On Top of the World - My Family Travels

Here's the scoop on this exciting ecotourism destination in Central America.

Just back from Panama…so wonderful and so much potential. This destination is so rich in ecotourism assets with its incredible biodiversity; travelers should know it really is a unique place and receptive to families with children in most every way. One example of ecotourism at its finest, the Canopy Tower, is an amazing place for teens and adults to share.

The Canopy Tower, first covered by FTF prior to its 1999 opening, is still very much in existence. I stayed there for a night; it is a former US radar installation, with the metallic globe on top turned into seven or so rooms, elegant in their rustic simplicity and perched above a dynamic and lush rain forest. It is quite an adventure, giving me the best night sleep I’ve had in years, until the monkeys woke me before dawn with a primitive and exciting wake-up call.

The place attracts serious birders, and, like many adventurers, I have no knowledge of those feathered creatures. But in the presence of patient birders who gather in the late afternoon and very early in the morning on the outside platform, I was rewarded by sights of stained-glass birds including a clown-colored Toucan, a brilliant green Shrike-Viro and others whom I could deeply appreciate but whose names I’ll never remember. I did see sloths in the trees and momma monkeys swinging from branches with their little ones. It’s a real treat for tired city eyes to look out over this canopy of forest and see and hear such sounds.

Meals are basic but tasty and served en famille. Conversation takes the place of TV or radio, and the rooms are quite comfortable with showers.

For a night or two, it’s a terrific bonding experience, very special, one that kids and their folks will long remember after Minnie and Mickey have outworn their welcome.

Details, Details

The Canopy Tower doesn’t take young kids, though at my visit, there was a 13-year-old. He was great, and his dad called to invite me to his son’s school presentation on Panama and The Canopy Tower. While no one checks ID’s, age matters; maturity matters more. Skip the toddlers though!

If you are visiting from May through November, bring rain gear.

Check out www.canopytower.com, email: [email protected], or call 507/264-5720; US 800/930-3397 for more information and reservations. For the all- around best information on this region and the country, connect with www.panamainfo.com. K.S.

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