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panama travel and tourism

Monkey Island, Gatun Lake

a trip to monkey island in the panama canal

A visit to Monkey Island is one of the more popular tours and, for a good reason. Monkey Island, and the islands surrounding it, are teeming with white-faced, howler, and mono-titi monkeys.

If you want to see monkeys up close and personal, this is the place. They parade through the boat like they’re on a catwalk and will even sit on your lap! It’s incredible how unrestrained they are.

monkey island tour, the panama canal

The tour boats consist of a single outboard motor, 5-6 rows of cushioned, comfortable bench seats, and a canvas, Bimini top. There is no walkway between the seats, so you are relegated to the seats you were assigned. The solid, heavy-duty fiberglass construction makes them very stable, and the ride is surprisingly smooth. Upon boarding, everyone receives a life vest, which you must wear.

gamboa resort, panama

A view of the over-the-water restaurant at Gamboa Resort from the public dock where you'll be boarding your tour boat.

a commercial vessel making a northbound transit while passing gamboa

A vessel passing in front of the tour boat after departing from the Gamboa boat ramp.

The trip to Monkey Island includes a beautiful boat ride along the channel that takes approximately 15-20 minutes. The boat trip alone is well worth the price of admission.

After departing from the dock, you will pass under two bridges. The first and recently completed is limited to vehicular traffic, whereas the second is used exclusively by the Panama Canal Railway.

Upon entering the channel, your tour boat will turn right and pass in front of the Panama Canal Dredging Division, where you should see cranes, tugboats, barges, and other heavy equipment. This portion of the canal is relatively narrow and shallow, so the water, even on windy days, is customarily flat and calm; the resident tugs and ur boat will turn right and pass in front of the Panama Canal Dredging Division, where you should see cranes, tugboats, barges, and other barges make the tallest waves. Aside from a bit of water spray, everyone should remain dry unless it's raining. While en route, you are likely to pass several commercial vessels making northbound or southbound transits.

Make sure to keep an eye on the red and green buoys along the channel; the red buoys are along the left or west side and green to the right or east side. At Gamboa, the red buoy reads #101, and at the entrance to Monkey Island, it reads #69/69A. Knowing this will help you familiarize yourself with the channel, and you will have a better idea of how far or close you are to Monkey Island.

Monkey Island resides just east of the channel and is blessed with and limited to a sizable colony of white-faced capuchin monkeys. As with the other two monkey species, white-faced monkeys have grown accustomed to tour boats and tourists. So it's expected to see them converge on the tour boats when they arrive. But unlike howler monkeys, which are larger and more vocal, and tend to remain higher up on the canopy, white-faced capuchin and mono-titi monkeys are surprisingly friendly and adventurous, and they love to introduce themselves and pose for photographs. They parade through the boat like they’re on a catwalk and will even sit on your lap! It’s incredible how unrestrained they are.

After Monkey Island, you’ll head elsewhere in search of howler and mono-titi monkeys. The area consists of several small islands and quiet coves, and the guides, after so many years of running tours, have a knack for finding wildlife. You should see all three monkey species on your trip, in addition to aquatic birds, caiman (crocodile), bats, and more. Just keep your eyes open and your camera ready!

a white-faced capuchin monkey on monkey island, the panama canal

Getting to Monkey Island

Google Map - Albrook Bus TerminalGoogle Map - Gamboa Publlic Boat Ramp

A trip to Monkey Island lasts about 1.5‒2 hours and is a whole-lot of fun. There are no trails to hike. You can enjoy everything from the comfort of your seat. Now who could ask for more than that?

a trip to monkey island in the panama canal

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