Pipeline Road Hike & Jungle Boat Expedition
You will be picked up at the lobby of your Panama City hotel by your guide for the approximately 45-minute drive to Soberania National Park in the Panama Canal Watershed. Soon after you cross the Chagres River, you reach Pipeline Road. During World War II, a pipeline was built along the Panama Canal to transport fuel from one ocean to the other in the event the waterway was attacked. Fortunately, it was never used. The gravel road built to maintain the pipeline provides excellent walking access to Soberania's 22,000 hectares (55,000 acres) of tropical rainforest. The park boasts an impressive list of 525 species of birds, including the Black Hawk-eagle, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Black-breasted Puffbird, Broad-billed Motmot, Blue Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Masked Tytira, Violaceous Trogon, Fasciated Antshrike, Shining Honeycreeper, and a great array of North American migrants. Soberania is also home to 105 species of mammals, including large felines, Tamandua, Two and Three-toed Sloth, 4 species of monkeys, Agouti, some of which are listed under CITES (endangered species), and 59 endemic plant species in 4 life zones.
Pipeline Road is a moderate, approximately 22 km (13.7 mile) trail that remains pretty much flat and passes through a mature forest. In most places, the forest is clear of undergrowth, which makes it especially suited for observing shy, interior forest birds like tinamous and leaftossers. When visiting Pipeline Road, you also have a good chance to find an army ant swarm and many of the birds that follow these swarms as they roam the forest floor. This is not a loop trail, so hikers can enjoy a hike suitable to their physical abilities and walking speed and return on the same route mid-morning to continue on to the boat tour. The nature walk takes about 2 - 2.5 hours.
Mid-morning, you will be transferred to the marina near Gamboa, where you board a comfortable 12 passenger expedition boat. The tour includes a voyage across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal, where you pass gigantic cargo ships in sharp contrast with the natural surroundings. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to spot green iguanas and three-toed sloth resting on tree branches, crocodiles, and osprey in the hunt for peacock bass, snail kites and keel-billed toucans, among other wildlife.
Gatun Lake was formed to give way to the Panama Canal in 1914. With a surface area of 423 km2 (163 sq mi), at the time of its creation, it was the largest man-made lake in the world. The flow of all the rivers within the Panama Canal Watershed is contained in Gatun Lake to provide water for the operation of the lock system. Nearly 200 million liters (52 million gallons) of fresh water are used for every ship that transits through the Panama Canal from one ocean to another. Our expedition boat will allow a close experience with rainforest covered islands (former hill tops) in Gatun Lake to search for white-faced capuchin, mantled howler monkey, spider monkey, and Geoffrey’s tamarin. You will enjoy some light snacks, fruits and beverages on the boat before returning back to the marina. During the early afternoon, you will be taken back to your hotel.