10 Reasons to visit Panama

There are many reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous feats of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered the exotic jungles or the weather, which is warm year round. But there is much more to discover in Panama.

El Biomuseo abre sus puertas al p˙blico el 2 de octubre de 2014.
Biomuseo Panama

 1. The Wildlife

There is an incredible number of animals living in Panama. Roughly 230 types of mammals sound impressive? and more than 1000 bird species for comparison! And then we still have not counted the reptiles, amphibians and insects…

And many of those animals are really not that hard to find.  There are butterflies as large as my entire hand. I can see Iguana from my office window. I watch pelicans catch fish in the bay on my way home from work. There are sloth, monkeys, toucans and who knows what else living within the boundaries of Panama City. So imagine what you might encounter in more remote spots…tiny brightly colored frogs, ocelots, anteaters, multicolored birds, you name it! The biodiversity here is amazing, and, nicely enough, dangerous or venomous animals are extremely rare.

 

2.  The Climate

Panama is tropical and warm all year round.  You are in an endless summer here.  You won’t need to pack too much and you’ll be able to enjoy the tropical climate throughout your vacation.

3. The cultural diversity

The Panamanian cultural diversity consists of seven indigenous groups which includes the Caribbean and Latin American sub-cultures with influences of the Spanish conquistadores. Today, the country’s population is made up of Chinese, Jewish and Arab neighbors living door to door with retired US citizens, European business people and travelers from around the world.  Everyone adds to Panama’s melting pot, making the country a bit more colorful.

 

 4. The different places to be

Well, you probably know that Panama has rainforests. Jungle excursions are a definite option here. Or, for a slight change of scenery, try the cloud forest in the highlands, where the mossy trees are covered in fog and where wild orchids flourish. But that is not all the country has to offer. There are mountains, cloudforest where world-famous coffee is grown, mangrove swamps, even a desert (imagine that, in a tropical country!). And then, of course, we have the coast, 2500 kilometers of it to be precise. Numerous beaches and islands in the Caribbean Sea and on the Pacific coast are waiting to be explored. Think crystal-clear water, white sand and the occasional coconut tree – we have it. Coral reefs? Have those too. And it’s all within easy reach. A few hours driving or a short flight is all it takes to change between these different places. There is even a national park inside Panama City! Sometimes it feels like there is a lifetime of exploration waiting for me in this country.

 

5. Is Affordable

Panama currency is the US Dollar (officially know as the Balboa).  It is an incredible affordable place to visit.

6. Is Safe

Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America.  Crime is very low and there is even a tourist police.

7. The things to do

I do not even know where to start on this one. Adventure? There is river rafting, rock climbing and wilderness expeditions in the jungles of Darien, to name just a few…of course, there is kayaking as well, mountain biking, horseback riding, any kind of outdoor sports really. Or maybe you like golf? Tennis? Sailing? I personally love the great surfing and diving spots that can be found in both oceans, and the wonderful beaches. And when I had enough activity, there are so many hidden island retreats and luxurious spa options that help me disconnect from the world for a bit…

 

8. Panama City and Casco Viejo

Panama City deserves a visit. Shopping malls, little art galleries and amazing restaurants wait there. Every weekend brings a new event, a festival, a concert or an exhibition. The beautiful Casco Viejo, the colonial style old quarter, which is actually UNESCO World Heritage, is always worth a visit.  I love the combination of old and new Panama City offers, traditional crafts and modern art, old buildings set against the backdrop of the modern skyline…I think it would take me a lifetime to discover all Panama City has to offer.

 

9. An International hub  

Panama is an airline hub that connects Central America with the rest of the world. Almost every major airline flights to Panama today:   United, Copa, American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Iberia, Turkish Airlines, Avianca, Aeromexico among others.

10. Amazing Gastronomy

Panama’s local cuisine infused with fresh local produce, seafood and other unique ingredients are competing against other great well known culinary destinations in Latin America.  Panama offers a wide choice of restaurants to suit everyone’s taste and budget. From great cuisine and international chefs to real Panamanian food experience.   I love to eat out and here are my suggestions to make your gastronomic experience in Panama City unforgettable.

There are a million more things that I could talk about, but I do not have the space here…best discover it for yourself. The one thing I can promise, whatever you like to do, Panama is definitely worth a visit.

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Testing the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis in Panama

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Could alcoholism in humans be an evolutionary hangover? Robert Dudley, professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley believes so. His “Drunken Monkey Hypothesis” suggests that fruit-eating primates —such as BCI’s spider monkeys—may be drawn to naturally occurring ethanol in the fruits they consume. Frugivorous primates have been eating fermented fruit for 40 million years. The health benefits of low-level alcohol consumption are consistent with an ancient and potentially adaptive exposure to this common, psychoactive substance.

Christina Campbell, associate professor of Anthropology at California State University Northridge, who has studied behavior, ecology and reproduction of spider monkeys, Ateles groffroyi, since 1996, is back on BCI with graduate student, Victoria Weaver, to test Dudley’s hypothesis. They will measure the ethanol concentration in the sugary fruits of Spondias mombin, a mango relative extremely important in the monkeys’ diet.

Christina and Victoria will be running through the forest chasing spider monkeys to collect fallen fruits and/or urine samples (which will be tested for an ethanol metabolite) until September 2014.