An optical endoscopic portal for providing a passage through a body cavity wall includes a cannula comprising an absorbent member having a distal end for positioning in a body cavity, a proximal end for positioning external of the body cavity and a passage between the distal and proximal ends for receiving instruments. The absorbent member has a rigid dry state prior to introduction through the cavity wall and a soft wet state after absorbing fluid upon introduction of the distal end in the body cavity. An optical element is disposed in the absorbent material and optically couples the distal end with the proximal end. The optical element includes a light transmitting optical element for illuminating the body cavity and/or an image transmitting optical element for transmitting an image of the body cavity for viewing externally thereof. A method of establishing a passage through a cavity wall includes the steps of introducing an elongate member of absorbent material in a small size opening in a cavity wall with the elongate member in a rigid dry state such that the elongate member extends longitudinally through the cavity wall, absorbing fluid with the absorbent material to place the elongate member in a soft wet state, illuminating the body cavity with light and/or transmitting an image of the body cavity for external viewing with an optical element disposed in the absorbent material and introducing an instrument through a passage of the elongate member to position a distal end of the instrument in the body cavity.