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 NikeFREE’s. 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!

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

Traveling with Pets to Panama

Traveling with Pets with Air Panama

  • All animals must travel inside a cage or suitable container to size, test it to escape and spills. Make it tough. It can be handled safely by airline personnel.
  • When traveling the animal will be accepted only if the person who transports, present all documents required as proof of immunizations and health certificate.
  • No animal will be accepted for travel in the passenger cabin unless a guide or rescue dog accompanying its owner, carrying his harness or belt.

Cost to transport animals in the Plane

  • You will be charged for the transportation of animals at the fare of $ 5.00 per container. As long as it is within the weight of the passenger baggage allowance. The difference is paid as overweight.
  • According to Ministry of Health Circular No. 003-DGZ-DCZ of 06/03/2014 each pet (dog, cat, other susceptible species) that is transferred via air in commercial and private flights must have the vaccine anti-rabies.
  • Their owners have to provide proof (card or certificate copy) signed by a veterinarian, stating being immunized the animal against the disease. This document must be filed the health officer at the airport, otherwise the animal may not shipment.

Some Additional Tips

1. If your pet is in the cabin, they must fit comfortably under the seat in a pre-approved carrier.

2. If your pet is flying in the cargo area make sure they are kept in strong carriers that are well ventilated.

3. Carriers should also be just big enough that your pet can stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably. (*Dr Becker recommends the Expand-A-Space pet carrier, $42.49 on petco.com)

4. Whether your pet is flying with you in the cabin or is banished to cargo, be sure to include dog blankets and toys, as they will be alone in a strange place, and these things will offer comfort.

5. Update your pet ID tags before you travel anywhere. If you get separated from your pet, it will be easier to locate and reunite with them with updated tags.

6. For safety in a car or plane and confinement in a hotel room, bring the pet’s crate so they have familiar surroundings.

Traveling with Pets on International Flights with Air Panama

  • Transporting pets on international flights is not allowed.