Academic Travel in Panama

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our tour leaders are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity, and local people.

With being one of the most biodiverse places on earth, Panama hosts world-class biological and geological experiences. With its numerous indigenous communities, colonial towns, ancient ruins and the Panama Canal, the Isthmus it is also a top-spot for historians, anthropologists, and architecture lovers. What is less known, is Panama’s extensive art scene; from numerous galleries in the capital, Afro-Caribbean remains and indigenous handicrafts to artisans dating back to colonial times.

The most valuable experiences in my life have been related to traveling, meeting new and interesting people, discovering different flavors, amazing nature and unique activities and passions. – Annie Young J.

Why studying abroad could be beneficial for college students? By studying abroad the students have the opportunity to discover a new culture, see the world with new eyes, put in practice their studies and a lot more.  Below is a list of some reasons why  your university/ college or kid should consider our Academic 10-day program in Panama:

1. Connectivity / Biodiversity

Study abroad allows you to immerse in one place and Panama is a destination that has it all:  History, culture, nature, science, ethnic studies, great museums like the Biodiversity Museum, the Panama Canal and STRI Barro Colorado among others.  It will be hard to come by an opportunity like this again, so take advantage of the connection and discover this amazing country.

 

2.  Education

By joining our Academic travel,  you’ll have the chance to see a side of your major that you may not have been exposed to at home.  If you are major in biology, history, art, business, economics or international relations for example.  Panama is a hub that will offer many opportunities to practice and network with wonderful professionals and people.  You will meet amazing people, have different opportunities for lectures in the City of Knowledge or Smithsonian Tropical Institute and experience in the field.


3. Take in a New Culture and gain new perspective

Many students who choose our program are leaving their home for the first time. When they arrive in Panama, they are fascinated by the distinct cultural perspectives and this will impact their lives.   You will have the opportunity to find incredible new foods, customs, traditions, and social atmospheres.  Also, you will gain a different perspective, not only on the academic side but also on the way of life.   You will find that you have a better understanding and appreciation for the history and people of Latin America.


4. Practice Spanish

Our academic program will immerse you in our culture and you will have the chance to practice Spanish like a local.   There is no better way to learn Spanish than to dive right in with the locals.


5. Career Opportunities

When you finish your study abroad program and return home, you will return with a new perspective on culture, language skills, a great education, and a willingness to learn. Needless to say, all of these are very attractive to future employers.

Many students find that they love their host country so much that they decide to seek work there. If you can relate, you will find that a local education will be very valuable when searching for a potential job in that country.

6. Find New Interests

If you are still questioning why to take an academic program with EcoCircuitos, you should know that Panama offers many new activities and interests that you may never have discovered if you’d stayed at home. You might find that you are a natural surfer, that you enjoy snorkeling in the Caribbean, that SUP is not that hard, dancing salsa music or that you have a talent for climbing and nature photography.


7. Make amazing friends

One of the biggest benefits of this program is the opportunity to meet new and wonderful friends from different backgrounds.  This program gives you the opportunity to really get to know and create lasting relationships with your fellow students.  We always suggest our participants that after the program they should keep their contact with the international friends.   This will be important for your future.


8. To Grow as a person

Most of our students become active explorers and advocates for conservation and social development in their homes.   We truly believe that our program is a transformative experience and not just another tour!

 

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New Model of Climate Change Effects on Coffee Availability and Bee Pollinators

Overcoming Doomsday Scenarios Depends on Biological Intelligence

From STRI

Areas in Latin America suitable for growing coffee face predicted declines of 73-88 percent by 2050. However, diversity in bee species may save the day, even if many species in cool highland regions are lost as the climate warms. The research, co-authored by David Roubik, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, will be published in early online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences edition between Sept. 11-15.Scientists David Roubik

“For my money, we do a far superior job of predicting the future when we consider both plants and animals (or in this case the bees) and their biology,” Roubik said. “Traditional models don’t build in the ability of organisms to change. They’re based on the world as we know it now, not on the way it could be as people and other organisms adapt.”

A research team modeled impacts for Latin America, the largest coffee-growing region under several global-warming scenarios—considering both the plants and the bees. The team consisted of bee experts from the Smithsonian in Panama; the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Vietnam; the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica; Conservation International and the University of Vermont in the U.S.; CIRAD in France; and CIFOR in Peru.

Despite predicted declines in total bee species, in all scenarios at least five bee species were left in future coffee-suitable areas; in about half of the areas, 10 bee species were left.Mountain in Panama

For land no longer suitable for coffee production, the team recommended management strategies to help farmers switch to other crops or production systems. In areas where bee diversity is expected to decrease, but coffee can still be grown, adaptation strategies may include increasing bee habitat and maintaining native bees. Many coffee types prefer to grow in the shade of tall trees. Choosing tree species that favor bees are a win-win strategy, according to the authors.

Roubik’s favorite example of a potentially huge environmental change that did not play out as predicted is the case of Africanized honey bees, which were accidentally released in Brazil in 1957. Roubik’s studies in Panama of coffee pollination taking native rainforest bees into consideration began in the 1970s as the aggressive non-native Africanized honey bees swarmed north through Latin America. Doomsayers predicted the worst: that the killer bees would disrupt the delicate balance between tropical forest species and their native pollinators. Roubik discovered the opposite to be true. In lowland tropical forests in Mexico, plants pollinated by very busy Africanized bees ended up producing more flowers, thus making more pollen and nectar available to native bees.

“Africanized honey bees in the Western Hemisphere both regulate their nest temperature and their own body temperature using water,” Roubik said. “When the climate is hotter—unless it’s too dry—they’re better adapted to endure climate change and pollinate coffee—an African plant.”

By paying attention to biological processes and managing coffee for maximum pollination depending upon the effects of climate on both the plants and the bees, as well as strategically adjusting shade, rotating crops and conserving natural forests, it may be possible for coffee producers to adapt to climate change.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical biodiversity and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Website: http://www.stri.si.edu/. Promo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9JDSIwBegk.

Contact us for academic travel and join amazing experts in different fiels on the isthmus that change the world:  Panama!  for details info@ecocircuitos.com

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Imbach, P., Fung, E., Hannah, L. et al. 2017 Coffee, bees, and climate: Coupling of pollination services and agriculture under climate change. PNAS. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1617940114

Adventure in Coiba National Park

Coiba national park

With the exception of the Galapagos and Isla del Coco, few places in the Americas are as exotic and biodiverse as this national park on Coiba Island. Due to its hard accessibility and the strict environmental protection, the island features pristine ecosystems and a unique fauna.

Coiba National Park consists of a group of Islands in the Pacific Ocean south of Veraguas Province. The park covers 270,125 hectares, of which about 80% is marine, the islands cover only 20% of the surface area. The waters around Coiba are very rich in life. There may be as many as 700 species of fish swimming in the waters around Coiba and some of those are present in large numbers.

While snorkeling near Coiba, you are often surrounded by hundreds of fish, mostly by small plankton-eating fish such as panamic sergeant majors and scissortails. The reefs are inhabited by morays, butterfly fish, angel fish, parrot fish, hawk fish, tile fish, moorish idols, wrasses, white-tipped reef-sharks (harmless) and many others. Occasionally, you may encounter a huge snapper, grouper or a nurse shark on the reef. The reefs are also home to turtles, mostly hawksbill and olive ridley turtles, but green turtles and loggerheads have been seen as well. The edges of the reef are often visited by blue-fin trevally and other species of jacks, trevallies, rainbow runners and occasionally schools of black-tail barracudas (harmless) also make a pass along the reefs. Wahoo, yellow fin tuna, sail fish and marlins roam the deeper waters of the park.

The island is home to 36 species of mammals, 39 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 147 species of birds. Some of the land animals have been isolated from the mainland for so long that they have evolved into different species. The Coiba agouti and the Coiba howler monkeys are a different species from those you encounter on the mainland. These two and the Coiba spinetail (Cranioleuca dissita), a bird, only occur on Coiba and nowhere else in the world. Coiba is also the only place in Panama where you can see flocks of the threatened Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao).

Check our Coiba adventure for more information.  We offer special discounts for students and groups.

For more information contact info@ecocircuitos.com  or call +507 3151488

Safety & Packing Tips for The Darien

Your trip in Darien is going to be very exciting and you will be impressed about the nature and the animals you will see in the rainforest of the most unexplored, and wildest area of Panama. Anyway, there are some safety instructions you need to follow in order to keep safe and make your adventure through the Darien unforgettable, and also some packing list to make your trip as comfortable as possible!

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1- Follow your guide: Don’t ever leave the path or be too far away from your EcoCircuitos guide. Your guide knows perfectly where you can and where you should NOT go. Losing your guide can be very dangerous as you won’t have any signal in the rainforest and the nature/wildlife can be very mean to you!

2- Don’t touch any animals or plants you don’t know:  It might sound like a parental care, but it is really important that you don’t touch any kind of animals or plants you’ve never seen, firstly because you want to conserve the nature, and secondly because you don’t want to get in danger because of poisonous animals, insects or plants.

3- Bring GOOD hiking shoesI mean, you can certainly bring your tennis shoes. But then you’ll just be sliding like an ice skater and falling in the mud the whole time (Unfortunately I know what I’m talking about). So be sure to have good hiking shoes and maybe also a walking stick (It is really helpful, trust me!)

4- M-O-S-Q-U-I-T-O R-E-P-E-L-L-E-N-T:  Yes, mosquitos are mean. Very mean. Because once you arrive in the Darien you could think they just waited exactly for YOU. You will be like fresh meat for them so this is a tip that comes from the bottom of my heart: Do not forget your (strong) mosquito repellent!

5 – Bring a good backpack (not too heavy) 65 liters and a waterproof bag: You will be carrying your bag so think ahead of which one is best for you.

6 – Bottle water (3 litres of water)  – We will provide you with more water but we suggest to bring you own bottle.

7- Bring a headlamp!  You will probably get the chance to hike through the jungle during the night, which is an incredible experience, and also in order to see different kind of animals you won’t see during the day, so be sure you bring your headlight! It will also be very helpful at in your tent once you will get your rest in the middle of the rainforest!  My favorite brand is Petzl.

8- Leave electronical stuff you don’t need at home:  Come on, you came to the Darien to feel the wildlife and listen to the sounds of nature. Just leave your headphones and your speakers at home for the time you’ll be in the Darien, you will appreciate it, and especially the animals will!

9- Bring your waterproof jacket and pants – or fast drying clothes:  Either you bring your waterproof jacket or fast drying clothes – the second option is better, because you will get wet anyways, as it starts to rain probably every ten minutes (no surprise, you’re in a rainforest). Anyway make sure you bring a waterproof bag or something to cover your backpack in order to have your documents dry and some dry clothes for when you’re going to sleep!

10- Don’t forget your camera and extra batteries:  if you enjoy nature photography you will have the best chances  to see beautiful animals, insects and plants. So if you want to have all of it captured, go for it! If you want to travel lightly and your personal memory is better than the one in the camera, leave it at home.

11- Bring enough water and some snacks:  You will be in the middle of the rainforest, so forget about little shops around the corner. Bring enough water to keep hydrated and some snacks for the emergency hunger. Protein or granola bars are a good option!

12- Bring some cash:  you may want to buy a handcraft from master artisans in communities you will visit.

But remember, take all the trash back with you, and only leave your footprint!

Those are the most important things you should consider if you’re planning to go to the Darien. Remember that it is not possible to go by your own, as the area could be dangerous and there is no infrastructure that would make it possible. Please always remember that you will be in a place of virgin nature, where there is no contamination. It is one of the few places in the earth that is still well preserved, so please be responsible and respect the environment. The Darien is definitely a hidden treasure in Panama, enjoy it and only leave you footprint!

Another fellow adventure has share with us a link with a packing tips and list.  Click here

EcoCircuitos is specialized in adventures in the Darien and organizes unforgettable trips to this breathtaking Region. Contact us info@ecocircuitos.com!

 

5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that reveals Panama’s cultural and natural wonders

Did you know that Panama has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Well if you didn’t, check this out!

Three Natural Sites

Since 1981: Darien National Park

This incredible National Park in the Eastern part of Panama, on the borders of Colombia, is home to an extraordinarily rich flora and fauna. It has a variety of habitats from tropical forests, mangroves and swamps, wetlands and beaches. Two of Panama’s indigenous tribes the Wounaan and Embera have their home in this incredible park. It has 169 identified mammals, to name some of them: the near threatened jaguar, the endangered tapir, bush dog and the capybara. Darien National Park has a lot to offer if you are in love with nature and incredible biodiversity!

 

Since 1983: La Amistad National Park and Talamanca Range- La Amistad reserves

The Talamanca Mountains are enclosed by this breathtaking national park and reserves. It is considered to be the tallest and wildest mountain range in Central America. There are numerous ecosystems and landforms, such as rivers, valleys and lakes which were shaped by glaciers. Also in this national park you can find an incredible amount of different animals: 215 mammals including the Puma and Jaguar and abundant bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. Don’t miss this incredible biodiversity and unique scenery!

Since 2005: Coiba National Park

This unique island  once was a penal colony and along with other 38 smaller islands and its surrounding marine area is the Coiba site National Park. Abundant marine life such as whales and tiger sharks has its home in the surrounding marine area. The variety of endemic flora and fauna on this wonderful island is due to years of separation from the Mainland. You really should discover the natural beauties of the island, but always in a sustainable way!

Two Cultural Sites

Since 1980: Portobelo-San Lorenzo Caribbean Fortifications

The forts of Portobelo and San Lorenzo, listed as endangered, were constructed by Spanish colonialists to protect the first town of Panama Ciy which had become a very significant trade center. The forts continuously suffered attacks by pirates. It really is an incredible site, as it provides very important information about the defense system which was used in the 17th and the 18th centuries!  Don’t miss the site for the real Pirates of the Caribbean.

 

Since 1997: Panamá Viejo Archaeological Site and Historic District of Panamá

The Panama Viejo Archaeological Site and Historic District of Panama dates back to the 16th century, and is the oldest European settlement along the Pacific coast. In 1673 it has been burned to the ground, so it was located in Casco Viejo.

Significant information on various aspects of the social life, communication and the economy can be read through the ruins. Numerous Churches, medieval houses, the presidential palace and the Salón Bolivar are cultural landmarks in the historic district. Follow the the steps of the Spanish empire in Latin America in this beautiful site and book a historical tour with us.

Panama has so much to offer – besides of an incredible nature and biodiversity, our beautiful country has a very significant history. Our local guides will take you through an unforgettable cultural, historical and natural experience through our beautiful country! For tours or more information contact annie@ecocircuitos.com or visit our website http://www.ecocircuitos.com.

Adventure, Conservation and Education

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our guides are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity and local people. Contact us and experience the real #Panama.

Expedition to Darien and Guna Yala

Adventure, Conservation and Education

By Raffaele Capomolla

The Darien – A region of Panama, that is still unexplored, with an incredible biodiversity, stunning wildlife and a breathtaking beauty. The Darien is not just a place to go and see, but place you will admire, where you will literally feel the nature, which will offer you an unforgettable experience. I had the chance to accompany a group of biology students from the St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas through an adventure in Panama’s treasure of wildlife. The adventure started very early in the morning in Panama City, where we were picked up for a long drive to El Real in the Region of Darien. Once arrived there, we had to hike for 2 hours until we arrive to place called “Rancho Frio”, where we would overnight in tents and hammocks, exposed to nature, in the middle of this beautiful, virgin rainforest. The next day we went on a trail in the area, which beat all our expectations – we saw the impressive harpy eagle, a powerful and very beautiful prey bird. To finish this great trail our extraordinary local guides took us to a wonderful waterfall to have a swim and eat a snack in the middle of nature. We were impressed of what the Darien gave us to see; amazing birds, snakes, insects and amphibians. The region of the Darien is also habitat of the Jaguars; unfortunately, we didn’t see them, but that’s nature is – unpredictable.

Our next part of the trip was an incredible, cultural experience. We went to the Mogue indigenous community, where the “Embera” have their houses made of wood. We literally got to experience their way of living, their old traditions, their typical food and their language. We were impressed of the simplicity of their lives, with no electricity, no internet, just using the nature in a sustainable way.  I was touched of the answer of an Embera when I asked him: “How much meat do you eat? Do you kill animals for food every day?” And he replies: No, because if we kill a lot of animals in a short time, we won’t have enough”. It seems ridiculous, but this is something a lot of people nowadays still don’t realize – Such a simple and obvious answer, but too many people still continue to eat meat every day. We stayed a night in one of those rustic but very authentic houses of the Embera.

Guna Yala, San Blas Cultural Expedition

The last part of our trip was in the beautiful Archipelago of San Blas, called “Kuna Yala” in indigenous language. Not only we enjoyed the typical Caribbean, crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic ocean, but also the culture of this indigenous community, which had to fight a lot for their territory. We slept in comfortable, rustic cabanas and had fresh seafood every day. The Kunas are very organized and very proud of their culture, which they always transmit to future generations. I was picking up a coconut that fell from a palm tree and was first a little confused when a Kuna asked me to pay for the coconut I just found on the sand. But then I understood as he explained to me that the coconut is a very important and sacred object in their daily lives, because the coconut is still used as a payment method for goods. We had then the chance to visit the village and the Museum of the Kunas, where Mister Delfino explained us everything about the history, the culture and traditions of the kunas.

If you are planning to come to Panama, don’t miss the chance to visit the incredible, natural beauty of the Darien and the marvelous clear waters of San Blas. You will have it all in one – Nature, Culture and Adventure! The EcoCircuitos Team and our naturalist guides will be happy to organize this adventure for you. Just contact us!

info@ecocircuitos.com or annie@ecocircuitos.com