PANAMA CITY -- While tourism in the Canal Zone has long focused on
cruise ship transits between the oceans, the Panamanian Institute
of Tourism is one of the chief movers in changing the visitor
perspectives to staying a while and enjoying nature at its finest
in this land between two oceans.
Important nature reserves are located in the Canal Zone area,
and all are just a day trip away from here.
Barro Colorado Natural Monument is on a 13,400-acre island in
Gatun Lake; a large number of animals fled to the island due to
floods during the damming of the Chagres River in 1923 as part of
the canal's construction.
The only way to reach the monument is by boat, with excursions
arranged by tour operators in Panama City. Visitor numbers are
limited, so arrangements should be made in advance.
The visitor fee includes a dinner at the restaurant at the
island visitors center, where guests also may view videos on the
island's flora and fauna.
Chagres National Park, on the east side of the Panama Canal,
covers an area of 337,500 acres and is the main source of water for
In addition to guided park walks, activities include rafting and
fishing on the Chagres River, as well as fishing and water sports
on Alajuela Lake.
Soberania National Park is also in the Canal zone, occupying a
large area of rain forest between Gatun and Alajuela lakes; its
55,000-acre tract is the habitat of more than 1,300 plants, 100
species of animals and 525 species of birds.
The park offers its visitors a chance to fish, bird-watch and
hike along historic trails such as Las Cruces, used by the
Spaniards to transport gold and silver across the isthmus from
their colonies in South America.