5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that reveals Panama’s cultural and natural wonders

Did you know that Panama has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Well if you didn’t, check this out!

Three Natural Sites

Since 1981: Darien National Park

This incredible National Park in the Eastern part of Panama, on the borders of Colombia, is home to an extraordinarily rich flora and fauna. It has a variety of habitats from tropical forests, mangroves and swamps, wetlands and beaches. Two of Panama’s indigenous tribes the Wounaan and Embera have their home in this incredible park. It has 169 identified mammals, to name some of them: the near threatened jaguar, the endangered tapir, bush dog and the capybara. Darien National Park has a lot to offer if you are in love with nature and incredible biodiversity!

 

Since 1983: La Amistad National Park and Talamanca Range- La Amistad reserves

The Talamanca Mountains are enclosed by this breathtaking national park and reserves. It is considered to be the tallest and wildest mountain range in Central America. There are numerous ecosystems and landforms, such as rivers, valleys and lakes which were shaped by glaciers. Also in this national park you can find an incredible amount of different animals: 215 mammals including the Puma and Jaguar and abundant bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. Don’t miss this incredible biodiversity and unique scenery!

Since 2005: Coiba National Park

This unique island  once was a penal colony and along with other 38 smaller islands and its surrounding marine area is the Coiba site National Park. Abundant marine life such as whales and tiger sharks has its home in the surrounding marine area. The variety of endemic flora and fauna on this wonderful island is due to years of separation from the Mainland. You really should discover the natural beauties of the island, but always in a sustainable way!

Two Cultural Sites

Since 1980: Portobelo-San Lorenzo Caribbean Fortifications

The forts of Portobelo and San Lorenzo, listed as endangered, were constructed by Spanish colonialists to protect the first town of Panama Ciy which had become a very significant trade center. The forts continuously suffered attacks by pirates. It really is an incredible site, as it provides very important information about the defense system which was used in the 17th and the 18th centuries!  Don’t miss the site for the real Pirates of the Caribbean.

 

Since 1997: Panamá Viejo Archaeological Site and Historic District of Panamá

The Panama Viejo Archaeological Site and Historic District of Panama dates back to the 16th century, and is the oldest European settlement along the Pacific coast. In 1673 it has been burned to the ground, so it was located in Casco Viejo.

Significant information on various aspects of the social life, communication and the economy can be read through the ruins. Numerous Churches, medieval houses, the presidential palace and the Salón Bolivar are cultural landmarks in the historic district. Follow the the steps of the Spanish empire in Latin America in this beautiful site and book a historical tour with us.

Panama has so much to offer – besides of an incredible nature and biodiversity, our beautiful country has a very significant history. Our local guides will take you through an unforgettable cultural, historical and natural experience through our beautiful country! For tours or more information contact annie@ecocircuitos.com or visit our website http://www.ecocircuitos.com.

Adventure, Conservation and Education

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our guides are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity and local people. Contact us and experience the real #Panama.

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

Our Latest Darien Jungle Expedition

Experience with a local team of expert guides a unique jungle adventure in Panama. Our Darien Expedition is a 5 days adventure that starts in Panama City where we will take the Pan- American Highway towards the eastern side of the of Panama to the world famous forest of the Darien National Park.

This National Park of 579,000 ha (1,400,000 acres) is situated in the eastern part of the country, bordering on Colombia and is the largest protected nature area of Central America and the Caribbean. Its prodigious nature includes mountain ranges reaching 2,500 m (7,500 ft),  wide range of habitats: sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangroves, freshwater marshes, palm forest swamps and lowland and upland moist tropical forest.   Wetland forest along the Chucunaque and Tuira rivers is often covered by pure stands of cativo, this species being the most utilized timber tree in the region, and mangroves along the Pacific coast.    Also Darien contains a Premontane and montane forests, with several types of botanically interesting ecosystem including cloud forest and the elfin forest of Cerro Pirre.

Darien National park is home  of many extraordinary plant species that are unique in the world as well as some amazing beautiful animals, like the Jaguar (Felis Onca) and the Harpy Eagle (Harpia Harpyja).

This park is an adventure site that can give you unforgettable memories and experiences. The forest offers activities bird watching, hiking and jungle trekking, wildlife observation, 4 x 4 expeditions and boat trips on the river. The local communities of the Emberá and Wounan will share their wisdom, culture and traditions with the visitors.

For complete itinerary and details, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com  or our partner wholesalers

Do I Need a Special Vaccination to Enter Panama?

You may need malaria prophylaxis if you are planning on traveling to remote jungle areas such as the Darien. There are several cases of dengue fever reported annually throughout Panama; so we generally recommend avoiding mosquito bites by wearing long clothes and using repellents. Yellow fever also exists in certain parts of Panama, mostly in remote Jungle areas like the Darien. We recommend consulting your doctor before your trip to decide, whether vaccinations are necessary or not.

Yellow Fever vaccination 

As of November 01, 2008, Panama requires valid Yellow Fever Vaccination to enter or leave the country for the following countries:

South America: Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela.

Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo Democratic Rep., Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leona, Sudan.

If you have any health concerns, we strongly recommend consulting your doctor or clinic before traveling.

For more information about Panama and our FAQs.  Please click here

Canopy Tent in Darien for birders!

Barred Puffbirds, Rufous-tailed Jacamars, White-headed Wrens and many more make up a distinct dawn chorus like no other in Panama.  Located in Central America’s most diverse and least-explored region, the Darién province of Panama is a birder’s paradise.  Situated in the humid lowlands of far eastern Panama, near the end of the Pan-American Highway, at the new Canopy Camp you can feel the wilderness around you, from just a step outside your tent.  Towering giants – Cuipo trees – provide a panorama of Darién, and are in clear view above the forest canopy, right from your tent.  It is in these enormous rainforest giants that Harpy Eagles and Crested Eagles place their nests and raise their young.

While you sip your morning coffee, listen for the buzzy trills of Golden-headed Manakins lekking in the forests beside the camp.  A walk with your knowledgeable guide will be thoroughly awe-inspiring and entertaining.  From tiny, colorful poison dart frogs on the forest floor to Red-throated Caracaras in the canopy above, these forests are full of life.  At the end of the day of exploring the region, settle into your tent and doze off to the calls of owls, potoos, nightjars and a symphony of frogs, bidding you good-night from the forests of Darién.

While enjoying the wilderness all around us, camp in comfort in custom-designed African safari-style tents with all the amenities we offer at our other eco-lodges.  Come explore Darién with us, we are sure you will have the birding adventure of your life!  contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com  or visit our site at EcoCircuitos Panama for more adventures

Did you Know about spectacled bear?

Spectacle bear
Spectacle bear

Did you know The spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also known as the Andean bear and locally as “Oso de anteojos” is the last remaining short-faced bear and the closest living relative to the Florida spectacled bear and short-faced bears of the Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene age. In other words, spectacled bears are the only surviving species of bear native to South America, and the only surviving member of the subfamily Tremarctinae. Spectacled bears are more herbivorous than most other bears; normally about 5 to 7% of their diets is meat and is technically the largest land carnivore on that continent. Compared to other living bears, this species has a more rounded face with a relatively short and broad snout. In some extinct species of the Tremarctinae subfamily, this facial structure has been thought to be an adaptation to a largely carnivorous diet, despite the modern spectacled bears’ herbivorous dietary preferences. Although spectacled bears are solitary and tend to isolate themselves from one another to avoid competition, they are not territorial. Mating may occur at almost any time of the year, but activity normally peaks in April and June, at the beginning of the wet season and corresponding with the peak of fruit-ripening. The mating pair are together for one to two weeks, during which they will copulate multiple times. Births usually occur in the dry season, between December and February. From one to three cubs may be born, with four being rare and two being the average. The cubs often stay with the female for one year before striking out on their own. Like other bears, mothers are protective of their young and have attacked poachers. The only predators of cubs are cougars (Puma concolor) and jaguars (Panthera onca). Lifespan in the wild has not been studied, but bears are believed to commonly live to 20 years or more unless they run afoul of humans. The longest-lived captive bear, at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, attained a lifespan of 36 years and 8 months.

Despite some spilling over rarely into eastern Panama (Darien), Spectacled Bears are mostly restricted to certain areas of northern and western South America. The specie is found almost entirely in the Andes Mountains. Before spectacled bear populations became fragmented during the last 500 years, the species had a reputation for being adaptable, as it is found in a wide variety of habitats and altitudes throughout its range, including cloud forests, high-altitude grasslands, dry forests and scrub deserts. The best habitats for spectacled bears are humid to very humid montane forests. Generally, the wetter these forests are the more food species there are that can support bears. Occasionally, they may reach altitudes as low as 250 m (820 ft), but are not typically found below 1,900 m (6,200 ft) in the foothills. They can even range up to the mountain snow line at over 5,000 m (16,000 ft) in elevation.

The spectacled bear population is under threat for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, still no species-level conservation efforts are known to exist for Spectacled bears. The bears are hunted by locals due to a belief they will eat livestock (although spectacled bears do not normally eat large quantities of meat). Their gall bladders (biliary vesicle) are also valued in traditional Chinese medicine and can fetch a high price on the international market. Perhaps the most epidemic problem for the species is extensive logging and farming, which has led to habitat loss for the largely tree-dependent bears. Legislation against hunting the bears exists, but is rarely enforced. The IUCN has recommended the following courses for Spectacled bear conservation: expansion and implementation of conservation land to prevent further development, greater species level research and monitoring of trends and threats, more concerted management of current conservation areas, stewardship programs for bears which engage local residents and the education of the public regarding spectacled bears, especially the benefits of conserving the species due to its effect on natural resources.