Adventures in the Rainforest

We have been fortunate enough to take several trips to Central and South America, including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama. During each of the trips, we specifically made a point of getting into the jungle and seeing different wildlife and plants. Each of them was unique in their own ways and we stayed in eco lodges in both Bolivia and Ecuador. Many of these experiences were quite unique and we have many wonderful memories. Here are some of our favorite rainforest adventures that we’ve had during our travels.

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Up Close and Personal with Monkeys in Panama
  1. Monkey Islands in Panama – One of the most interesting things that we did during our time in Panama was to take a boat passed the famous locks and going to the Monkey Islands. Our boat would pull up to the islands and the monkeys would climb down from the trees to take grapes and bananas from our hands. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t do that, but since the monkeys rely on humans for the survival, we felt okay with the experience.
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    Hiking in Carrasco National Park
  2. Visiting Carrasco National Park in Bolivia – Our first Amazon experience was during our trip to Cochabamba when we stayed at an eco lodge and spent a day hiking through Carrasco National Park. We climbed into caves with different varieties of bats, blind birds called Guacharos, poisonous frogs, as well as snakes. It was definitely an interesting way to get introduced to the Amazon Jungle.
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    Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park
  3. Staying at the Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador – After our experiences in Bolivia, we chose to go even deeper into the jungle during our trip to Ecuador. We spent several days at the Napo Wildlife Center, which is an eco lodge sitting on a lake with caiman, birds, monkeys, and giant river otters. Every day, we would get up early and go into the rainforest to experience different wildlife.
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    Paddling in a Small Canoe in the Amazon
  4. Traveling on the Amazon River – We spent time on a motor boat as well as canoe on the tributaries of the Amazon river. After flying into the tiny town of Coca, Ecuador, we took a boat down the Amazon River where we then got out and hiked to get to our canoes. To say that it was a fascinating experience would certainly be an understatement.
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    Traditional Dance and Music in the Embera Village
     
  5. Visiting Indigenous Villages – We went to indigenous villages in both Panama as well as Ecuador and each was a truly special experience. The local tribes are very friendly and happy to welcome you into their village where they share their traditions, art, and lifestyles. We even danced with the local Ember√° tribe members during our time in Panama, which was something we will forever treasure. We know that these types of opportunities are dwindling over time, so it is important to take advantage of any chance that you happen to get.
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    Parrots and Parakeets at the Salt Lick
  6. Bird Watching in the Rainforest – With over a thousand species of birds in the Amazon Rainforest, the opportunities to see birds a quite diverse. We climbed to the top of the forest canopy in Ecuador to see different colorful birds including macaws, toucans, and parrots. Going the parrot clay licks and seeing so many different parrots feeding on the mineral rich soil was absolutely amazing.
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    Canons in Fort San Lorenzo
  7. Fort San Lorenzo in Panama – Going the fort that was captured by the famous Captain Morgan, which is located in the jungles of Panama was a truly educational experience. Whether imagining swash-buckling pirates, canons blasting off of the cliffs, or picturing the ships traveling down the Chagres River, it is something worth making the effort to see when planning a trip to Panama.
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    Scarlet Macaws in the Jungle

Obviously we hope to spend more time in different rainforests in other parts of the world. There is such a diversity in the biology of the jungle that it really takes several days to truly get an understanding of everything that there is to see. If you ever get a chance to spend a few nights in the rainforest, we’d highly recommend it as it allows you to see it both during the day, but also at dawn and dusk when the animals are the most active.

Coroico, Bolivia

Located in a rainforest in a valley of the Andes mountains is the town of Coroico, Bolivia. We went to the town after driving down “death road” and hiked to a beautiful waterfall and then enjoyed lunch at local restaurant. Considering how tense the drive down the side of the mountain, with its narrow road, thousand foot cliffs, and no guard rails, it was definitely relaxing to go to Coroico. The town square featured a whimsical fountain with a parrot and a colorful church. The highlight of visiting Coroico was definitely the waterfall, which was extremely dramatic and beautiful.

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Looking Up at the Waterfall

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Nestled in the Valley of the Andes Mountains

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Relaxing by the Waterfall

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Coroico Town Square

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Flowers Along the Trail

We hiked along a trail that was surrounded by plants with coffee beans as well as beautiful flowers on our way to the waterfall. We spent about twenty minutes enjoying the sights and sounds of the waterfall along with several other tourists before making our way back towards our vehicle. Along the way, we saw several coca plantations that are in the area where the coca plants are cultivated and sold throughout the region for medicinal and recreational purposes. While it is legal to grow coca, converting it to cocaine is technically illegal, but it is still a big problem in the region.

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Coffee Beans

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Base of the Waterfall

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Driving the Narrow Streets

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Colorful Church

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Hiking the Trail

After leaving the waterfall, we drove through the narrow streets of Coroico to a resort where we would have lunch. Compared to the conditions that we saw within the town of Coroico, the resort was extremely nice with a pool and incredible views of the rainforest. It was a perfect ending to a fascinating day of exhilaration and adventure. If it wasn’t for the fact that we drove down “death road”, we probably wouldn’t have visited Coroico while we were in Bolivia, but it was certainly an interesting and rewarding experience.

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Entering the Town Square

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Resort Where We Ate Lunch

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Pool at the Resort

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Coca Plants

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Crossing the Bridge into Coroico

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Streets of Coroico

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Whimsical Fountain

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Full View of the Waterfall

 

Metropolitan National Park in Panama City

If you are planning a trip to Panama City, one of the sites that you should consider visiting is the Metropolitan National Park. Since Panama City is surrounded by a rainforest that is protected by law, the city is literally surrounded by jungles and wildlife. You don’t have to leave the city in order to escape into nature and see some of the exotic wildlife that the country has to offer. It is about a fifteen minute drive from downtown Panama City to reach the park and the cost to enter is only $4 per person for non-Nationals ($1 for Nationals).

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Views of Panama City

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One of the Many Birds in the Park

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Resting Agouti

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Start of the Trail

Although it is located on the edge of the city and temperatures are often hot and humid, the Metropolitan National Park is still a rainforest, so you should definitely wear closed-toed shoes or hiking shoes. After stopping at the visitors center to purchase your tickets and get information on the park and the animals that live there, you will walk a short distance to the actual start of the trail system within the park. The trail in the park is basically a giant loop and if you are willing to follow it to its furthermost point, you will be rewarded with wonderful views of the city as the summit is the second highest point within the city. There are some steep sections on the trail, but overall it is considered to be moderate, but be sure to have plenty of water with you.

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The Trail Takes You Above the Canopy

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Cityscape of Panama City

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Turtles on the Shore of a Pond

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The Trails Get Narrower

One of the first things that you see along the trail is a pond that has many turtles swimming, lazing on the shore, or propped up on twigs and sticks. They were fairly active while we were there, but obviously not the most unique of animals to see during your time in a rainforest. Another of the first animals that we saw during our time in the park was a tree sloth, although this particular sloth was just curled up and sleeping. We saw several agoutis, which are rodents that are almost a cross between a rabbit and guinea pig. It is possible to see other animals such as monkeys, deer, toucans, and parrots, but due to the number of people that visit the park, those sightings can be rare.

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Turtles Coming Up for Air

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Another Agouti

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Typical Rainforest Tree

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Lizard Trying to Hide

The views of the Panama City are definitely a highlight of visiting the Metropolitan National Park. As you reach the final plateau above the trail, you have 180 degree views of the city and the surrounding suburbs. It is a perfect place to sit and relax before continuing along the trail back to the start. Another common sight along the trail are the leaf-cutter ants, which traverse the trails at many different points as they carry the leaves back to their nests. You will also see many different termite mounds on the trunks of trees as well as variety of flowers, trees, and plants. If you hear some leaves rustling next to the trail, a closer inspection will likely uncover a lizard, but beware of snakes as there are many varieties in the park.

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Looking Out Towards the Bay

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Leaf-Cutter Ants Hard at Work

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Termite Mound

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Start of the Loop

The Metropolitan National Park is a wonderful way to see a rainforest without having to leave Panama City. For a variety of reasons, we would certainly recommend having a more immersive experience in a rainforest, but visiting the park is perfect for young children or those that don’t have time to spend doing a tour or staying at an ecolodge. As Panama continues to embrace ecotourism, experiences such as these will only continue to become more accessible. We were told by one of our guides that 36% of the country of Panama is actually protected, making plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. Although many people visit Costa Rica, a trip to Panama might just provide a more authentic and less touristic experience.

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Tropical Flower

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Prickly Tree Trunk

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The Views are Amazing

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In Case You Haven’t Seen Enough Agoutis

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Camouflaged Lizard