Indigenous Guna and Embera People: Caribbean Islands and Rainforest

Chagres National Park
In a dugout canoe you go upriver to visit an indigenous Embera village in the extensive Chagres National Park. You will learn about their culture, their traditional way of life and their well-organized life with day tourism. The national park protects the upper Chagres River watershed and provides a big part of the water for the Canal and the drinking water for Panama City. An indigenous botanist will show you rainforest plants and their use for healing. Enjoy a swim in the pools of the river or at a waterfall in midst of the emerald rainforest.  (1 hour drive from P. City)

Option:
Stay overnight on the platform of a traditional house sleeping on comfortable mattresses in a tent. Explore the rainforest and streams with pools for swimming on the second day. This an easy version of our Darien expedition.

Bayano Lake
Combine a visit to an indigenous Embera village with a boat tour on Bayano Lake, created as a hydroelectric reservoir in 1975. Learn about their daily life of subsistence agriculture and hike along a river looking for a nice pool for swimming. Explore a cave canyon with refreshing cool water. Option: Stay overnight and a make an excursion to the rainforest. (3 hour drive from Panama City)

The unique world of the Gunas

The two day trip (or more) to the Caribbean coral islands in the indigenous Guna Yala territory (San Blas) is the perfect complement to your Pacific expedition.

The San Blas Archipelago of Guna Yala consists of 360 coral islands spread along 230 km Caribbean rainforest coast of the indigenous Guna (formerly written Kuna) people. You stay on a small island with traditional built cabins, palm trees and surrounded by a reef. Tours to other small islands give you plenty opportunities for snorkeling, relaxing, enjoying the white sand and the turquoise waters. You visit a traditional village on a small island to learn about the unique culture of the Guna people. Excursions to the rainforest can be organized.

(The Gunas are making efforts to keep their coral reefs as one of the healthiest in the Caribbean. Reserves are being set up and awareness programs of sustainable use for locals and visitors are on their way. To prevent over exploitation of marine resources only free diving is permitted, it is a non-SCUBA area.)

Options:

  • Transport by road (3 h)
  • Stop on the way to visit the rainforest
    Flight (30-45 min.)
  • Trekking through the rainforest over the continental divide to the coast (1.5 days), visit a Guna village and stay on coral reef islands (total 4-5 days, 3 nights), return by car or by air
  • Small lodge (access only by air) or simple cabins

Since Guna Yala is a remote area we recommend coming back one day before your international flight.

Simple Cabin
Travel early in the morning by vehicle over continental divide through the rainforest to the coast (3h), transfer to on one of the most beautiful islands, simple traditional cabins (sand floor, shared bathrooms). Transport from the coast to the island, all meals, and daily tours included. Travel back during morning or around midday. If wished, arrangements can be done to make an excursion into the rainforest on the way over the continental divide.

Option: transport by plane.

Lodge with private bathroom
Travel by plane only (6:00 am, and flying back at about 7:00 am)
Beautiful cabins with private bath. Transport from the coast to the island, local taxes, all meals and daily tours included.

Darien Expedition
Darien, the province where the Panamarican Highway ends in the rainforest and home of the indigenous Embera people, is one of those mystic places on earth. In the Embera territory and rainforests you will still find the authentic spirit of humans living with and from nature. We will travel either by car and dugout canoe or by plane to remote places where settlers and cattle ranchers haven’t reached yet. Here you will witness the genuine way of life of the friendly Embera people. Short or longer hikes take us to the rainforest or to different villages. We will overnight in tents in a village or in the rainforest. In some places we offer accommodation in simple cabins.

Options:

  • This expedition can be done in 2-7 days; we recommend staying at least 3 nights in the Darien
  • Trekking through the rainforest
  • Bird watching: Darien-specialties and forest birds such as the Harpy Eagle make this a great opportunity to observe many bird species not to be found in the rest of Panama or Central America.

We recommend our combination to visit Guna Yala after the Darien expedition on the way back.