"WOW" would pretty much sumarise our trip, but I’ll try to go into details. We took over 1200 pics on this trip, only about 300 are posted. It was a hard choice and we had to reduce the size and resolution for this post. Arrived at the resort around 2:30 pm, without any problems whatsoever. The resort is situated on the Chagres River, almost at the Panama Canal. An easy short 10 minutes walk will take you to the canal where you can watch the cargo and cruise ship go by. We had a drink in the lobby bar and took in the site of the lobby which is extremely nice & large. The lobby has a breathtaking view of the grounds and the Chagres River via several 4 story high windows which compose two complete walls. We were then driven to our villa. Our villa was the first one on the right as you leave the main building, so all we had to do was walk back & forth about 500/600′ to get to the Resort’s lobby. Great, if you just had a big meal and, it gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery each time. The villas are large cottage style buildings. If my info is right, they were built around 1930, and this is where the people supervising the Canal workers were staying. A lot of history here… The buildings have 3 stories, the ground floor being carports and the second and third floors having 2 very large appartments each. Our appartment composed of a large room (dining area & living room), large enough bedroom, bathroom with large shower area (no bath) and a kitchenette. Clean and comfortable, very adequate.
Put on our swimsuits and went to the pool wich is situated behind the main building. The pool is 4′ deep everywhere, except for the kiddy section. It’s very large and impressive with it’s communicating ponds and waterfalls which starts in the resorts lobby. From the pool area, with it’s pool bar, you also have a beautiful view of the grounds and the Chagres River. Take note that there is no beach here (your talking crocodiles and caymans…). During our 14 days, we did several excursions, in fact we only spent 3 full days at the pool. I’ll try to summarise our excursions as briefly as possible, as words can’t describe everything and I’ll let all the photos speak for themselves.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
– the Panama City & Canal tour: very interesting, a lot of History….. Maria and Juan were excellent.
– the Radio Station and Monkey Island tour: saw crocodiles sunning on the edges of Gatun Lake, a baby sloth and it’s mother, several types of monkeys including whiteface monkeys, howlers, toucans, different types of birds, a iguana, about 7′ long, sunning at the top of a tree, etc. Carlos our guide was excellent…. too bad they moved him to Playa Bonita.
– The Emberas people: a trip back in time…. The Emberas are a tribe living in the middle of the jungle. They live pretty much as they used to, except for a few exceptions. We were treated to a meal of planctain and fish. We were then treated to different dances, and offered a tatoo which lasts about 7 to 10 days. All in all a great adventure…. did I forget to mention that we were brought to their home via dug-out canoes and that we stopped along the way at a gorgeous waterfall in the middle of the jungle for a swim.
– The Tram tour: Ok but expensive at $35. per person.
– The Summit Zoo:situated not too far from the resort. you can see jaguars, monkeys of all types, etc You must stop at the Harpy eagle’s cage. It’s a huge pen with a male and a female Harpy eagle, Panama’s National bird. The female is very large and measures up to 3′, with a wing span of 7′, while the male is a little smaller. (both male & female are a bit smaller in captivity)
Via a Panama travel agent we booked a 2 day trek to San Blas, including bush plane, lodging on an very small island with just the basic comodities, food (catch of the day: lobster, crab, fish) and two trips by dug-out canoe to 2 different islands for a swim and some snorkling. San Blas is an Archipelago of about 360 Islands owned by the Kunas, on the Atlantic side. We stayed at the ukuptupu Island, owned and operated by Juan Garcia and his family. We enjoyed this trip very much and made good friends. We were fortunate to meet a couple from the Montreal area (Dominique et Olivier)who had rented a car and we were invited to join them on 2 of their day trips. Once we visited the new Playa Bonita resort and spent most of the day and then we visited the Valley the Anton….. what a beautiful place!!!
We did several walks by ourselves all over the property…. best time to go and see as much wildlife as possible is around 6AM. Anna and I can’t say enough about the staff and the way we were treated by them. Let me tell you that a smile, respect, a "please" and a "thank you" can go a long way….
Finally: We had a GREAT TIME as I’m sure you can tell….. we even talked about going back before we left the resort, as there is so much to do from this resort, as it is very central in Panama. We’d like to thank all of the following staff for making this stay so enjoyable: Edgardo, Fabiola, Abraham, Maritza, Carmen, Jorge, Marcela, Max, Simon (Nolitours), Oscar, Yara, Carlos, Sorry if I forget anyone as you all made this trip special.
P.S. The only concern we had during our stay is the fact that large vehicles (garbage trucks, etc) use the Villa entrance and not the service entrance and road to access the resort. As such, you could get waken up at the wee hour of the night and early in the morning by very loud diesel vehicles running in front of the villas and grinding their transmissions as they shift up and down to go over the speed bumps…… no reason at all for this. (This review is being sent to the resort as well as posted on "Debbie’s Dominican Travel Forums"). Having met these people, I’m hopeful this will have been resolved by the time we go back.