Gamboa Rainforest Resort Gamboa transit around 1pm, on Monday was uneventful, with a great travelogue by a History Professor, who told us this was her ³summer job², as it is the beginning of a 3 month ²vacation² for them all. Most Panamanians have 2 jobs. She made about $256.00 per month as a professor. University is free. Upon arrival, a few of us were upgraded, to hotel rooms, with a huge dreamy hammock on the balcony, overlooking the river and rainforest. It had a huge tiled bathroom, and as all Canadians seem to need on vacation, WASHCLOTHES. The safety deposit box is free in your room, and there is also free internet near the lobby. Gamboa offers FREE viewing of wildlife as I have never seen before in my 17 years of travel to the tropics toucans, parrots, turtles, crocodiles, multitudes of water fowI by the river, that I have yet to name, anteaters, sloths, white faced monkeys, howler monkeys, tiny frogs, capiberas (these need to be seen to be believed, as they look like a cartoon animal and are a relative of the hippo), squirrel like groundhogs, and coutimondis. We took video of all, so we could have a closer look and possibly put a name to some of these wonderful critters. This hotel is truly a 5 star in my opinion, but remember it is also open to the general traveler who pays as he goes. Sometimes we were ignored for the ³paying customers², but they are trying to correct this. Breakfast and lunch and supper is offered at the same buffet restaurant, with 2 dinners allowed at the speciality restaurant. Yes, they do keep track. Be careful if you charge wine, drinks or trips, to your room! You need to carefully track this and go the night before departure to double check your charges, as it can take a long time for each visit to the front desk. The fridge in the room is filled with goodies, very expensive goodies, most of which you get for free. But if you eat it you PAY for it. The snacks, so nicely arranged are also NOT included. The coffee supplied is included, with actual glass cups, not plastic. We did not go to Panama, as we had spent way too much time, for us, on busses.
Lunch is offered daily, at Los Logartos from 12 noon until 5pm, on the river, and there is a fabulous view from here of the Panama Canal. We saw a huge cruise ship go by as well as various container ships. You can eat from the buffet or from the menu, while watching aquatic birds, crocodiles and turtles vie for breadcrumbs. New Year¹s Eve was quite a disappointment, hotel wise, as they did nothing for us ³all inclusives² at all! And the Monkey bar still closed at 10:30! as it usually did every night. We had a great time in the afternoon by the pool on New Years Eve, meeting a nice couple who offered to share their magnum of Champagne with us at midnight. We sat outside the Gala Party ($90.00/person) and watched the activity from the ³cheap seats². The fireworks at midnight over the jungle were spectacular! There are huge balconies around the restaurant and bar, overlooking the river, where you can sit and drink the wonderful tropical drinks they serve to you in real glass, complete with fruit garnish and umbrellas! The other bar is by the Pool and opens around 10:30, where you can get a bottle of beer, water, Perrier, almost any kind of mixed drink, and white or red very good wine, Chiliean I think. Not included, were some imported liqueurs or liquors, so it was best to always ask before ordering or they will charge you. There is no other place, that we knew of, to buy wine or liquor, nearby. So if you want some for your room, bring it with you. You can get the fridge key by giving your credit card number, and keep cold drinks in it, but if you use any beverages, remember they will charge you at checkout. As an example I think pop was $3.50. All inclusive is new here, and some staff are not quite sure what is or is not included. Also, they will serve the Spanish guests first, without even giving a second thought to who is next in line. The Spanish come up and just expect to get served first. I could not write this report with mentioning the fabulous WOV rep, Jean Francoise or JF, as we so affectionately called him. He was always cheerful, calm, helpful and honest to a fault. One couple liked him so much they took him on a helicopter ride with them! I left him with a thermal cup for his morning coffee and a Hawaiian lai I had bought with me. These cups had been really great at the Decameron but we did not use them at Gamboa at all. They serve YOU at the Gamboa. It is also a smaller resort, making it easier to make friends. Being the rainforest and all, the rain did come down quite often. Mornings were usually the sunny time, but weather was very unpredictable. An umbrella here, might be a very good idea, especially as WOV guests stay in the historic villas (there is one flight of stairs). They are huge but some are quite a ways from the resort. The rep lived here and said he enjoyed the peace and quiet. Most of the Canadians were here, but as I mentioned, except for a lucky few, us included, who had booked early and were upgraded to the hotel rooms.
The toucans like to be here in the mornings as well as in front of the hotel by the lobby. There is an extreme drop off to the jungle behind the villas, so it is very easy to see white face monkeys or all kinds of birds in the treetops. We got up at 6ish every morning and walked the property looking for the wonderful toucans! Take binoculars! and keep your eyes open. All it takes is patience and vigilance to see that rare bird or that sloth, (who tends to look like a termite nest) until you take out your binocs. The gift shop is VERY EXPENSIVE. There are Indians who actually live across the river and come to work in dugout canoes. We saw them one morning. A real jungle walk, for free, is just down the river trail past the butterfly house. Right here on most days, the Indians sell their hand carved and hand painted figurines of toucans, etc, carved out of NUTS! I bought a beautiful miniature of a toucan, what else? for $15.00. In the gift shop it was $70.00!! A lot of tours from other resorts, from Panama, and the cruise ships, visit this resort to see the wildlife, but if you stay here, it is all around you for free, so you decide if you want to take them or not. There is NO guarantee you will see what you want to see on these rather expensive trips. Birdwatching with a guide on Pipeline Road was $38.00 each I think, for a 3 hour trip. We walked this one morning, leaving at 5:45am, in the dark, (take a flashlight and get written directions from the tour guides), and it took about an hour or so just to get there. Although we did see toucans, coutimondis, various birds and frogs and got some good footage, with the heat and humidity, we were totally exhausted and very happy that the Gamboa tour bus happened to go by. They are very good at stopping to pick up tourists, even when they are not part of any tour! This is for those in really good shape, and take lots of water. The humidity is very high here, and some mornings it seemed to be raining but it was dew! There were mosquitoes, but they did not bother us that much, compared to the stingray, they were nothing at all! The one hour Monkey Island trip is not to be missed. We paid $21.00 each and zoomed down the Panama Canal in a speed boat, beside huge ships, to view white face monkeys and a male iguana in full mating colours. We had asked if only the two of us, could go, with the driver of course, and they accommodated us, no problem. There is also a catamaran and other boats for larger groups. We took the excursion to Colon, to see the 3 tiered Gatun lock leading into the Caribbean, and to see an old fort, the Black Christ, and then to finally take the train that follows the canal back to Gamboa. It was something to see the huge container ship, a few inches from each side of the lock, moving only a few feet from us!! We bought a few things in duty free Colon, but what a town, filled with gigantic name brand stores for shopping, along with some horrible slums. This is a long trip, 9:30 to 7:00, so be prepared. A full delicious lunch is provided at a Melia hotel with a neat little gift shop.
The Villas or the Hotel?:
I heard that some were not so happy with the Villas, as this is a 5 star hotel, with the WOVers in the ³cheap seats² and others in the upscale rooms in the hotel, close to everything. There are 2 flights of stairs to the rooms, and a shuttle golf cart is available if you call for it. I did not see these large rooms, so have no further information. We were in hotel room 429, so if it was raining, we never had to go outside, but to the elevator and up to supper. There is a ping pong table by the elevator outside the disco.There seemed to be stairs to get to all the rooms. You could upgrade to a more luxurious 2 storey room. They do have an extensive website for more information and photos.
All in all, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to see flora and fauna in their natural state, instead of in CAGES. Don¹t know if I would spend 2 weeks in this hotel, but one was great. I found it a very quiet resort after the Decameron, with limited restaurants and everything closing down at 10:30 and no entertainment by the pool or elsewhere. As I said, the wildlife here is in the forest, not in the rooms. Definitely NOT a party place. There was a disco Friday and Saturday at 8pm to about 1am, drinks included, but not many were there on the Friday we went. The Taylor of Panama was filmed here, so we will get it soon to relive our memories.