Gatún Lake

Gatun Lake, Panama

In the 17th century, the pirate Henry Morgan traveled the Chagres River to attack Panama City. In the early 20th century, the Chagres River was dammed to create the 53-kilometer-long (33-mile-long) Gatún Lake, at the time the largest manmade lake in the world. One salubrious effect of this was the establishment of wildlife pockets around the lake where crocodiles, sloths and various monkey species thrive; some of these creatures can be seen as your boat traverses the lake.

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Canal breakwater, 5:30am

Here hundreds and hundreds of ships wait their turn to make their way to the Pacific. The scheduling of the locks leading in to Gatun Lake is a precise science.

Boating and Wildlife on Gatun Lake

For a day trip and nature escape from the city, take a boat ride on Gatun Lake near the Panama Canal to see wildlife including spider monkeys, toucans, green iguanas, and three-toed sloths in the forest trees as well as sergeant fish and crocodiles in the water. The excursion provides a different experience that’s only about an hour or so from the city. Rudy’s Tours offers a knowledgable, local, English- and Spanish-speaking guide (Rudy, himself) and such adventure and cultural tours as the Gatun Lake voyage and more. Tours usually include a hotel pickup and transportation.

See Gatun Lake with a Nature Guide

Visitors who want a change of pace from the busy city can sign up for a half-day excursion to Gatun Lake. Trips to this lake, which are made via high-speed motorboat, typically include stops at Monkey Island, so named for its principal inhabitants: capuchin and howler monkeys. The island is also a protected habitat for sloths and tropical birds, including the toucan. Many excursions also include a stop at a second island, named Sounds of Silence, where guests can relax and enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to the capital.

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