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Rio Chiriquí Rafting

 

 

Running the Chiriquí Viejo means bouncing and bobbing through umpteen rapids. It might mean flying through the air, getting sucked under the boat and spat out the other side. It definitely means having the time of your life.

 

The Río Chiriquí Viejo flows through Panama’s southwestern province—Chiriquí—near the border with Costa Rica. The landscape is as beautiful as it is diverse, and sits along the flanks of Volcán Barú, Panama’s highest point.

 

The Chiriquí rapids are fun and big; it is some of the most exciting whitewater to run, but the scenery is the most impressive part of the day. Cormorants, kingfishers, vultures and other birds glide over the river, landing on rocks to fish, or soar into the jungle on the other side.

 

Between the countless class II-IV rapids, river runners can stare in awe at the waterfalls pouring into the river or try to spot elusive spider monkeys chattering in the trees and iguanas sunning themselves on fallen logs. It’s the jungle that people think of when traveling to Central America, but without the effort of hiking through thick vegetation or being eaten by tiny bugs. This trip is the easy, but exciting, way to discover the tropical rainforest.

 

The raft guide points out the “Tourist Tree”—red with peeling bark—and a “Panama Tree” which Panamanian Indians used to make canoes out of to cross the Panama Canal before bridges and modern boats took their place.

 

Hopping out of the boat, passengers can float through a short, flat section of river with sheer canyon walls closing in on either side. Water weeps through the walls, growing vines, ferns, large impatiens and intricate colorful bromeliads. The sky cuts through the narrow opening above, illuminating the tiny canyon and river.

 

At the lunch spot, rocks can be cracked open to reveal fossils; reminders of how old this place is and how much has changed since those molluscs lived here. Dynamic as the river, but always in the present, this trip is about being excited and content in the now.



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