Since moving to Panama, we haven’t had time to explore the area like tourists. In honor of Jack’s first visit, Rhys and I finally put on our tourists hats and went to see the canal!
Booking the Tour
Although I am always wary of spending too much on a tour, I also knew I would be unable to navigate the streets of Panama alone. In order to find a great experience for Jack, I went to Viator. We decide to take the Ocean to Ocean tour. The process of using Viator is relatively straightforward. From the website, we purchased the tickets on a specific day and time. A virtual ticket is sent to you via text message with information. There is nothing they don’t take care of!
Paola, our AMAZING tour guide, picked us up right on time. While we picked up the others at various hotels, she greeted us and got to know us a bit. Monkey Island was our first stop. After receiving some instructions, we jumped in the boat and headed out to see the monkeys. Several ships headed to the canal’s locks were seen along the way.
I always enjoy visiting monkey island. Despite doing this once before, it was Jack’s first time. Monkeys came aboard the boat, grabbed grapes, and then fled. Since we were informed this time there were alligators, tiger sharks, and poisonous snakes in the water, I’m not sure I will return, so I’m glad I went!
Aside from enjoying the monkeys, Paola was also knowledgeable about the monkey’s lifestyle, identified various birds along the way, and shared information on the flora and fauna. Another person on the tour said she was like a walking encyclopedia. I agree, but I would add the word engaging!
The Panamá Canal – Agua Clara Locks
After the monkeys, we hopped on the bus for an hour-and-a-half drive to Colón to visit the Agua Clara Locks. Our tour included the price of the tickets, so we went right in. As Paola stated, this is not a thrill ride, it is a little like watching paint dry, the true amazement is in the engineering marvel. Rhys and I were immediately captivated by the serene views, while Jack studied the boats. We were fortunate to arrive as two boats were going through the canal.
St. Lorenzo Fort
This stop might have been my favorite. We had done the monkeys before, and the canal was pretty, but this fort is fascinating and it was novel! The fort was initially built by an Italian engineer to protect the main route to the Americas. Piracy was a constant threat to the fort, with some notables, like Sir Henry Morgan, attacking it. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you can still see remnants of its historic past. Our tour guide Paola explained the history as we touched cannons, entered hideaways, and saw traps designed to fool pirates. It was a great stop for all three of us!
The Tour and Final Thoughts
I wish we had done this tour in the beginning. This is a must for those visiting Panama. It is one day of touring, but you hit on three major points of interest!