Diving Responsible & Protecting the Corals

From STI

Corals are actually animals! In fact, a single coral formation can be made up of THOUSANDS of tiny little animals called polyps, which are related to jellyfish. Together, polyps create beautiful corals of all shapes and sizes. Some build stony coral reefs, while others form soft corals that resemble bushes, feathers, and trees.

But corals are also extremely sensitive creatures. Something as simple as a change in water temperature or poor water quality can lead to their demise. The rise in climate change and other human impacts is putting coral reefs around the world in jeopardy. Scientists predict that up to 90% of all reefs could be gone by 2050 unless we reduce these impacts.

Coral reefs are the most biodiverse marine ecosystem. Though they cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, they are home to more than a quarter of all marine life. 

If this disease continues to wreak havoc across the Mesoamerican Reef, there will be a ripple effect of consequences for marine life and communities. When coral health declines it can throw off the delicate balance of the entire ecosystem and cause fish populations to dwindle. As the reef becomes barren, local people that rely on the reef will need to find other sources of food and income. On top of this, coastal communities will be left exposed to the damaging impacts of waves and storms. And without calcium rich corals you can also bid farewell to white sandy beaches! 

Picture by Sustainable Travel International

Needless to say, the loss of a reef system as expansive as the Mesoamerican Reef would be devastating at a time when coral reefs across the globe are struggling to survive. 

Ways you can Help

  • Use reef-safe sunscreens that don’t contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate that are toxic the reef. More information on how sunscreen affects coral reefs and which chemicals to avoid is available here
  • Don’t touch corals or other marine life. Maintaining proper buoyancy is an important skill to keep your fins or equipment from hitting the reef or seafloor.
  • Disinfect your dive and snorkel gear between excursions by removing debris and sanitizing it with a 5-10% bleach solution. For sensitive equipment, use fresh water with antibacterial dish soap instead. Detailed instructions on how to safely decontaminate different types of gear are outlined here. 
  • Don’t litter and reduce plastic use to reduce the amount of debris that is contaminating the reef.
  • Choose responsible dive operators, hotels, and other businesses that practice proper wastewater treatment and use environmentally friendly cleaning products and fertilizers.  

From Sustainable Travel International

Adventure in Bocas del Toro – Tranquilo Bay Reserve

PANAMA RAINFOREST HIKING

Tranquilo Bay’s grounds include over 200 acres with several kilometers of forested trails. Many of Isla Bastimentos favorite birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, lizards, insects and frogs live here.

Possible bird sightings may include: multiple raptors, Montezuma Oropendolas, Red-lored Parrots, hummingbirds, five species of kingfishers, Green Ibis, woodpeckers, honeycreepers, tanagers, pigeons, antbirds, manakins, seedeaters, herons, and in-season, Three-wattled Bellbirds. 

Wildlife sightings may include: White-faced Capuchins, three and two-toed sloths, green iguanas, basilisk lizards, butterflies and poison dart frogs

CLIMB UP – LOOK AROUND

The wildlife and views from the tower are incredible, but the natural history lesson alone is worth the climb. All life zones known to the tropics, from the mountains to the coral reefs below the ocean’s surface are visible from the Canopy Tower. This vantage point above the forest’s canopy gives you a bird’s-eye view of the entire archipelago.

KAYAKING THE CARIBBEAN

The kayaking part of the tour departs from Tranquilo Bay’s comfortable facility. Our our staff will handle the preparation, maintenance and portage of the equipment. We provide snorkel gear for the tour so you may explore the underwater garden that includes tropical fish and vibrant coral reefs. All you have to do is paddle and absorb the breath-taking scenery.

For those new to kayaking, we will give you a lesson to familiarize you with the equipment and techniques to prepare you for your adventure.

SNORKELING THE CARIBBEAN BLUE

Your snorkeling adventure covers several ecosystems. Kayak snorkeling from Tranquilo Bay places you within the marine park. You explore different types of coral formations and marine habitat during your time underwater.

This unique adventure is for families, couples and small groups of 8 people maximum. The tour leaves only on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The program includes boat transfer from Bocas del Toro Island, bilingual guide, lunch at the reserve and activities. For reservations: click here

The CONGO art of Panama listed as an intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO

The ritual and festive expressions of the Congo culture encompass the contemporary vision of a collective celebration of black rebel descendants enslaved during the colonial period During the Congo season, participants act out a matriarchal society in a palisade, ruled by a queen and her court. Everyone must help protect the queen and members of the palisade from the devils (diablos), and the season concludes with a confrontation between the diablos and the congos. Everyone takes part, and the expressions have been fostering social integration for generations.

 

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

Why should you get married in Panama?

 

by Juliette Darmon

Panama is known as the perfect getaway for a short vacation and and is the perfect destination for nature lovers.

Its tropical climate and warm weather throughout the year, is a magical opportunity to visit Panama at any time.

December, January and February, the colder months in the North but still summer time in Panama.  You will be able to wear your summer wedding dress you were dreaming about!

If you are dreaming about a summer wedding destination, Panama is the place for you!  You will find any type of wedding you were looking for!

Panama is a melting pot and has plenty to offer.  From a cosmopolitan City and a hub for an amazing gastronomy to beautiful beaches in the Caribbean and Pacific where the sunset is waiting for you.

With a great eco-diversity and untouched beaches, you would have the possibility to get married in heavenly and white-sand islands around the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. What better place to spend and enjoy a romantic and relaxed wedding than the Caribbean coast, where the turquoise sea, coral reefs, sun, turtles and exotic fishes will be present?!

You could also prefer a more adventurous wedding in the highlands of Chiriqui, immersed in the mountain fresh air, and hiking the highlands, testing local coffee and honey, learning about butterflies, zip lining and relaxing in other amazing islands in Pacific side like Islas Secas in the Gulf of Chiriqui where snorkeling and kayaking are great for those more adventurous.

Are you more looking for a totally private and shy wedding? Then, the archipelago of San Blas will be the perfect place you were searching for. But be aware that it is also going to be a real rustic wedding!

Enjoy the blue sea view for kilometers, watch at the playful dolphins leap alongside sailboats, the deserted island, palm and coconut trees, cabanas in bamboos, and be immersed in Kuna community’s culture for your wedding.

*You could also decide to get married in a private sailboat, a real original experience not available everywhere…!

For the city lovers, you won’t totally feel out of place! You could have the chance to get married in the charming historic Casco Viejo, enjoying romantic dinners in typical or modern restaurants, staying in a luxurious resort or smaller cozy hotels, tasting local chocolates, walking around the Cinta Costera and visiting the surroundings as the Canal, the tropical rainforest, boarding on the jungle boat or even hiking in the National Park.

You now probably got that Panama has all the options required for any types of weddings and could make your wedding a real customized, appropriate, unique and unforgettable day, whatever your cultural and religious requests are.

Most of all, as you probably know Panama is a wonderful place for sustainable and green travels, and become therefore the perfect place for the trendy and fancy “Green Wedding”.

More than just getting married, take advantage of being in such a lush country for enjoying the honeymoon trip of your dreams.

Visit our honeymoon page here: http://ecocircuitos.com/tour-category/honeymoon/ and decide the kind of experience you are ready to live!

Do not forget that all our programs and itineraries can be arranged and tailor-made for you.  Contact us for more information at info@ecocircuitos.com

 

Re-Discovering Colon Province

By Carina Forster

The low season is here!   the time when the EcoCircuitos team explores the regions of beautiful Panama, looking for new exciting activities, tasty restaurants and nice hotels to use in our programs. All departments are working together, developing ideas and creating new exciting itineraries to our favorite places in Panama. Yesterday we explored beautiful Colon region, with its laid-back Caribbean flair, deep rainforests and colorful towns full of pirates and buccaneers history.

Crossing the country in the early morning by train, our way led along the Panama Canal from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean town of Colon. We quickly forgot the early hours with breathtaking views of lush rainforest, the Panama Canal and jungle lakes covered in mystic morning fog.

Being picked up by our EcoCircuitos driver Roberto at the train station in Colon, we started our road trip along the palm-fringed coast line to the colorful town of Portobelo. The charming little village does not only offer incredible history, with once being one of the most important ports in the Caribbean Sea, but surprises with lovely remains of African culture in form of Congo dances and expressive pieces of art next to lush rainforest adventures and superb snorkeling.

Every team member has his or her own preferences and opinions; however, when it came to the Arrecifes restaurant we discovered in the town of Colon, everyone was just as excited about the delicious typical fresh seafood lunch offered next to an extensive view of the Panama Canal.

To continue our road trip deep into the jungle to the Fort of San Lorenzo, we waited for a spot between large container ships to cross the Panama Canal by ferry. Following a romantic wild road surrounded by lush rainforest, we let monkeys, birds and coatimundis cross the street. The fortress of San Lorenzo lies on the edge of steep cliffs, overlooking the surrounding coast lines with abandoned beaches and wild rainforest as far as your eyes can reach.

After a successful day of collecting inspirations, testing logistics and forming partnerships, the creative part starts, with using our experiences and ideas for developing unique brand-new itineraries.

Weekend getaway: Historic Portobelo and Caribbean Beaches

By:  Carina Forster – Intern from Austria

Insider tipp: Last weekend I explored the charming small town of Portobelo on the Caribbean Coast which is a hotspot for Panamanian weekend retreats; however, it still remains mainly unexplored by foreign tourists. The only way of getting there- except from day tour with a tour operator EcoCircuitos Panama – involved a bumpy ride in a colorful old school bus, where happy salsa music loudly went along with the roaring old engines of the rattling bus.

It was hard to believe that this laid-back village has once hosted Central America`s most important harbor. Only the old ruins and the UNESCO forts, which are spread out all over the charming fishing village, prove of its glorious past.  If you tour with a naturalist and interpretative guide you will travel to the battles between Pirates and Conquistadors.

A short boat ride away, I found cast-away Caribbean beaches, where lush rain forests meet white sand, turquoise waters and coral reefs. And while already being astonished by the unreal beauty surrounding me, two toucans were peacefully flying over the picturesque bay, forming a scenario like in a dream.

If you are interested in this tour and many more, please contact us for more information.  We offer snorkeling tours in the Caribbean side of Portobello.  Contact info@ecocircuitos.com