If you have been following my Panama blog posts, you know that I primarily visited Panama to see the Panama Canal and learn more about its history. But I did want to spend some time learning about the rainforest. I have worked with the travel planners at EcoCircuitos. So when my educational trip to the Smithsonian Research Institute fell through, EcoCircuitos instead organized my trip to the rainforest with my guide, Fabio. We hiked about a mile and a half, along the muddy, Soberania National Park Pipeline Trail, about a thirty minute drive from Panama City, near Gamboa. Because we stopped every few feet to photograph something, this was more of an amble, than a hike.
Almost immediately after we started our hike, Fabio spotted a troop of white-headed Capuchin monkeys up in the canopy. They weigh about eighteen ounces or thereabouts.
Our next wildlife visitors were a couple of these Central American Agoutis. To me they look a tailless squirrel, but they weigh in at close to five pounds. They seemed to not even notice us.
Next up the ants. Central American leaf cutter ants build roads and cities. Some sources claim they have the second-most complex social structure on the planet, with royalty, casts, farms and gardens of beneficial fungus, slaves and armies. They crossed the trail on their road and just kept on going across the trail and up a tree. The folks a Science Nation have a great video and a description of the ant cities can be found at Elegant Entomology
We next caught sight of a mantled howler monkey troop. I was fortunate to get this awesome photo before he made a point of exhibiting his underside for the rest of the time I watched. He’s about two feet long and weighs in at about ten pounds.
We saw quite a few lovely Blue Morpho butterflies, quite common in Panama, but they seemed in a hurry and refused to pose for a photo. This little butterfly was far more accommodating.
The canopy is lush and ripe with fruit during the rainy season so no need for a bird to drop down to eat and few plants flower in this shade. I do love this little kissing lips plant, though.
We were only on this trail for a few hours, but it was time well-spent. In particular a guide familiar with the area and my trusty telephoto lens made this a most enjoyable photo expedition. November is the rainy season, so the canopy shades the rainforest and often the afternoons are cloudy and drizzly. The lush, green, canopy mutes the light, even on sunny days. A telephoto lens is mandatory as so much activity takes place in this canopy. Needless to say, my lite-weight Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 lens, extended out to its full 300mm, did a great job here. I can’t wait to go back during the dry season!