Compared to many capital cities in the world, you don’t have to travel very far to reach green belt areas in Panama City. Located just 18km north of Miraflores Locks (approx 20 minutes by car), on the edge of the National Soberania Park is Parque Municipal Summit (Summit Park). Covering over approx 135 hectares this botanical garden and zoo is a great place to bring kids.
Summit Park: A brief history
Summit Park began as an experimental farm in 1923 run by the United States Department of Agriculture. The aim was to introduce tropical plants for agricultural use such as fibre-free mangos and various citrus fruits. In 1958 it started housing rescued animals that couldn’t survive in the wild, starting with macaws and other native birds. Today it is home to thousands of plants and hundreds of animals including birds, mammals and reptiles.
Summit Park With Kids
A stroller-friendly paths loops the park, with shaded nature trails cutting through its core. Rustic playgrounds and picnic tables are positioned in a handful of spots near the entrance and several animal enclosures are positioned around the park. Most of the animals here are rescued from illegal collectors or are brought here after being orphaned by hunters.
Ice-lolly vendors are stationed throughout the park and there is a small kiosk near the entrance selling soft drinks and simple snacks such as crisps and nuts.
The Harpy Eagle
The star attraction at Summit Park is the Harpy Eagle which lives in a large enclosure at the top of the hill. This endangered bird is indigenous to Panama and is the country’s national bird. It is also one of the largest birds of prey in the world (although the Andean Condor claims the top spot). It’s wingspan can stretch up to 6.5 feet and its legs can be as wide as a small child’s wrist.
The Harpy Eagles are thought to be named after harpies in Greek mythology, monsters that took the the form of a bird with a human face. They carried bad people off to get punished by the Erinyes. The eagles as we know them in our world are capable of seizing sloths and monkeys. Little kids need not panic, the enclosure has a net ceiling!
Adjacent to the Harpy Eagle enclosure is a small museum that has a couple of stuffed Harpy Eagles on display, allowing visitors a closer look.
The Museum at Summit Park
Harpy Eagles nest in 100-150 foot tall Ceiba, or Cuipo trees. Females lay two eggs, but typically only one hatches. Their nests are around 5 feet wide (that’s the size of a child’s bed!) and can be reused by the same eagle pair for many years.
Despite Panama’s efforts to protect the Harpy Eagle’s habitat, some 35,000 hectares of rainforest is destroyed every year according to information in the museum. To put it in perspective, that is roughly 233 times larger than the area of Summit Park. An alarmingly thought, not just for the Harpy.
Summit Park Opening Hours
Summit Park is open Monday to Sunday from 9am-3pm (last tickets are sold at 3pm and it closes at 4pm). The harpy eagle museum closes at 3pm.
Facilities: Bathrooms, parking, picnic areas with playgrounds, refreshment stands.
By car: From Miraflores Locks in the canal zone, continue on the road to Gamboa. After approximately 8km turn left off the main road (marked to Gamboa). Summit Park is a short distance on the right beyond the headquarters of Soberania National Park.
By bus: ‘Mi Bus’ runs services at the weekend from Albrook Mall, by the ‘E’ stand, at the El Costo exit
- Children under 5 years old: free
- Seniors and students with ID or uniform: $1
- Panamanian residents: $2
- Non residents: $5
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