Educational and Academic trips in Panama.

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our guides are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity and local people.

With being one of the most biodiverse places on earth, Panama hosts world-class biological and geological experiences. With its numerous indigenous communities, colonial towns, ancient ruins and the Panama Canal, the Isthmus it is also a top-spot for historians, anthropologists and architecture lovers. What is less known, is Panama’s extensive art scene; from numerous galleries in the capital, Afro-Caribbean remains and indigenous handicrafts to artisans dating back to colonial times.

Private Reserves:  Mamoní Valley and ideal spot for neotropical studies

Located at 2.5 hours east of Panama’s international airport, and in the heart of the Mamoní Valley, lies an amazing rainforest campus amidst land manage by a non-profit organization that support Tourism and Conservation.    Their efforts supports its large-scale land conservation and habitat restoration within 28,000-acre Upper Mamoní Valley Watershed and beyond.  They offer a natural campus within a critical biological corridor that is the bridge for culture and wildlife throughout the Americas and home to many endemic and endangered species.

They have count to date 332 birds, 51 amphibians, 63 mammals, 62 reptiles and a incredible diversity of plants and trees.

We partner with this organization to offer Educational Trips for universities and high schools students interested in hands-on learning, while making a positive impact on the flora, fauna and communities in an ecological hotspot.  Some of the projects involves permaculture, wildlife observation, rainforest treks, adventures and exchange with local communities.

A fun and engaging environment for my students to learn through hands-on learning and solving real world problems.  – Nader Afzalan. Teacher at Redlands university.

EcoCircuitos has experience with programs that have been tailored to middle and high school level students and with undergraduate and graduate students. For more information contact us at: 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

A day with the Embera

By Juliette Darmon

This experience has to be lived during your trip in Panama, so save some time for one day among the Embera community!

The driver will pick you up at your hotel early in the morning for around one-hour trip until Corotú pier. There, you will board on a motorized piragua and travel for around 30 minutes through deep jungle up the Chagres River to the the Indigenous village of Emberá Drua.

Keep your eyes open during this trip, you will be fascinated by the peaceful atmosphere of the dense jungle, the fresh nature and the wildlife you could observe.

Once at the village, the Embera community welcomed us by some traditional songs and dances.

We immediately felt comfortable, thanks to their friendly and warmly personalities.

The head of the community, elected by all the indigenous, then explained us their story and culture, the reason they came here, their way of life and traditions.

It has been so interesting listening to him and learning about their life!

The Embera community used to live in Darien, but some of them decided to move due to the real hard life conditions over there. Elias, one of the two founders of the community in Chagres National Park, arrived 41 years ago and they are now 106 indigenous living in the community.

They built all their houses themselves, while the women take care of the children and spend hours for handcrafted works every day. One of them also explained us which materials did they use, how did they collect and color them, but also the way they designed their works. It’s interesting to note that the prices correspond to the number of hours the women spent for making them.

Moreover, all the children of the community are schoolchild thanks to a school they have built, managed by one teacher and one professor from the city living in the indigenous village from Monday to Saturday.

Another amazing moment was lunch time.

During our way on the morning, we stopped by a local market with our guide, in order to buy some fruits and food for lunch to bring to the community. For lunch, we have tasted some grilled fish with typical “patacones” in a real banana leaf, following by fresh fruits! To wash our hands, we had to put them in water with lemongrass prepared by the indigenous. Funny vision of soap, isn’t it? What an amazing moment shared with them! At this point, we really realized the unique experience we were living…

Then we also had some time to have a look at their handcrafted market and buying whatever we wanted to, while we were watching them working on it.

With Elias, founder and doctor/ physician of the community, we had the chance to discover his secret botanical garden…! This man, 78 years old, is really impressive, and so endearing!
He has such an healthy life! Much more than ours…! He seeded all the medicinal plants by himself and each plant is used for healing something in particular. That’s the only way the Emberas heal themselves. It even exists one typical plant when pregnant women give birth, supposed to make them not feeling any dolor…! You could buy some if you are interested in.

Anyways, we could have stayed hours listening to him…

Before leaving the community, the Emberas offered us a traditional dance and music show that they usually do for some occasions, like a baby birth, a 15-years-old ceremony, or even for the end-building of a new house!

Time to say goodbye came, and we took the piragua to come back to the coast. The driver was waiting for us and he dropped us off to the city.

Trust me, this day will stay in your mind for a while!

P.S. Take your camera, a waterproof pocket and a raincoat just in case it will rain because remember that you are going into the rainforest and deep jungle!

 

Tourism, Education and Conservation in Panama: STRI

Panama has to be considered as one of the leading destinations for students interested in tropical biology and rainforest preservation. As a land bridge between the two continents, Panama is a meeting place of over 970 species of birds from North and South America. Its tremendous biodiversity and the accessibility of its tropical forests make Panama a paradise for nature and ecological studies. Panama itself is a flower garden with more than 1500 species of trees and more than 10,000 species of plants. With two oceans washing its shores, Panama is rich in marine life.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution based outside of the United States, is dedicated to understanding biological diversity.

What began in 1923 as small field station on Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal Zone, has developed into one of the leading research institutions of the world. STRI’s facilities provide a unique opportunity for long-term ecological studies in the tropics, and are used extensively by some 900 visiting scientists from academic and research institutions in the United States and around the world every year. The work of our resident scientists has allowed us to better understand tropical habitats and has trained hundreds of tropical biologists.

STRI is the perfect partner for Academic and Educational Tours in the Tropics:

Panama’s remarkable biodiversity and the accessibility of its tropical forests make it a paradise for nature and ecological studies. Our trip will expose participants to the natural wonders of lowland tropical forest, cloud forest and coral reef ecosystems. Culturally, students will have the opportunity to interact with and learn about our local communities and to experience city life in the developing world.

Panama EcoArt Program

Discover what truly makes Panama so special, its people, land, history and culture. The Panamanian culture is translated through its art. The mola that carefully handcrafted by is Guna (Kuna indians) is a reflection of how unique this culture truly is. During this program you will travel, learn and experience the true Panama, learning in person from the people who call this land bridge their home. You will journey to six of Panama’s provinces to learn from local artisans, while they work on their masterpieces that will be used in local celebrations or could be flown halfway around the globe. This program includes visits to Guna Yala – San Blas Archipelago (molas), Chagres National Park to visit the Embera people (Cocobolo and Tagua –vegetable ivory carvings), Cocle (sombrero pintado – woven hat) and Herrera (ceramics and diablo sucio masks).  This is a complete and fun itinerary that is ideal for those who love Latin American art.  Contact us for a detailed itinerary.

Fascinating Embera Tour

By:  Amber Platschorre

Almost finishing the high season I was invited to go on one of the tours from EcoCircuitos: This time I was able to go on the Embera Tour. This tour will take you to an indigenous community and this brought me some memories that I will cherish the rest of my life.

We departed from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort to drive to Chagres National Park to enter the boats. Upon arrival at the boat entrance, I met some people of the Embera community that would take us by boat to their small village. The men were dressed in colourful skirts or they were just wearing a loincloth. Although they speak their own language, I  understood immediately that they had lots of fun about my height and my blond hair. These people are so friendly and very proud to show us their small village.

The boat trip was an adventure on its own. We werefloating in long tail canoes that took us through the rain wood. Sometimes the water was so low that the men had to push the canoe through the water to continue our journey. During the boat trip we saw some amazing birds and some of us saw a crocodile. We enjoyed the beautiful nature of this area and enjoyed the boatride through the river. The community will make sure that you feel comfortable during your trip.

Once arrived, the community greeted us their own cultural way. They were making music for us and everyone was playing an instrument. Even the little kids were greeting us their original way which made us feel warm and welcome. The guide Fabio explained us about the village and how the huts were build. Furthermore he told us about the nature, the people and their culture. Wehad the opportunity to take a look around at the village and enjoy the friendliness of the community. Furthermore there were some handcrafts for sale and communicate a bit with the community.

The community gave us a presentation about their culture, their way of living and their norms and values, all translated by the guide Fabio. Furthermore they showed us their typical customs and I got inked with Jagua. Thisblack inked is coming from plants that are growingin that area and it will stay on for more or less 2 weeks. The Embera will paint you with this Jagua and you will have a temporarily souvenir.

During the presentation lunch was served. Lots of fresh fruit, platano and fish was served. It was delicious. It think it tasted that good because it was made by the Embera community with care and love. After lunch the Embera women performed their traditional dance and invitedus to dance with them as well. The men played their instruments and it was great to be interactive witha community that is so different from the life style that I am living. I don’t speak their language and they don’t speak my language but we did understand each other.

Furthermore the oldest man from the community and besides that the chief of the community, took us for a shorthike in the rainforest to his medical garden. He explained us about these plants in this garden and he told us thathe has been helping lots of people because of his medical plants. It was very fascinating to listen to his stories and we were able to smell and taste some of his plants. Finally we returned by boat under good care of the Embera to the entrance of Chagres National Park and saidgoodbye to the people of the community. We could not stop waving to each other when we finally drove a way to Panama City. These people will stay in my memory forever.

For more information about the Embera tour, contact EcoCircuitos directly.  www.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?