Panama Photography Adventure Details


Saturday APRIL 7th, 2018 to Sunday APRIL 15th, 2018

Special Note... Panama is a land unique in Central America with all the beauty and better value than Adventures in our neighbor Costa-Rica. Both Caribbean and Pacific Coasts are within a short drive. High diversity in climates and habitats from dense tropical and cloud forest jungles provide us with opportunities to be with many beautiful scenes and wildlife not found anywhere else. We have designed the Panama Adventure to include the best of the best. This is a very beautiful and well priced Adventure of a lifetime. 


DAY ONE - Saturday - Arrivals in Panama - Lodging and Dinner at Riande Airport Hotel

Today our Affinity host will meet everyone as you arrive and transport you to the Riande Airport hotel. We encourage you to spend time in the Riande courtyards and swimming pool areas. They are magnificent with specimens of rare orchids, palms, statues and landscaping that is stunning. We will all meet at 7pm in the outdoor bar/restaurant. We will get to know each other, talk about our plans, give you the all documents about our Adventure and answer any questions.

DAY TWO - Sunday - Gamboa River Journey, Lunch with Emberá-Wounaan, Aerial Tram, Short Pipeline and Sunset on Gatun

This morning we check into the Gamboa Rain Forest Lodge. We meet our guide and get on a canopy boat to travel up the Gamboa River next to the Panama Canal and along pristine tropical habitats of exquisite vegetation and exotic wildlife. Hear the songs of the howler monkeys and maybe see a white-faced Capuchin monkey smiling from the low trees along the river banks. We travel to a boat ramp where we will be met by the Emberá-Wounaan people who will transport us in their hand made hollowed out tree canoes to their village where we will experience the Embera , meet the people and the local Shaman who will take us on a short hike to explore some plant remedies nearby. We will have a beautiful fresh fish lunch served in a banana leaf. Some of the very best fish we have experienced here. You will have the opportunity to enjoy and purchase crafts and molas from the Emberá-Wounaan people.

After our return to the Lodge, our guide will take us to the aerial tram, where we will enjoy the forest floor and vistas in and above the lush rain-forest canopy where we may see exotic birds and monkeys. We then explore a small section of the Gamboa tropical forest in the late afternoon sun shining through the jungle foliage. This area is known for hundreds of bird varieties in early mornings and late afternoons. We finish the day with a wonderful dinner on the porch of the Gamboa Lodge overlooking Lake Gatun and the tropical jungles where we were during the day. Some fabulous photos have been captured from this large porch.

DAY THREE - Monday - Yandup Island Lodge - Transport to Albrook Fly to Yandup

This morning we rise early to drive to Albrook and make the only flight of the day to Playon Chico – 6:30am. We fly over the spectacular Lake Gatun, the fresh eater lake that feeds the Panama Canal. The islands and land shapes, deep water colors, the early morning mist, and the green lush foliage are beautiful, even if from an Air Panama window. OPTION – If we have enough people, we can charter a flight to avoid having to rise early. Upon landing we meet our hosts with Yandup Island Lodge, where we boat to the island and check into our cabins. We will stay in nice cabins built right over the water with sea breezes and the sea under your feet – it is a treat. At night the lapping Caribbean is a light sound that calms the mind and inspires the Caribbean spirit. You will sleep like a baby.

We will travel by boat to nearby tropical islands and groups of islands in the aqua tropical waters. We will see just why the Caribbean side of Panama, especially around Yandup is so special with Islands closer together and beautiful tropical scenes in almost every direction.

After our lunch at the Lodge (OR out on a beach or island bar/rest with molas) we board power boats to visit outer islands such as Iguana Island and other breathtakingly beautiful, mostly un-inhabited islands that are part of 364 other islands in the San Blas Archipelago. We will shoot from the boats and from beaches lined with tropical palms and waters that are simply stunning and very picturesque.

DAY FOUR - Tuesday - Yandup Island Lodge

The entire island chain and the adjacent mainland are populated, owned and managed by the Guna Yala people. The Guna Yala are one of the three indigenous peoples we will meet on this Panama Adventure. The others are the Emberá-Wounaan that we met in the Gamboa Rain Forest, and the Ngöbe-Buglé that we will meet near Boquete. At dinner the night before we learned about the sacred Guna Yala burial tradition from a local member of the Comarca. Today we visit the indigenous people’s village across the waters and take you through the main streets of the Ukupseni Community. Our guide will explain interesting facts of Kuna culture, economy, political organization, traditions, architecture and the Dule (Kuna) Revolution. We will meet some of the elder women selling their Molas. It is both a humbling and enlightening experience. They hand build housing with materials from the forests and islands.Homes have thatched roofs and mud or raised floors. They are a happy people that are glad to have you photograph them for a little money. There will be Molas and other hand-made crafts for sale. Our walk through the Ukupseni Community changes everyone that comes here. Our guide will then take us up the hill to their sacred burial grounds and show us the unique burial tradition that we learned about.

In the afternoon we will have free time to explore the islands, mangroves, snorkeling and advanced hammock techniques under the shade of a tropical palm or fruit tree. Tonight we have a special treat in store if King Crabs are available! Simply grilled with drawn butter. Heaven. Tomorrow we fly to David and onto beautiful mountain valley town of Boquete where high altitude coffee farms await us.

DAY FIVE – Wednesday - BOQUETE – High country coffee-farms and floral growers – Finca Lerida Lodge

We are so fortunate so have so many climates and micro-climates in Panama. The diversity in climate, altitude, rainfall patterns and temperature combine to create ideal conditions for growing outstanding organic vegetables and perhaps the finest coffee in the world! Today we start at sea level in the beautiful San Blas Islands and arrive at Finca Lerida, often above the clouds below.

Here we will experience a tour of this iconic working coffee plantation, photographing wonderful and colorful coffee beans and the ingenious workers tending to every detail. We will see and smell (ahh) the roasting process and of course enjoy some exquisite coffee before we head into the 10km of well-marked and manicured trails through the forests. The vast bio-diversity, colors and sounds of plants and animals is inspiring along these trails. Expect a variety of exotic tropical vegetation, birds and animals. We will visit beautiful scenes from waterfalls to vistas. This area is protected by both Panama and Costa Rica. After working up a good appetite we will head to The Art Café for some great Boquete food and fun.

DAY SIX – Thursday – Morning tropical forest wildlife. Afternoon on a private Pacific island

There is nothing like a walk through the dense forest around Boquete early in the day when the birds and wildlife are feeding, foraging and vocal. Many bring cameras with long lenses and capture great images. Others bring only great HD binoculars from Zeiss, Leica or Swarovski, and honestly, these may be the best seats in the house. Our guide is a very experienced local naturalist who will lead us to favored spots to enjoy the inhabitants and flora of the forests. We will learn and some may see it all with new eyes. We then travel about an hour to the Pacific Coast town of Boca Chica, a well-known sport fishing port. Here we meet a boat that will take us to a private island resort called Cala Mia, a gem on a quiet outer island along the Pacific coast.

After we check into our cabanas we will have lunch together we will take a boat ride through the local islands taking time to stop for photos from the boat and from pristine Pacific white sand beaches. The Pacific coast is quite different than the Caribbean side we visited at Yandup in San Blas. Here everything from the types of flowers and trees are much more diverse and abundant because of the soil composition, plenty of rocks with nutrients, sunshine, clouds and tropical rainstorms. Here at Cala Mia even the water we drink is quite special, coming from deep wells flowing fresh spring water from the center of the mountain behind the lodge. Healthy, clear and pure, rich in natural minerals and refreshing, the water is one of the reasons Cala Mia was chosen.

We arrive back at the Lodge and await the arrival of Seaplanes Panama and owner Mike Castillo who will land on the water right outside the resort docks. There is simply no better way to appreciate and capture the sheer beauty of the Pacific coast than from above at low altitude, so Mike will take two or three at a time for a 20 minute aerial tour of the island chain including the Secas Islands, known for great snorkeling and clear beautiful aqua waters. The coastal land shapes, the deep blue and aqua waters, the rock formations, the terrain with forest trees and magnificent bromeliads right at the rocky shore, the wave and rock action, the pristine white sand beaches lined with native coconut palms. It is a breathtaking 20 minutes of photography from a sea plane with the window open so you have unobstructed views for maximum clarity, contrast and rich colors.

We will meet at the Beach Bar for snacks and drinks, and take a short hike up the beach and up to a lookout point that offers very beautiful views of the coastline. Hope we get a great sunset that afternoon! We return to the Beach bar for an always fun beach-side dinner cooked in a genuine wood fired oven. Juan the mixologist will be on hand to offer his magic libations. He has one delightful concoction from Roatan that is known to result in increased creativity, including photo composition abilities. I am a witness. You might find very interesting things along the beaches, mangrove plants, rocks and trees, including howler monkeys, colorful crabs, with osprey and frigate birds circling overhead.

DAY SEVEN – Friday - Morning Summit Vista on horseback, Lunch and afternoon at Islas Secas & Isla Ladrones

This morning we take a boat from the Cala Mia dock and arrive at a horse stable area. We take a two hour trek on horseback viewing highland plains, brahma cattle farms, tropical royal palms and trees, and flora as we climb to the highest point on the Boca Brava Island. From here we have awesome views of the Pacific Ocean with its special deep blue color, numerous small pacific islands, unique hillside and rock formations. From the vista we descend through a section of jungle surrounded by dense palms and wild tropical flowers. Monkeys and other wildlife are common as we experience the colors of the flora and fauna as we wind our way to the beach. We follow the beach to the back side of Cala Mia lodge. This beach provides a beautiful view of the rocks and and sea of this Pacific Coast island.

We have a light snack during a 40 minute boat ride where we dine for lunch on the beach of a mostly uninhabited island near Isla Secas. Mostly – because there must be a thousand hermit crabs sporting many sizes, shapes and colors of shells waiting for us to photograph their many antics around food. Our guides will anchor the boat and bring the coolers of food and drink as we decide. Tables and umbrellas are also provided. It is a complete experience with great opportunities for land and sea photos. We will then anchor in locations known for great snorkeling with colorful coral and numerous tropical fish. Snorkeling gear is provided, so bring your swim suit and sunscreen. Go Pro has terrific inexpensive cameras for underwater that shoot images and video in astounding quality for their price. I will have one Leica XU that can be used as well.

After venturing through the Secas we will return to Cala Mia when the sun has changed positions. We may find perfect opportunities to photograph the islands, rock formations and bromeliads in all their glory in the low afternoon sun. We will meet at the Beach Bar and may venture back to the Lookout point if the sunset and clouds look promising. Bring Petzl lights if you have them. Dinner tonight is Fresh Lobster at the Cala Mia Restaurant. We head to the David airport early in the morning and towards the final awesome leg of our Panama journey.

DAY EIGHT - Saturday - Casco Viejo - Panama City - American Trade Hotel

We meet at the Cala Mia boat dock at 6:15am. The lodge will have breakfast sandwiches and fresh fruit in a to-go bag. And fresh Panama Coffee. We travel by boat to the dock near David where we take an 8:15am flight to Albrook Airport. We head to Casco Viejo, the Old City, where we will stay in the renovated American Trade Hotel in the heart of the renewing old buildings into modern living and shopping venues. Here we will explore the ruins and architecture of the old city. Now its charm and historic buildings are classic, open to sunlight during the day and lighting at night are very photogenic. Many alleyways are lined with classic old buildings and balconies with unique style. These alleys in the right light are stunning. After a day of photographing Casco Viejo we will have a social hour on the rooftop of a restaurant nearby. We will have our final dinner together at Tomillo Restaurant that we photographed during the day. Tomillo is one of the top restaurants in Panama and we are sure to enjoy dinner under the stars and between the old ruin walls. Our hotel is a short walk away.

DAY NINE - Sunday - Departure Home or to San Jose, Costa Rica.

We meet in the morning for breakfast in the lobby, then check out for your return flights home in the morning. We take care of getting you to the airport in plenty of time, so we will contact you to confirm what time we should leave the hotel to make your flight.

Guests continuing to our Costa Rica Adventure will fly from Tocumen to San Jose Costa Rica. 8AM flight from Tocumen. Air Panama Flight 792. Arrives 9am in San Jose where an Affinity person will meet you.

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