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

How long have Native American peoples lived on the Isthmus of Panama?

From STRI.org

All Native American peoples in Central and South America descend from Northeast Asians who travelled down the Pacific Coast 20,000-15,000 years ago, settling in Chile by 14,500 years ago.Image

If migrants travelled along the coast, their camps in Panama were submerged as sea levels rose when the last ice age was ending, leaving no trace.

Nor did humans make any impact on forests near La Yeguada (Veraguas) until 13,200 years ago when clearing and burning began. At this time Clovis hunters camped at the Vampiros rock shelter (Coclé) and made Clovis stone spear points and hide scrapers at nearby Sarigua (Herrera). They probably hunted mastodons and giant ground sloths.

By 6000 years ago maize, manioc and squash had arrived from their respective domestication centers in Mexico and South America. Farming expanded and settlements became larger and more permanent.

Panama’s seven Native American peoples descend from earlier populations living on or near the Isthmus for thousands of years. Eighty percent of modern Panamanians have a Native American woman as their original female ancestor.

For more information see the complete article by staff scientist Richard Cooke: How long have Native Americans lived in Panama?

Sailing in San Blas – Kuna Yala

San Blas Archipelago, also known as the region of Kuna Yala, is formed by 365 coral islands and remains one of the best kept secrets in the Caribbean for sailing charter. The best and most privileged way to discover San Blas is by sailing among its white sand islands and beautiful turquoise waters. Come on board and discover it with us!

Day 1: Arrival in the morning of guests in Cartí. We will pick them up for embarkation on our sailboat to start the charter. Visit of a small Kuna village to discover their traditions and craftworks.

Day 2: We will sail to Cayos Limon. Snorkel on a sunken ship covered in multicoloured coral and surrounded by crystal clear waters. Anchor at this idyllic spot to enjoy sunset and spend the night.

Day 3: After breakfast, we set sail to Kuanidup. Stroll on a small island, inhabited only by aKuna family in charge of the cocunut palms. Swim and snorkel among the nicest coral reefs. Delicious fresh fish and seafood barbecue aboard.

Day 4: We will pull up the anchor and set sail to Corazón de Jesús. We will anchor on theway to enjoy swimming and snorkeling on another pristine coral. Visit of a traditional Kunavillage.

Day 5: Guest’s disembark soon in the morning, to take the flight back to Panama City.

Note: we offer custom made itineraries and also sailing tours to Bocas del Toro.

For prices and full itineraries, please contact us at annie@ecocircuitos.com or sales@ecocircuitos.com