by Dennis Ko
Durham, North Carolina
July 26, 2005
So we decided to do some hiking in the national park we had just driven through. Soberania National Park is situated along the eastern edge of the Panama Canal, halfway between Colon and Panama City. This moist tropical forest is an amazing place to explore the richness of Panama’s biodiversity. With over 1300 plant, 105 mammal, 525 bird, 79 reptile, 55 amphibian, and 36 fish species, you’re likely to see something new every direction you turn.
Immediately upon stepping out of the car, my sister was attacked by some biting ants. She was wearing sandals without socks, but we changed that after we managed to get the ants off her. It’s a good idea to not only wear socks but to tuck your pant legs into them. Yes, it does look really goofy, but it’s effective.
We took the Camino de Plantacion trail. The trail is well maintained with periodically placed stone benches and a stream just to the left. Much of the enjoyment in doing a hike like this comes from the sense of being an explorer without the dangers involved in attempting this without a trail. The only common dangers probably come from bugs as evidenced by the ants.
We had a great time trying to spot wildlife, everything from well-camouflaged toads to brilliant orchids to cute, furry agoutis. At one point, we were passing a fallen tree and noticed a mammal we had never seen before. It looked somewhat like a raccoon but was more slender, had a long white snout, and a long ringed tail. He seemed curious and walked towards us down the log before turning and scampering away. We later learned that this was a white-nosed coati, but to see what was for us a "newly discovered species" provided a real sense of wonder.
Another memorable moment had more to do with what we didn’t see. At one point along the trail we heard a tremendous roar, and I seriously wondered if there was a jaguar further down this trail. We took a few more steps and heard it again, but this time it sounded like more than one animal. We kept walking and heard it again every several seconds. We realized it now sounded more like howling and concluded that we were probably hearing howler monkeys. Though we kept scanning the trees, we never did see the howler monkeys that day. However, we certainly saw and heard plenty of other things, and it’s easy to recommend a hike in Soberania for anyone visiting Panama.
From journal Daytripping Around Colon, Panama