Category Archives: Panama

Rainforest Lullaby

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Have you ever slept in the jungle? With the rhythm of nocturnal animals and the hum of insects soothing you to sleep? It might not be the soundless night you are familiar with, but there is a reason they make CDs of rainforest sounds with the purpose of lulling babies to sleep. It’s no secret that the noise of the jungle can be calming.

monkey in rainforestHowever, the best part of sleeping in the jungle might not be the sleeping at all. It might be waking up, to the mysterious sounds of the early risers, frolicking in the trees all around you. What will first cause you to stir? Will it be the high-pitched bird songs, the low cry of the howler monkey, the splashing of pelicans diving into the ocean for breakfast, or all of the above? You might be up early, but that’s okay. You need to set off in pursuit of those sounds.

Thinking of all this, caused me to modify one of my favorite poems:

 

 

“If Once You’ve Slept in the Jungle” {Adapted from the poem “If Once You’ve Slept on an Island” by Rachel Lyman Field}

If once you have slept in the jungle
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name, rainforest drops
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see leaves of green and colorful birds
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear birds whistle and monkeys howl
And rain beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept in the jungle,
You’ll never be quite the same.

Panama – in the (Green)Spotlight

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We’re putting Panama in the spotlight this week. Sometimes found in the shadow of other Central American countries, this unique and intriguing destination has a glow all its own and deserves to be celebrated.

panama_sunset

Speaking of celebrations…the Carnival of Panama (also known as King Momo’s party) recently took place. Each year, in the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the cultural festivities come alive – complete with night parades, elaborate costumes, dance festivals and musical groups, along avenues and in city squares. If you are an advanced planner, you might want to consider this for your next February travels.

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Albeit a spectacular display of cultural pageantry, if glitzy festivity is not your thing, the remarkable natural beauty and assortment of adventurous opportunities in Panama might catch your attention more. Slightly smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina and hugged by the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, there is an astounding amount of diversity to be found in Panama. Not only does Panama City have the largest urban population in Central America, much of the country’s flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

panama_parrot panama_sloth

Whether you are hiking through the rainforest with one eye peeled for the Resplendent Quetzpanama_snorkleals, or on a snorkeling expedition, spotting vibrant tropical fish, there is no shortage of wildlife viewing in Panama.

As always, the activity level of your adventure is entirely up to you. With some of the best eco-lodges around, you can wake up surrounded by the sounds of life in a tropical rainforest or with waves lapping the shores. Get out there and do something active, or enjoy unsurpassed hammock views and unwind, knowing that tomorrow is another day in paradise.

 

 

A Panama Indigenous Experience

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By Irene Edwards & Kelly Galaski

Our venture into indigenous culture began when our guide picked us up from our hotel in Panama City and it took about 30 minutes to get to the dock on the Chagres river in order to take a boat to the Embera village.

Embera Canoes Entrance to village

Men dressed in loincloths waited in canoes to take people across the river to the village.  The boat ride takes about 20 minutes – depending if you are in a motorized canoe called a “piragua,” or more traditional one. 

Embera arts & craftsThe women were waiting in the village, where there were people playing drums and other instruments. The area has several small villages, with about six families each.  There are small artisan shops to buy the colorful fabrics and jewelry made by the women. Their food comes from the surrounding river and forests and their own farms, such as fresh fish, plantains, and yucca (yummy!).  
Their houses are small thatched-roof open huts. The men were in charge of the music while the women performed a traditional dance.  The delicious lunch was fried tilapia and “Patacones” which are fried flattened plantains, all served on banana leaves.  Tourism here is managed by a community association that works with tour operators to bring visitors to the community to boost their income. Sometimes travelers stay with villagers for a night or two to really get the experience.   
The website for the community association, Embera Drua describes the history of how they began inviting people to their community, how they first received assistance from the Panama Tourism Board, the World Bank and local NGOs with training and to be connected with tour operators. Most of the adult members of the village are part of the association/NGO and they have elected a board of directors to work with the tour operators. They speak of the benefits tourism brings so that they can send their children to secondary school, pay for healthcare, and purchase cooking equipment and supplies. 

Embera dancing and music Embera kids

It has become pretty popular with lots of buses around at the docks. Some people argue that this type of tourism is exploitative, and others argue that it supports the communities. Depending on how the association manages the income and how the village residents feel, both sides could have some truth. We would like to pose the question to our readers.  Do you think that communities such as the Embera Drua are benefiting from having visitors to their villages and homes?

Embera home top

Panama Marine Adventures

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By Shirley Linde and Lloyd Webbe, SmallShipCruises.com 

We had been going up river about an hour with jungle on each side when we heard a single drum announcing our arrival. In minutes we were at a landing where a dozen or so villagers stood to greet us. Four musicians played drums, maracas and flute and sang. When we got on shore, sarong-clad children looked up at us with big eyes, wordlessly took us by the hand and one by one led us down a dirt path. We were visiting a village of Embera Indians, one of the highlights of a voyage in a yacht of Panama Marine Adventurers.

 Embera Indians

The yacht, named Discovery, has lived up to its name, having created a voyage of discovery for travelers who want to know the real Panama and its people. Panamanians are as colorful as the wildlife, their music as flavorful as their native foods, a blend of African, Caribbean and Spanish with dash of Chinese and European.

Discovery carries 24 passengers, Captain Rafael Munoz, 6 crew, and 2 naturalists. There are 8 queen and 4 twin cabins. The draft is shallow so the vessel can venture where few passenger vessels can, carrying clients in comfort into the shallow waters of Panama’s rivers and tributaries. There are two zodiacs, 8 kayaks, and snorkeling gear on board. The salon is the dining room and main gathering area.

Panama is just 9 degrees north of the equator, a thin strip of land that shapes the waist of the Americas.  The country offers access to many different cultures and worlds, all within reach of each other in just a few hours.  Mention Panama and most people think of the Panama Canal that draws ships and visitors from around the world. But there is more to see in Panama besides the Canal.

Continue reading this Panama Marine Aventure.

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