Tourism and Conservation in Panama

Panama’s wildlife is just stunning – 10’444 different types of plant species, 678 fern species, 1’500 varieties of trees, as well as 255 species of mammals and 972 indigenous bird species. There is a history behind this rich biodiversity, let’s start from the very beginning: Everything started 65 million years ago; the two continents, North and South America were joined by a land bridge, as we know it from today. Then, around 50 million years ago, the continents split apart, and for millions of years they kept separate from one another. This allowed mother nature to create unique and fascinating landscapes in both continents. The land of South America soon gave rise to a numerous species, such as bird families, neo-tropical rodents, iguanas, frogs and more. In North America, animals such as horses, deer, raccoons, squirrels and mice flourished, as the continent repeatedly collided with Eurasia.

Three million years ago happened the world change!   The natural history for both continents: The land bridge of Panama arose. Migration started and species from North America went south and from South America north, where they found their homes in the lush forest and wetlands along the isthmus. The great variety of plant species created the perfect conditions for nourishing wildlife including the Jaguar.

‘Yaguará’ is a Panamanian Foundation that works towards the conservation of  wild cats. They are studying the Jaguar’s behavior through placing cameras and GPS Collars, in order to develop conservation in the jaguar habitats. They also directly work with the local communities, which has proved to be very important and successful to immediately apply conservation of this beautiful mammals.

Ricardo Moreno who has been nominated by National Geographic as an emergent explorer, is a Panamanian biologist and one of the the leader of  Fundación Yaguara. He fights for the conservation of the Jaguar and the Puma in Panama, and says that “the situation is critical, and there is no time to wait. It is important to create a pacific cohabitation between mankind and the felines.”

The conflicts between Felines and humans arose because their natural prey was scarce, due to human activities such as hunting and habitat occupation, threrefore the cats attacked livestock’s. Unfortunately, people used to “solve” the situation by just sacrificing the felines, and this caused a serious fall in jaguar’s populations in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and Panama. Several studies showed that if the cats had enough natural prey, they wouldn’t attack livestock.

“Yaguará” started a program which gives a monetary compensation to the owners of domestic animals, if their animals were preyed.  They also support the local communities by educating in learning to live with the jaguars and avoid killing them.   The communities could take benefit from conserving the natural habitats and supporting the trend in the tourism industry:  Adventure and Conservation.

Academic and Educational adventures are a way to discover Panama and learn about the efforts of several scientists, guides and tour companies that promote the restoration of our natural habitats.   In conjunction with different organizations such as STRI, Fundacion Avifauna, APTSO, YAGUARA among others EcoCircuitos is promoting Tourism, Conservation and Education.

Explore with the experts in the field and discover a country full of contrasts.  You can contribute to the conservation and efforts of this organization and others by traveling responsable.

For more information contact us info@ecocircuitos.com

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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

Ecocircuitos Panama: getting ready for the green season

Panama is worth seeing throughout the year! Not only the dry season is a good time to travel to the “bridge of the world”- as Panama is called by locals. Many people think that the green season is the better time to explore this country since- as the name suggests- everything is green and blossoms. An additional benefit is that hotels and tours are available much better since there are fewer tourists in the green season. Tours like hiking and kayaking can be more worth seeing when the plants and trees unfold their whole splendor. But also City-, sightseeing- and rafting tours are a good way to enjoy Panamanian “winter” since it is only a term indicating that it rains more often than on the high season. Not that it rains all day every day.

by Marius Leidig

A short time travel to Embera –Quera Village

By Marius

Yesterday, Laura, Roberto, Marc Fabio and I went on a site inspection to an indigenous village of the Embera. After a one hour drive from Panama City, we parked our car at an unimposing parking lot next to the street. Until that moment, I was not very impressed of our trip but what came next changed my mind. We walked a couple of minutes to a small river where some interesting looking man waved to us out of a large self-made boat. Their long hair and their varicolored clothing made us realize that they must be our hosts for that day. The Embera Quera Village is a peaceful place, with friendly people, away from the noisy civilization, that can be reached only by boat. From the moment, we went aboard, our time travel begun.

The half – hour boat trip itself was an adventure. We saw a lot of wild animals like monkeys, a lot of birds, tortoises and even a caiman. In my eyes, the most impressive animal was the Jesus-Christ-lizard. As the name suggests, it is able to walk on water. . Once we arrived we were welcomed by the Embera. The women danced and the men greeted us with traditional music played on self-made instruments.

Atilano, the Chief himself, welcomed us and we learned about their culture and life in the village of the Embera- Quera. The Embera were not the only ones who were happy to see us. A cheeky baby monkey and Tony the toucan were also very curious about the new visitors. After a delicious traditional lunch the gardener and medicine man, Miguel Flaco, showed us the rest of the village and explained the curativeness of the different plants. As we walked between the traditional houses, we got a deeper insight of the life of this interesting and friendly people. I really felt like a time traveler when I saw the simple but wonderful way of life. I was deeply impressed to see people who live in such a close communion with nature. It was amazing to see the women dance their traditional dances, accompanied by the man`s instruments. We even got the chance to dance together with them. After the traditional dances we were able to buy some beautiful handmade trappings and jewelry. We learned that 10 % of their earnings are given to their Children`s educational found. By travelling to the Embera I had the chance to support those people and to see an impressive and unusual way of life.

After this experience I really wanted to spend more time in this village with its friendly people. This wonderful day will stay in my mind and in my heart forever. For more information about this tour or others do not hesitate to visit our website www.ecocircuitos.com or contact us directly at 1-800-830-7142 We are looking forward to organize a trip for you!

Interview with Annie Young J. – Director at EcoCircuitos Panama

Questions by  Hedda Rumohr Berge

Norwegian journalist

HRB: What do ecotourism stand for?

AYJ:  Well there are so many different academic definitions…Ecotourism is a form of nature-base tourism.  But the one that I like refers to the concept that ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well being of our local communities. Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas in order to enjoy and appreciate nature and also cultural features from the past and the present.  It is also a form of tourism that promotes conservation, has low negative impact from visitors and provides economic benefits to locals.

HRB: Where do it come from?

AYJ:  Ecotourism is a sub-component of the field of sustainable tourism.  If you want to know a bit more of sustainable tourism in Panama, I invite you to learn from our Association:  www.aptso.org  (Asociación Panameña de Turismo Sostenible).

Ecotourism is connected to the conservation movement. It provided a highly source of revenue to natural areas that need protection.  I worked as a volunteer in the some local NGOs when I was younger and it was a good dynamic: conservation plays an important role in the promotion of ecotourism and both can work together.

Some good resources:  The Sustainable Travel International and the Ecotourism Society.  Both organizations offer important guidelines to the private sector that promotes ecotourism.

HRB: When did Panama start ecotourism?

ACY: I started learning about ecotourism in Panama in the early 90s when the conservation movement started growing here.  I had the opportunity to be a volunteer for ANCON, a local NGO that promotes conservation of land and also worked for The Panama Audubon Society, that promotes conservation for bird’s habitats.  These two experiences give me an important insight on how the conservation could be linked to the outdoor travel.  As volunteers we visited different areas in Panama to promote conservation and environmental education.  We did field trips with donors to see bird’s habitats to National Parks, private reserves, indigenous communities, and this was my first experience as an ecotourist.

Ecotourism is a niche market that is growing… sadly not so rapidly in Panama.   Some countries, some companies and some destinations have developed ecotourism policies and we should learn from those experiences.  We need to create policies in Panama for sustainable tourism.  We are on the race but a little behind.   Costa Rica, Brazil, Chile and USA are interesting examples and we can learn from the good experiences.

HRB: What kind of people travel like this? and why should we?

ACY:  I feel that people today want to travel responsible and also want to receive guidance.  The ecotourists wants to behave responsible when travel: how can negative impacts be minimized while visiting sensitive environments and cultures?  How can we interact with local cultures without affecting them?  How can we contribute to the conservation of the visited areas?

People and travelers that are sensitive to these issues are the ecotravelers.  And to me those travelers are very important because they will demand sustainable services and with this demand good offer will arise and more conscious companies.  Ecotourism can be a highly effective tool for conservation, but it depends on committed tour operators, service providers that also want to work for the future generations.

HRB: Is the ecotourism growing? Or can it be only a trend?

ACY: It will keep growing if we have travelers behaving in a responsible way and committed with the principles of sustainable tourism. It will keep growing if more companies embrace a responsible approach in tourism and work not just for today.   Sustainable travel and ecotourism are the only way of traveling in our current world.  If we want to keep it for the future generations, this is the best way!

Annie Young J. founded EcoCircuitos Panama  in 1999. She is in charge of the Marketing and Sales Department and continually researches and creates new programs and adventures. Annie has a degree in Social Communication with an emphasis in Journalism from the University of Panama, a diploma in Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability from Stanford University in California and a Course on Environmental Management of International Tourism Development from Harvard University. She is the President of APTSO (Panamanian Association of Sustainable Tourism) and is committed to the conservation and social development of Panama through the promotion of sustainable tourism.