Darien

February 15th, 2014
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Darién Province is the wildest part of Panama, southeast of Panama City and bordering Colombia. The Darién contains huge swaths of untouched jungle and indigenous peoples living much as they have for centuries. Nearly all of Panama’s 927 bird species (as many as the USA and Canada combined) can be found in the Darién making it a birder’s paradise. The problem in seeing what the Darién has to offer has always been transportation and accommodations.

Today there are several tours operating out of Panama City that will provide you with a mixture of cultural and eco tourism for a few days or a couple of weeks. For example, you can visit indigenous villages in one of the two comarcas in the Darién. Comarcas are semi autonomous regions of Panama, self governed by the indigenous people. In the Darién the Embará and Wounan tribes welcome visitors to some of their villages.

The Darién is where the Panamerican Highway gives out at the Darién Gap, a hundred mile long and thirty mile wide expanse of jungle stretching to the Colombian border. The Panamerican Highway will probably never be completed across the Darién Gap for two reasons. It is difficult terrain for building and, more to the point, Panama was a Colombian province that gained its independence in a US-supported revolution in 1903. Despite active trade and travel between the countries old memories die hard and there are no connecting roads between Bogotá and Panama City.

The Darién is home to the 1.4 million acre Darién National Park, declared a Biosphere Reserve of Humankind by the United Nations.

There is also an extensive forest reserve, the Filo de Tallo which is part of the Central American Biological Corridor that contains protected forests from Southern Mexico to the Darién.

Besides being a birder’s paradise the Darién’s Pacific coast is a fisherman’s dream. In 1961 a Texas oilman, Ray Smith, built Tropic Star Lodge, a fishing lodge a hundred miles from any roads on Piñas Bay with jungle in back and the Pacific Ocean in front. Since 1976 the Tropic Star Lodge has been operated by the Kittredge family of Orlando.

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