CHRISTMAS TIME AND NEW YEAR IN PANAMA

What would you say to spend Christmas’ holidays in Panama?

Far away from cold, discovering a new culture, relaxing on white sand beaches, snorkel, wearing swimsuits and shorts, that’s what is expecting you if you choose to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Panama!

Try a snowman made in sand, taste fresh fish and seafood, get tanned on the beach, but not only.

You will be surprised by all the Panamanian traditions you will meet during this period!

One but not the least is the grapes’ tradition.

For the new year, Panamanians eat 12 grapes and count the total number of seeds to know which number is going to be their lucky number of the year.

Then, do not be surprised to catch people driving a suitcase by street (or in their house) around 12am. It’s a superstition which is supposed to make you travel during the year.

An other tradition is the “Muñeco”. Looking like a big doll, Panamanians build it (or buy it) for New Year. Made with papier-mâché and full of fireworks, Panamanians begin to set up the Muñeco in early December. They usually represent celebrities, public figures or politicians we heard about all year long and someone they normally do not like or do not care about. Creative way of taking a last look at a despised personality before making it exploded! Muñecos remain on display in front of Panamanians home throughout December before being blown up!

Let’s stay with fireworks… Panamanians are totally keen on fireworks! You are probably also used to it for New Year, but believe me, you are not prepared for Panamanian ones!
For Christmas and New Year, fireworks don’t only last few minutes, but few hours!!! So do not be scared if you hear the same noises for 2 hours, you are not becoming deaf, you are just celebrating as Panamanians do! It’s really common that a lot of families have their own fireworks! That’s why it never stops for hours…

You will also probably see people wearing red or yellow clothes. Red for love and yellow for a good luck throughout the year.

Also, Panamanians usually hang a bunch of oranges, rice, and wheat behind the front door, for prosperity, work, and health.

Of course, you will also enjoy typical Panamanian dishes as Arroz con guandù, Papa ensalada, Jamon and Pavo, Tomales, fresh Fish, rosca de pan, chichi de saril…

A real lush, authentic and original experience to live in Panama during this period!

 

 

 

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Panama Review from Zach and Teresa

We have many visitors experiencing Panama with us every year and we chose this beautiful post to share with you in our blog.  Below you will find the review from  Zach and Teresa in Panama.  They visited us from   Portland Oregon from December 21 to January 11, 2016.

EcoCircuitos Review by Zack and Teresa

This not being my first trip to Panama, I wanted to expand my experience and broaden the locations I would visit beyond the standard tourist path.  Flying into Panama City, I decided to revisit the Panama Viejo site because much had changed since I last visited.  The ruin’s infrastructure had become greatly informative with illustrative information signs and anyone without a guide would have a welcoming and historical visit. The guide from Ecocircuitos provided great historical information on the biography of adventurous nuns who lived in the convents, while also providing a contemporary scope on the way the site transforms for concerts and celebrations in the thriving metropolitan city. 

Panama City is growing and its growing fast with food, art and transportation.  A new Metro Rail will get you to the hot upcoming locations without the wait of traffic, but for a direct journey Uber is at your fingertips letting you skirt past any language barriers.  After the seeing castle ruins the guide took me over to Casco Viejo to check out the old Panama City neighbor hood full of beautiful churches and great places to grab a drink or a bite to eat. At Tántalo Hotel, I tried a delicious smoked chorizo stuffed calamari and some plantains with pulled pork.  Continuing to wander around finding great mojitos and gelato was an easy task.  Strolling along the narrow streets and wandered around the area’s waterfront to marvel at the city skyline was a great way to end a full day in the city.

Although the Boquete highlands is a common destination for the coffee obsessed and those needing a break from the heat of the country, Ecocircuitos allowed me to get a memorable and intimate experience through small organic coffee farms.  I didn’t have a huge understanding of coffee farming but one tour took me from growing the plants including the famous Geisha plant to processing and roasting the beans using recycled farm equipment and an old Jeep.  The guide was informative with lighthearted jokes, and since he worked on the farm as a young boy he had a true passion for his explanations.  The tour really helped explain how delicate the coffee plant from the climate, to its elevation and even the chemicals on your body.  The coffee was great to taste and the town was full of generous and kind hearted individuals.  Boquete also offered an abundance of wildlife and rigorous hikes through the numerous microclimates and if you were tired of drinking coffee the was a nice micro brewery offering a variety of beers full of flavor.   

Escape the Winter to Bocas del Toro, the Caribbean side of Panama

Are you looking for a family vacation that gives you the ability to visit an incredible variety of ecosystems, altitudinal life-zones and habitats all rich in distinctly different flora and fauna? Do you want to explore from the continental divide of Western Panama, to the edge of the mangrove forest, without ever changing hotels? Unpack, settle in and do what you came to do. We’ll take care of everything else in Tranquilo Bay Ecolodge.  This owner-operated, family-friendly eco lodge is located inside the rainforest overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the beautiful Panamanian jungle. We are adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park. This park covers a large portion of the archipelago of Bocas del Toro and is home to a variety of ecosystems which thrive at or around sea level. Our central location within the archipelago of Bocas del Toro allows you to explore some of the most biologically diverse areas of Panama and Central America.

7 Night Pacakge from $1850 per person / double occupancy – 3 days offsite excursions included

AVAILABLE FROM FEBRUARY 1 – 28, 2014

Day One Arrive Tranquilo Bay – afternoon arrival
A representative from Tranquilo Bay will meet you at the airport in Bocas Town and assist you with
your entry into Bocas del Toro. Upon arrival at Tranquilo Bay you will leisurely settle into your
cabana.

Day Two Snorkel & Beach trip to Zapatilla Cayes
These two unspoiled islands are protected by Bastimentos National Marine Park. These pristine white sand islands are covered in coconut palms, tropical hardwoods, sea grapes, and almond trees draped in a collage of bromeliads, ferns, orchids and other epiphytes. It is possible to walk around these islands while stopping to explore the white sand beaches and reefs covering the entire circumference. Snapper, barracuda and vivid tropical fish abound on the beautiful reefs surrounding
the area.

Day Three Tranquilo Bay Trails & Canopy Observation Tower
Tranquilo Bay’s grounds include over 200 acres with several kilometers of forested trails covering different habitats. This forest and its edge are home to many of Isla Bastimentos common favorites including multiple raptors, Montezuma Oropendolas, Red-lored Parrots, hummingbirds, 5-species of kingfishers, Green Ibis, tityras, woodpeckers, honeycreepers, tanagers, pigeons, antbirds, manakins, seedeaters, and herons, and, in season Three-wattled Bellbirds. White-faced Capuchins, three and two toed sloths, green iguanas, basilisk lizards, butterflies and poison dart frogs are also common on these trails. After dinner try to spot some of the local nocturnal residents such as the Common Potoo, Owls, Western Night Monkey, Four-eyed opossum, Wooly opossum, Crab-eating raccoon, Speckled Caiman and bats.

Day Four Cacao Plantation Tour
Following breakfast, we will deploy by boat on a 15-minute passage trek across Dolphin Bay for the Green Acres Cacao Plantation. Guided by Robert & Julie Peters, the owners and operators of the facility, we will tour their gardens as Robert presents us with extensive information about his farm. It is here where one of the rarest strands of cacao plant in the world, the Criollo, is grown. Details of his modest but extraordinary chocolate manufacturing techniques will accompany; including growth of the trees, a step-by-step process of how chocolate is made from bean to bar and a sample of the farm’s product. The day trip includes lunch onsite at an immaculately built stone-structured home, surrounded by grounds with an exotic collection of tropical plants from around the world. Multiple varieties of tropical birds and the dendrobates auratus (black and green poison dart frog) all live onsite for your discovery. This humble couple and their unique project of growing cacao to save the
rainforest, while making unparalleled chocolate, are not to be missed.

Day Five Kayak & Snorkel Jellyfish Lagoon
You may decide to take today’s excursion either in the morning or in the afternoon. Our biologist guides will take you on a kayak to a nearby jellyfish lagoon. You will search out water life above and below the surface focusing on the beautiful upside down jellyfish. Once you make your way out of the lagoon, you will snorkel at various spots in the bay near Tranquilo Bay to see a wide variety of underwater animals.

Day Six Cave Nivida Exploration
Following breakfast we will leave the facility in a support boat for a 15-minute ride across the Bastimentos National Marine Park. In kayaks we will meander through the glassy calm backwaters of Bahia Honda. Following the jungle’s edge of Isla Bastimentos we will paddle through channels, deep bays, mangrove cayes, and patch reef. Dolphins like the deep water of Bahia Honda and can often be seen breaching the surface for air. Many birds can be seen feeding near the waters edge, and the jungle is home to white-faced capuchins, two- and three-toed sloths, green iguanas, and caimans. In the back of Bahia Honda we will paddle up a small creek through lush vegetation. A short jungle walk leads to the entrance of cave Nivida. Entering the cave with lights, we will explore this subterranean phenomenon while wading through cold spring water and passing nectar bats. A support boat will be waiting at the mouth of the creek for our return to Tranquilo Bay.

Day Seven Explore Tranquilo Bay & its surrounds
Today, you have the choice in the morning or the afternoon between a guided hike on our two-mile nature trail watching for wildlife or a leisurely kayak and snorkeling session.

Day Eight  Depart Bocas del Toro

Packages includes:  Transfers between Town and Tranquilo Bay, Meals and beverages at Tranquilo Bay, all meals, snacks available all the time, deluxe air conditions cabanas, access to water and land activities, activities daily as designated in the itinerary.

EcoCircuitos Business Objectives

By Annie Young J.

A while ago I heard the quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”.

This quote really hit home for me and since I have heard it has become one of my mottos in life. Before returning home from a study abroad program where I volunteered with a conservation organization I went on a backpacking trip that inspired me to create EcoCircuitos Panama (1999). After this trip I realized that I wanted to share my passion for Panama with the rest of the world in a different way.

As a dreamer, I felt that we could connect conservation, social development and tourism. This has been my goal since I began EcoCircuitos Panama. It has not been easy… sometimes promoting responsible travel is more difficult that the classical approach, but we believe that it can be done.

The EcoCircuitos Panama team including myself has evolved since the company began. I have learned from many different people that have worked with me all these years that in today’s world you have to give something back… not just take.

Today we are a team of local enthusiasts about Panama. On a daily basis we learn from each other sharing, our dreams for sustainable development. It is important to me to motivate each member of my team to create, innovate and collaborate in an environment where it is not only my vision that is followed.

Our objectives as a company are very clear to us:

– Create low-impact tours and experiences that are appealing to our clients.

– Increase the level of awareness amongst travelers and turning them in effective agents for conservation.

– Channel a portion of our revenues towards supporting the conservation and sustainable use of Panama´s biodiversity.

– Reduce poverty through environmental conscious income generation activities and employment, which effectively decrease the threat to biodiversity in our local communities.

– Encourage active participation and involvement of local communities in the development, operation and monitoring of tourism activities.

This is our responsibility as a tour operator and DMC in Panama, and we are a happy team that is following a beautiful dream.

Geotourism in Chagres National Park

Early in the morning, we get to the Chagres River, the main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama and Colon, also supplies water for the operation of the Panama Canal. Here we board a dugout canoe with motor and travel up the River to the Embera Drua village.

The boat journey of 45 minutes takes us through lush rainforest of the Chagres National park. From the boat it is possible to admire the beauty of the rich and flourishing nature; there is a complete silence, broken only by the sounds of the water and of the birds. The river is the only way to get to the Emberá village, otherwise it is possible to walk through the forest but that will take no less than 4 hrs. During the rainy season the river will rise a lot, while during the dry season the level of the water will be very shallow, causing problems to pass through some places.

The Emberá community was founded in the Chagres national Park in 1975, and today counts 115 inhabitants, of which 30 are kids. In 1996 a school was built also thanks to the contribution of organizations, tour operators and individuals who strongly support the protection and conservation of the environment end the life of the Indigenous communities. There are often volunteers who spend some time within the village, offering help and doing researches.

When we arrive, a representative of the Emberá community explain us everything about their history, way of living, traditions, dances, music, together with the help of some women that show us how they make handcrafts using palms fibers, woods, leaves, rocks, etc..

All the handicrafts they make are on sale at their small picturesque market.
We have also the chance to get our body painted, as the Emberá usually do, using a particular ink made of ashes and plant pigments. The tattoos will last about 8 days.

At lunchtime we sit together enjoying the delicious freshwater fish, Tilapia and Sargento, accompanied by crispy platanos y a bunch of fresh fruits, such as pineapple, passion fruit, watermelon, bananas..

After lunch we move to another open air building, where the Emberá women will perform local dances on the music played by the men using artesian flutes and drums. The first dance is performed in between them, while in the following ones everybody will take the floor and show their dancing skills!

Once we have done with that, unfortunately It’s time to board again on the piraguas and go back to the “real word”, but confident with the fact that our soul is fulfilled with the best emotions and feelings that the wonderful people of the Emberá community were passionately able to transmit to us.

Léa Maillard & Paola Alzatti.