Feet firmly planted in the sand, you stand still, a lone form on a secluded beach. You allow the expansive vista of sea and sky to center you. This is one part of an immersive travel experience.
Feet gripping at the rough bark, you scale a massive tree, hoisting yourself into the rainforest canopy. Your arms and legs communicate with the tree; seeing a branch, a knot, a bough, you instinctively make your next move. You allow the tree to bring out your strength and agility. This is another part of an immersive travel experience.
The view from a treetop and the view on a secluded beach can be equally breathtaking, but they offer different spoils. A secluded beach offers you the thrill of discovery. A treetop offers you the thrill of achievement. The Resort at Isla Palenque will provide its guests the chance to experience both.
We journey along a central trail that winds past stretches of lavish greenery and wildlife, ascending the island’s shallow peak. We find one of the first trees primed for climbing and decide to give it a try. Our guides explain the process simply: climb up the tree until you reach the supports (about 40 feet off the ground), and try not to fall. We eye them in silence, our mouths growing dry with apprehension. They burst out laughing and lead us around the tree to show us the rope. Phew!
Tree-climbing really is quite simple. Strap on a harness, tie the rope to the hook on your waist, then just let the belays take over from there. The rope nearly reaches the top of the tree before it loops around; some skilled worker scaled this tree unaided to hang that rope way up there for the rest of us. You’re supported on both sides: a side belay pulls you up, and a back belay makes sure you stay in control.
Luke goes first. The team hoists him up and he takes off. Luke gains a bit of footing near the top and skillfully snaps some photos. Then, it’s my turn. The team pulls on the ropes and I’m propelled from ground level to the branches high above. It’s effortless! You don’t have to actually climb if you don’t want to; your supports enable you to just hang on and have a good time, if you’re so inclined. The workers, however, keep the experience from becoming too placid.
“Look out for that bee’s nest!” one of them shouts from the ground.
From such heights, I see the island as I never have before. I get a rush from being so far off the ground, so far out of my comfort zone, but I belong here too. These trees feel ancient. They’re oblivious to me, a silly human faking the climbing skills of a margay. They house so many unique and interesting creatures (like Thurston Howler III), and for a moment I join the party on my tree-climbing adventure in Panama.