If you mention Panama most people will relate this part of the world to the Canal which is a fair recognition due to the magnificence of this fine engineering project which was completed in 1914. An artificial waterway of 82 km (51 mi) connects the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean and it is one of the more prominent highlights of the World ARC route. It also provides a milestone for many of the fleet especially those who have sailed from Europe which is already a great achievement.
With the focus on the Panama Canal itself the surrounding areas often don’t get much of a mention. With an area that covers 75,517 square kilometers (29,157 square miles), Panama is comprised of breath-taking landscapes. From lush tropical forests to pristine islands, the country is an ideal home for many land-dwelling animals.
Having had the opportunity to visit the unique islands of San Blas inhabited by the India Kuna Tribe and a busy World ARC programme to look forward to which include a day tour to the Embera Indian Village located in the heart of the Gatun Lake, there is also an opportunity for participants to explore the wildlife and jungle forests located right on the doorstep of Shelter Bay Marina.
The eerie but fascinating sound of howler monkeys can be heard several times a day and this is just while sitting on your boat in the bay! Starting from the Marina there are a number of walking and biking trails whereupon you are almost certain to encounter various types of monkeys along with butterflies as big as your hands, inquisitive ant eaters, a large rabbit type rodent called an agouti and of course the pygmy three-toed sloth. The bird life is equally fascinating, swallows dash over head while beady eyed vultures watch you as you walk but the most beautiful has to be the colourful toucans.
On the Pacific side of Panama you are sure to have a warm welcome by the family of Racoons who live at La Playita Marina. They are very welcoming and will try to con you that they need feeding. They provide lots of entertainment for any newcomers but a word of warning, don’t leave any rubbish out on deck, they will kindly invite themselves on board at night and sneak around as one of the World ARC boats Pearl discovered in the early hours one night.
During the Canal transit the fleet will overnight in the Gatun Lake which offers truly spectacular views of the jungle forests bursting with bright colours and teaming with wildlife. Sadly swimming in the lake is prohibited as it is also home to crocodiles!
The World ARC 2021-2022 fleet have nearly all arrived into Shelter Bay and after completing the arrival process and in between preparations for their onward travel through the Canal, participants certainly have lots of opportunity to explore the tropic lands and wildlife of Panama.