Panama Exploration Cruise aboard the Discovery
8 days /
From $4,042 per person, double occupancy for 2013
Day 1: Panama City - Flamenco Marina
Sail the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean towards Contadora Island, where the Discovery will drop anchor for the first night. Take this opportunity to meet your expedition leaders, the crew and your fellow travelers while you enjoy a welcome cocktail and savor our tempting native cuisine.
Day 2: The Wild Darien
Awake this morning aboard a time machine and travel back more than 600 years to a place that not many have had the privilege of experiencing. More than an excursion, this is a journey into the lives of the Embera Indians. A proud people who have been able to maintain their traditions and lifestyle as they were before the Spaniards colonized the region. These natives are also master crafters of cocobolo wood carvings and basketry. After motoring up river on local fishing boats, you will see the village emerging from the rainforest, as if by magic. Keep your binoculars at eye level at all times as the region offers abundant wildlife that is particularly active along the river’s edge. Today you will also have time to practice your kayaking skills along the mouth of the river and birdwatch from the comfort of our zodiacs.
Day 3: Pearl Islands – San Telmo
Snorkel and swim on the waters of the Pearl Islands. The archipelago owes its name to the abundance of pearl oysters which supported a substantial fishery up until the early 1900’s. On the southernmost area of the archipelago, the islands of San Telmo and Galera are home to some pristine beaches and fertile fishing grounds. Join the divers from Esmeralda in their search for pearls and kayak along beautiful and unspoiled beaches. View the remains of the submarine Explorer built in 1865 during the Civil War and which sunk off the coast of San Telmo during the oyster fishery of the late 1800’s.
Day 4: Panama Canal Transit – Gatun Lake.
Wake up at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal and join the morning’s ship convoy for our northbound canal passage traversing Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks. The Discovery will be raised 85 feet above sea level to Gatun Lake. You will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience up close the history and operation of this engineering marvel. Navigate the Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal, bisecting the Continental Divide. This section of the canal is full of history and geological value and you will be able to appreciate the continuous maintenance that this area requires, because it is very susceptible to landslides. Spend the night in Gatun Lake on Panama Canal waters.
Day 5: Panama Canal – Barro Colorado.
Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, the vast jungle area that is now Gatun Lake was teeming with an overwhelming abundance of wildlife. As the region was flooded to create the lake, animals took refuge in the mountain peaks, which are now the many islands that dot the renowned lake. Explore Barro Colorado Island where the Smithsonian´s Tropical Research Center is located. Your expedition leader will take you on board small crafts past lush rainforests to secluded areas of the lake to witness first-hand the splendor and excitement of the jungle. Exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and crocodiles are just a few of the animals that you can see in their native surroundings. The sights, sounds and scents that make up this beautiful, tropical jungle will engulf you. Cameras are a must as this is considered one of the world’s premier locations for viewing monkeys and other animals in the wild. Later in the afternoon, the Discovery will complete its full Panama Canal transit on its way to the Caribbean Sea and the mouth of the Chagres River.
Day 6: Chagres River - Fort San Lorenzo
Experience the magnificent Chagres River which was used by the conquistadors to move their gold across the Isthmus of Panama en-route from Peru to Spain and by the gold prospectors who attempted a "short cut" from the US East coast to the gold fields of California. The river was the centerpiece of the colonial inter-oceanic route and is now the lifeline of the Panama Canal full of wildlife and tropical jungle. Explore Fort San Lorenzo which is located on a cliff at the mouth of the Chagres on the Atlantic side where your leader will offer details of the immense amount of history found on this area. The fort was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century to defend their well known gold trail.
Day 7: Portobelo – Caribbean
Enjoy the town of Portobelo on Caribbean waters which was founded by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to the new continent in 1597. This quaint town is rich in history as it was the site of many sea and land battles between the Spanish colonials and the pirates and corsairs raiding the Spanish Main. Explore the fortifications built by the Spaniards to protect their treasures and visit the Church of San Felipe, the sanctuary of the Black Christ. Spend the night in the bay of Portobelo, the most important refuge for the Spanish galleons in the Caribbean.
Day 8: Portobelo – Caribbean
Wake up to a farewell breakfast before you disembark the Discovery. Travel by motor coach to Panama City. This two hour trip will allow you to traverse the trans-isthmian highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
The Southbound journey follows the same exploration route in reverse
2012 departure dates: Apr 21-27, May 28-Jun 3; Jun 23-29, Jul 21-27, Aug 25-31
Single supplement - $1980