The Panama Canal & the Embera People (Shore Excursion)
Your guide will pick you up at the cruise port in Colon. You start the tour at the Panama Canal Visitors’ Center at Agua Clara Locks. Opened in 2016, these locks are part of the Panama Canal Expansion Project. The US$5.25B expansion project included, among other tasks, dredging work on both ends of the Canal and on the route itself in order to increase water depth and the straightening of bends along the route that allow larger ships to transit through the Canal. The most important aspect of the project, however, was the building of two new sets of locks, one at each end of the canal, which increased the waterway’s capacity to move cargo from one ocean to the other by 50% and allowed the passage of bigger ships, called Neopanamax. These ships are almost 3 times the size of the largest vessels that can cross the original locks and carry up to 14,000 containers. A ship of this size pays an average of US$850,000.00 in toll fees to cross the Panama Canal.
After Agua Clara locks, a short drive will take you to Gatun River, one of the sources of freshwater used by the Panama Canal. Here you will embark on a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel downriver through the lush rainforest to an Embera indigenous village. Along the river’s banks, you may be able to spot little blue and green herons, great egrets, anhingas, neotropical cormorants, Amazon, ringed, and green kingfishers, along with keel-billed toucans and ospreys soaring above you. Arriving at the village you will be greeted with traditional dancing and music. You will learn about Embera customs, their harmonious relationship with nature, and the history of this village. Explore the village or enjoy a short walk on the medicinal trail. The Embera crafters make spectacular pieces of art made of wood, tagua (vegetable ivory), and palm fibers woven baskets. These are available for sale from the source. After a traditional Embera lunch, you return upriver by motorized dugout canoe to where you started the tour earlier today.
Drop off at your cruise ship mid-afternoon.