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

12 days from £4091pp

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

Silversea’s Silver Explorer pushes back the frontiers on this expedition cruise from Panama to Ecuador, passing through the waters of the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. Travelling on this luxurious motor yacht you can relax in an ultra-comfortable suite after a day out exploring.

Jungle hikes with wildlife spotting in a remote national park and a canoe trip to visit a distant indigenous community are programmed. You’ll also call in at a languid little Colombian fishing port secluded on a virtually inaccessible bay: here, a traditional way of life is unchanged.  

Visit the bird-filled Isla de la Plata, sometimes known as Poor Man's Galápagos and finish your cruise at Ecuador’s dynamic, fast-evolving second city, the port of Guayaquil. (There, you are ideally positioned to connect with another cruise in the Galápagos Islands).

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Panama City, transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Excursion to the rainforested banks of the Panama Canal.

Day 3

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

Day 4

Pass through the entire length of the Panama Canal.

Day 5

Visit the tropical rainforest of Darien, Panama

Day 6

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

Day 7

Explore Utria National Natural Park.

Day 8

At sea in the north Pacific Ocean.

Day 9

Visit wildlife habitat Isla de La Plata, Ecuador.

Day 10

Bird watching off Machala on Ecuador’s coast.

Day 11

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

Detailed itinerary

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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). 

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. 

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.


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. 

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.

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.

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.   


Essential information


8 day expedition cruise from Colon, Panama, to Guayaquil Ecuador.


This holiday incorporates a luxurious cruise on board a first class cruise ship, Silver Explorer, accommodating 130 guests and 117 staff and crew.  All guest suites are ocean view and all have verandas, marble bath, flat screen TV, on demand movies, and spa robes. All suites have a designated trained butler. Among his or her many services for you, your butler helps customise your mattress, pillow and bathroom amenities. Wifi internet (when coverage is available) and computers are accessed in the Internet café. The ship also has a medical centre, spa, beauty salon, fitness room and boutique.

The hotel in Panama City, American Trade, is a first class boutique style property in the historic centre.


Breakfast daily, full board on the cruise ship. On board ship, all meals and snacks are included, with options to eat al fresco or in your suite. Complimentary beverages incl wine, spirits, coffee, soft drinks; customised minibar items.


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return. Guides, lecturers and presenters on the cruise ship are all qualified in a field of expertise relevant to the cruise.

Included excursions

• Rainforest expedition at Gatún lake alongside the Panama Canal.
• Passage through the Panama Canal.  
• Land and sea-based excursions and activities on the expedition cruise.

Summary of nights

Panama City 2 nights, 8 day cruise.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives on the mainland..
• All land transport within Latin America
• Passage through the Panama Canal.
• All inclusive cruise as specified, including land and sea excursions, activities and lectures. 
• Complimentary water bottle and backpack on cruise.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified. 
• Cruise staff tips and gratuities.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities on the mainland and mainland excursions.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Excursions designated optional.


The unit of currency in Panama is the Balboa, equivalent in value to the US dollar. US dollars also circulate in Panama. ATMs are available in Panama City. Ecuador uses the US dollar. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in larger towns and cities using a UK credit or debit card.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of good quality meals, drinks and the odd souvenir on those days in the holiday itinerary or extension outside the cruise. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more. On the cruise, excursions, drinks, meals and tips are included.

How to take it

Outside the cruise period, cash machines are available in major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can spend where the dollar is the local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

You can pay for extras on the cruise (beauty salon and spa treatments, boutique items) with a credit card or US dollars. Optional excursions may be offered which have to be booked and  paid in advance before departure. Acquiring some local currency for tips for services provided by local people on the mainland and purchases from markets is advisable.


Tips for the cruise staff are included, but local guides onshore will welcome a gratuity: they often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. Most service industry workers will hope for a tip so it is useful to have spare change for waiters, hotel porters, taxi drivers etc. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.


Travel insurance is essential.  Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. If you have doubts about your fitness for the cruise, we will send you a medical questionnaire. 

Children are accepted, but must be over 6 years old to participate in excursions. There is no special entertainment programme on board for children. Children and and teenagers who are interested in the wildlife and nature should enjoy the cruise and if there is a number of children/teenagers on board, the expedition team might dedicate a team member to lead the group and explain things to them.


Situated well within the tropics, Panama City has high temperatures (over 30°C) all year round. May-Nov is the rainy season. The city lies outside the main hurricane belt.

Temperatures in Darien are similar, but the climate is weather, with 3,000mm falling throughout the year. The coasts of Colombia and Ecuador are similarly hot and humid, although you will be travelling in a drier season, with cloud cover but also substantial periods of sunshine.

Clothing and special equipment

Pack for hot weather with summer-weight loose, comfortable clothing including shorts and trousers (bear in mind that you have to get in and out of Zodiac boats). Brings sun-protective headgear, swimwear, smart casual for the evening, fleece, light sweater or jacket for cool evenings, wet weather gear: umbrella for tropical downpours, rain-cape or coat, comfortable non-slip footwear including stout walking boots or shoes and consider bringing aqua socks for snorkelling etc. Long sleeved shirts and long trousers are advisable for on shore excursions as you may encounter insects including mosquitoes.  There’s no need to over-pack: On board the cruise ship there is a laundry and dry cleaning service.

Sun block and insect repellant are essential. Don’t forget your sun-glasses, binoculars, camera, charger and memory cards. Some items can be bought in the on board boutique, including branded and unbranded T shirts and sweatshirts, scent, souvenir mugs etc. Remember to pack any personal medication (carry it in cabin luggage on the flights). A small first aid kit with blister pads, aspirin etc may come in handy. The ship has a medical centre.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements such as malaria prophylactics.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online at

This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

UK Passport holders must present an e-passport with a built in chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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