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Panama Canal and tropical rainforest expedition cruise - 21 Oct 2016, 15 Oct 2017

12 days from £4,139pp

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Panama Canal and tropical rainforest expedition cruise - 21 Oct 2016, 15 Oct 2017

12 days from £4,139pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Panama City, transfer to hotel.
 

Arrive Panama City, transfer to  the beautifully refurbished art deco American Trade hotel. It is in UNESCO protected Casco Viejo, which has many examples of graceful Spanish colonial architecture.

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Panama City

Day 2

Excursion to the rainforested banks of the Panama Canal.
 

Soberania National Park where you board an expedition boat for an adventure on Lake Gatún, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A naturalist guide is on hand to help spot the wildlife - among which are three-toed sloths, crocodiles, and several species of monkey.

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panama butterfly

Day 3

Transfer to Colon, Panama. Embark expedition ship Silver Explorer; set sail.
 

Arrive in Colón, on the Atlantic Ocean entry point of the Panama Canal. The city was founded as a hub on the railway transporting gold to California during the 19th century gold rush.Many of the inhabitants are descendants of West Indian Canal workers. Once a vibrant port it declined, but in 2014 a project was started to refurbish the historic buildings and add new parks and avenues. 

Transfer to the port and embark your cruise vessel, the luxury expedition ship Silver Explorer. After she weighs anchor you will meet the Expedition Team, meet fellow travellers, and enjoy your first meal of contemporary, international cuisine and regional specialties unique to the voyage destination.

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Silversea Explorer

Day 4

Pass through the entire length of the Panama Canal.
 

In the 1880s a French company began the ambitious construction of a waterway to link the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans. The Panama Canal was eventually completed by the United States in 1914. Since the Canal was handed back to Panama in 1999 the bio-diverse jungle along its banks is being protected and developed for eco-tourism.

Today your ship will pass through it. This: It’s a complicated manoeuvre:  a trained canal pilot will guide the vessel through three massive sets of locks, These, raise ships to the level of the vast artificial Lake Gatún, 26m above sea level, and lower them again to sea level on the other side. 

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Panama Canal

Day 5

Visit the tropical rainforest of Darien, Panama
 

As the ship cruises south along the Pacific coast you are heading into an untamed wilderness: scantily populated territory so inaccessible as to be rarely visited by outsiders.

The shores of Darien Province are hemmed by impenetrable rainforest which has frustrated explorers over the centuries. The Pan-American Highway, which runs from Mexico south to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, is interrupted here: the forest is just too dense and untameable. Even nowadays fewer than 1,000 tourists visit per year. Nevertheless, or maybe as a result, the province shelters one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

There’s a bit of everything wild and wonderful here:  steaming swamps, vine-tangled streams, waterfalls, ravines and sand-splashed hidden coves defined by dark cliffs.  You may spot tropical birds of the tanager, macaw, ibis, egret and hummingbird families, as well as tapir and spider monkeys.

Silver Explorer will anchor in Bahía San Miguel (the Bay of San Miguel). Explore this pristine area by Zodiac or native canoe, navigating through mangroves up the tidal Mogue river.  

Eventually you will reach a settlement of Emberá indians who resist modern civilisation but who will offer a warm welcome. The people are deeply spiritual, with a long-established mythology, and practice natural medicine using forest products they harvest themselves.

You will visit authentic tribal dwellings constructed from indigenous trees. Before you leave villagers will perform a native dance and demonstrate basket weaving and carving techniques.

(While preparing for your cruise you may consider packing a donation of school supplies. Donations will be collected on board by the Expedition Team and distributed to the villagers during your visit). 

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Embera Indian

Day 6

Drop anchor at Bahia Solano and Utria National Natural Park, Colombia
 

As you continue to trace this rugged, unpopulated coast, you pass into Colombian territory: the stifling, jungle-drenched Chocó department. It’s one of the wettest places on earth, and as a result it supports dense, exuberant tropical vegetation which again defies penetration or any kind of human development: there are very few roads.

Bahia Solano, where the ship will drop anchor, is one of just a small scattering of settlements on this stretch of coast, its connection with the outside world limited to a small airstrip. The majority of the 10,000 residents live from fishing, agriculture and eco-tourism.

You can join a tour guided by one of the inhabitants, visiting the school, church, library and fishing port, ending on the ‘malecon’ (seafront promenade), with a performance of Afro-Pacific and indigenous Colombian dance, an opportunity to sample local dishes and an artisans’ market.

Alternatively choose Zodiac cruise to a natural reserve, the Botanical Gardens, with a boat ride through the mangroves.  The reserve is developing a reforestation project which will be explained to you during a 2hr nature walk.

Silver Explorer will relocate to Utría National Natural Park. This rugged, hilly reserve fringing a narrow inlet has coral reefs, mangroves, tropical rainforest and rocky beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs. There will be a choice of trail hikes into this unblemished forest environment. 

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Capuchine Monkey

Day 7

Explore Utria National Natural Park.
 

Your exploration of the national park continues. Again today the Expedition Team will offer a choice of adventurous trail hikes. During your walk, with luck you may observe deer, wild pigs, anteaters, sloths, black howler and spider monkeys. Elusive wild cats (such as jaguar, puma and ocelot) also make their home here but are more difficult to spot.

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sloth

Day 8

At sea in the north Pacific Ocean.
 

At sea.  The ship will cruise the north Pacific Ocean. Look out for pods of dolphins darting below the water’s surface. Sea birds such as petrels, gulls and pelicans and the odd albatross may take to following the ship.

The ship’s team will offer talks about natural and human history of this part of South America, such as the story of the exploits of Sir Francis Drake.  Join them in the theatre or relax on the pool deck with local soft drinks or cocktails.

During the night Silver Explorer will head over the Equator into the southern hemisphere. 

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Cape Petrel

Day 9

Visit wildlife habitat Isla de La Plata, Ecuador.
 

The ship anchors off the Pacific coast of the uninhabited Isla de la Plata (Island of Silver), 37km off the Ecuadorian mainland and part of the Machalilla National Park.

This island’s name derives from a legend which claims that in the 16th century hundreds of tons of Drake’s plundered silver and gold were hidden here which have never been fully recovered.  

Admired for its trusting fauna, which is similar to that of the Galápagos Islands, Isla de la Plata is a nesting place for colonies of seabirds and as such is an enticing place for birding, photography and nature walks.

You will go ashore and, together with a local natural history guide, follow trails watching out for herons, pelicans, gulls, frigate-birds, red-footed, masked and Nazca boobies, albatrosses and hawks.

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isla de la plata

Day 10

Bird watching off Machala on Ecuador’s coast.
 

Arrive at Machala, nick-named the ‘Capital of the Banana’ but in fact there is more to the place than fruit. Opposite the town you’ll see Isla Jambeli with its sunny beaches and mangrove forests and Isla del Amor (isle of Love), where pelicans, frigate-birds, and egrets nest.

Santa Clara, a refuge for marine birds including blue-footed boobies, is further out to sea. Whales and dolphins can still be seen in the vicinity in October prior to migration.

This evening the on-board videographer/photographer will present a Voyage DVD, recapturing all the sights and sounds of the voyage.

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Bluee footed boobie

Day 11

Arrive at Guayaquil, disembark, transfer to airport for your international flight, arriving home the following day.
 

Why stop here? Hooked on cruising? Stay on board for the next section of the ship's epic cruise, from Guayaquil to Valparaiso in Chile, visiting en route some of the highlights of Peru and the Atacama desert. Or fly off from Guayquil to the Galapagos islands and pick up a cruise on a sister Silversea luxury vessel (or another from a range of ships) to discover the Enchanted isles.   

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guayaquil

12 days from £4,139pp

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