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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New Hotel in Panama: Santa Maria Luxury Collection

A new and contemporary hotel just open doors in Panama City this month.  The beautiful Santa Maria Golf & Country Club.

The Santa María Hotel is a luxury hotel by the Starwood brand, as part of their Luxury Collection.  Located within the Santa María Country Club near the international Tocumen airport.

The hotel’s 182 accommodations allow the stunning city and golf course views, many from balconies. Feel at home with a coffeemaker, wireless High-Speed Internet Access, and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Restful sleep is ensured by one king-size or two double Luxury Collection beds. Bathrooms clad in Italian marble offer refined amenities and bathrobes.   Suitable for both business and leisure, each Executive Suite includes a separate living area for meetings or casual gatherings. Two exclusive Deluxe Suites are distinguished by the best views of the golf course from outdoor terraces.

Balance and wellness are the goals of our world-class spa, whose 600 square meters include five treatment cabins, a Turkish bath, a steam room, a beauty salon, a relaxation area, and locker rooms. Yoga and Reiki sessions are held outside.

For more information on rates, special discounts and Events, contact our office at info@ecocircuitos.com  or for incentives info@discoversublime.com

5 Top EcoLodges in Panama

Panama is the best keep secret in Latin America.  My country is one of the best adventure travel destinations with amazing ecolodges surrounded by nature.   Panama is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and is known as one of the most biologically diverse countries in Central America.   There are more ecolodges in Panama and below you will see a list of my favorites.

Mount Totumas Cloudforest Ecolodge

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Just 2 hours from David in Volcan is located this wonderful cloudforest Eco lodge a truly unique experience in Panama.  At Mount Totumas Cloud Forest there is a variety of accommodations and depending on guests preferences and budget.   I love the Cabin where I stayed with my partner and loved the amazing views of the National Park.   The ecolodge is located in the buffer zone directly bordering La Amistad National Park.  Guests can enjoy 8 marked trails through the reserve with access into the adjacent national park, which is Central America’s largest protected mountain wilderness area. Hot springs are also located nearby. In the Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve there are keystone species presented such as Resplendent Quetzal, Three Wattled Bellbirds, Mantled Howler Monkey, Black and Crested Guan, White-Faced Capuchin, spider monkeys, mountain lions amongst many others.   The hotel has a sustainable practice and most of the employees and guides are locals who work as integral players in the operation of the hotel.  The owner brings her expertise in Asian and European cuisine to Mount Totumas and creates dishes drawing from their gardens  and the local produce vendors in Volcan.

Canopy Camp Darien

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This is the best birding ecolodge to experience the Darien specialties.  The Canopy Camp Darien features eight large, safari-style tents that are designed specifically for use in environmentally sensitive areas; they are very eco-friendly. The tents are on raised platforms, to keep you up off the ground and dry in the lowland rainforest of Darien.  Each the tents occupies an area of 173 square feet and offer plenty of space to store your luggage, clothing, and gear. Large windows on all sides with flaps allow natural light and breeze to enter the tent during the daylight hours.  Each has two single beds or one queen bed, two tables, a floor fan and overhead light, and a solid plantation teak wood floor.  Each tent has a full private bathroom located directly outside of the tent on the platform.  Each bathroom has all the essentials – flush toilets and a shower that offers serene, private views of the surrounding rainforest.   Just a step outside of the tent, the platform offers covered space to relax in lounge chairs in the shade during the hot mid-day sun or an afternoon rain, with exquisite views of the jungle surrounding the camp from your own observation deck.

Tranquilo Bay EcoLodge

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Discover the ecosystem of Bocas del Toro Archipelago through snorkeling, kayaking or hiking with one of the lodge’s biologist guides. Encounter uncounted birds, different monkey species, iguanas and much more during your stay, relax and refresh in a unique natural environment.The interior of each of the cabanas is tastefully and comfortably appointed with air-conditioning, local hardwoods, tile floors, fine linens and a calming color palette to welcome you at the end of your adventure each day.
 The Tranquilo Bay EcoLodge offers 6 individual cabanas, 4 with ocean view and 2 with rainforest view, and all equipped with either queen-size or double bed equipped with orthopedic mattresses. Additional beds for children are available upon request. The furniture is carefully handcrafted from local hardwoods, and every bedroom is equipped with a small seating area, reading lights and a small supply of books for leisurely hours. And if you prefer relaxing outdoors, there’s a covered porch with hammock and Adirondack chairs waiting for you. All cabanas have air conditioning and hot water, as well as coffee makers and hair dryers.  A covered porch with a hammock and Adirondack chairs awaits to help you escape the “every day” that you left behind when you enter the grounds at Tranquilo Bay.

 

Villa Tavida Ecolodge

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 Located in a private reserve that has been protected for 25 years, Villa Tavida offers its guests the opportunity to escape from the modern day world. Surrounded in nature, guests have breathtaking views of a nearby waterfall and can easily be accessed by a hike down a nature trail to get a closer look. Villa Tavida is just 35 km from Penonome and approximately 50 km from Playa Blanca.  This exclusive guest house offers 5 comfortable rooms, all overlooking the waterfall Tavida.  Some units include a balcony and/or patio. Every unit has a private bathroom with free toiletries.  The lodge offers free parking on-site. Guests can enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant. The services are aimed at promoting environmental, cultural and economic welfare.

 

Isla Palenque EcoResort

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A beautiful island of  160 hectares of lush jungle, framed by 7 untouched beaches, house a number of wilderness trails and hidden spaces to be explored by guests of the barefoot-luxury Beach Suites (mid-2018) and Villa Estate.  The ecolodge is at just minutes walk from the beach and it offers an outdoor pool and a restaurant.  The accommodation will provide you with iPad. Featuring a shower, the private bathrooms also come with a hairdryer and free toiletries. Some rooms offer views of the sea and the pool area. Extras include a safety deposit box, linen, and a fan.  At The Resort at Isla Palenque, you will find a private beach area. Other facilities offered at the property include a tour desk and luggage storage. Daily guided tours are offered and the property has a large area with hiking trails.  An additional package must be purchased directly to the Hotel to include additional services : 3 daily meals at the on-site restaurant, as well as on-site guided tours and one round trip boat transfer per party between Boca Chica and Isla Palenque.We encourage you to travel different in Panama.  Explore the real and authentic destination and stay in unique properties that will make your vacation memorable.For more information on this ecolodges and other options in Panama, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

 

The Arqueological Compound of Panama La Vieja

Approximately two miles from the Panama City center are found the archeological compound of the first city of Panama known as “Panama La Vieja” or Old Panama, founded in 1519 by Pedrarias Davila.  Fragments of walls and arches stand in an open park, recalling the splendor of the Spaniard’s first settlement on the Pacific Ocean.  From here, expeditions were mounted to conquer the Inca Empire of South America.  All of the wealth from Peru and Chile flowed to Spain through Old Panama.  Not surprisingly, the enormous quantities of gold attracted pirates like sharks to Panama’s water.  When Henry Morgan looted the city in 1671, Panama’s governor ordered the powder magazine burned, and the whole city went up in flames.  the capital was moved two miles to the west, and present-day Panama city was founded in 1673.  The most impressive structures remaining are the cathedral, that you can climb and have an amazing view of the City and market.   This is one of the spots not to missed if you visit our City.

 

Diving in Coiba National Park

The Coiba National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the neighboring islands and archipelagos of the Gulf of Chiriquí, Secas, Montuosa and Isla Ladrones, offer some of the best adventure and exploratory diving in the world.

In this region of the Panamanian pacific coast, the continental shelf is narrow and closely bounded by the Middle American Trench. Water depths plunge abruptly to abysmal depths, bringing deep Open Ocean, “pelagic” conditions very close to shore. The nearest substantial land mass lies 10,000km to the west.

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“Coiba National Park possesses the second largest coral reef in the Tropical Eastern Pacific.”

Tide ranges of up to 5 mts / 16 ft every six hours, currents in exposed areas are common. Lateral visibility on average 22 mts / 70 ft depending on location. Seawater surface temperatures hover around 78 F year round.  Thermocline depth varies throughout the year and can reduce water temperature several degrees. This cooler water brings the larger pelagic life closer to the surface.
The marine environment is extremely dynamic and boasts over 760 species of fish, 33 species of shark including the Reef White Tip, Scalloped and Great Hammerhead, Galapagos, Bull, Tiger, and the bizarre Guitar Shark. Add to this, a variety of Rays, Giant Manta, Modula Rays, Thurston’s Devil Rays and Stingrays. Schooling species include the Spotted Eagle; Cow Nosed and Golden Rays.  The areas protected beaches are the nesting grounds for four species of marine turtle, including the giant Pacific Leatherback.

A Mecca and complexity of migratory routes for marine animals, and other marine species.

A great variety of marine mammals, including several species of Dolphin, Pilot Whales, Orcas, Fin, Brydes and Sperm Whales. Recent scientific studies have indicated that the migration route taken by the Antarctic Humpbacks Whales to this region is the longest marine mammal migration, some 8,000 km. Humpback Whales can be seen in the area all year round. Key months are  August to October. Their haunting songs can be heard whilst diving around the park.

In hands of expert Dive  Master and conservationist Kevan Mantell we run our diving adventures in the area where local and international conservation efforts and initiatives, plays an active part in the protection and conservation of the region.  Kevan has been participating in a  broad spectrum of key Scientific Investigations / Conservation Biology initiatives. We encourage our visitors and guests to assist with the conservation of this unique marine eco-system.

For more information, contact us info@ecocircuitos.com

 

Isla Palenque Island Resort

Located in the Gulf of Chiriquí, Panama, Isla Palenque Island Resort is an undiscovered private island sanctuary. The island’s 160 hectares of lush jungle, framed by 7 untouched beaches, house a number of wilderness trails and hidden spaces to be explored by guests of the barefoot-luxury Beach Suites (mid-2018) and Villa Estate.

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Who should visit Isla Palenque Island Resort?

Wildlife and nature lovers, guests looking for an active beach vacation, soft adventure, relaxation and a unique rainforest and private island experience.

Unique hotel features

A private island where luxury and sustainability intertwine, 8 Beach Suites (mid-2018), 6-room Villa Estate vacation rental house, on-site tours, an abundance of wildlife including monkeys and anteaters, locally-sourced food.

The Experience

As guests check in to Isla Palenque, they open a door to a world of new experiences and undisturbed nature, enhanced by architecture and interior design that effortlessly blend into the tropical surroundings. The atmosphere of the hotel is a balance of sophisticated and private comfort, combined with peacefulness, relaxation, and playfulness. The service provided by the staff is so personalized, professional and detail-oriented that the Resort feels exclusive and at the same time familiar; guests feel free to explore and at the same time feel taken care of. With a whole pristine island to discover through a number of included on-site tours, curious guests truly live an authentic, meaningful experience that goes far beyond a typical beach vacation.

Island Amenities

 Hiking trails and on-site tours

 Complimentary Wi-Fi

 7 private beaches with direct access

 Kayas & paddleboards

 Off-property tours including snorkeling and fishing

Rooms: Villa Estate vacation rental house: 6 rooms total – Garden, Jungle and Ocean Suites.

On-site activities

Secrets of the Island Hike, Hike to Punta Ballena, Kayak Tours, Tree Climbing Canopy Tour, Island Treks, Coastal Rock Hike, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Rock Fishing, Birdwatching and more. *Ocean-based activities are tide-dependent.

For more information, reservations and rates please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

 

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.