Immerse yourself in the natural wonders along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama on a voyage aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion. Venture into the rain forests of Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks; search for monkeys, frogs, sloths, and brightly colored birds; and ride horseback on pristine beaches. Cap off your voyage with a crossing of the legendary Panama Canal.
Upon arrival in San José, transfer to Herradura and embark the National Geographic Sea Lion.
Spend the morning in Manuel Antonio National Park, where thick forests fringe spectacular white-sand beaches. Venture into this lush wilderness, watching for three-toed sloths lazing among the branches as well as monkeys and vividly colored birds. This afternoon, trace the park's beautiful coastline and stop to take a refreshing swim or a hike.
Anchor off the Osa Peninsula, unreachable by road, to see some of the most pristine lowland rain forest on the Pacific coast. In the environs of Corcovado National Park, swim in waterfall pools, horseback ride on the beach, kayak, or trek through the rain forest for a chance to see four species of monkeys—howler, spider, capuchin, and squirrel.
Enter the mangrove-fringed Golfo Dulce, a protected gulf along the southwestern edge of Costa Rica. Visit the Casa Orquídeas, a tropical paradise of ornamental palms, bromeliads, heliconias, orchids, and flowering gingers closed to the general public and reachable only by boat. Keep your eye out for tanagers, parrots, and toucans. Later, explore the placid bay, ideal for kayaking and swimming.
We'll make our first stop in Panama this morning at the remote Isla de Coiba, one of the many islands of Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once a penal colony, the island has long been protected and accessible only by special permit. Among its many endemic species are the Coiba Island agouti and the mantled howler monkey as well as four varieties of turtle. Discover rich marine life while snorkeling, kayak along the coast, take a guided hike in the forest, or just relax on an idyllic beach.
Our nimble motorized landing crafts and kayaks allow us to navigate the tiny islets of the Gulf of Panama today, stopping to explore hidden coves and beaches. Here, we might spot magnificent frigate birds, brown pelicans, neotropic cormorants, and brown boobies. Reboard the Sea Lion this afternoon and head to the Panama Canal. Stretching slightly more than fifty miles, the canal was a colossal engineering feat completed in 1914 and is still traversed by some 14,000 ships every year. As cargo ships tend to pass through the canal during the day, we'll most likely begin our crossing at night when the canal is dramatically lit.
Board a motorized landing craft this morning to visit Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Gatún Lake by special arrangement. Scientists have worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island since 1946, researching the 120 mammals and diverse tree species that can be found here. It is also the site of a pioneering project supported by National Geographic that tracks tagged animals using automated radio signals and wireless technology. Join researchers for a walk through the forests that so challenged the builders of the canal. This evening, continue through the complex lock system of the canal.
After breakfast, disembark in Colón and transfer to the airport in Panama City for your flight home.
Book by July 31, 2014, and receive a complimentary hotel night in Panama City at the start or end of select 2014 and 2015 departures with access to the Frank Gehry BioMuseo and new Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center.
Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts — from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.
Travel writer and photographer Christopher P. Baker is one of the world's foremost authorities on Costa Rica. He has authored and photographed guidebooks to Costa Rica and Panama in a National Geographic Traveler series, as well as five other guidebooks on Costa Rica and Panama, plus the Costa Rica Pura Vida! travel app. He has also written and photographed for more than 200 publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Newsweek. Christopher has been profiled in USA Today and featured on the National Geographic Channel, NPR, and dozens of other radio and TV outlets.
Christopher will join the following departures:
Jan 03 - 10, 2015
Jan 10 - 17, 2015
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
REV Indicates trip operates in reverse.
Add a three-day pre-trip extension to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a seven-day post-trip extension to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Sarapiquí River, and Arenal Volcano, or a two-day extension in Panama City. Please call for details.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single cabin December 2014 - March 2015, add $3,000 to Category 1 and $3,400 to Category 2.
International airfare to San José and return from Panama City is not included in the expedition cost.