Chiriqui River Rafting – Involving the indigenous community.

We at EcoCircuitos are always very concerned about offering products that do not only adhere to the best quality standards but that also benefit the local communities of Panama.  Our motto is a responsible tour operator is “enhancing the traveler’s experience through local talents”. Today I would like to introduce you to an example of this philosophy:

For our river rafting tours we are working together with the only rafting provider in Chiriqui that employs only indigenous rafting guides, and therefore provides the members of the Ngobe Bugle tribe with a great opportunity for employment and development.

The Ngobe Bugle are the most populous indigenous group in Panama, and their territory encompasses an area greater than the size of the province of Chiriqui. Employment opportunities within the Comarca are low, and many Ngobe-Bugle work in the farms and plantations of Chiriqui.

Working as guides for Chiriqui River Rafting is a great opportunity for them to find stable and respectable employment on their own land.

“We started exploring the rivers in the Ngobe Bugle territory a few years ago, and when we found they were great for rafting, it just seemed natural to train members of the community there as guides.” Says Ian Sanchez of the Rafting Company.

The guides learn a lot more than just rafting: English skills, driving a car, and the necessity of protecting their environment are just some of the other things they pick up during their training.

The economic benefits the rafting business on the rivers of the reserve have another positive side effect: They provide a strong argument against the building of dams, which is something the Ngobe Bugle have been opposing for years already.

Tourism brings their communities a viable option to improve their living situations through secure employment and already after three years the progress is remarkable.

Eusebio was one of the first indigenous guides to train with the rafting company. Today he also does other tours, kayaking and hiking, he is learning to drive a car, and he studies tourism at the university. He trains other members of the community as rafting guides, and he will certainly play a role in the further development of the community and its tourism offer.

Working as a guide, as someone who is trained in a form of tourism that brings real money, and as someone who knows about Ecotourism, and the whole industry, that brings tourism for the indigenous community to a different level. It helps the community move from being an attraction to becoming professionals, to find a sustainable form of supporting themselves through tourism.

And the rafters get the best part of the deal too: The rivers on the Ngobe Bugle Comarca are perfect for rafting, but remote enough that your group will be the only one around, and the guides who grew up around them know them like none other.

This way, our travelers can be sure to get the best rafting experience to be had in Panama, while at the same time supporting the indigenous people of Panama.

Learn more about our rafting tours at


by Meret Schueschke

Tourism as Direct Trade: Some thoughts on Responsible Travel

Benefitting Local Communities

“When you travel, you have choices around how to spend your money. You can go to the foreign owned Hilton, or you can seize your vacation as an opportunity to exercise a small form of social justice. You can eat at local restaurants, stay at hotels owned by locals, and go on tours run by people who are in and of the place you’re visiting.”

This paragraph, an excerpt from the very thoughtful article Tourism as Direct Trade, could barely be expressed any better.

Using local resources when you travel is one of the key essentials of responsible tourism. It not only helps local communities sustain themselves, it can also encourage them to value their traditions more – after all, the tradition is a big part of what we come to see.

And, most importantly, if you truly want to get to know a country, a people, a community, the only way to go is to meet the locals. So stay with the locals, take a local guide (he knows all the secret spots your travel agent at home has never heard of), and try the local food.

Who would be better to show you a country than the people who live there, who love it, and who care about its preservation, because they know their children will grow up there? And who would be better off to take your tourist dollars than the people whose land you walk on, whose hospitality you enjoy?

Choose EcoCircuitos Panama on your next trip to this Central America destination and discover why sustainable tourism is the way of the adventure now.  We want to offer unique authentic experience by a local team of Panamanians.  Contact us today!

Sharing with the children of Casa Esperanza

Christmas is the season for sharing.  The EcoCircuitos team recently participated in a beautiful celebration with the children of Casa Esperanza and had the opportunity to donate  gifts to a group of amazing children and see their smiles!

Karla Duque from EcoCircuitos while donating gifts to 75 children in Casa Esperanza

EcoCircuitos has been involve in Responsible Tourism in Panama for many years and believes in supporting different organizations by collaborating with community development and conservation activities.  Casa Esperanza support children of extreme poverty in Panama by giving them education and a home. EcoCircuitos donates to different national organizations such as Casa Esperanza in Panama.

You can support Casa Esperanza by:
• Helping local schools provide educational material and supplies – currently we are searching for funding to install a sidewalk in Darién. The lack of one currently poses a major hazard to children walking alongside the road to school. Contact us for a complete school wish list.
• Sponsor a child’s education through the scholarship program.
• Buy plants to be reforested in a biological corridor- visit local farms in the communities that neighbor a private reserve  and help plant native trees on the property that promotes environmental education and sustainable development. If you like, you can help plant the tree yourself or even better, invite a local school to join you.