Gamboa is, perhaps,the first place in Panama that attracted our attention. Without much knowledge of the lay of the land, Gamboa caught our attention as a location where we may settle, due to its tropical, rain forest, and low cost of living. Gamboa is on the east side of the Panama Canal and with only 2 routes across, it may prove prohibitive to move about the country from Gamboa. We have developed a comprehensive list of exploration ideas, and Gamboa has the majority of cool things to explore.
Gamboa is located in a very private, secluded area of the former Panama Canal Zone. It was the site of housing for workers in the early 1900’s when the canal was being dredged. The sleepy little town was established for the workers and their families. It bustled back then, offering schools, and all the services that one would expect for it’s time. Today it is underutilized and many of its structures are unoccupied. Part of the towns seclusion lies in that it is in the lush Gamboa Jungle, on the east shore of Lake Gatun, at a sharp bend in the Chagres River. To access Gamboa you must cross the Chagres on a single lane wood and iron bridge. Nearby, to the south of Gamboa the Chagres River and Lake Gatun meet the Culebra Cut. This is the narrow pass that takes the canal through the Continental Divide. All this being said, it is hard to believe Gamboa is less than 30 minutes from Panama City.
A short distance from Gamboa we will find the Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo. There we will a variety of monkeys, wild cats, harpy eagles, and giant tapirs. We will also find the former dredging docks that now house light ferry boats to take us to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute facilities at Barro Colorado Island. Visitors are allowed on Barro Colorado Island; access is, however, regulated. To visit Barro Colorado Island, you must make a reservation and arrange for a tour. Tours generally include transportation to and from the island, a 2–3 hour guided hike, lunch, and a visit to the museum. Hikes through the island offer up the opportunity to spot several creatures, including monkeys, anteaters, birds, and insects.
Since Gamboa lies at the end of the road, so to speak, it is near large tracts of relatively undisturbed rain forest. It is the home of caymens, crocodiles, iguanas, and hundreds of bird species. Pipeline Road is a trail that follows an old pipeline near Gamboa. It is considered one of the best places to bird watch in all of Central America. The Las Cruces Trail also passes nearby. This was the trail used to transport supplies and precious metals between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Some of the trail is now underwater. There are many places in Gamboa where we can access private and public boats for fishing expeditions on Lake Gatun. Lake Gatun is considered ideal for bass fishing.
The penitentiary where Noriega was incarcerated is located not far from Gamboa on the shore of the canal. It is a white collar prison, surrounded by jungle, and it is still in use today. This is a place that we will choose to avoid.
The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is a 5-star hotel located in Gamboa. The hotel attracts visitors interested in birdwatching, an aeriel tram which visits the jungle canopy, and tours to visit the Indian Reservations in the jungle nearby. The Embra and Wounaan Tribes reside on Lake Alajuela which lies on the upper side of the Chagres River. A one hour ride by native canoe (piragua) will deliver us deep in the jungle to visit with the Embra people. We will get the opportunity to see the Indians lifestyle, like hunting, fishing, harvest, and medicine. We will experience the traditional dances, and see how they paint their bodies. We will see how they weave baskets, plates and masks. We will have the chance to walk through the jungle to see the wildlife, birds and waterfalls. The Embra are very welcoming and friendly people. They will serve us lunch before we embark on our one hour return journey by piragua to Gamboa.
Gamboa and its surrounding area will be a great place to make memories of our Panama adventure. It may not, however, be our ideal choice for a retirement home. We will be keeping a open mind. Please, continue to follow, like, share, and comment. Our Spanish lessons are going on behind the scenes we will, however, share the word of the day “extranar”. Extranar means to miss or long for. Yo extranar para eterno el verano. Translated…I long for eternal summer. Buenos Dias.