Responsible tourism: Panama vacation, Panama Pathways
This trip highlights some of Panama’s most significant reserves and national parks including La Amistad International Peace Park and those in Bocas del Toro. The province of Bocas del Toro hosts two national parks, one of which is a world heritage site and two protected cloud forests. The trans-boundary protected area consists of 1.4 million contiguous acres, extending from the continental divide to the Caribbean Sea, covering all five altitudinal zones known to the tropics. One park, Bastimentos National Marine Park, covers a large portion of the archipelago and is home to a variety of ecosystems which thrive at or around sea level. The other park, Palo Seco Nature Reserve, is on the mainland and reaches through the cloud forests up to and beyond the continental divide. This trip is designed to not only enjoy the flora and fauna of these reserves, but to educate travelers on the unique ecological life zones exclusive to the region.
Before the trip begins all travelers are educated on the "Do's and Don'ts" of responsible travel and how to be an active participant in preserving local ecology and culture. And as always, group size is kept to a maximum of 12 travelers to help minimize local impact. Both our guides and our travelers are all versed in and practice the “Leave No Trace” principles.
To further support and give back to the communities and environments where we send our travelers, we have developed a grant program. Our ongoing grant program provides funding for small, grassroots projects in the countries we visit. This past year, we were able to offer $10,000 in funding to several different groups including a reforestation and home restoration project in the Andes; a Christmas fiesta at an orphanage in Costa Rica; building supplies for a school in Guatemala made out of recycled materials; funds to dig a new well for proper plumbing and irrigation at a historic Bolivia hacienda; and first-aid and hospitality training for the community-owned Secoya lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. By traveling with us, you help support these projects.
This is a culture-rich trip designed to invite a cross-cultural awareness and support local community-tourism in Panama. At El Valle’s handicraft market, visitors have the opportunity to buy local products directly from the artisans, supporting both the local economy and artisan traditions. Local farmers, as well as Nobe Bugle, Wounaan and some Embera Indians come to the market to sell fruits, vegetables, plants and handicrafts. At Chagres National Park, travelers visit an Embera Drua community. The park’s protected waters supply nearly 80% of Panama City’s drinking water. The Embera community helps to introduce travelers to their culture as they share their knowledge of botany, craftsmanship, and traditional music and dance. On the San Blas islands, travelers will encounter the hospitality of the Kuna people. Officially, the islands are part of Panama, but as of 1925, after the Kuna Revolution, the islands have been administered as a “country within a country”, and lead by the Kuna themselves. Islands even have chief leaders. Thus, the islands lying within San Blas province are rich in tradition, following their own customs, laws, and legislation enabling them to preserve their natural environment and heritage. Dedicated Kuna have managed to start a grassroots movement, known as Project for the Study and Management of Wild Areas of the Kuna Yala (PEMASKY), to help protect endangered species along the Caribbean coast and to prevent outsiders from settling on their land.
Throughout the trip, travelers are accompanied by our local guides. There is no better way to learn about a place than from the people who have call that region home. Our escorted trips use local guides and support staff exclusively. Guides’ training and background varies throughout our tours. But one thing remains consistent: their enthusiasm, professionalism, friendliness and knowledge of the regions. Many of the local guides we use hold degrees in their region's history, biology, archaeology or a related field. Certification programs are required; many also participate in an apprenticeship before they are allowed to lead tours on their own. All guides are thoroughly researched and hand-picked by our staff or a trusted affiliate.
Our land tours are designed to use local existing infrastructure whenever possible. Typically, transfers are in private by locally owned transportation companies, and we occasionally use public transport when it makes sense or adds to the sense of adventure. We do this to help keep fund generated by tourism within the local communities.