lodge have evolved over the years. This is the only floating lodge you will find in the Panama Canal.
We had a small amount of relaxation time after lunch before splitting up as a group. Part of the group opted to relax at the lodge and the other half opted to go kayaking to the waterfall.
For this portion we had Emily, also a British biology student /volunteer and she also had great knowledge and a sweet personality. She took us out on the kayaks through the river. If you’re going to jump in a kayak, be prepared to get wet and to walk through quite a bit of water. Good water shoes are highly recommended as well as a protective case for your phone (I bought one at their gift shop for $3)
The kayaking portion took approximately 1-1.5 hours. You get to kayak to a hidden waterfall and are able to jump off from the top into a refreshing pool of water. Just the thing you want after sweating through a kayak workout!
Of all my unique travel experiences, Jungle Land Tours definitely impressed me with its professionalism and distinctive itinerary. This is the ideal day trip for any adventurous travelers who are coming to Panama in search of variety, education and spontaneous adventure!
I recommend booking the tour directly through Casco Antiguo Spanish School to take advantage of the discounted price for students. Tours are available every Wednesday and Sunday as well as other days during the high season (December to March).