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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Panama: a new gastronomic destination

By:  Annie Young J.

There is definitely a connection between tourism and gastronomy and the trend of foodie travelers experimenting the local tastes during their adventure travel is growing worldwide.

Panama is a destination that has it all and our gastronomic experience is motivating more travelers to come back to savor our tropical cuisine.  More and more foodies from around the world are amazed by our culinary variety and exploring the city becomes an adventure.

From eating ceviche at the local Fish Market, going for tapas and cocktails in a rooftop in Casco Viejo to more elaborated dishes from local chefs in Downtown Panama City.

Panama’s local gastronomy infused with fresh local produce, seafood, and other unique ingredients are competing against other great well known culinary destinations in Latin America.

There is a new generation of chefs (Jose Carles, Mario Castrellon, and Chombolin) that are determined to make Panama one of the most innovative cuisine destinations of the region.

Donde Jose and Intimo are two of the best gastronomic experiences in Panama. Both chefs are constantly developing new recipes and techniques using local and native ingredients with a tropical twist. Their clientele including me enjoys trying new flavors and combinations. Both restaurants have won international recognition.  If you are in Panama, experience a gastronomic tour for the senses.

For more details on our gastronomic adventures, contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

Panama is Diversity

By Anaisha Shuffler

When you hear someone mention “Panama” what´s the first thing that comes to mind? Some people have never heard about the country before. Many think of Panama City, Florida. Others immediately picture the Canal.

What about the people? What do Panamanians look like? Are we mostly Caucasian or African American? Are we tall or short?

Aside from the Canal and the humidity, Panama is also known for its ethnic diversity. These groups include Mestizos, which are a mix of European and native ancestry, Afro-Panamanians, and also a considerable Asian population.

For this post, although I´m Afro-Panamanian myself, I will focus on the Asian population.

I graduated from a Taiwanese-Panamanian school, so naturally, most of my friends are Asians, and I have gained a huge appreciation and respect for their culture. And a vast love for their cuisine.

If you are ever in Panama and have a craving for Asian food, whether it be Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese… you will have many options.

One of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Panama is “Golden Unicorn”. Over the years, their clientele went from exclusively Asian to a clientele as diverse as our country. They are known mostly for their delicious Chinese breakfasts called “dim sum” and for their “hot pot”, known here as “fogón”.

The concept is simple: You pay a certain amount of money and they place a small stove in the middle of the table with a pot full of stock which can be spicy or regular (And if you want both, they place a divider). They bring multiple plates of different raw foods to your table such as shrimp, lobster, fish balls, meat balls, fine slices of steak, vegetables, noodles and more. You then proceed to cook your own food. The best thing about this is that once you are done, and you want more, you can ask for another round!

You may think “why would I pay to cook my own food?”, but it´s actually a fun experience. I went many times as a teenager with my friends and a few weeks ago I took my 14-year-old cousin to experience it and she loved it.

Many foreigners came up to us and asked us what it was all about, and as we explained, they got excited and went over to their table to ask for the same thing. My cousin and I would sneak glances at them, and you could just tell that they were having a blast!

It´s an awesome group activity. And if you are like me, and you like to eat, you will ask for another round.

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Green Travel Trends

I just read an article from Anne Lim – Travel Trends In The Twenty-Tens: What Marketers Need To Know and I feel excited  to confirm that the trends are going towards responsible tourism and that companies like EcoCircuitos that have been working for years to support the local knowledge, empowering local communities and offering transformative experiences are on the right track of the industry today.

I feel connected with the philosophy of today’s travelers that buy less and experience more is the way to travel.    Some of the important information she shares with us in his very interesting article is that people are spending more on travels but in a conscious way and definitely, companies in the industry need to change strategy and adapt to the new green travelers.   Definitely, Sustainable Tourism is finally sexy!!

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Below some of the figures Anne Lim shares in her article:

Sustainable Tourism is the way today

More than 70% of travelers plan to make eco-friendly choices in the next vacation, in contrast to what was only 45% one year ago. In addition to this, 58% of travelers said their choices are affected by whether or not the hotel and tour company gives back to the local community, and 66% of global consumers prefer to buy products and services from brands that give back to society [TripAdvisor]. Why? It seems that in this age of political turmoil and ecological crisis, individuals support only the companies whose values are aligned with those of their own, especially when it comes to luxury purchases and consumerism. It’s in these particular cases that marketers must take social responsibility into account. By advertising the charitable aspects of the brands, you’re telling people why they should want your product, as well as why they should also feel good about buying it over the competition – a strategy that will be especially effective with millennial travelers. 

The “Bucket List Effect” (Panama should be on that list)

75% of travelers say they’d like to visit travel destinations that none of their friends have visited before. Additionally, 80% of travelers expressed interest in escaping the usual tourist traps on their next holiday [Experiential Travel Survey]. It turns out that people enjoy having unique experiences they can claim as their own, as opposed to traveling to the same popularly visited destinations that will provide them with the same basic pictures that everybody else has in their photo-albums or social platforms. This means that people are always on the prowl for a trendy destination – giving marketers an opportunity to showcase “under-rated” locales which enable their ads to stand out more and drive curiosity; a powerful duo that can exponentially increase sales.

Some tips for Photographers in Panama

If you are like me and you enjoy nature photography when travel, take a look of this tips before packing your camera for your Panama Expedition.

When you go for an air-conditioned van to the humidity of the rainforest, your camera will fog up, both inside and out.  Keep your equipment as far from the air conditioner as possible.  In an ideal world having one lens per camera body would be the best solution for high humidity environments. In this situation you’d have one lens on your camera body the entire length of your trip so that humid air never enters your camera. Few people outside of the professional circle have this luxury, so it is important to minize the number of times you change lenses when in the field.

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If you buy a new camera, please play with the equipment before departing on your adventure.  It is a good idea to have the manual available just in case.  We suggest you to download an electronic version online.

If you are binging an old camera, check the batteries, lenses and electronic equipment before your trip.

Bring lot of memory for your camera!  Panama is an amazing diverse destination and you may want to take lot of pictures.  During your trip you may not have access to computer so memory is a must!

If you are planning to go out at night, bring a good flash.

Don’t forget a protected gear from rain or humidity.  You can also use a large gallon-size plastic bag as an impromptu rain sleeve in a pinch.  Another alternative is to use a shower cap that some hotels include free in the bathroom.

Bring extra batteries.  Batteries can be difficult to replace during your adventures.  Extra rechargeable batteries can be helpful too.

Bring a Tripod or a monopod can be useful for long lenses or close-up photography and is essential if you want to take long-exposure shots.

Dry your hands before changing batteries and CF cards. This will minimize introduction of moisture, inside the camera, that might later condense upon returning home. Keep in mind this will be particularly true the sweatier you are.

Bonus Tip
Toward the end of your trip utilize a hotel room air conditioners to dehumidify your gear. No need to place your gear too close. Having your equipment out and your camera bag open can be enough to help pull away a build up of moisture.

 

 

 

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!

 

An Interview with Smithsonian Entomologist: Yves Basset

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama is dedicated to understanding and studying the unique biodiversity of the tropics. STRI’s history  began with the construction of the Panama Canal and the  interest in surveying the flora and fauna of the area for the purpose of controlling insect diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. After the Canal began operating, entomologists and biologists involved in these studies establish a permanent biological reserve on Barro Colorado Island which is located in the Gatun Lake.  Today, STRI is one of the leading research institutions in the world. Every year over 900 scientist from academic and research institutions  from all over the world visit the STRI facilities to conduct scientific research and studies.

Today we had the opportunity to interview one of the prominent entomologist in the world who has his base in Panama City.  Doctor Yves Basset talk to EcoCircuitos Panama team about his work with the tropical ecosystems and the importance of tourism and conservation to protect the tropical environment.  Learn more about his work on this very interesting EcoVideo.

EcoCircuitos promotes conservation and education through the tourism industry.   For more information about our academic adventures, contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com