Boquete: A must-visit place in Panama

By Raffaelle Capamolla, intern

Have you already been to Boquete? If you are in Panama, this is a place you must visit! Boquete is the town, where Panama’s greatest coffee comes from. The many Coffee farmers produce and export one of the world’s best coffee. Of course, the small town is not a producer of big Volume, but definitely of great quality, such as the Geisha coffee.

Surrounded by the central mountain range and the Barú Volcano, it is also the place in Panama, where you’ll find cooler temperatures, compared to the rest of the country.  It is in fact an ideal place for people escaping the hot and humid weather in the lowlands.

You will even find fresh strawberries and savor many different types of honey! Boquete is just different to the rest of Panama. Nationals and Travelers from all around the world also come every year to assist to its main attraction, the Festival of Flowers and Coffee.

Not only the great fresh climate, the flowers, finest coffee, fruits and beautiful surrounding make this town unique, but especially the friendliness of the people living in this charming place. The people will let you feel at home and are very helpful!

If you plan to hike the Quetzal Trail and admire the resplendent Quetzal bird, or to hike to the top of Volcan Barú, Panama’s highest point, where you’ll have an amazing view over the pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, Boquete is a great hub to overnight. You can stay in Hotels, hostels, ecolodges, or even in a coffee farm. Imagine waking up to a cup of locally grown, roasted and ground coffee!

Boquete is a great spot for Adventurers from all ages: You practice do Zip Line, Biking, White Water Rafting, horse back riding, rock climbing, trekking, camping and much more! Of course Boquete is great for taking it easy too, and just let your traveling companions do the adventuring.

EcoCircuitos is your local expert when it comes to real experiences in Boquete. We’ve been exploring the area for many years, so whether coffee tours, guided hikings, birdwatching or tailor-made tours, we would love to organize an unforgettable trip for you!

Contact annie@ecocircuitos.com and visit our website http://www.ecocircuitos.com

 

 

 

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Tips for crossing the border from Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama

The border between Costa Rica and Panama, on the Caribbean side of these two countries, is the Sixaola River. The town on the Costa Rican side of the river is called Sixaola, here you will visit customs to check out of the country of Costa Rica and meet your contact from Panama. You will walk across the bridge to enter Panama with your new driver, leaving your Costa Rican driver to return home. The town in Panama, across the Sixaola River, is called Guabito.

The drive in Panama will take you across the low flood plains of the Sixaola and Changinola river valley’s. This area collects the watershed from the massive Talamanca mountain range, which extends through both countries. This is an important wetland for many species of tropical flora and fauna and includes habitats such as rivers, humid lowland forest, mangroves, coastal lagoons and other marine coastal environments.

A wetland reserve taking in the most of the coastal region of this area is called the San San Pond Sak (Humedal de San-San Pond Sak). This sparsely populated area is home to several endangered species such as manatees (sea cows), hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles.

Next you will come to Changinola, home of United Fruit Co. /Chiquita Brands Intl., this town is older than the country itself and thick on lore of a bygone era when it was simply known as, The Banana Republic.

Crossing the bridge over the Changinola river is like stepping back in time, you might have to stop and wait for the company train to pass over first, it is only a one lane bridge. From here you will be entering the densely forested foothills of the Talamanca Range. Just up in these mountains is La Amistad Bi-national Park, some 2 million acres in size, it is jointly protect on both sides of the border. This represents one of the largest protected tracts of primary forest in Central America, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Keep an eye on edge of the canopy, the wildlife is spectacular. You will be passing over several elevated bluffs with spectacular views of Bocas del Toro Archipelago below.

The location of this unique site in Central America, where Quaternary glaciers have left their mark, has allowed the fauna and flora of North and South America to interbreed. Tropical rainforests cover most of the area. Four different Indian tribes inhabit this property, which benefits from close co-operation between Costa Rica and Panama.

After several small pueblos, you will be passing the outskirts of Almirante, another antiquated banana town. About 12-13 miles outside of Almirante, at kilometer marker 48 ½, is a yellow sign and pink gate for La Escapada. This small eco lodge is built on a steep slope near the waters edge, the grounds are beautiful, and the birdlife is outstanding. Here you can take a short break and stretch your legs, or have a cold beverage and watch the marine life from the dock.  The boat will be waiting there to transfer to the hotel of your choice.  Tranquilo Bay is our suggested lodge for coming days.  From here it is a beautiful 45-minute boat ride to your final destination. The ocean leg of your journey will take you across Bahia Almirante passing Sheppard and San Cristobal Islands, and into Dark Land. The glassy calm and emerald green sea, and the long shadows from the steep mountainous terrain, blend to make an intense surrounding. A narrow channel passes into another smaller lagoon named Boca Torito, or little bull’s mouth. It is here where the mother dolphins bring their calves to rear. Leaving the dolphins behind, we will enter Bastimentos National Marine Park, the mangrove islets, sea grass beds and coral flats are stunning. Oceanic birds such as brown boobies, magnificent frigates, and brown pelicans will be feeding on marine wildlife that is fleeing from predators below. As we round the southern peninsula of Isla Bastimentos, we will have our first glimpse of the Zapatilla Keys, and the lodge for the next days:  Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure lodge.

Smithsonian Discovers New Coral Species in Panama

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From Stri.org

On the first submersible exploration of Hannibal Bank in Panama’s Coiba National Park and World Heritage Site, Smithsonian staff scientist Hector Guzman found and collected a previously undescribed coral species. He named it Eugorgia siedenburgae for Joan S. Siedenburg, explorer and longstanding friend of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

“Joan’s encouragement and passion for learning inspires many Smithsonian scientific colleagues in Panama,” said Guzman. “This new species name recognizes Siedenburg’s special interest in deep-sea exploration and her appreciation for marine life.”

During a STRI expedition in March, 2012, sponsored, in part, by Siedenburg, he collected a large specimen 63 meters (207 feet) under the ocean’s surface from the submersible DeepSee using a mechanical arm.

Eugorgia siedenburgae forms bright pink, bushy colonies with light-colored branch-tips. The soft-coral grows on rocks, debris, coarse sand or muddy sediments. This seventh species of the genus Eugorgia reported from Costa Rica and Panama brings the total number of species of this eastern Pacific genus to 13.

Guzman described the coral with Odalisca Breedy from the University of Costa Rica. “Nearly all of the surveys of soft coral diversity in the Eastern Pacific region have focused on shallow environments. Only recently have we begun to explore deeper into the ocean’s mesophotic zone,” said Breedy.

In twelve dives they collected 15 soft coral species, including sea pens, gorgonians and sea whips, three species of black corals and four species of hydrocorals including the lace corals Stylaster and Distichopora. In addition to Siedenburg, Guzman’s team included a fisheries biologist from the University of Panama as well as microbiologists and chemists from Panama’s government laboratory, INDICASAT, who joined the expedition. The microbiologists isolated bacteria from 104 tissue samples to look for chemical compounds to test against cancer and several tropical diseases.

Guzman hopes to return to Hannibal Bank to conduct a more extensive survey. In the meantime, he has presented information about the scarcity of commercial fish on this zone to the media and to policy makers.

Funding for the expedition and species identification were provided by the International Community Foundation; Panama’s Instituto de Investigaciones Cientificas y Servicios de Alta Tecnologia, INDICASAT, Mission Blue’s Sylvia Earle Alliance and the Universidad de Costa Rica.

EcoCircuitos at the Summit in the Jungle

EcoCircuitos was invited to the Summit in the Jungle last week in Costa Rica where a group of selected companies meet for an exchange of ideas and experiences.   G Adventures and Planetterra Foundation hosted this event that allows attendees and speakers from vastly different fields to cross-fertilize and draw inspiration from unlikely places. “It was an exciting opportunity to learn from different leaders about sustainable development and exhange ideas and experiences” said Annie Young.

What is the Summit in the Jungle?

From lush jungle terraces overlooking the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, participants gain insight into the importance of creating customized, long-term solutions to get to the root of the problems we face in the world today from people who are working to solve them.  Driven by a passion to build a sustainable, scalable social world, this year’s Summit in the Jungle bring together global thought leaders committed to providing supportive solutions to local and global problems in one of Costa Rica’s most idyllic settings.

– See more at: http://www.thisisyourplanet.com/summit#sthash.eouCE1Dz.dpuf

The Story Of The Banana

Recommend reading:  Bananas by Peter Chapman.

The story of the banana and the people involved in its introduction to the United States is a very interesting one.

Bananas were available in the US immediately following the Civil War, but they were a luxury item. In 1870 captain Lorenzo Dow Baker sailed his ship to Venezuela’s Orinoco River to drop off gold miners searching for riches near Ciudad Bolivar 300 miles upstream. On the way back he put in at Jamaica for repairs at became acquainted with bananas. He decided to take a cargo to the mainland where he was able to sell them for $2 a bunch netting him a profit equivalent to $6400 in today’s dollars. By 1871, he was the major banana exporter from the Caribbean. He bought land in Jamaica, planted acres of bananas and made a fortune. The banana he was planting was the Gros Michel.

In the United States, Andrew Presto was a young importer of fruit and became a partner of Captain Baker. They added a fleet of refrigerated steam ships to replace the sailing ships in which so much fruit was lost and the boon was on.

Meanwhile, Minor C. Keith had gone to Costa Rica to help his uncle build a railroad system between the capital of San Jose and the eastern port of Limon. When Costa Rica ran out of money for the project, Keith borrowed money from banks in England and offered to build the railroad at no cost to the Costa Rica government in return for a 99-year concession to run the route and full control of the port of Limon with 800,000 acres of land adjacent to the tracks, tax-free. On that land he planted bananas. Then Preston and Keith met.

Preston was a genius at getting the fruit to market and Keith knew how to grow them. He continued making deals, as in Costa Rica, throughout Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia and Ecuador. The two decided to merge and thus, on March 30, 1899, The United Fruit Company was born.

As the company grew, it extended control over every facet of life in the regions where it operated. . The company rewarded those who cooperated, and began to behave more and more brutally towards those who did not. The lucky ones nicknamed the company “Mamita”. The unlucky ones called it “El Pulpo”.

United Fruit did not like competition either and crushed rivals in price wars. By the late 1920s, United Fruit was worth over $100 million, had over 67,000 employees and owned 1.6 million acres of land. It had business interests in 32 countries and operated everything from churches to laundries, telephones, telegraphs, ship-to-shore transmission radio, schools, commissaries, housing, etc. It also had a powerful ally . . . the U.S. Government which made troops available when needed.

The one thing United Fruit could not control was Nature. And the enemy was disease. Disease would devastate one plantation after another which had to be abandoned and a new one started. Finally, the solution was to stay a step ahead from the disease by creating a new, disease resistant banana. The disease was ultimately named “Panama Disease”, not because it originated there, but because it was there that scientist finally identified the fungus. Unfortunately, Panama got a bum rap. And the days of the Gros Michel banana were numbered. By 1947, the bigger Cavendish was replacing the Gros Michel. The Cavendish was resistant to Panama Disease and the other diseases that could attack it could be controlled by other means. But it is not as tasty.

In the meanwhile, though, United Fruit played the role of “Mamacita” one day and “El Pulpo” the next. When they would open a plantation, they would, as mentioned before, create a town with every convenience. But they would pay the workers with script which could only be used to pay the rent of United Fruit housing and spent in the company’s store. All would be well until the “Panama Disease” would strike. Then, the company would move to a new area, dismantling every piece of the town and moving it to a new location. Distance would determine if the workers would be brought along or left behind to fend for themselves. This is when the company would be called “El Pulpo”. And their ruthlessness in breaking strikes went beyond cruel in many instances. They controlled the governments in Central America and had no qualms in using the U.S. government agencies, such as the CIA, to topple governments not favorable to them. The story of the banana and its producers is really a love-hate story.

Source: “Bits and Pieces About Panama” by Luis Celerier

Central America Travel Mart 2011

This year, the Central American Travel Market (CATM) will take place in Panama fom October 19 – 21.

The Central American Travel Market (CATM) is a vocational meeting, which features tourist offers from the Central American countries. It offers the opportunity to establish relationships between providers of Central American tourism services and wholesalers from major international markets: Europe (priority market), Asia and Latin America among others.

General Objectives

  • Promote the region as a highly competitive and multi-destination tourism venue in the international markets.
  • Increase the Central America market-share of international tourists, in turn creating more jobs in the tourism sector, higher incomes and promoting local development in Central America.

Annie Young Director and Founder of EcoCircuitos Panama will be attending CATM this year.  To request an appointment with us, please email at annie@ecocircuitos.com  For Panama, the CATM is a great opportunity for agents from all over the world to experience Panama and familiarize  with this new and amazing Central America destination!!

We are hosting a special event on October 21 from 5.00PM to 7.00 and involves hiking and a sunset cocktail in a privilege part of the city.  If you are interested in meeting our staff and learn more about our sustainable products for Panama, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com as we have limited space.   We are providing free transportation to the rainforest and back to the city on the day.

We look forward to meeting you in Panama!!!

Amigo de Panama!

Amigo de Panamá – Friend of Panama is an online training program for international travel agents. The expertise of travel agents on Panama as a product, is the number one priority “FRIEND OF PANAMA”.

Digital training through the Panama current information, provides access to the travel agent through advanced Internet, using technology.

This new model of training consists of brochures in digital format that serve as orientation guide and travel agent at the time of offering a trip to Panama.

For more information, please click here