Summit National Park, also known as Summit Gardens, is a forest reserve turned park that is located a mere 20 minutes away from Panama City, in the Republic of Panama. Summit National Park is internationally renowned for having a truly impressive exhibit for Panama’s national bird, the Harpy Eagle. A museum is located right on the entrance of the exhibit, and further in you’ll be able to see both a male and female Harpy Eagle on a vast controlled environment. They can be seen all throughout the day, and are absolutely breathtaking to look at.
About the Harpy Eagle, it’s one of the largest eagles in the world and is the most powerful bird of prey of them all. Currently an endangered species found only in Panama and some South American rainforests, the Harpy Eagle is a carnivore that eats animals such as birds, monkeys, sloths, reptiles, rodents and others. These animals mate for life and can weigh up to 20 pounds! Their wingspan is of approximately 7 feet, and their talons can be as big as 5 inches, the size of the claws found in grizzly bears’ paws. The Summit National Park is one of the only places on Earth where people can see this bird up close.
Summit is the ideal place not just to see many animal species found in the region but also many exotic plants and flowers. The park has an area specifically for plants and orchids, but the park’s 700-acre real estate is mostly destined for animal exhibits and recreation facilities for the whole family. Exploring the Summit National Park will take a whole day, but luckily everything is clearly signals and there are well-kept trails connecting the different areas visitors can check out. Among the animals that can be seen any given day at Summit, we have lions, leopards, various species of monkeys, crocodiles, wild boars, many species of birds, turtles, panthers and more. The animals seem as happy as caged animals in zoos could possibly be, and there’s always capable staff in tow should problems arise.
Speaking of “capable staff,” the staff really is informative when visitors have questions or concerns. Schools often take field trips to Summit National Park where kids are given loads of information on the animals and plants they see at the park, and in special cases they can even have 1-on-1 time with some of the more harmless species such as the monkeys. Of course, the Harpy Eagle exhibit is amongst the most popular attractions of the park, but everything about Summit is worthy of noting. The trail is long and forces a hard workout on even the most slothful amongst you, but the walk is definitely worth it if only for the lush green and beautiful scenery all around. The recreation areas are supervised by the Summit staff, but they always urge the responsible adults within the parties to watch out for the children in the areas that are farther away from the main office, located right in the entrance of the park.
Entrance to the Summit National Park is inexpensive, coming in at $1.00 per adult and children go in for free. The park is open 7 days a week from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, while the Harpy Eagle exhibit is open to visitors from 9:00AM until 4:30PM, Monday thru Sunday. Since the size of Summit is considerable, visitors are given a thorough map of the premises upon entering the park, free of charge. Reaching the park is also relatively easy: if you’re going via privately-owned vehicle or taxi cab, you will want to take the road that leads to Miraflores Locks and keep going past the Centenary Bridge entrance until you reach an intersection; here, you’ll make a left turn and follow the road until you reach the park entrance on the right side of the street.
Reaching Summit by bus is not hard, either. In Calidonia, located at the end of Via España in Panama City, you will find the Calidonia bus terminal. From there, just be on the lookout with busses that read “Gamboa” or “Summit Gardens;” these busses leave twice per hour and charge a $0.55 per passenger fee. A 25 minute bus ride from Calidonia will eventually leave you in the bus stop right across the street from Summit National Park. As it is with many things in Panama, making sure the driver stops at the Summit bus stop is only a matter of mentioning it as you board the bus and pay your fee.
|Written by Rob Rivera|
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Filed under: History on March 10th, 2008