The Canopy Adventure

If you've ever seen the movie "Medicine Man" with Sean Connery, then you can probably get a mental picture of swinging through the trees into the top of the rainforest 140 feet above the floor below. The Canopy Adventure is located in Panama's Anton Valley (also known as El Valle) about 75 miles west of Panama City in the world's second largest inhabited extinct volcano.

Although the Canopy Adventure is a highlight of the trip to El Valle you will also see other attractions such as the local artisan market, the famous golden frogs, square trees, and the sleeping Indian mountain. The mountain is in the shape of a sleeping woman. Legend has it that a young Indian princes fell in love with a conquistadore. The chief, feeling that this was politically incorrect, forbad his daughter to marry the conquistadore. The princess lay down and died. Then dust covered over her body until the mountain was formed.


There are four things you should consider that could disqualify you from participating at the Canopy Adventure, they are:

  1. If you appear to be over 200 pounds, the guides will not allow you to participate.
  2. If you are a weak walker, you may not be able to make it through the jungle trail.
  3. If you have no or little upper body strength, you may not be able to pull yourself up the cable in the event you stop short of the platform.
  4. If you are afraid of heights.
Mariel Hemmingway
at the base of
the waterfall

However, this tour offers the intrepid traveller the opportunity to ascend to the top of the trees and observe the rainforest canopy from a perspective previously available only to selected researchers and photographers. If you have always fancied swinging through the jungle, doing the "Me Tarzan" bit (the easy way), this is your chance!

At El Chorro Macho this is accomplished by modifying techniques originally developed by "spelunkers" (cavers) and canyon rappelers. Safely strapped into a harness the descent is down a series of platforms in front of the fabulous El Macho wateralls complete with an inviting pool at the bottom for a refreshing swim.
Mariel Hemmingway
as "Jane"

Check out what Mariel Hemmingway and others have to say about the Canopy Adventure Tour

Many famous people have experienced this exciting tour including the grandson of Johny Weistmüler (who will always be Tarzan to most of us!). Below is his account of The Canopy Adventure.

By Johny Weistmüler III

Pick-up time was scheduled for 7am, however, I was so excited about the prospects of flying through the canopy of a rain forest that I woke up at 5am. The previous day I had seen the brochure of The Canopy Adventure in the lobby of my hotel and the spectacular pictures of the rain forest captured my imagination. "I have to do this tour," I said. The lady at the counter immediately made the reservations for the whole family and I postponed our departure from Panama so we could all go to El Valle de Antón and experience what seemed to be something truly unique.

I love adventure and trying new things, I also love nature and wildlife observation. This tour offered all of these plus the opportunity of visiting the interior of Panama where I had never been, even though I have been coming to Panama City for several years as a systems consultant for a local bank.

At exactly 7am we boarded a confortable air conditioned mini bus and took off for El Valle right on time. There were 4 other tourists coming along. Two young men from Germany who were traveling through Latin America and an elderly couple from California. After a while my 12 year old daughter whispered in my ear that the California couple looked very much like her grandparents and that she was certain that her "grandparents would never climb so high in the trees."

"How in the world are they going to do the Canopy Adventure?", she asked, to which I replied that the brochure said that anybody in good health between 10 and 80 years old could do the tour and that this couple looked certainly in good health, regarding their age, well... I could not tell... but they were certainly in good spirits. "Don't worry Annie, they'll be OK," I said, hiding behind a smile my own doubts about their fitness to do the tour.

Very soon we were over the Bridge of the Americas and crossing over the famous Panama Canal. That "huge ditch" never ceases to amaze me! And to think it was built almost a century ago when there were no computers, no super strong alloys, just hard work and ingenuity. The Panama Canal is indeed one of the wonders of the world.

Time passed quickly in the mini bus and very soon we left the Interamerican Highway and hit the road to El Valle de Antón, a picturesque little town nestled 2,300 feet above sea level in the crater of a gigantic extinct volcano, the second largest inhabited extinct volcano in the world after the Ngoro-Goro in Africa.

El Valle is well known for its handicrafts, its peculiar land formations and its waterfalls. It has been a favorite "summer" destination among generations of Panamanians due to its cool climate and its close communion with Mother Nature. We stopped briefly at the Revuelta del Moro, the first spot where the valley can be observed in its entirety, and what a sight it was! Imagine a perfect valley, surrounded by huge mountains covered by virgin rain forest and white clouds moving slowly along the rim. We got off the bus and immediately felt the coolness in the air and heard the songs of many birds in the distance. A welcomed change from the heat and bustle of modern Panama City.

In a few minutes we finally arrived at our destination and I heard someone calling my name:

"Mr. Weistmüller, Mr. Weistmüller, you must be related to Johny Weistmüller, what an appropriate name for somebody to do the Canopy Adventure, you will love it and you'll also feel like Tarzan."

Those were the first words addressed to me by the gentleman who greeted us upon arriving at our destination. His name was, Raúl Arias de Para and he was obviously referring to my grandfather who had played Tarzan in the Hollywood movies of the 1940's. It was not the first time that somebody had asked me if I was related to Tarzan, a question which, I must admit, pleased me immensely. I later found out that Raúl was the owner of the Canopy Adventure and the private natural reserve where it is located.

"Come this way, Johny, come this way. First I want to show you the waterfall that you will later cross at 180 feet above the forest floor."

Raúl then quickly lead the way through a lush and beautiful rain forest. It surprised me how quickly I had traveled from the 21st century, represented by Panama City, to this spot which has been untouched for thousands of years. "That tree over there," said Raúl pointing to a huge tree next to the stream, "has been there since Columbus discovered America." Immediately, the tree reminded me of that ancient Chinese tradition that maintains that old trees are sacred and should be revered as divine.

Suddenly, right after we climbed a small hill, we saw the waterfall. It was breathtaking. I have seen many waterfalls before, some higher, some with a bigger torrent but El Chorro Macho is something truly unique. The water doesn't come in a single cascade, rather it flows down over jet black volcanic rock in thousands of small streams forming a beautiful liquid curtain. At the bottom there is a small pool of crystal clear water which locals say is enchanted and, supposedly, cures all ills of the body and the soul.

Right at the spot where the waterfall is first seen from top to bottom, Raúl has placed a bronze plaque in memory of his father now deceased, son of his namesake, Tomas Arias, one of the founders of the Republic of Panama. "We owe this extraordinary spot to God, of course, but also to my father who discovered it 75 years ago and kept it pristine, just as it is now," said Raúl, and then we all moved on to put our harnesses and get ready to fly across this magnificent waterfall.

Danilo, the Head Guide, a native of El Valle, gave us the necessary explanations and we started up the trail to the first of the five platforms which form the Canopy Adventure. I asked him where he had learned about rope techniques, rappelling, biners, harnesses and all the climbing paraphernalia we had on and he replied that a Canadian climber and two Dutch men spent about 7 weeks in El Valle installing the system and training the local guides. In addition, a couple (husband and wife) of former Peace Corps volunteers spent 4 months in El Valle constructing the network of trails and teaching the local guides about the plants and animals of the rain forest. Having been reassured about the technical capacity of Danilo and his team, I continued the walk up the trail.

Along the way we stopped several times to see interesting things, such as medicinal plants, a rubber tree, a tarantula nest, an ant colony and countless birds of beautiful plumage including the Rufous Mot Mot, a Slatty Tailed Trogon and the spectacular Keel Billed Toucan. Finally we reached Platform One and the adrenaline started to flow. There it was, a 3/8 inch galvanized steel cable strung out across the waterfall, 180 feet above the forest floor. I could not see Platform Two, but I knew there must be something at the other end of the cable because one of the guides had just gone over it to wait for us there. The two German boys were the first to go, then my turn came, I thought of Tarzan, said a prayer and then flew away into the canopy.

Over 70% of the species living in a tropical forest reside in the canopy, the uppermost layer of the forest, and one of the least understood environments on Earth. The canopy is important because it serves as the interface between the biosphere and the atmosphere, and is physically and biologically the most active part of the forest. When I reached Platform Two I breathed deeply a couple of times and started to take in the beautiful scenery that unfolded below my feet. I could see many species of plants and orchids and, as luck would have it, a three-toed sloth hung 20 feet from where I was. This is a typical inhabitant of the canopy. It stays up among the branches eating leaves and moving slowly, it comes down to the forest floor only once a week to defecate and immediately goes back up the same tree.

The next stop was Platform Three. I was truly speechless, between the branches I could see the waterfall and to my left the pristine forest of Cerro Pajita. From here I was rappelled down in a 45 degree angle right in front of the waterfall. It was an unbelievable sight, I could almost feel the water in my face. Nothing I had ever done matched this experience. I was so glad I postponed my trip to do this tour.

Finally, I came down to the forest floor and was ready to go up again. I was so psyched up and full of adrenaline, I wanted to do the Canopy Adventure again, one more time, please... But the tour had to go so I watched my wife and daughter come down in front of the waterfall while I took a whole roll of film of this memorable experience. Then we all boarded the mini bus and went to eat a typical Panamanian luncheon at the house of a local couple famous for its cuisine. We ate ravenously, the experience doubled our appetites!

And what about the elderly couple from California? They made it fine and dandy. In fact, they now looked much younger having taken a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall, the one locals say is enchanted....

The Canopy Adventure Tour Company were honored to have
Mr. Weistmüller and his family in El Valle on December 8, 1996.

Global Travel Club Tours which feature the Canopy Adventure:

Please contact us for further information:

Global Travel Club
The Canopy Adventure is 
one of the most exciting tours in Panama. See golden frogs, square trees, 
a bustling market and then swing through the jungle canopy just like Tarzan!   Tel:  +44 (0)1268 541732 The Canopy Adventure is 
one of the most exciting tours in Panama. See golden frogs, square trees, 
a bustling market and then swing through the jungle canopy just like Tarzan!   Fax: +44 (0)1268 541363
The Canopy Adventure is 
one of the most exciting tours in Panama. See golden frogs, square trees, 
a bustling market and then swing through the jungle canopy just like Tarzan!   E-mail: The Canopy Adventure is 
one of the most exciting tours in Panama. See golden frogs, square trees, 
a bustling market and then swing through the jungle canopy just like Tarzan!


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This fabulous tour has been especially designed for couples and 
is ideal for all incurable romantics looking for an exciting holiday or honeymoon and superb scuba diving or relaxing
on a Palm-fringed Tropical island on the Southern Belize Barrier Reef

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