Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures

Travel information 18 days MS Fram
Departure
September 29, 2022
Price from $ 7,589
$ 5,312
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Check prices and availability Request a quote

First you’ll transit the huge locks of the famous Panama Canal, moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Then we’ll sail south, where we’ll visit two national parks, the indigenous Emberá people and their village deep in the jungle, and a range of charming coastal communities across five South American countries: Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.

Panama, Columbia, and Ecuador

Board your ship in Colón and sail into the Panama Canal to see its system of locks in action. Then we’ll meet the Emberá community in Darién National Park and learn about their traditions. In Bahía Solano, the close-knit Afro-Colombian community will host a tour of the town for you, complete with song and dance. After crossing the Equator, it’s on to Montecristi (near Manta), where Panama hats are still handwoven today. Isla de la Plata is part of Machalilla National Park and is home to 32 species of bird. Choose one of our optional excursions in Puerto Bolivar, including a visit to a banana plantation.

Peru and Chile

Weather permitting, we’ll land in Salaverry, where you can take an optional excursion to explore pre-Incan ruins before arriving at Peru’s pulsating capital, Lima. Optional excursions in Paracas include visiting wildlife in the Ballestas Islands or seeing the mysterious Nazca Lines. En route to our final stop in Valparaíso, you can explore the sunny beaches in Arica, the Atacama Desert mining town of Iquique, and Neo-Colonial architecture in La Serena.

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures
  • Day 1
    Colón, Panama

    Colón, Panama

    September 29, 2022
    Estimated time of departure is 11:00 PM

    The city of Colón lies by the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Atlantic coast. Here, you you’ll find high-quality hotels, a casino, hot springs, a thriving handicraft scene, and great restaurants featuring local delicacies. If you want to really explore the city or join a Pre-Program where you’ll spend time in a beautiful jungle lodge next to the Chagres River, you should arrange to arrive a couple of days earlier.

    Once you board the ship, you’ll pick up your complimentary expedition jacket, settle into your cabin, explore the ship, and attend a mandatory safety drill. After the welcome dinner (featuring a toast by the captain), you’ll meet your Expedition Team, who will run through important health and safety aspects with you.

    Day 1
    Colón, Panama

    Colón, Panama

  • Day 2
    Panama Canal

    Connecting two oceans

    September 30, 2022

    We depart Colón early in the morning to start the process entering the Panama Canal. The complex canal network is over a hundred years old, stretching almost 50 miles through natural and man-made waterways. We’ll wait eagerly for our allocated slot to enter the first of a series of huge locks. In a feat of modern engineering, these ingenious locks effectively lift the ship more than 80 feet above sea level. If weather allows, the Expedition Team will be on deck to point out sites of interest around the canal and talk about the history of this ambitious project.

    Roughly halfway through the 12-hour transit of the canal, the ship will enter the Gatun Lake section. Created after the nearby Chagres River was damned, it’s one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. In contrast, the surrounding rainforest is virtually untouched by any development. The flora and fauna native to Central America flourish here, undisturbed. If you’re lucky, you may spot a crocodile or alligator ashore. Watch the trees and you may also catch a glimpse of a monkey (and maybe even a sloth or two).

    After a few more locks and lakes, the ship will pass under the Bridge of the Americas and emerge in the Pacific Ocean. In one day, you’ll have experienced the culmination of centuries of planning, hard work, and resourcefulness, and cross from one great ocean to another in the process. It’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget.

    Day 2
    Panama Canal

    Connecting two oceans

  • Day 3
    La Chunga, Panama

    Meet the Embera

    October 1, 2022

    It’s pure adventure today as we head to an authentic Emberá settlement in the middle of the jungle in Darién National Park. The indigenous Emberá people have lived in this area for centuries, long before the first Spanish explorer set foot in the New World. The community doesn’t receive regular visitors; we have worked closely with them to give you this rare opportunity. We’ll brief you beforehand on how to ensure that our visit to this isolated community is respectful and always in line with their courtesy customs.

    To get there, we’ll drop anchor in La Chunga Bay and head up through the jungle on the Sambú River using our small boats (RIBs). The temperature usually increases as we travel inland, so bring proper protection from the sun and the mosquitos. The journey up river will take approximately one hour but will be well worth it. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled (and your camera ready) for birds such as herons, egrets, osprey, and harpy eagles.

    When we arrive at the Emberá settlement, you’ll meet some of the people that live here and explore the village. You’ll learn about their traditional clothing and medicine, much of it sourced from the surrounding jungle. We may have the opportunity to join a local guide on a short walk through the jungle to learn about medicinal plants and insects of interest. Back in the village, the residents will likely be having fun themselves, as they offer to give you a temporary tribal tattoo or even let you try on their traditional dress.

    Day 3
    La Chunga, Panama

    Meet the Embera

  • Day 4
    Bahía Solano, Colombia

    Afro-Colombian vibes

    October 2, 2022

    The little town of Bahía Solano is the largest settlement on Colombia’s Chocó coast, near the mouth of Rio Jella and surrounded by thick jungle. It is also called ‘Ciudad Mutis’, after the 18th-century Spanish botanist José Celestino Mutis. Such a name could be an homage to the natural biodiversity that exists in the area’s jungles, mangroves, mountains, marshes, rivers, and bays.

    The community here will open their town to us, as they warmly invite you on a guided walk through their settlement. Meet and talk along the way to the Afro-Colombian residents who live alongside the indigenous Emberá people, and other Colombians from the interior. Passing by the main church and kindergarten, we’ll come to the local secondary school, where students will greet you with a traditional welcome song and show you around their classrooms. At the small fishing port, learn about the town’s fishing co-op, the main source of income for the community. Your tour ends at the seafront, where you’re in for a treat: a performance of unique Afro-Colombian music and dance.

    You may also have the opportunity to join an optional excursion to the botanical gardens located on the long sandy beach of Playa Mecana. The botanical gardens are actually a 170-acre jungle reserve with fascinating nature trails, and home to a seed bank and different reforestation projects. Other possible optional excursions will take you to the fishing village at Playa Huina, where you’ll have the opportunity to walk through the jungle to waterfalls with crystal-clear swimming holes, or to visit a local indigenous community.

    Day 4
    Bahía Solano, Colombia

    Afro-Colombian vibes

  • Day 5
    At Sea

    Relax on board

    October 3, 2022

    Spend some of your day at sea taking a relaxing walk out on deck. Enjoy the seascapes and keep an eye out for marine life such as whales, dolphins, and seabirds. Want to feel even closer to the water? Go for a dip in the infinity pool or in one of the two outdoor hot tubs (where you can still admire the scenery).

    Head to the Science Center and make the most of the Expedition Team’s lectures to learn about what you will experience in the following days. Participate in a Citizen Science project, where you will help contribute to ongoing research around the world. When darkness falls and it’s a starry night, you can also join the Expedition Team on deck for some stargazing. Or settle into a seat in the Explorer Lounge & Bar to raise a glass or two with your new-found friends.

    Day 5
    At Sea

    Relax on board

  • Day 6
    Manta, Ecuador

    Made in Montecristi

    October 4, 2022

    We cross the Equator early in the morning. In a traditional ceremony, we’ll seek King Neptune’s blessing on board. If luck is on our side, he might even make an appearance before we reach our first call in Ecuador.

    The main attraction of the day will be to Montecristi, located 5 miles inland from the tuna-fishing port city of Manta. It was established in the 16th century by manteños fleeing the frequent pirate raids on the coast. Even though it is located in Ecuador, Montecristi is the actual birthplace of the Panama hat, despite its name. The misnomer originated when President Roosevelt wore one of these hats on a visit to the Panama Canal in 1904, sparking their popularity worldwide. There are plenty of shops selling the genuine article, which local artisans have expertly handwoven from the leaves of the jipijapa tree.

    When you’re done hat-hunting, browse the stalls at the town’s pretty plaza, admire the architecture of the church, and look at the varied street art. One prominent mural at the plaza depicts General Eloy Alfaro, two-time Ecuadorian President and a Montecristi native. If time allows, head to the top of the main hill, where there is a museum and a grandiose mausoleum in honor of Alfaro, who was also known as the Viejo Luchador (Old Warrior).

    Day 6
    Manta, Ecuador

    Made in Montecristi

  • Day 7
    Isla del la Plata

    Ecuador’s other Galápagos

    October 5, 2022

    Isla de la Plata is a part of Parque National Machalilla, Ecuador’s only coastal national park. The island sits a ways off the coast and is prone to large waves that can make landings a challenge. Its nickname of ‘Silver Island’ is thought to come from the belief that English seaman Francis Drake buried a treasure trove of silver here. This nickname could also come from the copious bird guano reflected in the sunshine, giving the island a shiny, silvery look when seen from the mainland. Unfortunately, no treasure has ever been found on the island, which is just over two square miles in size.

    But what the island lacks in size or silver, it more than makes up for in the wide range of wildlife, even rivaling that of the Galápagos Islands. If we are able to land here successfully, keen birdwatchers take note! Have your binoculars at the ready to spot some of the 32 species of birds found here, including the famous blue-footed boobies, nesting waved albatross, pelicans, gannets, and frigate birds. The wildlife in the island’s waters are equally diverse. Keep an eye out for whales, manta rays, green turtles, and dolphins.

    Day 7
    Isla del la Plata

    Ecuador’s other Galápagos

  • Day 8
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

    October 6, 2022

    Machala’s main claim to fame is Puerto Bolivar, an important Ecuadorian port where coffee, cocoa, shrimp, and bountiful bananas (which the locals call ‘oro verde’, or green gold) leave for export. As part of one of our optional excursions, you may have the opportunity to visit a local banana plantation, or to try and spot hummingbirds, parakeets, and howler monkeys in the Buenaventura Nature Reserve to the south. The nearby Puyango Petrified Forest has one of the largest collections of fossilized trees in the world, thought to be about 100 million years old—as old as the Andes Mountains themselves.

    Feast on fresh seafood at Puerto Bolivar at one of the harbor’s many restaurants, and enjoy views of the natural mangrove swamps of Isla Jambeli. Machala has all the charm you’d expect from a small coastal city. Stroll through quaint plazas filled with friendly locals, and admire unusual monuments dedicated to sorting fish and bananeros. The restaurants here are evolving and have started dabbling in the hip, modern cuisine for which Ecuador and Peru have increasingly become known.

    Day 8
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

  • Day 9
    At Sea

    At your leisure

    October 7, 2022

    Enjoy the serenity of this day at sea. Relax and admire the scenery from the observation deck or from the lounge.

    Throughout your journey, the Expedition Team will give lectures in the Science Center and share their extensive knowledge of the region. Topics may include periods of pre-Columbian history, the geology of the surrounding mountains and islands, the folklore of the local communities, and much more. Not all of our lectures are indoors, though! If curious seabirds come fly alongside the ship, the Expedition Team might also help you spot and identify them from the deck.

    Day 9
    At Sea

    At your leisure

  • Day 10
    Salaverry, Peru

    Ancient kingdoms

    October 8, 2022

    Pummeled by the Pacific’s wind and waves, Salaverry can be a hard port to access. If we are able to land there, though, it’ll be a good starting point to explore Trujillo, Peru’s third-largest city, and the array of archeological sites scattered throughout the region.

    Trujillo sits in a fertile valley oasis irrigated by the Moche River. It boasts a colorful Baroque 17th-century cathedral, 10 colonial churches, and many Neoclassical mansions, not to mention one of the longest mosaic murals in the world at the local university. It’s more likely, however, that your focus will be further back on the past.

    The city of Chan Chan was created by the Chimú Empire, which appeared in the region around 900 A.D. The vast ruins of the complex, measuring almost 8 square miles, include the Tschudi temple-citadel and Huaca Esmeralda. On the other side of Trujillo are you’ll find the Mochican pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. These pre-date Chan Chan by a few hundred years! Huaca del Sol stands out as the largest adobe structure on the continent, while Huaca del Luna is a more detailed specimen, with many of its pastel frescos still visible.

    Day 10
    Salaverry, Peru

    Ancient kingdoms

  • Day 11
    Callao / Lima, Peru

    ‘The City of Kings’

    October 9, 2022

    Set on a strip of desert between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, we find the capital city of Lima, served by the Callao seaport. Lima is the country’s largest city, and it is a modern, sprawling metropolis where traditions and trends converge in an exciting cocktail of culture and cuisine. Lima’s original name was the Ciudad de los Reyes, or ‘The City of Kings’, and it is well earned.

    The UNESCO World Heritage historic center is full of Colonial era architecture, such as Plaza Mayor and the San Francisco Monastery. In contrast, the clay ruins of the Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca ceremonial pyramids are remnants of the long-lost Incan civilization. There are at least four different museums you can explore for a deeper dive into pre-Columbian archeology. You might enjoy the bright and arty area of Barranco, complete with murals, creative cafés, and two of Lima’s contemporary art museums.

    Many say the ultimate Lima experience revolves around the food. Cuisine from the capital has made a splash the world over. Try it in one of the many internationally recognized and award-winning restaurants found here. One of Peru’s all-time gastronomic greats is ceviche, fresh fish marinated in tangy lime juice and other seasonings. This staple dish can be savored in many locations around the city, from upscale diners in Miraflores to salt-of-the-earth cevicherías at the fishing docks over in Chorrillos.

    Day 11
    Callao / Lima, Peru

    ‘The City of Kings’

  • Day 12
    Paracas, Peru

    Birds and brandy

    October 10, 2022

    Nestled on a bay behind a peninsula, the humble and sleepy resort town of Paracas is surrounded by brown-sugar–colored cliffs and beaches. Known to most as ‘El Chaco,’ the town’s main shorefront and boulevard features a wide array of restaurants where you can taste jalea, a mix of fried seafood with salsa criolla (Creole) and yuca root. Another specialty is Peruvian silverside fish, known as pejerry, best washed down with a glass of pisco, a grape brandy produced at several of the region’s tourable distilleries. Be careful though, pisco can pack a punch!

    Opposite Paracas harbor is the mysterious local geoglyph of a candelabra, which possibly dates back to 200 B.C. It could be related to the famous Nazca Lines, which you may have an opportunity to visit in the Pisco Valley on an optional excursion. The Nazca Lines could be older than the candelabra, but new geoglyphs are still being discovered. Could these be extra-terrestrial in origin? You decide.

    You may also have an opportunity to take a boat tour to the nearby Ballestas Islands, considered somewhat of a  mini-Galápagos of Peru The Ballestas Islands support a wide range of wildlife, including Humboldt penguins, turtles, Peruvian boobies, cormorants, pelicans, sea lions, dolphins, Inca terns, and humpback whales. Nearby, you can also find the Paracas National Reserve, whose territory includes a rare combination of desert and marine ecosystems. The Martian-like yellow dunes and red-sand beaches hide more than 100 archaeological sites of the Paracas civilization. Also keep your eyes on the sky for the Andean condor and Chilean flamingo.

    Day 12
    Paracas, Peru

    Birds and brandy

  • Day 13
    At Sea

    Fresh Sea Air

    October 11, 2022

    We enter the final leg of the voyage as we sail north and leave Peru behind. Continue to enjoy the Expedition Team’s lecture program. On deck, a healthy salt-tinged breeze and magnificent views will invigorate you, as well as all the facilities the expedition ship has to offer. These waters are part of the Humboldt Current, a cold-water current that cools the climate in the region and causes clear blue skies. It also sustains the region’s highly productive marine ecosystem, causing large quantities of sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.

    If you’re someone who likes to keep active, there are well-equipped gyms on board, both indoor and outdoor, and each with great views. Swimmers should be excited too—the ship has a heated infinity pool for you to enjoy. If you get tired of the treadmill, move your stride over to the outdoor running track. The scenery and the sea breeze might just inspire you to stretch your run out for a few more miles.

    Day 13
    At Sea

    Fresh Sea Air

  • Day 14
    Arica, Chile

    City of Everlasting Spring

    October 12, 2022

    Arica enjoys a constant desert climate, which is atypical for a city by the sea. In fact, it’s even one of the driest cities in the world. This also means that it is bathed in glorious sunshine almost every day of the year, and residents proudly describe Arica as being immersed in a never-ending spring. The beaches are popular with sunbathers and surfers alike. The 15-minute hike to the top of the tall, sandy El Morro cliff is well worth it. Once you find the fluttering Chilean flag on top, you’ll also be rewarded with great views.

    Another hotspot for visitors is San Marcos Cathedral, designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Parisian fame) and inaugurated in 1876. Calles 21 de Mayo and Bolognesi are lively pedestrian areas filled with eateries and artisan stalls, and the El Agro market and food court is full of sights and scents. At the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum, peruse artifacts from Chinchorro culture and marvel at mummies who are even older than even the ones found in Egypt. Head to the south of the city to trek the more rugged Playa Corazones and explore Cuevas de Anzota (the Caves of Anzota).

    Day 14
    Arica, Chile

    City of Everlasting Spring

  • Day 15
    Iquique, Chile

    Chile’s Premier Beach Resort

    October 13, 2022

    Welcome to a slice of paradise by the Pacific, complete with palm trees and promenades. As one of Chile’s top seaside cities, Iquique is buzzing with activity all year around. Shoppers stream to the duty-free Zofri Mall, while ship and history enthusiasts will love the tour of La Esmeralda, a steam-powered warship used and sunk during the War of the Pacific. You may have the opportunity to visit the nearby abandoned saltpeter mining town of Humberstone in the Atacama Desert. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a slice of history that you can literally walk through.

    Back in Iquique, stroll the La Costenera boardwalk next to Playa Cavancha and admire the city’s skyline on one side and the parasailors and surfers on the other. Baquedano Street showcases 19th-century Georgian architecture and leads to Astoreca Palace. Don’t miss the photo op at the clock tower, located in the town center. You’ll pass an array of chic cafés, where you can indulge in local coffee culture or sip a traditional creamy mango sour. You’ll find Iquique’s Chinatown near the mercado, bringing with it the unique ‘Chifa’ cuisine, which marries Peruvian and Chinese flavors. Aside from a wide range of seafood dishes, you’ll definitely want to try chumbeque, a local dessert that features a cookie sandwich coated with an anise-flavored syrup.

    Day 15
    Iquique, Chile

    Chile’s Premier Beach Resort

  • Day 16
    At Sea

    Relax on board

    October 14, 2022

    We hope your spirits are sky high as your expedition cruise nears its end. By this stage of your journey, you’ll likely regard your fellow explorers as friends, after finding so much in common in your interests and passion for nature. Chat with your shipmates over a snack and share your favorite stories from the expedition so far. The Explorer Bar is also open for drinks—you might even catch the crew and Expedition Team here in the evening for some friendly banter. As night falls, there is nothing as romantic as stargazing on deck with the one you love.

    Day 16
    At Sea

    Relax on board

  • Day 17
    La Serena, Chile

    ‘The City of Churches’

    October 15, 2022

    Perched on terraces above the ocean, La Serena is blessed with beautiful sandy beaches all along Avenida del Mar and beyond. You’ll find that Chile’s second-oldest city has a distinct and purposefully crafted Neo-Colonial look and feel to it. Its modern buildings meld with classic architecture, such as the 30 or so carefully restored stone churches, some of which are 350 years old. You’ll notice that the stone churches can be distinguished by their different styles of belfries.

    Aside from wandering the beaches, promenades, and plazas, you can also stroll through manicured public gardens like the Japanese-inspired Jardín del Corazón or shop for handicrafts at Recova Market. Contemplate Pre-Colonial artifacts at the archeological museum or head to the Patio Colonial, near Balmaceda, for relaxed cafés and eateries.

    Day 17
    La Serena, Chile

    ‘The City of Churches’

  • Day 18
    Valparaíso, Chile

    UNESCO’s `Jewel of the Pacific´

    October 16, 2022
    Estimated time of arrival is 10:00 AM

    Your voyage ends at Valparaíso. Built on steep hillsides overlooking the ocean, this UNESCO World Heritage Site–listed city is a maze of monuments, churches, historical funicular cable cars, trendy neightborhoods, cobblestone alleys, colorful houses, and charming plazas. Cerros Alegre and Concepción have arguably the best views, while the historic port district has Colonial architecture, bustling mercados, and the maritime and modern art museums. This colorful and unusual city is fascinating, so why not stick around for an extra day or two? You can also join a Post-Program to Easter Island, famous for its mysterious statues of giant heads.

    Day 18
    Valparaíso, Chile

    UNESCO’s `Jewel of the Pacific´

Departures

2022

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What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurants Aune and Fredheim
  • Fine-dining À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm is included for suite guests
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organize and guide activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use the ship’s Science Center, which features an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, an infinity pool, a sauna, an outdoor and indoor gym, and an outdoor running track
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing activities

  • Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
  • Loan of trekking poles and all equipment needed for the activities
  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers will help configure your camera settings before landings

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team
  • Optional treatments in the onboard wellness and spa area

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please make sure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities are expected
MS Fram in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo
MS Fram in Antarctica
Photo: Sandra Walser
Your Ship

MS Fram

Year built 2007
Year of refurbishment 2020
Shipyard Fincantieri, Italy
Passenger capacity 250 (200 in Antarctica)
Beds 276
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 11,647 T
Length 374 ft
Beam 66.3 ft
Speed 13 knots
MS Fram in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo

The original Fram was the most famous explorer ship of its time and the achievements of her expeditions are unparalleled. The advanced technology on the MS Fram, in the spirit of the famous original, makes her exceptionally well suited for expedition cruises in polar regions.

Read more about MS Fram

Icebergs – one of many favorite photo motives when on an expedition with MS Fram
Photo: Tomas Mauch
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