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Costa Rica, Panama, and the Canal

February 6-18, 2007
with Fred Diehl, Professor of Biology Emeritus, U.Va.

Trip completed. We had a great time!

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Join us in Panama and Costa Rica for an intriguing blend of nature and culture, plus a transit of the legendary Panama Canal. As a "Land Bridge" between the two Continents of the Western Hemisphere, Panama and Costa Rica feature a vast diversity of flora, mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles which coexist in one of the world's most complete ecosystems. Although there are other countries with great bio-diversity, none have as tremendous diversity in such a small area.

While at the national parks and reserves, there is a daily program of bird watching, nature exploration, and guided rain forest walks. There will be ample interpretation in the field and animated discussions. Travel is by motorcoach, jet plane, ship, motor launches and boats, with daily walks of approximately two miles in length (sometimes over uneven terrain) at a leisurely pace suitable for nature study and field observation. Bring your binoculars!

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Program Highlights

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Fred A. Diehl is an Emeritus faculty member in the Department of Biology at the University of Virginia and has over 30 years of teaching biology at all levels. His research and teaching interests are mainly in the areas of zoology, developmental biology, ecology and marine sciences, with a specialization in Invertebrate Biology. Whenever possible, field experiences and laboratories have been an important component of of his courses and he is a firm believer in learning from direct observation and first-hand exposure to nature. Professor Diehl has a long history of working with the Advanced Placement Biology program and in-service teacher preparation in addition to his dedication to undergraduate and graduate education. His proudest accomplishment as a faculty member at the University of Virginia is having successfully taught a variety of courses to a total of over 25,000 undergraduate students, 700 of whom were enrolled in his renowned course in Marine Biology/ Coral Reef Ecology in the Bahamas, which has been offered for over 25 years and is still going strong! Currently he is teaching a course in the Ecology and Conservation of Belize, as well.

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DAY 1 - USA / Panama City

Depart the U.S. on a flight for Panama City. This evening we'll gather for cocktails, dinner and an orientation.


Early this morning we leave for the town of Gamboa where we will board our launch that will take us across the canal to the renowned Barro Colorado Island Nature Monument administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Barro Colorado Island is an international center for tropical research. Within the lush inlets we will watch for Crested Guan, Sungrebe, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Chestnut mandibled Toucan, Howler and Capuchin Monkeys, American Crocodile, Green Iguana and the splendid Morpho Butterfly. We proceed to Gigante Station on the adjacent peninsula where we enjoy a short hike in the forest with our naturalist guide. Here we will look for Coatis, Collared Peccaries and Agoutis. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Gigante Station. This evening we'll enjoy a colorful Panamanian folkloric show and dinner.


Early this morning we transfer to Balboa to embark the Pacific Queen, a 284-ton German built cruiser with a capacity for 300 passengers for an up close tour through the Panama Canal, a wonder of the world with its magnificent feats of engineering. We enter the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, which will elevate our ship 85 feet above sea level. Some 52 million gallons of fresh water from Gatun Lake are needed to fill the locks for this purpose. Electric locomotives or mulas (mules) tow and stabilize ships on their way into, a wonder of the world with its magnificent feats of engineering. We enter the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, which will elevate our ship 85 feet above sea level. Some 52 million gallons of fresh water from Gatun Lake are needed to fill the locks for this purpose. Electric locomotives or mulas (mules) tow and stabilize ships on their way into the locks. Next we navigate through the Gaillard Cut, the narrowest part of the canal, known as the "spinal cord" of the Continental Divide. Just before reaching the Gatun locks on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, you will see Gatun Dam. The locks at Gatun will lower the ship 26 meters to sea level in three steps. Lunch is aboard the Pacific Queen. We will disembark at the port of Cristobal and return by bus to our hotel.


This morning we'll visit Casco Viejo or Old Compound, where Panama City was relocated in 1673 after pirate Sir Henry Morgan's invasion of the original royal city. Panama's "second city" is a mix of colonial architecture, iron clad balconies, cobblestone streets and monuments. Here we'll tour Saint Joseph's Church, see its golden altar and learn of the story of how a priest hid the altar's worth from Morgan by whitewashing it. We'll also tour the famous French Quarter and the Canal Museum. After lunch we will transfer to the airport for our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. We'll gather for dinner tonight for an orientation and briefing of our exploration of Costa Rica.


This morning we'll drive to Poas Volcano, one of the few active volcanoes in the continent. We drive to the top where, on a clear day, we will be able to observe the active fumaroles and lake at the bottom of the immense crater, one of the largest in the world. Thereafter, we'll visit La Paz Waterfall Garden, a place of great biodiversity with five majestic waterfalls, the largest enclosed butterfly observatory in the world, trails with viewing platforms, and hummingbird and orchid gardens. In the late afternoon, we'll return to our hotel.


Today, we depart for Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries in Central America. In this enchanting forest, winds cause sheets of mist to envelope the reserve in a blanket of moisture. Many of the trees here are shrouded with moss and epiphytes, which give a magical feeling to the forest. This private reserve is home to the Resplendent Quetzal, considered the most spectacular bird of the Americas. Delight in the bromeliads, orchids, and tree ferns of this misty cloud forest alive with over 400 species of birds. After a hike in the Reserve, we stop at the Hummingbird Gallery, where we find several species of hummingbirds attracted by feeders. During our stay we will enjoy a bird's eye view of the forest canopy from a combination of suspended bridges and platforms.


This morning we depart for a nature walk in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, home to its own ecosystem which includes spider monkeys not found in Monteverde. The community of Santa Elena borders the Monteverde Conservation area in the Cordillera de Tilaran of Central Costa Rica. This afternoon is unscheduled to explore Santa Elena town or to continue exploring the cloud forest.


We depart Monteverde on a fascinating down hill drive to the scenic Pacific Coast. We stop at Carara Biological Reserve, one of Costa Rica's most biologically diverse ecosystems and home to the largest population of the endangered scarlet macaw. Aboard a safari touring boat, we will search the Taracoles River for crocodiles and a variety of water birds, including roseate spoonbills, herons, and storks. We'll proceed to Manuel Antonio National Park to spend the next three nights.


This morning we will explore Manuel Antonio National Park and take walks in the forest as well as along the beaches. The park, located near Quepos on the Pacific Coast, is considered one of the most beautiful and scenic parks in the entire park system. It combines white-sand beaches backed by lush tropical forest with white-faced monkeys, as well as the endangered squirrel monkey, howler monkeys, two-toed sloths, agoutis, and iguanas. We may also spot coatis, armadillos, and parrots. Above all, it is the spectacular jagged coastline, exquisite sheltered tide pools, abundant marine life and beaches that have given this park its popular reputation. The afternoon is unscheduled to enjoy the beach, visit Quepos or just relax by the pool at the hotel.


Today we depart on a boat tour through mangrove canals to Damas Island. Visiting the island and navigating the canals of the reserve will afford great birding opportunities and great vistas. We'll look for caimans, sloths, anteaters, and much more! We'll have ample opportunities to see the antics of the white-face monkeys as we travel through the canals.


This morning we'll depart to San Jose stopping at Sarchi along the way. This mountain town is a craft center where artisans paint the traditional ox-cart designs and create articles out of precious tropical hardwoods. Lunch will be en route. Tonight, we'll enjoy a festive farewell dinner.

Day 13 - SAN JOSE / USA

After breakfast, transfer to the international airport for your return flight home. ^ back to top


Program Fees

$4,595 per person, double occupancy, land only. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $1,125 to the per person, double occupancy rates.

Price includes:

The trip operator, Royal Adventures, can book your air transportation for you:

Sample Coach Airfare from Miami  $570*

Sample Coach Airfare from JFK  $685*

Sample Coach Airfare from Washington, D.C. (Dulles) $890*

These sample airfares include the in-tour flight from Panama City, Panama to San José, Costa Rica. If you do book your own flights, you must also book this in-tour flight. Please coordinate with us to ensure you are booking the correct flight.

*As of June 2006 and subject to change.

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How To Register

Ready to register? The best way to do this is by phone so that we can ensure we are meeting all of your needs. Please call us at 800-346-3882. Or, e-mail with your contact information and the best time to reach you.

Reservations are acknowledged in order of receipt until the maximum enrollment has been reached.

A deposit of $500 per person is required to reserve your spot. Final invoicing will be done approximately 3 months prior to departure. Final payment by check is due November 17, 2006.

Deposits can be made via Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

Early registration is encouraged as space is limited.


Your tour operator will include information on obtaining trip insurance in your confirmation letter. Please note that there is a time frame for securing trip insurance. The University of Virginia will cancel its endorsement of and faculty and staff participation in any program destination for which a Travel Warning is issued by the U.S. Department of State. Vendor Terms of Agreement will specify under what circumstances the vendor will cancel a program and/or under what circumstances participants might receive some reimbursement if they cancel their travel with the vendor themselves. U.Va. strongly recommends that all participants purchase trip cancellation insurance which includes protection in the face of political unrest, natural disasters, and personal emergencies and participants should discuss this insurance directly with the vendor or other travel services with whom they deal. You will find more useful travel information by going to the Travel Resources link on this website. ^ back to top

Terms & Conditions


Deposits may be charged to a credit card. Final payment is due November 17, 2006 and must be paid by check payable to the operator Royal Adventures. Royal Adventures handles all bookings, ticketing, and invoicing. CST #2009579-40


Refunds, less a cancellation fee of $350 per person, are made if we are notified in writing on or before November 17, 2006. No refunds are made after that date. All cancellations must be made in writing. There are no refunds for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features.


We highly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. An application for trip cancellation insurance will be available upon confirmation. Neither The University of Virginia Alumni Travel Program nor Royal Adventures accept liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a non-refundable airline ticket or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for the tour.


Royal Adventures (CST #2009579-40), its owners and employees act only as agents for the various independent suppliers and contractors providing transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurant and other services connected with this tour. Such travel and services are subject to the terms and conditions under which such accommodations, services and transportation are offered or provided, and University of Virginia and Royal Adventures and their respective, employees, agents, representatives, and assigns, accept no liability therefore. University of Virginia and Royal Adventures, assume no liability for any injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or other irregularity which may be caused by the defect of any aircraft or vehicle or the negligence or default of any company or person engaged in carrying out or performing any of the services involved. Additionally, responsibility is not accepted for losses, injury, damages or expenses of any kind due to sickness, weather, strikes, local laws, hostilities, wars, terrorist acts, acts of nature or other such causes. All services and accommodations are subject to the laws of the country in which they are provided. University of Virginia and Royal Adventures reserve the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their sole judgment, conditions warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience or safety of the tour participants. They reserve the right to withdraw this tour without penalty. The right is also reserved to decline to accept or retain any person as a member of the tour, or to substitute another qualified leader or special guest. Baggage and personal effects are the sole responsibility of the owners at all times. The price of the program is given in good faith based on current tariffs and rates, and is subject to change. Any tariff, exchange rate, security surcharge or fuel increases will be passed onto participants. Neither University of Virginia nor Royal Adventures accept the liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a nonrefundable airline ticket. The air ticket when issued shall constitute the sole contract between the passenger and the airline concerned. As part of the consideration and right to participate in this tour, each participant will be asked to sign a liability release. ^ back to top