The Land That Is Panama

By BobbyRica | May 18, 2010

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75,517 square kilometers (29,452 square miles) of lush exotic land covers the Republic of Panama. For that size, it easily dwarfs Ireland and is almost as big as South Carolina. Young in geological terms, Panama emerged from the sea 5.2 million years ago. It divided the Pacific from the Atlantic, but also creating a natural land bridge that links the North and South American continents. It is through this link that it has provided an interesting mingling of life. So it isn’t surprising that people call Panama the Great American Interchange. As you will see later on in the blog, this interchange has created a diversity of life that is unique from other continents.

I also noticed that Panama has an odd “S”-shaped formation. This also adds character on how tourists experience the country. The Caribbean Sea is actually on its north while the Pacific is on its south. More so, when the sun rises in the Pacific and sets in the Caribbean. And you realize that traveling from the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean, you drop off a few distance west of where you boarded. But as weird as it sounds, having that dawn on you adds into the charm of the country.

Panama is located at the eastern end of Central America. Its neighbors are Costa Rica in the west and Colombia in east. Its length far exceeds its width. The oceans are a mere 80 kilometers (50 miles) apart at the Panama Canal. But when you measure both sides of each country, Panama has approximately 3,000 kilometers (over 1,800 miles) of coastline along the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans.

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Whenever I see the Panamanian land mass above from the plane, I often wonder if the Caribbean is “higher” than the Pacific Ocean. According to my engineer friend, there’s really no difference in elevation. He told me that a canal was necessary to keep the waters from each oceans from meeting and spilling into each other. The canal was also necessary to safely carry ships over the isthmus. But it becomes a different story when the tides come in in both sides. An average of less than half a meter (1.5 feet) rises from the Caribbean while the more robust Pacific tides can be grow up to ten times that high. Scary if you think about it.

When most people think Panama, they think flatlands. Well, I was also astonished to find how mountainous the country is. The Cordillera Central mountain range can go up to 3,475 meters (11,400 feet). It divides the western half of the country, moving from the Costa Rican border to the Panama Canal. It’s an impressive sight! Another mountain range runs along Panama’s eastern Caribbean coast, going from the Comarca de Kuna Yala to the Colombian border. Part of that is the Serrania de San Blas to the west and the Serrania del Darien to the east, where it enters Darien Province.

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Another thing worth noting is that Panama has an abundance of ecosystems. Besides tropical forests, you’ll find deserts, flatlands, coral reefs, mangrove jungles and islands. No part of Panama won’t look the same. Everyone of these are on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the isthmus. The country even at least 500 rivers.

That’s a lot of ground to cover. And that also means a whole lot of adventure just waiting to be taken.

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