Gamboa, Panama
Another rainstorm washes through the river valley at Gamboa, Panama

To watch the fury of a tropical rainstorm in a rainforest: there is nothing like it in the world. Sheets of rain rake a green landscape, making it greener. Bright blossoms unfurl, capturing nourishing liquid. With each massive lightning strike, tropical birds cry out. Thunder echoes throughout the river valley with a rumbling moan.

We’re in Panama on a family trip, joining John’s parents on a journey across the Panama Canal Zone. It’s a structured tour with Caravan Tours, so we don’t have much free time. Our perch at Gamboa Rainforest Resort feels like a dream, the rainforest landscape laid out across the horizon and at our feet.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort
The view from our room at Gamboa Rainforest Resort

A fruit bat strafed me this morning on the way to breakfast. We watched small creatures, rabbit-sized, like miniature capybara, rustle under the plants below our room.

Gamboa wildlife
Is it a capybara or something else? It’s certainly small.

Baby iguanas sunned on the tiles along the pool. We stood in amazement watching the strangest of creatures climb up and tear bark off trees; we found out later it was an anteater.

Anteater in Panama
We watched an anteater climb into this tree, sucking up ants the whole way

I’d hoped for hiking trails, but the two we found were not maintained, and when you discover an army of leafcutter ants making their own trails almost everywhere you look, well, the desire to step into a riot of tropical jungle fades a little.

Leafcutter ants Panama
Parades of leaf-cutter ants were everywhere. This was the most colorful bunch.

We contented ourselves along the edges, enjoying the weirdness of unknown birds and the “this is like home” recognition of tropical plants like wild coffee, mahogany, Jamaican dogwood, and Guzmania.

Guzmania Panama
At home, Guzmania is rare. It was good to see lots of it in the rainforest.
Termite nest Panama
Termite nests look like giant masks on the trees.

Nearby is a national park which, were we not with a group, we’d explore. But it’s not near enough. A deeper look into Panama remains for another time. However, we did scout around a lot. The hotel provided a tour through their orchid gardens, which John, his mom, and I enjoyed.

Orchids in Panama
An extensive orchid garden is on the resort grounds
Orchids in Panama
Tropical beauty up close
Panama with parents
Exploring the rainforest with family: John and his Mom