Educaciontal Trips and Academic adventures in Panama

Recently we had the visit from a wonderful group of 13 students from Saint Andrews College located in Texas. The group explored Panama in a comprehensive itinerary that took them to different areas of the country to learn about the history, geology, ecology and the culture of Panama. They visited Guna Yala, Darien National Park, Coclé Province, Chiriqui Highlands and Panama City with our team of guides.

Fabio Trujillo, our senior guide and tour leader for this group mentioned that it was a wonderful experience and life changing for most of the participants that were truly touched by the different communities visited during their trip to Panama.

Advertisements

Panama Destination: Chiriquí Highlands

The Chiriqui Highlands comprise the part of the Cordillera Central that defines the northern border of the province of Chiriquí.  It is a beautiful landscape of cloud forest, volcanic peaks, and coffee plantations and is home to most of Panama’s Ngöbe Indians.  In the province of Chiriquí, a few roads connect the highway to the highlands areas.  All these roads encompass one of the most beautiful scenic roads and landscapes of Panama.  Lowland areas give way to hills that have been clean for farming.  Ascending the mountains become sharper, their slopes more densely forested, and by noontime, they are enveloped in misty blue clouds.

La Amistad International Park

La Amistad is a binational park that stretches from Costa Rica into Panama, a small portion of which extends into the Chiriquí province. Here the land rises almost 5,000 feet, and warm air ascends the mountains where it meets with cooler air and condenses into persistent cloud cover. Cloudforest exhibit a unique ecosystem with an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna. Towering trees reach to the sun to form a canopy that creates a cool, shadowed, misty underworld on the forest floor. It is noisy with the sound of numerous ferns and epiphytes that crowd the lower and middle strata of the forest. Water drips from spongy mosses covering three trunks, from bromeliads that attach themselves to every cranny on the trees, and from flower petal perched high in the canopy of the forest. It is a magical world.

Boquete Mountain town

Tucked away on the eastern slopes of the Volcan Barú is small and charming mountain town of Boquete. Known to produce some of the best Coffee in Central America, Boquete is becoming a destination for those seeking great outdoor activities and good weather. Visitors bask in Boquete’s sunny and cool mountain climate and marvel at the beautiful landscape.

Boquete’s hills and slopes are primary covered in shade-grown coffee plantations.   Coffee is primary picked by the Ngöbe Indians during the months of October through February. Coffee picking season is a festive time when colorfully Indian families come from varios part of the Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui province to harvest the berries.

The highlands of Panama are the perfect place to practice different outdoor activities, such as hiking national parks, trekking adventures, birdwatching tours, river rafting, zip lining, downhill biking and more.  Contact us for more information on our extension tours to the highlands.  http://www.ecocircuitos.com

Volunteer vacation in Mount Totumas Private Reserve

Reinaldo, our local guide

Sample Itinerary (subject to change according to group preferences)

 Day 1: Panama City – Arrive in Panama City. A representative of EcoCircuitos will meet you at the airport and transfer to a hotel in Panama City. Check in and overnight at Marriott Finisterre or similar.

Day 2: Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve – At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Domestic Airport in Albrook for your flight to David (approximately 1 hour flight time), located in the Chiriquí Province west of Panama City. You will be met by an EcoCircuitos representative that will transfer you to the town of Volcan located to the west of Volcano Baru. Before beginning the next part of your adventure you have lunch at a local gourmet restaurant, Cerro Brujo.

After lunch you will be met by your local host to begin your journey to Mount Totumas, it will take you at least 2 hours to reach your destination nestled in the middle of a 400 acre private reserve First you will proceed on paved road to a windy dirt road crossing small streams until the final kilometers where you will go up a 4WD road to reach your destination. Admire the views from road and keep your eyes out for wildlife. Once you arrive you will learn about the lodge and go for a short afternoon hike to get oriented with the reserve. Overnight at Mount Totumas, (B, L, D)

 Day 3 – 6: Volunteer and Experiential Learning- During these days you will learn more about the reserve and assist in the daily activities; this may consist of trail maintenance, working in the greenhouse or with other agricultural activities. Any special skills that can contribute to the reserve are welcome. This amazing experience faraway from civilization is a once in a life time experience, enjoy the peace and beauty of the Chiriqui Highlands.

Day 7: Return to Panama City – Today prepare your backpack to return to Panama City. You will have the afternoon to relax and explore Panama City’s downtown. Farewell dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight at Marriott Finisterre or similar (B,L,D)

 Day 8: Departure –  After breakfast, transfer to international airport for your flight out.

For details of prices contact us directly.  annie@ecocircuitos.com

 

 

 

 

 

Highlands Adventure in Mount Totumas Private Reserve

Located in Los Pozos Volcan at 6 miles up a scenic 4WD road. Enjoy a hiking adventure and superb birdwatching. Mount Totumas Cloud Forest is a 400 acre reserve bordering the 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 present such as Resplendent Quetzals, Three Wattled Bellbirds, Baird’s Tapir, Mantled Howler Monkey, Black and Crested Guan, White-Faced Capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, mountain lions, ocelots and even Jaguars have been spotted in neighboring national park.

Itineary

Day 1- Transfer In – 

Today at the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos representative will meet you at the Tocumen Airport to assist and transfer you to your hotel in Panama City. At this time you will also receive an EcoCircuitos information kit. Hilton Double Tree/Tryp Albrook or similar, double room

Day 2- Chiriqui Highlands – Mount Totumas Private Cloud Forest Reserve

At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Domestic Airport in Albrook for your flight to David (approximately 1 hour flight time), located in the Chiriquí Province west of Panama City. You will be met by an EcoCircuitos representative that will transfer you to the town of Volcan located to the west of Volcano Baru. Before beginning the next part of your adventure you have lunch at a local gourmet restaurant, Cerro Brujo. After lunch you will be met by your local host to begin your journey to Mount Totumas, it will take you at least 2 hours to reach your destination nestled in the middle of a 400 acre private reserve First you will proceed on paved road to a windy dirt road crossing small streams until the final kilometers where you will go up a 4WD road to reach your destination. Admire the views from road and keep your eyes out for wildlife. Once you arrive you will learn about the lodge and go for a short afternoon hike to get oriented with the reserve. Overnight at Mount Totumas, Bell Bird Lodge Room (B, L, D)

Day 3 – 4 Mount Totumas Private Cloud Forest Reserve

Enjoy the area at your leisure. You will have the opportunity to go on guided hikes in search of wildlife and to enjoy the untouched fauna or sit back and relax on the deck overlooking the valley as humming birds buzz by. Mount Totumas, Bell Bird Lodge Room (B, L, D)

Day 5 – Chiriqui Highlands – Boquete

Early in the morning after breakfast you will be transferred back to the town of Volcan where you will be met by an EcoCircuitos representative who will transfer you to the charming mountainous town of Boquete, known for its pleasant climate, coffee, adventure tourism and much more! Boquete Garden Inn/Riverside Inn/Finca Lerida or similar, double room. Optional tours available: rafting, canopy zip line, hot springs, spa treatments, hiking, birding, amongst other options. (B)

Day 6 – Coffee Tour

In Boquete you have the unique opportunity to visit a coffee plantation and learn about the process of coffee. Our guide will explain the whole process from the picking by the Ngobe Bugle Indians to the cup while you walk the coffee fields and learn about the coffee plants and how the coffee beans are harvested and processed. We will tour one of the local farms in Boquete where you will be able to admire a clean and modern environmental processing plant. The tour ends in the romantic coffee cupping room in the old mill, where we will taste and cup the product of all the work and Craftsman ship. Boquete Garden Inn/Riverside Inn/Finca Lerida or similar, double room. (B)

Day 7 – Morning Hike – Return to Panama City

In the morning after breakfast you will be met by your guide for your morning hike. You will hike through the unspoiled forest where you will experience the cloud forest and you will have the opportunity to the amazing flora and fauna of the area. You will see ancient trees covered with moss, epiphytic plants and orchids. As well, you will enjoy spotting birds such as: Orange-bellied Trogon, Three-wattled Bellbird, Black Guan, Hairy Woodpecker, Buff-fronted Quail Dove and the Resplendent Quetzal.

After you hike you will be transferred to the David Airport for your flight to Panama City. Upon your arrival you will be met by an EcoCircuitos representative that will transfer you to your hotel in the City. Hilton Double Tree/Tryp Albrook or similar, double room (B)

Day 8 – Transfer Out

At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for your outbound flight. You will arrive at the airport approximately 2 hours before your departure time. Note: customers will be picked up 3 hours before their flight time.

Women adventure week in Panama (June 18 – 24, 2016)

 

An active outdoor program just for women during the week of June of 2016. This 7 day adventure includes: Beach combing in Bocas del Toro, active and cultural activities in the City and in the highlands of Panama, bilingual guides, and the fun of the City. Great opportunity for professional networking. This will have a maximum of 20 participants and minimum of 10. Includes: all transfers, 6 night of lodging – 2 nights in Panama City and 2 nights in the highlands of Boquete, 2 nights in Bocas del Toro, day tours, all breakfasts, lunch during tours, entrance fees to national parks and attractions, information kit and taxes.

Day 1 – Welcome to Panama!  Today at the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos representative will meet you at the Tocumen International Airport to assist and transfer you to your hotel located in Panama City. At this time you will also receive an EcoCircuitos information kit that will provide you with all the details for your stay in Panama. Once you arrive to your hotel, please check-in. MARRIOTT EXECUTIVE.

Day 2 – Day 2 Kayaking the Panama Canal Watershed & Rain Forest Discovery Center Early in the morning you will be greeted by your guide in the lobby of your hotel to begin your kayaking adventure in the Panama Canal Watershed. As you begin your journey into the Panama Canal Watershed you will leave the Panama City limits and enter in to the Soberania National Park, building will slowly be replaced by secondary and primary rain forest, and you will pass the former Fort Clayton, Miraflores Locks before entering the Park. Keep your eyes open for toucans, sloths and other animals as they awake with the morning sun. Once you reach dock you will receive a safety briefing and introductory paddle lesson before slipping into your kayaks to start paddling into the heart of the Panama Canal Zone. Seated at water level in your kayak will give you an interesting perspective of the Panama Canal in action. Our guide will lead you to places of special interest, while educating you about the flora and fauna of the area. After kayaking we will visit the Rain Forest Discovery Centre, where we will learn more about the Panamanian rain forests´ secrets. Climb the rain forest tower that is 30 meters high with emergent trees reaching 40meters. It is an amazing experience in the core of the tropical rainforest. We will have a picnic lunch, while observing the numerous species of humming birds in the area.

IN THE AFTERNOON: The Highlands of Panama

You will be transferred to Albrook Domestic Airport to take your one hour flight to David, the capital of Chiriqui Province. ****Flight is not included***Upon arrival, you will be met by an EcoCircuitos Representative and transferred to Finca Lerida state coffee lodge. This Ecolodge is nestled in the middle coffee plantation and surrounded by a private natural forest reserve. You will wake up to the symphony of birds and to the aroma of our home grown “Finca Lerida” Estate Coffee brewed specially for you. All the rooms are individually decorated and named after birds found in Finca Lerida Highlands. (B, pic nic lunch)

 Flying within Panama has a luggage weight limit of 25 pounds (lbs) per person.

Day 3 – Los Quetzales Trail This is considered one of the most spectacular trails in Central America and one of the most popular hikes of the western highlands. Depart from your hotel in Boquete at 7:00 AM in a 4×4 to the ranger station in Baru National Park where you will begin your trek along the Quetzales Trail. Walk through different elevations and landscapes giving the group the opportunity to see a great variety of tree, plant and bird species, including the Resplendent Quetzal, the Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Silvery-throated Jay, Black-faced Solitaire and the Barred Becard. Includes: Transportation, Box Lunch, and specialized Guide. Duration: Full day tour. This trail is only recommended for experienced hikers and people with an excellent physical condition due to its difficult nature. (B, pic nic lunch)

 Day 4 Transfer to Bocas del Toro Archipelago (A day Tour!!) You will be transferred by land and boat from Boquete to Bocas del Toro Archipelago. You will pass through the Talamanca Continental Divide and you will enjoy the amazing landscape of our highlands. Enjoy the view of some areas of the Palo Seco and La Fortuna Natural Reserves during the transfer. Upon arrival to Almirante (Bocas del Toro Mainland pier), you will board a water taxi that will head you to Isla Colon. (Boat transfer 25 minutes) Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel. Check in at the hotel Playa Tortuga. Transfer duration: 3 ½ hrs approx.

 Day 5 Bocas del Toro Archipelago After breakfast you will visit a local indigenous community where you will learn about their conservation initiatives to protect their surroundings. Look for local wildlife species such as Three-toed Sloth, the quintessential Red poison-dart Frog, White-faced Capuchins and Howler Monkeys, along with many bird species, and venture inside a rainforest cave. Later today, after an outdoor lunch you will enjoy a tour of Bastimentos Marine National Park to snorkel, and relax at the beach. Lodging will be at a hotel in Bocas. (B,L)

 DAY 6 – Return to Panama City  Return to Panama City and upon arrival Full Day Historical City Tour During the half-day morning tour you will visit the ruins of Old Panama, climb up the Cathedral tower, visit the Old Panama Museum and then continue to Casco Viejo (the old city compound), which dates from the late 1600’s. A bilingual guide will describe the events in history leading up to the eventual movement of the capital city to its present location. Casco Viejo is home to monuments to Ferdinand de Lesseps and other Frenchmen instrumental in the ill-fated attempt of the French to construct a canal through Panama. Your tour ends with a visit to the Panama Canal Museum. 
The full day tour continues with a visit to the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal where large ships can be seen transiting the canal. Enjoy a presentation by the Panama Canal Authority on the history of the Panama Canal and marvel at the workings of this feat of human engineering. Lunch will be serving at a local restaurant. The tour then continues to the Panama Canal area, including the town of Balboa, formerly part of the Panama Canal Zone. You will stop at the folk art market at the old YMCA building. Late afternoon you will return to your hotel in Panama City. (B,L). (B)  ****Flight is not included***

  Day 7 – Departure At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for your outbound flight. You will arrive at the airport approximately 2 hours before your departure time. Note: customers will be picked up 3 hours before their flight time. ** END OF SERVICES**

Prices upon request!

The program includes:  6 nights of lodging , Private transfers in and out of Tocumen International Airport, Tours as mentioned above, bilingual guide accompany the group during complete itinerary, Breakfast at all mentioned hotels, Information kit, Lodging taxes

The program does not include:  Optional activities, International airfare and taxes, Departure taxes ($40.00 per person for Panama), Meals not specified in the itinerary, Domestic and international flights, alcoholic beverages, Personal equipment,
Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service, etc.), Gratuities

Rates are valid until June 15th, 2016 and subject to change due increases on fuel prices

  • Prices are net per person.
  • Prices are given in US Dollars.
  • Prices are subject to change without previous notice depending on any significant increase in rates, taxes, fuel or due to availability problems.
  • Prices are based on the minimum of paying participants previously informed.
  • If the minimum number of paying participants changes, the rates would also change
  • Tips for drives and guides not included

Note: This is a quote not a reservation. Please note that all quotations given are subject to availability at the time of reservation and cannot be guaranteed until payment is received. Please note that credit card payments are subject to processing fees.

EcoCircuitos realizes that has important environmental and social responsibilities in and out of the office. We create memorable travel experiences in Panama’s natural history and cultural heritage.   Our office team and suppliers ensure quality service, cultural sensitivity, local knowledge, innovation and social and environmental responsibility. As travelers ourselves we believe giving something back is essential. Therefore we work with our team, suppliers and customers to ensure that benefits will contribute directly to the communities we visit and their environment.

For more information, please visit our Responsible Travel Policy link.

Encourage the channeling of part of our revenues towards supporting the conservation and sustainable use of Panama’s biodiversity. We are committed to the conservation of protected areas, education and local community development.

 

A Fantastic Journey: Part 8

Boquete and Cerro Punta

By Louis Celerier

Early in the Morning we were picked up to be taken to the regional airport at Albrook for our flight to David. I had hoped to see the countryside from the air, but the plane flew at some 20,000 feet and above a cloud covering. Landing in David at 11:30 AM, Hans, our EcoCircuitos representative, met us at the airport and drove us to Boquete arriving there about 1:30 PM. Hans took us to a very nice small restaurant up the river Caldera from the town for a good lunch.
The restaurant sits right by the river and it was a most delightful setting. Boquete is located in the Western Highlands of Panama near the border with Costa Rica. Boquete and the Panamonte Hotel were we stayed are delicacies that must me savored slowly. Boquete, as some of you may know, is a narrow valley with the Rio Caldera running through the middle of it. Boquete means breach and that is exactly what it is, a breach in the mountains made by the river. With an
elevation of some 3300 feet, the place is pleasantly cool and can get surprisingly cold some times. There always seems to be an abundance of flowers in the area and coffee plantations are everywhere. Most of the coffee in Boquete is shade grown, that is the shrubs grow under taller trees. In the picking season one will see these shrubs full of red berry-­like fruit. The small fruit has a thin skin under which is the coffee bean covered with a very thin, but sweet, film. From lunch, we drove further up the river to see a small waterfall. Hans had been told that I wanted to see the Calderas River waterfall, but obviously he did not know where that was, because where he took us was just small fall from a small tributary to the main river. The falls I had wanted to see where inanother location, which I showed him in the book by William Friar, but he still did not know what I was talking about. So I was a bit disappointed, but not enough to be unhappy in that enchanting place.
That evening was very relaxing. We spent a little time at the large lounge/bar area which was beautiful with two large fire places. The fires were lit and with the cool wind blowing hard outside, it felt very good. The dinning room of the hotel was also very nice and classy. The five of us had an enjoyable dinner making real everything I had heard about the place. While the hotel proper is old, being originally built around 1928, it has been kept up very well and, undoubtedly, additions and changes have been made since making it very comfortable. Gene and I were housed in the main building with him having a corner room in the rear portion and I having a front room by the street close to the front desk. Both accommodations were very comfortable. Judith, Robin and Teresita were housed in a newer annex across the street by the river. Their rooms were very ample and nice very well decorated.
On our second day we were on our own for the morning. I went walking in search of flowers and sights to photograph while the other four walked a short distance to the town. As I walked up the Altolino road I came upon a bonanza of flowers. A place called “Mi Jardin, Su Jardin” (My Garden, Your Garden) represented some 6 acres of beautiful flowers of all kinds on a beautifully landscaped garden. And best of all, it was open to the public at no charge. After an hour and a half there, I went down towards the town to look for the others and tell them what I had found. I located them by the town square and told them. Then I milled a bit in the town and headed across the river, on an oldsuspension bridge, to walk back to the hotel by another road. Crossing the river again just above the hotel, I saw the ravages of the last floods, a couple of months ago: the river had all but washed off all the road, as you will see in the photo section. That afternoon Hans came by for us to take us to a coffee plantation. Little did we know what he hadin mind. We sort of expected a walk through a plantation for about an hour and then some more site-­seeing around the area. Instead, he took us where, not only do they grow coffee, but they also process it until it is shipped out in packets ready for the store shelf. Hans, being in love with coffee, gave us a 4-­1/2 hour recitation of the whole process from planting, through harvest, through roasting through tasting. I thought it would never end. I think an hour basic course with a little souvenir pamphlet would have done us much better because right now I can hardly remember what all he told us and I would have enjoyed having a little pamphlet telling me about it so I could use it as a reference. That night we decided to walk down to the town and eat at a restaurant the others had spotted during the morning. It was OK, but we all agreed that the food at the hotel was superior and made a point of that.

On Monday morning, after a wonderful breakfast with fresh everything, we piled up into Hans, SUV and headed down to David and then up to Cerro Punta. Our main objective were the mountains of Amistad National Park and most specifically, Las Nubes, a location in the clouds forest were we could take a two hour hike and then have a pic-­nic lunch Hans had brought.
The hike was wonderful. The vegetation is completely different from that which we saw at Barro Colorado Island. No howler monkeys this time, but some in the group spotted a Quetzal bird. There were many little streams throughout our trail and each more pretty than the other. Completing our hike, we went into the forest rangers house for bathroom facilities and then set up our pic-­nic in the porch of the facility. Coming down the road, we went into the Finca Dracula were one finds more than 1200 species of orchids. It is one of the most important collections in Latin America and I was overwhelmed with the quantity of flowers. It was at this Finca that we met with Sheila and Dennis, touring the Finca with them … that is to say that they visited the Finca and Sheila and I talked more than looked.
From the Finca, we went to Sheila’s house, which was very close by, and enjoyed a cup of coffee. Let me say at this point that the coffee in Panama is coffee! It is delicious and I, who likes coffee anyway, never passed a chance to drink some. Everywhere we went we found the coffee delicious. But back to Sheila, their house is nestled in the mountains of Cerro Punta with a nice little river flowing behind the property. It must be heaven living there. They do travel a lot by plane, a 4-­place Cessna, which they keep in a town nearby. After bidding our goodbyes, we headed back to David and Boquete. On the way down, we stopped for refreshments at a roadside stand getting a fresh fruit drink and buying some Panamanian candy to bring home. We got to the hotel at 6:00 PM rather tired, but found strength to have one last terrific dinner at the Panamonte Hotel. Then we had to bid goodbye to Judith, Robin and Teresita as Gene and I had to catch a very early plane the next day to Bocas del Toro, while the other three returned to Panama city. I loved our stay in Boquete and would have enjoyed a couple of more days there. Not only are there things to do near by, but the Panamonte is a great place to relax. And the weather was perfect.

 

Every week we publish part of Louis Celerier’s story of how he revisited the country where he grew up. Subscribe to this blog, or like us on Facebook, to make sure you do not miss any part of the story!

Boquete Jazz Festival – March 1 – 4, 2012

The beautiful Chiriqui Highlands have long been one of Panama’s most favorite vacation and retirement spots, and the jewel of Chiriqui province is beautiful Boquete. Located at an elevation of 3000ft it is also the home of some of the best coffees in the world. The cool, crisp mountain air, delicious fresh mountain water, an abundant nature with lots of flowers, flamboyantly flowering trees and hundreds of species of birds plus the closeness to two oceans have attracted visitors from all over the world.The natural beauty of Boquete is the perfect setting to stimulate the creative talents and artistic abilities of those who live here as well as those who come for a visit. So it is no surprise that this small town hosts a lively art and music scene which culminates in the annual Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival.

Right from the start in 2007 the Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival has been the biggest music event in the province of Chiriqui. The 2012 edition will also be the first ever festival in Panama to showcase first-class international Blues acts in addition to notable Panamanian and Latin American artists featuring Jazz and Latin American music styles.

For organize trips to Boquete and reservations, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com