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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Panama’s Canopy Tower‏

March 25th, 2011 · No Comments

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Canopy Tower, where I stayed for the week of March 10-16, was a secret U.S. Air Force radar station from 1965 to 1995. Then, Raúl Arias de Para converted it into an birding lodge that opened in 2000. The lodge is 900 feet above sea level on Semaphore Hill near the Continental Divide. The site is in the rainforest within Soberanía National Park, which was part of the former U.S. Panama Canal Zone.

By staying both at Canopy Tower and earlier at Canopy Lodge I was able to see quite different birds in those habitats. The tower is at the treetops in the lowlands, while the lodge is at ground level in the highlands.

The top floor of the tower has an unobstructed 360° view. It is a great place to see birds and mammals as well as the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal and the Culebra Cut, the narrowest part of the canal.

The octagonal tower is on five levels. On the ground floor is the office, gift shop, and displays. The second floor has five single rooms, one of which I inhabited for a week, and one double room. The third floor has seven double rooms. The fourth four houses the living room, dining room, kitchen, and library. Then, up a steep, narrow staircase is the observation deck, which is 74 steps above ground level.

Two more couples, Lynne and Jerry from St. Louis, and Donna and Floyd from Seattle, joined us at the tower. That brought our group total to nine plus Eric, our tour leader.

Canopy Tower: Alone in the Rainforest

Canopy Tower: Alone in the Rainforest

Photo Courtesy of Canopy Tower

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Canopy Tower: Close Up

Canopy Tower: Close Up

Photo Courtesy of Canopy Tower

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A new day begins. It’s March 12 at 6:28 a.m.

Sunrise at Canopy Tower

Sunrise at Canopy Tower

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I spent hours shooting from the observation deck of Canopy Tower.

One Photographer at Work

One Photographer at Work

Photo by Bob Guetzlaff

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Just before sunrise on March 11 thick fog covered the tower’s view of the Panama Canal.

Fog over the Panama Canal

Fog over the Panama Canal

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Just before sunset three days later, Panama City loomed large and clear 15 miles to the southeast. More than one third of the 3.4 million residents of the Republic of Panama live in that area.

Panama City from the Tower

Panama City from the Tower

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When Centennial Bridge, which commemorates the country’s succession from Columbia in 1903, opened for traffic in 2005, it became only the second permanent crossing of the Panama Canal, connecting North and South America.

Centennial Bridge over the Panama Canal from the Tower

Centennial Bridge over the Panama Canal from the Tower

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The ship in the photo below, the APL Arabia, is 965 feet long. From Canopy Tower, some two miles to the southwest, I viewed this Saudi Arabian ship. It was mostly carrying Hyundai containers from South Korea.

A Container Ship Passes Through the Panama Canal

A Container Ship Passes Through the Panama Canal

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Da Sin Shipping in Singapore owns the ship below, the Mandarin Dalian. This ship, 623 feet long and 105 feet wide, is a tight fit in one of the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. This lock raises or lowers ships in three stages totaling 26 feet. The canal needs more than 2 billion gallons of water each day to fill the locks for ships passing through the canal.

That’s one reason why it costs so much, averaging about $54,000 per ship. The most expensive regular toll for canal passage to date was $331,200, charged in 2008 to the Disney Magic. The least expensive toll was the 36 cents that one of my childhood heros, Richard Halliburton, paid when he swam the 48-mile long canal in 1928.

A Ship in Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal

A Ship in Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal

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Walking along the entrance road to Canopy Tower on another day, I stopped to shoot this flower.

A Passion Flower

A Passion Flower

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I have adopted this flower as my symbol. Not only is it beautiful and my favorite color, but it also symbolizes passion. And by that I don’t mean erotic passion, but rather the intense enthusiasm that I have found in my life. Recently, people from Julio’s Sol website asked about my passion in an interview that they posted on-line. One of the ways I express my passion is in writing these photo essays. My goal here is to encourage people to actively explore our natural world.

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Posted in: Panama, Photography

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