Ecotourism in Panama

According to TOP-MEDICAL-SCHOOLS, about 30% of Panama’s territory is reserved for nature protection zones. There are more than 1,300 plant species in the country, many of which are relics, and about 950 bird species. Panama is considered one of the best places on the planet for bird watching.

Not far from Panama City is the Metropolitan National Park.. The park is adjacent to the Panama Canal and is the only park in Latin America that protects the tropical forest within the metropolitan area. Here, on an area of 265 hectares, you can see a variety of birds (parakeets, toucans and orioles), butterflies, small mammals (sloths, titi monkeys and anteaters) and reptiles. Also, an exhibition of orchids is open for tourists, where species that grow only in Panama are presented. Metropolitan Park has an observation deck from where you can see the Panama Canal. The information center of the park is very interesting, where you will be told in detail about the possibilities of recreation here. Of the routes, we can highlight the 45-minute Mono Titi route and parts of the historical routes of Camino de Cruces and Cienequita, which were used by the Spaniards in ancient times. The Camino de Cruces route links many national parks.

In the vicinity of Panama City, the Summit Botanical Gardens with an area of ​​250 hectares are also interesting. The gardens were formed in 1923. To date, the Summit has collected about 15,000 different exotic plants. A zoo was also set up here, where the national bird harpy eagle and tapir are represented. For harpy eagles, the zoo has one of the largest exhibition areas in the world ever created for a single species of bird. Here the life and features of this bird are presented in great detail.

Those who want to get acquainted with the whole variety of birds in the country should go to Soberania National Park. The area of the park is 20 thousand hectares. It is located 40 km north of Panama City. off the coast of the Panama Canal. Here, in the short period of time that the tour lasts, you can see the largest number of bird species. In total, there are about 200 species of birds in the Soberania National Park, among which is one of the few populations of the largest bird of prey in the world – the harpy eagle. Barro Colorado Island, along with several peninsulas of the lake, is part of the Barro Colorado National Park near Soberania National Park in Gatun Lake.. The total area of this protected area is 5.4 thousand hectares. Gatun Lake and Barro Colorado Island appeared during the construction of the canal, when a dam was built on the Chagres River. Inside the lake that arose as a result of the flood of the river, a small area of land 171 m high remained unflooded. In 1923, the island of Barro Colorado was declared a protected area. In 1946, the Tropical Research Institute began to manage the reserve, which established the Tropical Research Laboratory here. In 1979, in addition to the island of Barro Colorado, the reserve included several peninsulas and the reserve received the status of a national park. The only way to get to the park is by boat from the village of Gamboa, which is located 38 km from Panama City. In order to visit Barro Colorado National Park, you must obtain a permit from the Tropical Research Institute. Visits to the park are paid, the ticket price includes lunch at the information center of the park. The information center of the park shows films about the history of the creation of the park and about its inhabitants. Barro Colorado Island can be circumnavigated in one day. The walk along the main route lasts only 45 minutes. All routes of the park pass through the forests, where many birds live.

Not far from here, on the banks of the Chagres River, lies the Chagres National Park. It was created to protect riverbank ecosystems, which are the main sources of water for the Panama Canal, sources of drinking water for many large cities in this part of the country, and sources of electricity for cities. Panama City and Colon. The area of the park is 129 thousand hectares. Its main attractions are the Chagres River and Lake Alajuela, on the banks of which numerous colonies of birds settle. The park also offers excursions to the villages of the Embera and Wounan Indian tribes living in these protected areas. During the excursions, you can get acquainted with the culture of the tribes, preserved from ancient times, with the process of making and coloring the cake by local craftsmen. Parts of two ancient roads pass through the park, along which Europeans exported Inca gold in the 16-18 centuries – these are Camino de Cruces and Camino Real. Cerro Jefe observation platform (1007 m) offers a breathtaking view of the Panama Canal.

North of the Chagres National Park on the Caribbean coast is Portobelo National Park. Of the 34.9 thousand hectares of the park, about 20% is in the sea, the rest is occupied by tropical rainforests. Mostly tourists come here to go diving, as one of the most beautiful coral reefs in Panama is located in the coastal waters.

Of the other protected areas in the central part of the country, Altos de Campana National Park can be distinguished, which is located 60 km southwest of Panama City. The park protects tropical rain forests growing on the slopes of the mountains, and several mountain rivers. The total area of the park is 4.8 thousand hectares. The forests are home to monkeys, feral pigs, over 175 species of birds, and reptiles, including the endangered endemic golden frog. One of the main activities during the excursions is the “search” for the golden frog. From the observation points of the park you can see the Pacific coast of the country.

Further south on the east coast of the Azuero Peninsula is the Sarigua National Park. The area of the park is 8 thousand hectares. It is known for its archaeological sites – the ruins of the oldest Indian villages of pre-Columbian times, dating back to 9500-7000 BC. Fragments of ceramic objects and stone products were found here.

Also on the Azuero Peninsula is Cerro Joya National Park, which guards one of the last tracts of untouched Azuero forest.

Off the southern coast of the Azuero Peninsula, on the islands of Canas and Iguana, there are wildlife preserves. The Kanas Island Sanctuary was established in 1994 to protect a 13 km long stretch of coast where many turtles come to lay eggs every year. The most common species of turtle found here is the olive ridley turtle. In the reserve, tourists are offered nightly observations of turtles. Iguana Island Sanctuary covers an area of 53 hectares. Several species of turtles lay their eggs on the local beaches between April and September. The park also protects one of the largest reefs in the Gulf of Panama with an area of 16 hectares. Every year, humpback whales can be seen near the reefs, which migrate from the polar regions to the tropical regions through these places.

Off the west coast of the Azuero Peninsula in Chiriqui Bay is Coiba Island National Marine Park. Coiba Island is the second largest island in the Eastern Pacific (after Vancouver Island).). Its area is 49 thousand hectares. In addition to the island of Coiba, the national park includes several other small islands. The total area of ​​the park is 270.1 thousand hectares. In 1910, a prison was built on the island of Coiba, which is still there today. Because of this, the forests covering the island have remained virtually untouched by human activity. In order to visit the Coiba National Park, you must obtain permission from the directorate of the colony. Its underwater world is considered one of the richest in the world, in addition, on some islands of the park, from April to September, you can see turtles that have come here to lay eggs, and this is the only place in the country where flocks of red macaws live. Damas Bay of Coiba Island is surrounded by 135 hectares of coral reef.

Part of the La Amistad International Park is located in the far west of Panama. This is the world’s first biosphere reserve, which was created on the territory of two states. The other part of the park is located on the territory of Costa Rica. The Panamanian part of the reserve covers the mountain ranges stretching from Costa Rica, and covers an area of ​​207 thousand hectares. It is located on the territory of two provinces – Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro. The park information center in the province of Chiriqui is located in the village of Las Nubes, and in the province of Bocas del Toro – in the village of Panayungla. On the mountain slopes of the national park, there are forests inhabited by rare mountain cougars, jaguars and many birds, among which is the most beautiful bird of Central America – the quetzal. Tourists come here to go hiking, rafting, bird watching and getting to know the cultures of local Indian tribes. Volkan Baru National Park is located next to the La Amistad National Park in the province of Chiriqui.. The park is located on the slopes of the highest point in the country – Baru volcano (3475 m). It occupies an area of 14.3 thousand hectares, on which tropical rainforests and volcanic landscapes extend. You can get to the top of the volcano by jeep or on foot, but hiking is only suitable for trained tourists. In clear weather, both coasts of Panama can be seen from the top of the Baru volcano. The park also offers routes to several craters of the volcano, during the journey through which you can see a huge variety of orchids, ferns, mosses and birds, such as quetzals and toucans.

Off the northwest coast of Panama in the southern part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago is Bastimientos Island National Marine Park. This is one of the few protected areas in Latin America where wildlife, indigenous tribes of the islands and coral reefs are simultaneously protected. Many of the park’s beaches are nesting grounds for rare, endangered turtle species. Not far from here is Bird Island, which is famous for its colony of sea gulls.

In the eastern part of Panama, on an area of ​​579 thousand hectares, the Darien National Park is located.. This is the largest protected area in the country and throughout the Caribbean. The park has a colossal diversity of flora and fauna, and the park is also notable for the tribes that have lived here since time immemorial and still retain their identity. The park office is located in the village of El Real. It is located on the Darien Highway leading to Panama City. and therefore easily accessible. A permit is required to visit the park. Traveling in protected areas is allowed only with a guide, who can be hired at the park office. On the territory of the park there are mountain ranges up to 2500 m high, navigable rivers, sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangrove forests and swamps. Most of the park is covered by tropical rainforests, which are home to many endemic plant species, and about 200 species of large mammals, including such a rare species as the jaguar, and about 500 species of birds, including the harpy eagle. Two Indian tribes “Embera” and “Wounan” live on the territory of the park, in the villages of which excursions are arranged.

Ecotourism in Panama