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.

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Tips for crossing the border from Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama

The border between Costa Rica and Panama, on the Caribbean side of these two countries, is the Sixaola River. The town on the Costa Rican side of the river is called Sixaola, here you will visit customs to check out of the country of Costa Rica and meet your contact from Panama. You will walk across the bridge to enter Panama with your new driver, leaving your Costa Rican driver to return home. The town in Panama, across the Sixaola River, is called Guabito.

The drive in Panama will take you across the low flood plains of the Sixaola and Changinola river valley’s. This area collects the watershed from the massive Talamanca mountain range, which extends through both countries. This is an important wetland for many species of tropical flora and fauna and includes habitats such as rivers, humid lowland forest, mangroves, coastal lagoons and other marine coastal environments.

A wetland reserve taking in the most of the coastal region of this area is called the San San Pond Sak (Humedal de San-San Pond Sak). This sparsely populated area is home to several endangered species such as manatees (sea cows), hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles.

Next you will come to Changinola, home of United Fruit Co. /Chiquita Brands Intl., this town is older than the country itself and thick on lore of a bygone era when it was simply known as, The Banana Republic.

Crossing the bridge over the Changinola river is like stepping back in time, you might have to stop and wait for the company train to pass over first, it is only a one lane bridge. From here you will be entering the densely forested foothills of the Talamanca Range. Just up in these mountains is La Amistad Bi-national Park, some 2 million acres in size, it is jointly protect on both sides of the border. This represents one of the largest protected tracts of primary forest in Central America, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Keep an eye on edge of the canopy, the wildlife is spectacular. You will be passing over several elevated bluffs with spectacular views of Bocas del Toro Archipelago below.

The location of this unique site in Central America, where Quaternary glaciers have left their mark, has allowed the fauna and flora of North and South America to interbreed. Tropical rainforests cover most of the area. Four different Indian tribes inhabit this property, which benefits from close co-operation between Costa Rica and Panama.

After several small pueblos, you will be passing the outskirts of Almirante, another antiquated banana town. About 12-13 miles outside of Almirante, at kilometer marker 48 ½, is a yellow sign and pink gate for La Escapada. This small eco lodge is built on a steep slope near the waters edge, the grounds are beautiful, and the birdlife is outstanding. Here you can take a short break and stretch your legs, or have a cold beverage and watch the marine life from the dock.  The boat will be waiting there to transfer to the hotel of your choice.  Tranquilo Bay is our suggested lodge for coming days.  From here it is a beautiful 45-minute boat ride to your final destination. The ocean leg of your journey will take you across Bahia Almirante passing Sheppard and San Cristobal Islands, and into Dark Land. The glassy calm and emerald green sea, and the long shadows from the steep mountainous terrain, blend to make an intense surrounding. A narrow channel passes into another smaller lagoon named Boca Torito, or little bull’s mouth. It is here where the mother dolphins bring their calves to rear. Leaving the dolphins behind, we will enter Bastimentos National Marine Park, the mangrove islets, sea grass beds and coral flats are stunning. Oceanic birds such as brown boobies, magnificent frigates, and brown pelicans will be feeding on marine wildlife that is fleeing from predators below. As we round the southern peninsula of Isla Bastimentos, we will have our first glimpse of the Zapatilla Keys, and the lodge for the next days:  Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure lodge.

Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve

EcoCircuitos staff visited Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve, located in Los Pozos Volcan at 6 miles up a scenic 4WD road.  We enjoyed a two day hiking adventure and superb birdwatching, including spotting a male Quetzal and a Black and Crested Guan among other species. 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. The reserve is in a remote wilderness location with cabins and lodge that offers all the basic amenities thanks to a sustainable off the grid micro hydro power plant that taps the power of a nearby stream. For 2015 EcoCircuitos is offering a 4 day adventure at Mount Totumas Private Reserve – where you can experience the real beauty of the Cloud forest.  If you are an avid birder,  a hiker or just love wildlife observation and conservation, this is the adventure for you.   Contact us for more information:  www.ecocircuitos.com

Bird List Mount Totumas Cloud Forest:

Highland Tinamou

Black Guan
Crested Guan
Grey-headed Chacalaca

Spotted Wood Quail

Cattle Egret

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Swallow-Tailed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
Ornate Hawk Eagle

Broad-winged Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Great Black Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Yellow Headed Caracara

Collared Forest Falcon

American Kestrel
Bat Falcon

Spotted Sandpiper

Band-Tailed Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon

Buff-Fronted Quail Dove

Chiriqui Quail Dove

White-Tipped Dove

Sulfur-winged Parakeet

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Blue-Headed Parrot
Brown-hooded Parrot

Spectacled Owl
Mottled Owl

Bare-shanked Screech Owl

Common Pauraque

Dusky Nightjar

White-Collared Swift

Vauxs Swift

Scintillant Hummingbird
Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird

Stripe-Tailed Hummingbird

Purple-Throated Mountain Gem

White-throated Mountain Gem

Green Hermit

Violet Sabrewing

Magnificent Hummingbird

Green Violet-Ear
Brown Violet-Ear

Green-Crowned Brilliant

Snowy Bellied Hummingbird
Magenta-throated Woodstar
Purple-crowned Fairy
Long-billed Starthroat
Snowcap
Resplendent Quetzal

Collared Trogon
Orange-bellied Trogon

Blue-Crowned Motmot

Blue-throated Toucanet
Fiery-billed Aracari
Prong-billed Barbet

Red-Headed Barbet

Acorn Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-Crowned Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Golden-Olive Woodpecker
Olivaceous Piculet

Ruddy Tree Runner

Lineated Foilage-Gleaner

Spectacled Foilage-Gleaner

Spotted Barbtail
Red-Faced Spinetail

Spot-crowned Woodcreeper

Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Buffy Tuftedcheek
Streak-breasted Treehunter

Silvery-fronted Tapaculo

Mountain Elaenia

Yellow-Bellied Elaenia

Torrent Tyrannulet

Common Tody-Flycatcher

Rough-legged Tyranulet

White-Throated Spadebill

Tufted Flycatcher

Ochraceous Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee
Olive-sided Flycatcher

Dark Pewee

Yellow-bellied Flycatcherr
Black Phoebe
Yellowish Flycatcher

Bright-Rumped Atitla

Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Panama Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee

Social Flycatcher

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Golden-bellied Flycatcher

Streaked Flycatcher

Tropical Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Masked Tityra

White-Winged Becard
Barred Becard
Three-Wattled Bellbird
Yellow-winged Vireo

Yellow-Throated Vireo
Brown-capped Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Rufous-Browed Peppershrike

Silvery-Throated Jay
Brown Jay

Blue and White Swallow
Barn Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Ochraceous Wren

House Wren

Grey-Breasted Woodwren
Southern Nightingale-Wren

American Dipper

Mountain Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush

Black-faced Solitaire

Orange-Billed Nightingale Thrush
Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush
Black-billed Nightingale Thrush

Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush

Swainsons Thrush
Wood Thrush
White-throated Thrush

Black and Yellow Silky-Flycatcher

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher

Black and White Warbler

Wilsons Warbler
Canada Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler
Magnolia Warbler

Collared Redstart

Slate-throated Redstart
Black cheeked Warbler

Buff-rumped Warbler
wrenthrush

Mourning Warbler

Flame Throated Warbler

Golden Winged Warbler

Three Striped Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Tennessee Warbler

Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

Common Bush Tanager

Sooty Capped Bush Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager

Summer Tanager

Flame Colored Tanager
Cherrie’s Tanager

Blue Grey Tanager

White Winged Tanager

Bay Headed Tanager

Spangle Cheeked Tanager

Golden-Hooded Tanager

Scarlet-Thighed Dacnis
Red-legged Honeycreeper

Buff-throated Saltator

Streaked Saltator

Yellow-faced Grassquit
Blue-Black Grassquit

White-naped Brush Finch

Yellow-thighed Finch

Chestnut Capped Brush Finch

Large Footed Finch

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Slaty Flower-piercer

Baltimore Oriole
Eastern Meadowlark

Shiny Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird

Great-Tailed Grackle

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Elegant Euphonia
Spot-crowned Euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Golden Browed Chlorophonia
Yellow-bellied Siskin

* Elevation range from 1500 to 2200ft (including Rio Colorado drainage in La Amistad National Park)

** Last updated May 6, 2014

Discover the Bocas del Toro Jungle with the Nasso People

The Naso, also known as the Teribe, have been the inhabitants of the mountainous jungle region of the northwestern corner of Panama since long before the Spanish colonizers ever reached the shores of Central America. Although the Naso were once a large celebrated tribe of warriors, the arrival of the Spanish in the 17th century led to a decimation of the Naso population with war, relocation, and disease. Today, the remaining Naso live in 11 small communities located along the Teribe River amid the lush forest of the La Amistad International Park.

The basis of Naso life, both historically and today, is the Teribe River. Although called the Teribe by the Spanish, the original Naso name for the river is Tjër Di. ‘Di’ means ‘water’ and Tjër is the “Grand-Mother”, the giver of life and guiding spiritual force of the Naso ancestors.

The Naso are proud to be the only remaining monarchy in the Western Hemisphere. The population of about 3,500 Naso people all pay allegiance to the king, who resides in his royal palace in the community Sieyik, the center of the Naso region, located approximately two hours upriver from Soposo Rainforest Adventures. The king governs with the help of his consejo (board of advisers), representatives drawn from the various communities. The Naso reserve the right to switch kings if they become unhappy with him. They can vote him out, but the replacement has to come from the royal family.

The Naso have maintained their close connection with the earth for centuries. Although they have always been dependent on the bounty of the rain forest, the Naso culture has strict regulations that prohibit the exploitation and over use of these resources. Because of that cultivated sense of conservation among the Naso, their rain forest home still exists much as it did hundreds of years ago. Today, however, the Naso find their very survival, and that of their children threatened. Many Naso are forced to leave behind their homes, family and culture to seek out jobs in urban areas. Those that remain in their ancestral homelands are feeling increasing pressure from outsiders intent on overfishing, over hunting and over harvesting their trees. Even more frightening are the multiple hydroelectric projects approved by the Panamanian government that threaten to displace Naso communities and destroy their remaining natural resources and cultural identity.

Although several of Panama’s other indigenous tribes have received large tracts of land from the Panamanian government that are designated as reservations for those tribes, the Naso still do not have comarca (reservation) status for their land. The Naso continue to fight for the creation of a130,000-hectare comarca of their own, but it is seeming more and more unlikely with the governmental interest in profiting from the resources that the Naso have depended on and protected for centuries.

We offer day trips, overnight trips and great adventures in the Jungle of the Bocas del Toro. For more information and tours, contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com or call at + 507 3140068 http://www.ecocircuitos.com