Looking for a little change of pace from city life in Panama City, for a few hours? Go to Metropolitan Park. It's located just outside of downtown Panama City, but it is still within Panama City's limits. In fact, it is the only protected rain forest area within a city's limits in Central America. We spent about 3 hours hiking through the 570 acre park on a sunny Friday morning. There are 3 different trails in the park that you can hike, and each of them have varying degrees of difficulty. The first one we did gave us a glimpse of the Panama City skyline through a window of rain forest.
The first thing you notice hiking up are the seemingly endless lines of leaf cutter ants march along the sides of the trail, crossing the trail, and climbing various obstacles in their way with leaves or sometimes even flowers on their backs. Where are they going? Who knows. But it's cool to see how determined they are and wonder what in the world they do with all these tiny bits of leaves. We found out they bring the leaves into their underground nest and use as compost to grow fungi which they eat.
And then you hear rustling of leaves above you and look up and this guy is peeking out at you from the leaves.
And then he starts squeaking at you. You realize he's probably just as curious about you as you are about him.
He starts eating some fruit that's in the tree and squeaking at you while he's eating. Then he's done eating and squeaks at you one more time. You say, "I don't have any berries for you sorry." And suddenly he's no longer curious and goes on his merry way.
You continue on your way downhill and reach a sort of flat area when you hear a lot of leaf crunching and crashing through branches. Was that a deer? Some sort of larger animal definitely. Nope, just an agouti. He looks like a mix of a squirrel and a rabbit, but without a tail. You try and get a picture, but he's so fast! You just get his furry behind. As you continue through your hike many of them crash through the forest and across the trail and back into the forest again. They certainly are not subtle about moving around the forest floor.
You eventually make your way to a small pond where there are tons of turtles swimming, birds flying around, and geckos running across the water surface when you get too close to them.
You get to a flat stretch that takes you back to the park entrance, and you're a little disappointed. There were supposed to be sloths! A group ahead is talking with some of the guards that walk around the trails. The guards are pointing up to a tree. You squint. Maybe it's a sloth? It's a little difficult to tell. You snap some pictures, but there isn't anything you can see. You continue walking. The guards point up at another tree. And there it is. A sloth hanging out. They make excellent models. They never move.
And you go a little further. Another sloth!
Sure, this isn't in the middle of a remote rain forest, but for being within the city limits of the highly urbanized downtown Panama City, we found it amazing that so much wildlife thrives here. I can imagine that living in such an urban area it's a welcome breath of fresh air and change of scenery for locals. If you'd like to visit the Metropolitan Park, we would recommend getting there early, ideally between 8 and 9 am--although it is apparently open at 6 am if you're so inclined. The less crowded it is, the more animals you're likely to see. The guards are also happy to point out sloths to visitors. We realized we probably walked by sloths during the first 2 hours without even realizing they were there.
From the Metropolitan Park, we walked to Albrook Mall to get a bus ticket from Panama City to Boquete, as we were leaving the next day. After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the terminal and inquired about buying a bus ticket for the following day. The woman at the ticket counter told us to come the next day at least a half hour before when we intended to leave. Not going to lie, this worried me a bit. I was unsure we would get the bus we wanted.
The next day, we took a taxi from Casco Viejo to Albrook bus terminal and arrived there around 9:40 am, hoping to get at least the 11:00 am bus. We asked the woman at the ticket counter for the 10:00 am bus, and she said there were still seats available! We boarded the double-decker bus and found our seats on the top level at the very front of the bus. Oh yeah, extra leg room. Once the bus started backing out of the parking space I immediately came to the conclusion that bus drivers here are insane. We knew from taking taxis that driving in Panama is all about driving as fast as possible and honking incessantly to communicate constantly with other drivers--mostly to let them know you're about to cut them off as you switch lanes. What we didn't realize is that bus drivers also do this...to other bus drivers. I don't know how we did not crash into other buses with the way he cut them off. When he backed out of the parking space at the terminal there was a point where there was maaaybe an inch between our bus and the one behind us. I eventually just stopped looking out the window and focused on the dramatic Spanish romantic comedies being played on the mini TV screens in front of us.
About 3 hours into our journey , we stopped at a rest stop. I got off the bus along with everyone else, while Bryan opted to stay on the bus. I was just going to go to the restroom and hop back on. What Bryan and I didn't realize was that this stop was really a lunch break for the driver. As soon as I got off the bus, the driver locked Bryan inside and I could not go back into the bus until after the driver and everyone else went to the restroom, bought and ate lunch, or otherwise just stood around waiting for the bus to get unlocked again. After the half hour break, we had another 3 hours to get to the town of David. I kept having to correct myself with the pronunciation of Dah-veed. I spent that time reading my book and watching the landscape get more and more lush. From David, we boarded a smaller bus to Boquete. The ride took us about 45 minutes. After almost 7.5 hours of traveling we were both exhausted. We ate simple dinner at our hostel and looked at a binder of activities and hikes around Boquete our hostel had put together, and then soon after we went to bed excited to explore the town more the next day.