Kayak trip in Gamboa rainforest on Gatun lake

Booked on Adventures Panama, the Panama Canal Kayaking day trip from Panama City included the hotel pickup, which was moved on last minute from 8am to 7:15am, arranged via Facebook Messenger.

Radisson Panama Canal hotel pickup

Booked on Adventures Panama, the Panama Canal Kayaking day trip from Panama City included the hotel pickup, which was moved on last minute from 8am to 7:15am, arranged via Facebook Messenger.

This in order to avoid the morning traffic jams, which we all agreed on.

Not that happy to wake up that early, I anyway managed to wake up by myself before the hotel wake up call at 6:15am, and could enjoy another beautiful morning view from my hotel room on the canal.

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It did look like the day will be beautiful, nearly no clouds on Panama for once!

Kayak trip in Gamboa rainforest on Gatun lake along Chagres river on Youtube
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One of the first at the hotel breakfast, I was on time to wait for the pickup.

A large car arrived with two 2 seater  Kayak   on its top, that was my ride.

I was the last to be picked up, and would seat in the  Kayak   with the guide, Juan, while another  Kayak   would be occupied by a couple of Americans from Tampa, Florida, as they would explain me in the car.

Panama Canal Kayaking

Panama canal

The first part of the day was the approximate one hour drive along the Panana canal, going north to Gamboa to get in the Chagres river.

During the trip, we passed some monuments, and stopped to have a closer look at the Panama canal administration building, on demand from the group - the whole is actually quite flexible, probably also because we were a small group.

Our guide, Juan, explained us that the building is elevated at exactly 26 meters, why ? Because that is the highest water level on the Panana canal path, the elevation of Gatun lake artificial lake, on which ships are cruising for 33km between two sets of locks. Also, this artificial lake on which we will kayak, was the largest man made lake at time of its construction.

There is a bit of traffic, despite leaving early, but it appears to be mostly due to some road construction. However, the trip seems fast and we exchange nice discussions with the guide and the other guests.

Chagres River

Arriving at the pier where we will take a boat, we all get a bit confused.

The car stops, we wait outside, and our guide come back on a... boat ?! Aren't we going kayaking?

Actually, we first charge supplies and the pair of two seater  Kayak   on that boat, that we will ride to a remote kayaking point in the Gamboa rainforest reserve.

While they are getting ready, I use the opportunity to cover myself with sunblock.

It is about 8:30am, the sun is shining hard, no cloud on the horizon, and the temperature is about 30°C. Yes, it will be a nice day indeed!

Canal de Panama

We can now board the boat, for an hour or probably lesser tour on the canal, starting after the Miraflores locks panama canal.

During this trip, we get as close as allowed to huge boats that are crossing the canal.

We go around them, as we are going much faster than they do, and Juan explains us that we must leave a very large security distance when taking them over.

This because in case anything happens to our boat, for example motor breaks, or some weeds get stuck in the propellers, well... the ship won't stop for us, and we'd have to swim fast to get away from it =)

Gamboa rainforest tour

Arriving close to a concrete platform, on a small side river of the canal de Panana, we stop the boat and start unloading what we need for the day, the  Kayak   boats and a bottle of water.

Our guide explains us that this platform was used earlier by Americans to have barbecues.

Looking around, under the jungle vegetation, that is true! We do see a bench and a table made in concrete, that looks like they haven't been used for many years.

We get some quick security and practical information - half of the group, me and the lady of the American couple, have never been on a kayak.

The couple gets first in their kayak, and go a bit away.

As decided with Juan, I will go in front, and enter first the second kayak. After he manages to sit in kayak, we can start exploring the Gamboa rainforest Panama.

Gatun lake tour

Starting slowly, it is a first for me using  Kayak   paddles, but it is pretty easy to get used to it.

Still pretty close to the lake, we have time to talk. I ask Juan if there are any Gatun lake crocodiles? He tells me that yes, and hopes we don't cross one.

However, they are pretty lazy, and would most likely not attack a prey as big as us on our kayaks, that looks perfectly able to escape or at least resist.

He also tells me that they can go for months without eating, so no reason to worry at all.

Well I wasn't worried, more curious to know if we could see some =)

The first half hour of kayaking is pretty calm, going around small islands and enjoying an amazing weather, a beautiful jungle all around, and a nice time in the middle of the Panama rainforest.

These 2 person  Kayak   are actually pretty comfortable, but keeping the legs in that position feels a little uncomfortable after some point, so I use the breaks to stretch them a bit.

We see a Jesus lizard at some point, but it moves so fast that it is hard to get a good view at it.

Panama wildlife

Suddenly, Juan tells me to go straight, right to a specific tree. Okay?

We get there, and stop when reaching the shore. I ask him what's happening?

Look up, there's a sloth!

Kayak trip in Gamboa rainforest on Gatun lake along Chagres river on Youtube

Wow! Indeed, there is a wild sloth hanging on a branch right above us, the first time in my life I see one.

The other  Kayak   joins us fast, and we admire the sloth until it disappears in the tree.

We were apparently pretty lucky to see one, seems like the past year they have been pretty rare. I will not complain!

We continue the calm trip, and spot an iguana on a tree.

The iguana is huge. But it is far from us, and it is nearly impossible to take a good pictures, as we cannot get any closer to him.

In any case, that was a great impression to spot a wild one in the forest.

The rainforest is very different to the Western forests I'm used to, and spotting any animal requires experienced eyes.

Monkey island Panama

We have already been in the water for about an hour, and haven't seen any monkey yet. Juan tells us it is probably because other tourists boats came before us and already fed them, therefore the monkeys aren't really feeling like getting close to humans any more.

We tour the monkey islands a few times, and still nothing... Really, no monkeys today?

Let's not talk to fast. We suddenly turn around an island, and we see a Capuchin monkey right next to us!

It does look funny, and we of course stop a little bit to admire it.

Our boat, that kept following us from the beginning, approaches.

The driver gets some pieces of papaya, and throw them to the monkey.

Another one appears, and the two monkey brothers keep playing with us for a few minutes, as long as we keep throwing them papaya. Clever guys!

Gamboa Panama

Our trip in the rainforest of Gamboa gets to an end.

The boat stops under a tree, and we do the same with our kayaks next to the boat, and board it.

We are told that the  Kayak   is over, and it is time for lunch! I get my phone back, and see the time, it is 11:30.

We spent about two hours on the water, which sounds great.

The lunch is actually pretty good, everything necessary to make sandwiches: bread, different types of cheese, ham, tomatoes, salad, and sauces.

On top of that, some nutritive bars for dessert, and fruits.

We have plenty to eat, and can even have it with a choice of soda or local beers.

I have two sandwiches, along with a beer, and feel pretty full after that.

Rainforest monkeys

The lunch over, the kayaks are loaded on the boat, and we start leaving Gatun lake to join back the Panama canal.

On the way, we hear howling monkeys, and approach one of the monkey islands.

Wait! Here they are! Plenty of howling monkeys in the branches, which have a very unique way of screaming.

They are not that easy to spot, as they move a lot in the trees, but we can clearly see several of them, and hear their screams a few times.

A very unique and funny experience.

After that, we go back on the Panama canal, leaving the Panama rainforest, and going back to the car.

Reaching my hotel at around 2pm, it has been a pretty busy day so far.

The weather is still amazing, and I take the opportunity to go enjoy the pool a little more, until the sunset, once more amazing on Panama!

After this pretty busy bay, I was so hungry, I went to try the nearby Balboa Beach Club restaurant, which has a great view on the canal.

I wasn't sure if I should go there, after having read mixed reviews on Internet.

But once more, that is exactly why I created this website: all the reviews were biased, and I had an awesome fresh grilled fish, with an outstanding service, well worth the 20$ meal with beer.

Kayak trip in Gamboa rainforest on Gatun lake along Chagres river on Youtube
Panama Canal Kayaking
Gamboa rainforest resort hotel
Hotel Gamboa Panama

Frequently Asked Questions

What unique experiences does kayaking in the Gamboa Rainforest on Gatun Lake offer, and what wildlife might visitors encounter?
Kayaking in the Gamboa Rainforest offers an immersive nature experience, allowing visitors to explore diverse ecosystems and serene waterways. Wildlife encounters may include exotic birds, monkeys, and possibly sightings of crocodiles and other rainforest animals in their natural habitat.

Michel Pinson
About the author - Michel Pinson
Michel Pinson is a Travel enthusiast and Content Creator. Merging passion for education and exploration, he iscommitted to sharing knowledge and inspiring others through captivating educational content. Bringing the world closer together by empowering individuals with global expertise and a sense of wanderlust.

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