My first wildlife experience in Soberania National Park with Ecocircuitos

By Maelle Denoual

True nature lover, I was chosen to work as an intern for 5 months in Ecocircuitos’ tour operator and it’s the first time for me in Panama. I’m French and I’ve never been further than Morocco. You can imagine how excited I was to know that I will discover a new land and such amazing country like Panama. And here I am!

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A week ago, during my first week of internship, I had the opportunity to experience, with two other clients, the hiking tour at Soberania National Park in the company of the very competent and smiley naturalist guides of the company named Fabio.

It was once again my first exploration of a rainforest and it was amazing! This tour offers an incredible opportunity for wildlife observation and birdwatching. In fact, while we were walking just at the park’s entrance, it didn’t take long before we could hear birdsongs and feel the absolutely unique atmosphere of wilderness. I felt in another world for 2 hours. Beautiful and colorful birds but also huge butterflies were flying from time to time above our head. Every time we saw an animal or a bird, Fabio was there to tell us what kind of specimen it was and inform us more about it. We have even seen a baby anteater on the side of the trail. Actually, we were very lucky because it’s not common to see one so close. I have learned so much during this hiking tour and it wasn’t exhausting but mostly enjoyable.

After the exploration of the lush forest, Fabio explained that our adventure is not finished.  We were heading to a jungle-adventure expedition across the Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal. Once aboard, we started the tour searching for more wildlife around the rainforest-covered islands. And we were lucky again because we could see monkeys having a nap on trees, many water birds, 2 big green iguanas, a sloth and a crocodile! Also, it was so impressive to see giant cargos on the canal transiting the waterway few meters away from us…I couldn’t believe that I was on the renowned Panama Canal that everybody talks about. I was thrilled!

That day was a very enriching experience thanks to these 2 different ways to discover nature and I felt very amazed by the considerable diversity of fauna and flora which offers Panama. I strongly recommend EcoCircuitos’ tours to everyone who loves ecotourism and want to visit Panama.

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EcoCircuitos practices responsible tourism and follow the standards of leave no trace and Travelers Against Plastics.  We encourage all our clients to bring their own bottle and change the way you travel.  For more information on this tours and others, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

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Panama Reading List

You are planning your trip to Panama and it is exciting!  Below you will find some reading material that could help you plan your trip and do some research.  Some of our reading recommendations include books about birds, wildlife, history, culture and more.   Also if you would like to share some other books and articles with us, please feel free to send us an email at info@ecocircuitos.com

Moon Panama (Moon Handbooks)

William Friar

Moon Travel

Frommer’s Panama (Complete Guide)

Nicholas Gill

Frommer’s 

Panama: Puente Biologico

Stanely Heckadon

Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales

Naturalists on the Isthmus of Panama (A hundred years of Natural History on the biological bridge of the Americas)

Stanley Heckadon-Moreno

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama

George R. Angehr

Cornell University Press

The Birds of Panama

George R. Angehr & Robert Dean

Cornell University Press

A Guide to the Birds of Panama

Robert Ridgely

Princeton University Press

The Path Between the Seas

David McCullough

Simon and Schuster

A Day on Barro Colorado Island

Marina Wong / Jorge Ventocilla

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Reef Fish Identification – Baja to Panama

Paul Humann / Ned DeLoach

New World Publications

Central America: A Natural and Cultural History

Anthony G. Coates

Yale University Press

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico

Fiona A. Reid

Oxford University Press

A Neotropical Companion (An introduction to the animals, plants, & ecosystems of the New World tropics)

John Kricher

Princeton University Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Educational and Academic trips in Panama.

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.

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.

Private Reserves:  Mamoní Valley and ideal spot for neotropical studies

Located at 2.5 hours east of Panama’s international airport, and in the heart of the Mamoní Valley, lies an amazing rainforest campus amidst land manage by a non-profit organization that support Tourism and Conservation.    Their efforts supports its large-scale land conservation and habitat restoration within 28,000-acre Upper Mamoní Valley Watershed and beyond.  They offer a natural campus within a critical biological corridor that is the bridge for culture and wildlife throughout the Americas and home to many endemic and endangered species.

They have count to date 332 birds, 51 amphibians, 63 mammals, 62 reptiles and a incredible diversity of plants and trees.

We partner with this organization to offer Educational Trips for universities and high schools students interested in hands-on learning, while making a positive impact on the flora, fauna and communities in an ecological hotspot.  Some of the projects involves permaculture, wildlife observation, rainforest treks, adventures and exchange with local communities.

A fun and engaging environment for my students to learn through hands-on learning and solving real world problems.  – Nader Afzalan. Teacher at Redlands university.

EcoCircuitos has experience with programs that have been tailored to middle and high school level students and with undergraduate and graduate students. For more information contact us at: info@ecocircuitos.com.

 

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!

 

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.

13.  If you prefer, you can bring your camping hammock check:  http://www.cleverhiker.com/best-backpacking-hammocks/

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!