On a trip to Costa Rica three years ago, I was taken on a jungle tour by an American expat biologist. He lives on the Osa Peninsula, not far from the Panamanian border, and he offers his diverse knowledge of the rainforest as his means of livelihood. I learned several interesting things on the trip, and it was well worth the money, but the most interesting part of his tour by far was not the educational aspect. It was the immersed-in-nature experience of tree climbing.
Many areas in Panama offer canopy tours that allow you to get up into the foliage of the forest to admire its interworkings from above. If you prefer a little more velocity, there are ziplining tours available as well. However, with the help of a couple of ropes, some basic knots and a little sweat, tree climbing offers an adventure alternative with incredibly beautiful views.
Armed with a throw bag, a small polypropylene line, a larger climbing line and a harness, some friends of mine and I set out to investigate the best vantage points on Isla Palenque. Without question, the Palo Panama (or Panama Tree) that overhangs a cliff between the two larger beaches and overlooks Isla Palenquito was our pièce de résistance.
Easily the most challenging part of climbing is setting the initial throw line. This particular Panama Tree stands a solid 120 feet tall, and has an even more imposing height when looking down the cliff side, suspended from its branches. Most of the branches are congregated at the very top, but there’s a lower “second floor” about halfway up that we were able to reach with two throw lines.
As with any climbing adventure, it’s important to transition weight from your arms to your legs to avoid fatigue. With the aid of a Blake’s hitch and a foot harness, weight is transitioned from either side of a rope overhanging a branch and with very little upper body strength, a climber can move along with relative ease.