For those of you who have been to Colon, Panama, and have taken any of these excursions, please let me know which you would recommend:
1. Gatun Locks and Canal Zone-duration 2 1/2 hours-
The Panama Canal has three sets of Locks, two situated near to the Pacific coast (Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks), and the third along the Atlantic (Gatun Locks).
Of three sets of Locks, those at Gatun might be the most impressive, and worthwhile visiting. Due to the fact that all three chambers are connecting, you'll have the opportunity to see the entire process completed at one location, rather than in two different stages such as case with Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks. It takes approximately 2 hours for a vessel to complete the transit at Gatun Locks, regardless of whether it's heading northbound or southbound.
A visitor's tower does exist, which sits high up above the Locks themselves. While there is a rather large roof that overhangs the front portion, nice pictures can be taken from this location.
2. Grand Tour of Panama-duration 5 1/2 hours- This tour combines the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal with an ecological lake cruise to a recreation of a primitive Indian village. Your tour begins when you board your boat at the beautiful Sol Melia Resort for a fully narrated ecological cruise down the Gatun Lake. Along the way your guide will point out the unique vegetation and wildlife that is indicative to the area. After approximately one hour, you arrive at the primitive village of the Embera Indians. Here you will be given a guided tour of the village and be entertained with an authentic Indian ritual dance. You will have free time for photos and view the many handicrafts for sale. After a brief boat ride back to the resort, you will board buses for a short ride to the Gatun Locks. Here you will be given a 30-minute presentation and view the locks from the observation deck high above the locks. Complimentary beverages and snacks are included. Minimum age to participate is 6 years old.
3. Monkey Watch-duration 5 1/2 hours-
Embark on a lake adventure of sight and sound. First, you will travel at high speed on boats Northbound on the canal for about 25 minutes, where you may come close to some of the bigger ships in transit on the canal. Then, you'll slowly cruise along the forested banks of the Gatun Lake, as you look for wildlife such as Capuchin Monkeys, Three-Toed Sloth, Howler Monkeys, various kinds of Toucans and other bird life.
At the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, interesting ecological exhibits, such as butterflies, snakes, crocodiles and orchids are seen throughout the vast botanical garden. Here you can learn about the ecology as well as the culture of the indigenous Embera tribe.
Minimum age to participate is 7 years.
4. Panama Canal Tour-duration 6 1/2 hours-
You will start the tour by boarding the buses and have a ride down the Transismic Highway that connects the city of Colon with the city of Panama and it is the only road link between the Pacific and Caribbean Sea.
You will arrive at Gamboa, Cucaracha or Balboa Docking facilities where you will embark one of our ferries that can be the Tuira for 600 pax, the Fantasia del Mar that has a capacity of 400 pax and the Isla Morada Boat that is a wooden boat dated 1913 and had Al Capone as one of his previous owners.
You will start the Panama Canal Journey by navigating through the Miraflores Locks that is the first locks at the Pacific Entrance, here you will pass 2 steps and arrive at Miraflores Lake that connect with the second set of Locks call Pedro Miguel Locks. After finishing the first step at Pedro Miguel, you will start the last journey through Gaylard Cut.
Gaylard Cut is one of the most important parts of the Panama Canal, as here is where the Continental Divide is located, and where most of the hard work of the Panama Canal took place. Here landslides and disease where among the issues that the U.S. had to resolve to be able to finish the construction of the Panama Canal.
Finally you will arrive at Gamboa Dredging Division where you will disembark and load the buses for your ride back to the Port.
Note: A lunch buffet is served onboard the ferry. Each guest will receive a commemorative certificate for participating on the Panama Canal Transit.