• Camino Real Trek
  • Chagres River Hike & Paddle
  • Hike & Paddle Camino de Cruces
  • Rick Morales
  • Jim Morales
  • Segundo Sugasti
  • Beatriz Schmitt
  • Cesar Gonzalez
  • Kandi Valle
  • How we do it

Darien Gap Expedition

Private trek only.

Currently, we only offer this trip on a private basis and for a minimum of four (4) people.

5 days / 4 nights |  12 days / 11 nights  |   14 days / 13 nights

Explore the inside of one of Central America’s most fabled regions, the Darien. With its exuberant rainforests, endless meandering rivers, and its local people, here is an expedition of a lifetime. Our shortest trip is five (5) days long which includes one travel day in, three (3) days trekking through the jungle, and one travel day back to Panama City. Our longest trek is 14 days total. However we can customize just about any itinerary.

Note : At the moment we are unable to offer this trek for solo travelers, or any groups with fewer than four (4) participants. Also, we require at least six (6) months in advance to organize a trek due to a high demand of dates on our calendar . 

Play

Darien Jungle Cruises & Tours

Top darien jungle travel destinations, why travel with adventure life, recognized by.

panama darien jungle tours

Ecotour Darien

panama darien jungle tours

  • See all photos

panama darien jungle tours

Trekking In Darien 5 Days Adventure Tour To Playa Muerto

panama darien jungle tours

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Silvan

Ecotour Darien - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

panama darien jungle tours

The Darien is one of the most famous and yet least visited regions of Panama. The large undiscovered rainforest area of the Darien National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and counts towards the wildlife-richest areas in the world. The Darien is also a hotspot for birders, with the possibility to spot several different rare species, like the Harpy Eagle. Being hardly accessible, the region is home to several different indigenous communities, who live off  of hunting, fishing and farming.

panama darien jungle tours

Jungles of the Darien

panama darien jungle tours

Canopy Camp

Tao Travel 365 | Darien Jungle In 3 Days - Darien Gap | Tao Travel 365

  • Anton Valley “El Valle”
  • Bocas del Toro
  • Colón Province
  • Panama City
  • Pearl Islands “Las Perlas”
  • San Blas Tours
  • Baja California
  • Mexico City
  • Riviera Maya
  • French Polynesia

We would like to know your opinion about %s

Please score the following:

What did you like about the %s?

What did you not like about the %s, use the form below to contact us directly..

Please complete all required fields.

Booking details

Submit booking, confirmation, booking info.

First name:

Special requirements:

Total price:

We wish you a pleasant trip Tao Travel 365

panama darien jungle tours

Availability

You will be redirected to cart shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Use the calendar below to book this tour.

This is a daily tour.

Who is joining in?

Please select number of adults and children joining the tour using the controls you see below.

Extra items

Please select the extra items you wish to be included with your booking using the controls you see below.

The summary of your tour is shown below.

We are sorry, this tour is not available to book at the moment

Darien Jungle in 3 days – Visit the mysterious Darien Gap

It is a forgotten place, a savage place that shows us the best and worst in us all.  The dense jungle topography of the Darien Gap has long been the disastrous end of many adventurers, swallowing lost souls in its ancient embrace. The aura of the jungle, of a million wild souls, is as tangible as water when one bathes. It is another sense, one that comes to the heart rather than the eyes, as soaked in richness as they are.

​Both ambitious human aspirations and ultimate despair cross paths in this mystical place, drawing all manner of people into its grasp.  Trafficked by merciless smugglers and hopeful migrants alike, the Darien Gap has seen and claimed countless of travelers, while only a few lucky ones were given the privilege to escape its dark fangs. 

If you are still reading this, you are most likely an adventurer who will most likely enjoy a trip into raw nature, meeting ancient cultures and participating in their rituals and customs. We are offering expeditions into the Darien jungle for various different degrees of adventure levels. Your personal guide will customize your experience depending on your ambitions and physical constituency.

TOUR OVERVIEW

Day 1: visit palma darien and boat ride on the sambu river to la chunga villages.

We recommend that you arrive at La Palma Darien the day before and stay the night at the La Tuira hotel (~$25 per person). The next morning, at 6:30am, you will be picked up from your hotel by one of our staff. After an information session and a tour of the community you will embark on a fast two-hour boat ride through the beautiful bay of San Miguel before reaching the mouth of the Sambu river. As you progress deeper into the flooded rainforest, the landscape will change as your boat weaves through thick mangrove trees. After two hours we arrive at the Embera village of La Chunga. On the way you will see traditional Embera huts built on stilts and probably some specimen of the local fauna such egrets, herons and, with a bit of luck, a caiman lying on the muddy riversides.

 **Overnight at the Eco-Lodge La Chunga**

Day 2: Hike in primary Rainforest of the Darien Gap

In the morning you will hike on one of the Corredor Biologico Bagre rainforest trails. This is an impressive journey under towering trees through a remarkable ecosystem with an incredible biodiversity: rare animal species such as the black-headed spider monkey (ateles fusciceps) can be spotted with a bit of luck. The beautifully colored poison darts frogs are often seen on the forest litter. Passing under the virescent canopy is like walking over hundreds of years of fallen leaves, billions of insects and more roots than God himself could map on a sunny afternoon. This place is so alive it makes the city seem barren, even with it's millions of people. Here life is at every level, in every direction, with more species that have ever been, and likely ever will be, classified.

After dinner back in La Chunga, if weather allows, we will venture out again, into the dark, trying

to spot some of the nocturnal species and listening to the jungle come alive.

**Overnight- Eco-Lodge La Chunga**

Day 3: Cultural Interaction with the Emberas

You will discover more aspects of the rich Embera culture. Your hosts will tell you about their history, their political organization and take you to their fields surrounding the village. You will enjoy their traditional music and dances. They will explain you how they make their beautiful and unique handicrafts: delicately weaved baskets and masks made with two kinds of palm fibers for the women, spectacular wooden sculptures made of hard cocobolo wood and wonderful small art pieces made of vegetable ivory (tagua) for the men.

If the weather allows it you will make a short night walk after dinner.

Day 4: Return from La Chunga Village to Panama City via Puerto Kimba

After saying goodbye to your Embera hosts, you will leave early in the morning, following the many river turns in the middle of the thick mangrove. You will come back to Puerto Kimba where your vehicle or public transportation will be waiting for you for the transfer back to your hotel in Panama City.

Note: Itineraries are not bound to specific hours of the day depending mainly on the tides

of the Pacific Coast communities in Darien.

LODGING & MEALS

The sound of nature is a symphony unlike another. Its music will lull you to sleep as you lie comfortably in your bed, in the middle of the jungle.

The traditional, palafita-style cabins are built on stilts or that rise approximately three meters above the ground. These typical structures are known as "Bujia" (literally, "large house") and are generally constructed along the rivers of the region.

  • Breakfast: cooked local vegetables (yuca, name, otoe) accompanied by boiled eggs and fresh shellfish prepared in tomato sauce and natural herbs of choice. Breakfast is accompanied by a cup of coffee or natural tea (sweetened teas are available upon request). Bread and pancakes are optional.
  • Lunch: Seafood (including fish of the day, fresh shrimp, and lobsters when in season) or meat (chicken, beef, or pork), accompanied by boiled or mashed potatoes. Traditional Panamanian meals include a plate of rice and beans or other legumes (porotos, lentils) and fried plantains (patacones). Lunch is accompanied by fresh orange juice, lemonade, or coconut water. A sampling of delicious tropical fruits may also be available.
  • Dinner: served at sunset, dinner includes a light plate of vegetables with cooked meat and fresh orange juice or lemonade. This will be followed by chicheme, a delicious treat of cooked corn, with or without coconut milk, natural fruits, and drinks.
  • Optional: vegetarian meals are available upon advanced notice. Options include native vegetables and legume accompaniments such as beans, poroto, lentils, and guandu. These meals come with an accompaniment of fresh coconut juice, orange juice, or lemonade.

The Eco-Lodge La Chunga features:

  • 2 private Bujias with double beds
  • 1 shared Bujia that has 2 rooms with 3/4 beds and 3 rooms with double beds
  • Potable water in all Bujias
  • Shared bathrooms and showers
  • Gas lantern use at night (no electricity available)
  • Small restaurant with refreshments
  • First-aid equipment

Shared Cabin:

panama darien jungle tours

Rooms with double bed:

Rooms with single bed:

panama darien jungle tours

Private Buja with double bed:

panama darien jungle tours

Bathroom with shower:

panama darien jungle tours

WHAT’S INCLUDED

  • Accommodations for 3 days and 3 nights in Eco-lodge La Chunga in the traditional, indigenous community, or camping tents during the hikes
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • Entrance fee to Corredor Biologico Bagre (National Park Darien)
  • Observation of flora and fauna
  • Guides with experience who speak English and Spanish
  • Hikes to the jungle
  • Traditional Emberá hut with full board
  • Fee for the indigenous community
  • Motor boats and canoe transports
  • Luggage attendant support

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED

  • Transportation from Panama City to Darien and back (please see "Getting Here")
  • Puerto Kimba Boat taxi to La Chunga ($35 each way)
  • Alcoholic Beverages and soft drinks

WHAT TO BRING

  • Passport will be required when checking in with the immigration booths at Darien and Puerto Quimba
  • Guests may carry flashlights for personal use
  • Strong footwear (hiking boots and/or sandals)
  • Mineral bottle water and soft drinks
  • Waterproof coat or jacket
  • Cap, hat, or bandana
  • Hiking and/or cargo pants (no jeans)
  • Mosquito/Bug Repellent
  • Sheets or sleeping bag (the jungle can get cold)
  • Personal utensils
  • Camera and/or video camera
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Open mind and strong will

Note: You will be able to rent advisable equipment in La Chunga such as boots, waterproof coats, jacket and camping gear

IMPORTANT ADVICE

Visitors to the darien jungle are advised to be vaccinated against malaria.

  • Everyone suffering from heart disease has to show a medical examination clearing you to take part in strenuous activities. This tour is recommended for people in good health and in good condition.
  • All accommodations are located in indigenous communities. You will sleep in a indigenous cabins and/or tents. A sleeping bag and a sleeping pad will be offered to you.
  • Toilet facilities are really basic pit toilets
  • The accommodation in La Chunga village is rustic, but has comfortable beds with fan and mosquito nets. The bathroom has running water
  • There is no electricity available
  • You will spend your last night in La Chunga
  • Travel to the Darien Jungle is enjoyable all year long, however, the best time to visit is the dry season, which lasts from January to July
  • Itinerary may vary depending on weather conditions

GETTING HERE

There are two ways to get to La Palma, Darien. Please let us know at least 15 days in advance of your travel plans so that we can make all arrangements.

Option 1: Private Plane from Albrook Airport

We highly recommend this option for groups of 15 to 20 guests. You can charter a private airplane taking you directly to Sambu airport, which is located a short 10 minute boat ride away from La Chunga

Option 2: Public transportation from Albrook Bus Terminal

  • Take a bus from Albrook Bus Terminal to Darien-Meteti (5 hours and approx. $9)
  • Connect at Meteti Bus Terminal onto a smaller bus to Puerto Quimba (30 min and $2)
  • In Puerto Quimba take a Sambu Water Taxi to La Palma where you will spend the night at Hotel Tuira (30 min and $5 for water taxi and approx $20 for hotel)

Once arrived in La Palma, please spend the night at the La Tuira hotel (~$20 per guest). The next morning, at 6:00am, one of our employees will meet you at the hotel to take you on the boat ride to La Chunga.

*Please note that the price paid the the tour does not include Transportation to and from La Chunga. Upon start of your tour the next morning, you will embark on a two hour speed boat ride to La Chunga which costs $22 per Guest each way.

** Traveling to Darien requires that you to check-in with the immigration booths at Darien and Puerto Quimba. They will only ask you for your Passport Information and how long you will be staying. If there are any problems, just explain that you are tourists.

CANCELATION POLICY

Please read our Tour Cancelation Policy before booking.

TOUR CANCELATION POLICY

Tao Travel 365 strives to deliver the best possible customer experience. If at any point you have a question or concern about our service, please call us by phone at +1 (805) 826-3657 or email us at [email protected].

The following cancellation policy applies only for Day Tours (DOES NOT apply for Multi-Day Tours).

TOUR POLICIES

Due to the nature of our business, the logistics involved with organizing tours and the high reservation demand following refund policies apply:

  • 100% refund less credit card processing fees will only be granted if booked via our website www.taotravel365.tours AND if canceled more than 7 days before the start of the tour.
  • 50% refund less credit card processing fees will be granted for cancellations received less than 7 days AND more than 48 hours before the tour start date.
  • No refund will be granted for cancelations received less than 48 hours before the tour start date.

All sales are final.

For all bookings made via outside portals such as, but not limited to Viator, Expedia, Airbnb, please refer and adhere to the respective cancellation policy of the portal that you booked with. If you are unable to realize the reservation, contact us as soon as possible and we will try to arrange and reschedule the same or different tour for you. If you are not at the designated meeting point by the time of your scheduled reservation or pick up, Tao Travel 365 reserves the right not to provide a refund. However, we will always try our best to locate you at the meeting point and call your WhatsApp number, if one was provided. After all, we want you to participate in our tour and have fun. That is our goal!

CANCELED OR POSTPONED TOURS

Occasionally, tours are canceled or postponed due to weather or ocean conditions, mechanical failure, or other unforeseen events. Should this occur, we will attempt to contact you about the cancellations and to inform you of refund or exchange procedures for that tour. For exact instructions on any canceled or postponed tour, please contact us. In the case of a cancellation of your tour by Tao Travel 365, we will refund your tour or schedule you for another tour, as detailed below.

All sales are final. No refunds are available unless a tour is canceled or postponed, or we are given 48 hours advance noticed whereby a 50 percent refund will be awarded. We will offer refunds of the full face value of the tour(s) that are canceled or postponed (or, if a discounted tour, then instead the discounted tour price paid). No refunds are offered on any service, payment processing or convenience fees.

To receive a refund for a canceled or postponed tour, contact us at [email protected] within 3 days of the tour cancellation and write "refund" in the subject line. Instructions will be provided in order to obtain your refund.

TOUR EXCHANGES

No tour exchanges are offered by Tao Travel 365. While in some extreme cases we may offer this service (such as a cancellation by Tao Travel 365), it is not guaranteed and often impossible. Contact us directly by phone at +1 (805) 826-3657 or by email at [email protected] to inquire about tour exchanges. Fees may apply.

unnamed 1

sa***@ta**********.tours

panama darien jungle tours

+507-6109-3118 +1 (805) 826-3657 +1 (805) TAO-365 7

panama darien jungle tours

Ave 5B Sur Panama City, Panama

WhatsApp us

Site logo

For everyone there is a different desire for adventure and therefore a different expectation and search for a unique experience. We offer three different tours so that you can find exactly what you are looking for!

Indigenous Homestay

Our Indigenous Homestay Tour for the traveller looking for an authentic experience living with an Indigenous Emberá family. Our family welcomes you at our home and eat the same food.

panama darien jungle tours

Birdwatching

Specialized bird watching tour, guided by our Indigenous guides. Go searching for the Harpy Eagle and learn from the people who have inhabitated the forest for decades while discovering the biodiversity of the Darién.

Jungle Expedition

Jungle Expedition for the adventurous traveller wanting an extra amount of wildlife. Sleeping in the jungle means closer to nature and its inhabitants as they usually come out at night.

panama darien jungle tours

The most authentic experience of the Darién Run by its own people.

Follow us on social media. help spread the word.

Your browser is not supported for this experience. We recommend using Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari.

panama darien jungle tours

Darien National Park

Welcome to the Jungle! At 5,750 square kilometers, Darien National Park is the largest national park in Panamá, and the largest protected area in Central America and the Carribean—not to mention one of Central America’s most untamed regions. This extensive jungle features endless virgin rainforests, premontane and montane forests, cloud forests and dwarf forests, as well as large mangroves. You’ll also find meandering rivers such as the Tuira or the Chucunaque, an astounding array of unique wildlife, including the jaguar and the harpy eagle, plus mountain ranges that reach more than 2,500 meters in elevation. As one of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Central America, Darien is a Biosphere Reserve and the focus of many conservation efforts in Panamá. In fact, after the Amazon rainforest, Darien National Park is considered the most important “natural lung” in the Americas. 

Recommended for true adventurers only, the park is rainy, humid and extremely remote, with two popular areas to visit. One of them is Santa Cruz de Cana, or Cana. Located in the middle of the park along the eastern slope of Cerro Pirre (or Pirre Hill), the area was once a mining town where the Spanish discovered gold in 1665. Today, it’s one of the most pristine outdoor areas in Panamá, and among the top locations in the country for birdwatching. Look out for colorful macaws, tanagers, manakins, eagles and hummingbirds, as well as other wildlife such as howler and spider monkeys, white-lipped peccaries and Baird’s Tapirs. Explore the jungle on one of five hiking trails in the area, which offer views of the forest and the old mining operations. 

On the other side of Cerro Pirre, you’ll find Pirre Station—another hiking destination inside the great jungle. Also known as Rancho Frío, this area is replete with lush nature and an abundance of wildlife that includes woodpeckers, monkeys, tamarins and sloths. When you get to Pirre Station, you’ll find a basic dormitory, outhouse and kitchen, but you’ll have to bring your own gear for sleeping and eating. 

Getting There This trip is for the truly adventurous, and we highly recommend visiting with a local tour or guide. If you decide to go, you’ll find the park 325 kilometers from Panama City on the eastern edge of the isthmus at the border with Colombia. From Panama City, fly to El Real, the closest community to the park. For something a bit more adventurous, travel by road to the community of Yaviza, and then continue to El Real by boat.

The Canopy Family

Birds of Canopy Camp Darien

High Season: $3,350  —  Green Season: $2,335 Rate in US$ per person (+ taxes), double occupancy

Canopy Camp

7-night, all-inclusive birding package.

Darién, as this entire eastern-most region of Panama is called, is perhaps the most diverse and species-rich region of Central America. Long coveted by avid birders as an impenetrable haven for rare species, this region is now readily accessible by a highway extending through the spine of Panama right into the heart of this bird-rich land. During this exciting, highly recommended 7-night adventure, we visit, en route to the Canopy Camp, the Bayano Reservoir, to look for such specialties as the starkly beautiful Black Antshrike, Rufous-winged Antwren and stunning Orange-crowned Oriole. In Darién, we visit large tracts of mature lowland rainforest to seek out Rufous-winged Antwren, Bare-crowned Antbird and Golden-green Woodpecker; and the swampy meadows along the Pan-American Highway, the haunts of the magnificent Spot-breasted Woodpecker! We will enjoy great birding on this Panama wildlife tour through the mature secondary forests, tranquil lagoons and riversides of this region, where we hope to get excellent views of Stripe-throated Wren, Black-collared Hawk, Black-capped Donacobius, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Large-billed Seed-Finch and others.

After each Panama wildlife tour, we will spend all our nights at Canopy Camp Darien, where we will enjoy comfortable, large, safari-style tent accommodations, each with full-size beds, private bathroom facilities with refreshing showers, flush toilets, electricity from solar panels, and fans. The protected forests of the Filo del Tallo Hydrological Reserve surround the camp. In the vicinity of the camp itself we will enjoy such regional specialties as Gray-cheeked Nunlet, White-headed Wren, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Pale-bellied Hermit right in the gardens! This Panama wildlife tour offers other surprises, such as Spectacled Parrotlet, Dusky-backed Jacamar, Double-banded Graytail, King Vulture and the majestic Harpy Eagle! You are sure to have the birding adventure of a lifetime!

7 Night Package (2024): High Season: $3,350  —  Green Season: $2,335

**add 3 nights at Canopy Tower or Canopy Lodge for only $1,110 (High) or $780 (Green)

7 Night Package (2025): High Season: $3,468  —  Green Season: $2,417

**add 3 nights at Canopy Tower or Canopy Lodge for only $1,1149 (High) or $808 (Green)

***Packages normally begin on Sundays

Rates in US$ per person (+ taxes), double occupancy

On the first night of this Panama wildlife tour, accommodations will be at the Riande Aeropuerto Hotel or at the Crowne Plaza Panama Airport Hotel in Panama City. Your guide will meet you bright and early (around 6:30 am) in your hotel lobby the next morning to head to the Canopy Camp, where you will stay for the following 6 nights. This is an all-inclusive tour with an active itinerary—daily morning and afternoon guided birding trips are included for the full duration of your Panama wildlife tour. The tour finishes mid-afternoon on the last day in Panama City.

Visiting Darién is truly an adventure, so expect the unexpected and be prepared for excitement around every corner! Our guides know well how to find the regional specialties that live here and how to dodge the ever-changing conditions of the region from season to season. The itinerary, therefore, is very flexible to our guests’ desires and targets and current conditions. Some sites are accessible year-round, while others are only worth visiting and accessible during certain seasons. Regardless, our guides and staff are bound to show you many, many birds and a great experience in the wilderness of Darién!

Panama’s National Bird: The Harpy Eagle

Darién is a stronghold for Harpy Eagles and other large forest raptors, and holds Central America’s largest population of this rare and majestic bird. If there is a site available to visit, whether an active nest or a fledged juvenile in a reliable location, it will be included in the itinerary. We can keep you informed as your trip gets closer. Please keep in mind that we can never guarantee the sighting of a Harpy Eagle (or anything in nature), even at a reliable site, but we will be sure to try if there is a chance!

Camp Darién is a stronghold for Harpy Eagles and other large forest raptors

If there is no nest site or juvenile bird to visit, there is still always the chance to come across a Harpy Eagle during your stay. Over the past few years, we have had Harpy Eagle sightings at several of the birding sites we visit, including a few times at the Canopy Camp itself!

Check out our Harpy Eagle & Crested Eagle Logs here:

  • Harpy Eagle Log
  • Crested Eagle Log

Harpy Eagles live in remote mature forest, and a full-day trip may be required to visit the site available. The following description gives you an idea of what a Harpy Eagle excursion entails:

The Harpy Eagle is our target for the day! Today we will start very early, long before sunrise, and drive to Yaviza, at the end of the Pan-American Highway. Arriving at dawn in Yaviza, we will board a “piragua”—a dugout canoe—and traverse the still waters of the Chucunaque and Tuira rivers. The river edges offer shrub and grass habitat, as well as mudflats and beaches depending on the water level. There are plenty of birds to see along the riverside: Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue, Cocoi, Little Blue, Tricolored, Striated and Capped Herons, Snowy Egret, White and Green Ibises, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Pied Water-Tyrant, Bronzed Cowbird, Yellow-hooded Blackbird and both Crested and Black Oropendolas. White-tailed Kite and Black-collared and Common Black Hawks may be found cruising overhead.

Gray-cheeked Nunlet at Camp Darién

Upon arrival in El Real, we can scan the open areas for Spot-breasted Woodpecker and Great Potoo. We will meet a local truck and head south out of town past the airstrip, to the trailhead at the border of Darien National Park! This trail is wide, traversing through lowland rainforest and alongside a river. If very lucky, we may see Harpy Eagle or Crested Eagle, as both of these magnificent raptors roam the dense forests here. Hopefully with some success this morning, we can rest and have a picnic lunch in the field, and continue to bird along the trail. Other large forest eagles, including Ornate Hawk-Eagle, can also be found in the area, as well as Gray-cheeked Nunlet, White-fronted Nunbird, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Agami Heron, Red-throated Caracara, Chestnut-backed Antbird (the eastern Panama race shows white dots on the wings), Chestnut-fronted and Great Green Macaws, Scarlet-browed Tanager and more. After lunch and a break, we will retrace our steps and start our way back to El Real, then head back to Yaviza by river. Along the Pan-American Highway, we can scan for bird activity as the sun sets.

The following are brief descriptions of some of the birding areas you may visit during your Panama wildlife tour at Canopy Camp Darien:

Bayano Lake Area & Torti Area

As we drive along the Pan-American Highway, we will scan for roadside birds and open-field raptors including Savanna Hawk and Crested Caracara. At the bridge at Bayano Lake, a great opportunity awaits to see what we can see along the lakeside. This reservoir supports great numbers of water birds, including a large colony of Neotropic Cormorants, as well as Anhinga, Cocoi Heron and the rare Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. We will scan the water’s edge for Purple Gallinule, Pied Water-Tyrant, Smooth-billed Ani and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater. A short trail leading from the water’s edge is a great place to search for Black Antshrike, Bare-crowned Antbird, Rufous-winged Antwren and Golden-collared Manakin. Just 10 minutes down the road at Río Mono Bridge, the surrounding forest is home to One-colored Becard, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Blue Cotinga, Pied Puffbird, Orange-crowned Oriole, Blue Ground Dove and more. We will also scan the river below for Green-and-rufous Kingfisher and the elusive Fasciated Tiger-Heron. The forest edge and scrubby roadsides around Rio Torti offer good opportunities to see Pacific Antwren, Double-banded Graytail and Little Cuckoo. At a lovely Panamanian restaurant in Torti, the hummingbirds at the feeders will no doubt capture our attention, as Long-billed Starthroat, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Black-throated Mango and more take their lunch as well; great hummingbird photo opportunities abound throughout this Panama wildlife tour!

Canopy Camp Grounds & Nando’s Trail

Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans call from the towering Cuipo trees; Red-lored and Mealy Parrots fly overhead; White-bellied Antbird, Bright-rumped Attila, White-headed Wren and Golden-headed Manakin sing from the surrounding forests; while Pale-bellied Hermit and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird visit the flowers around camp. Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Barred Puffbird are also seen frequently around the grounds. We will work our way into the forest on “Nando’s Trail,” in hopes of finding Tiny Hawk, Black Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Cinnamon Becard, Black-tailed Trogon, Double-banded Graytail, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Royal Flycatcher and Russet-winged Schiffornis. We will also be looking for groups of Red-throated Caracara, King Vulture and Short-tailed Hawk overhead in the clearings. Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Plumbeous and Zone-tailed hawks are also possible. In the open areas, the verbenas are full of hummingbird and butterfly activity, where we hope to see Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Pale-bellied Hermit, Long-billed Starthroat, Blue-throated Goldentail and if lucky, the stunning Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird feeding here. Spot-crowned Barbet, Olivaceous Piculet, White-headed Wren, Red-rumped Woodpecker and Streak-headed Woodcreeper are other birds we may encounter. If desired, we can hike up the slope to stand in the shadows of two giant Cuipo trees.

There will be an opportunity during the week to explore the grounds of the Canopy Camp at night in search of nocturnal birds and mammals, including Black-and-white and Mottled Owls, Great and Common Potoos, Kinkajous, Central American Woolly Opossum and more!

Birding the Pan-American Highway

We will head southeast and bird the forests and swampy meadows along the road toward Yaviza, at the end of the Pan-American Highway! Black-billed Flycatcher, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Jet Antbird, Black Oropendola, Pied Water-Tyrant, Bicolored and Black-collared Hawks, Pearl and White-tailed Kites, Limpkin, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Black-capped Donacobius and Red-breasted Meadowlark can all be found as we head further into Darién.

El Salto Road

El Salto Road extends 6 km north from the Pan-American Highway and ends at the mighty Río Chucunaque. This open road and surrounding dry forest is a great place to search for regional specialties including Golden-green Woodpecker, Double-banded Graytail, Blue-and-yellow and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Black and Crested Oropendolas, Blue Cotinga, White-eared Conebill, Black-breasted Puffbird, Orange-crowned Oriole and the majestic King Vulture. A trail at the end of the road will take us into low-canopy forest, where we hope to find Bare-crowned Antbird, Pale-bellied Hermit, Olivaceous Piculet, Streak-headed Woodcreeper and Forest Elaenia.

Tierra Nueva Foundation

Adjacent to El Salto Road is the property of the Tierra Nueva Foundation. Fundación Tierra Nueva is a non-profit organization whose main mission is “working towards the sustainable development of people of the Darién Rainforest.” The property is the home of a technical school focusing on applications in agriculture. We will explore the trails of this large, forested property, in hopes of finding Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Yellow-breasted and Black-billed Flycatchers, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon, Cinnamon, Cinereous and One-colored Becards, White-eared Conebill, White-headed Wren and the magnificent Great Curassow. We will also search for the eastern race of the Chestnut-backed Antbird, which shows white spots on the wings.

Las Lagunas Road (Aguas Calientes) & Aruza Lagoons

This road extends 12 km south off the Pan-American Highway through open farmland, dry scrub and roadside habitat. The road eventually crosses a stream and ends at some small ponds. Along the roadsides, we hope to find Red-breasted Meadowlark, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, White-headed Wren, Smooth-billed and Greater Anis, Muscovy Duck, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Southern Lapwing, Blue-headed Parrot, Striped Cuckoo, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Buff-breasted Wren, Bananaquit, Giant and Shiny Cowbirds, Crested Oropendola, and Laughing and Aplomado Falcons. If we’re lucky, we may get a glimpse of a Chestnut-fronted Macaw or a shy Little Cuckoo, both having been seen along this road. At the lagoons, we hope to find Pied Water-Tyrant, Capped Heron, the beautiful Yellow-hooded Blackbird and the extraordinary Black-capped Donacobius—this is great habitat for all these wonderful species.

Quebrada Felix

Quebrada Felix—this newly discovered site awaits exploration! Quebrada Felix is nestled in the base of the Filo del Tallo Hydrological Reserve, and is just a short drive from the Canopy Camp. Surrounded by tall trees and mature lowland forest, we will walk the rocky stream in search of some of Panama’s most wanted species, including Black-crowned Antpitta, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Speckled Mourner, Ocellated Antbird, Rufous-winged and Moustached Antwrens, White-fronted Nunbird, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Royal Flycatcher and the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker. It is also a great spot to find Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Bicolored Antbird, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Double-banded Graytail and much more. Crested and Solitary Eagles have even been spotted here, a great testament to the mature forest of the area. Quebrada Felix is becoming a favorite spot among our guides and recent visitors!

Lajas Blancas

On this Panama wildlife tour, we eagerly explore the open areas and mixed forests of the area of Lajas Blancas. Lajas Blancas is the closest Embera community to the Canopy Camp, a large town with a population of over 1000 residents. Just 15 minutes away, the area around the community boasts great birding and the opportunity to find many Darien specialties! After turning off the Pan-American Highway, we drive through pasture and open farmland—a great place to see One-colored Becard, Great Potoo, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Black Antshrike and Black Oropendola. During the dry season, a bridge across the Chucunaque River provides us easy access to some mature secondary forest where Double-banded Graytail, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-winged and Cinnamon Becards, Cinnamon and Golden-green Woodpeckers, manakins and others can be found. Beyond the community, the road continues and there is much more forest, including primary forest at its far reaches, waiting to be explored on your Panama wildlife tour.

Nuevo Vigia

We are off to Nuevo Vigia, an Embera community nestled north of the Pan-American Highway, surrounded by great secondary growth dry forest and two small lakes, all of which attract an enticing variety of birds. The community is accessible by “piragua,” a locally-made dugout canoe. As we coast along the Chucunaque and Tuquesa Rivers, we will keep our eyes and ears open for Chestnut-backed, Crested and Black Oropendolas, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Common Black Hawk, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Red-billed Scythebill, Capped and Cocoi Herons, White Ibis, Greater Ani, Solitary Sandpiper and other water birds. We will spend the majority of the morning birding a trail toward a small lagoon, a great place to see Black-collared Hawk, Bare-crowned and White-bellied Antbirds, Green Ibis, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Spectacled Parrotlet, Black-tailed Trogon, Striped Cuckoo, Black-bellied Wren, Little Tinamou, Golden-green Woodpecker and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher! In the town of Nuevo Vigia, local artisans weave colorful decorative masks and plates out of palm fronds and carve cocobolo wood and tagua nuts into animals and plants, and we will have the opportunity to meet some of the community members and admire and purchase some of the beautiful products they make by hand. We will enjoy a satisfying picnic lunch in the village, followed by more great birding around the riversides and scrubby habitat surrounding Nuevo Vigia before heading back to the Canopy Camp.

Aligandi is a huge area with unique scrub forest and much to be explored. We head out from the Camp toward the end of the Pan-American Highway, taking a turn prior to reaching Yaviza. Along the roadsides here, we scan for Red-breasted Meadowlark, Striped Cuckoo, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, American Kestrel and other open area birds. A Great Green Macaw nest is tucked up in the canopy of a huge Cuipo tree, visible from the road, and if lucky, an adult or a chick may be seen poking its head out of the cavity. At Finca Doncella, we continue on foot along the road through the scrub forest, seeking out Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Bat Falcon, Giant Cowbird, Orange-crowned Oriole, Red-billed Scythebill, White-eared Conebill and mixed feeding flocks. It is possible to see macaws flying over as we further explore the area on this Panama wildlife tour.

Central American Pygmy-Owl

Please note that the itinerary is flexible, and may change without prior notice due to weather, alterations in habitat or other conditions.

Our Canopy Camp in Darién , Panama is a birder’s paradise. The protected Darién jungle provides a stronghold for Great Green Macaw, Great Curassow and the majestic Harpy Eagle, Panama’s national bird, as well as other endangered wildlife including Colombian Spider Monkey, Baird’s Tapir and America’s most powerful cat, the Jaguar. Some of Panama’s endemic species, such as the Pirre Warbler, Pirre Bush-Tanager and Beautiful Treerunner, are only found here in the far reaches of the Darién Province.

Gray-cheeked Nunlet at Camp Darién

You May Also Like

Erato Longwing

Butterflies of Canopy Camp Darien

Collared Aracari

Birds of Central Panama & Darién Lowlands

  • Trip Reports
  • Featured Sightings
  • Meet Raúl Arias de Para
  • Meet Our Team
  • Meet Our Guides
  • Environmental Initiatives
  • Social Responsibility
  • Community Development
  • How to Tie a Tie
  • Best Coffee Beans
  • How to Shape a Beard
  • Best Sweaters for Men
  • Most Expensive Cognac
  • Monos vs Away Luggage
  • Best Luxury Hotel Chains
  • Fastest Cars in the World
  • Ernest Hemingway Books
  • What Does CBD Feel Like?
  • Canada Goose Alternatives
  • Fastest Motorcycles in the World

Inside the Darién Gap, one of the world’s most dangerous jungles

The darién gap: what to know before you go. wait. maybe don't go.

The dense jungle of The Darién Gap

The Pan-American Highway is an epic 19,000-mile route that starts at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and terminates at the southernmost end of South America in Ushuaia in the country of Argentina . It’s continuous except for a small section missing along the southern border of Panama, often referred to as one of the most inhospitable places on the planet — this is the Darién Gap. It’s 66 roadless miles of dense, mountainous jungle and swamp filled with armed guerillas, drug traffickers, and some of the world’s most deadly creatures covering the border of Panama and Colombia.

Fer-de-lance pit vipers

Drug traffickers and farc armed guerillas, brazilian wandering spiders, black scorpions, jungle heat and dirty water, spiked chunga palm trees, trench foot, cold war bombs.

The environmental impact on the area and the sheer cost of building roads through it have thwarted any previous attempts. Others are concerned that “the Gap” is a natural barrier against drugs and disease flowing freely into North America and the U.S.

The first-ever successful vehicle expedition through the Darién Gap was led by British army officer Gavin Thompson. His team of six started in Alaska, driving all the way to Panama in a newly created Range Rover. Hitting the Darién Gap, he brought in a team of 64 engineers and scientists to hack their way through the jungle and float the Range Rovers across the rivers.

  • A new study ranks the safest national parks to visit (Spoiler: Grand Canyon is pretty dangerous)
  • Jackson Hole Resort: Where to stay, eat, and relax at one of the world’s most popular ski resorts
  • Want to climb to the top of the world? Here’s how long it takes to climb Mount Everest

Thompson and every expedition since ran headlong into what the Gap is most famous for: Things that will kill you . The list of deadly things inside the Gap is lengthy, and dehydration and starvation are the least of your concerns. Instead, you should be concerned with these very real threats.

The fer-de-lance pit viper is one of the most venomous creatures in the Darién Gap. They’re irritable, fast-moving, and large enough to bite above your knees. Antivenom usually solves the problem if you get bitten. But, if left untreated, the venom can cause local necrosis (death of body tissue), leading to gangrene or, in the worst cases, death.

Conflict journalist Jason Motlagh crossed the Gap in 2016 for a Dateline story . After receiving their antivenom kit and instructions for use before the crossing, he said, “If one of us is bitten, we have ten minutes to inject the antivenom before death. We can only carry six vials. If a larger pit viper were to strike, the expert concedes no amount of antivenom would be enough to save us. We might as well lie down and smoke a cigarette until the lights go out.”

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to bring drugs into the U.S., so drug traffickers are turning to other avenues. The lawlessness and lack of many residents make the Darién Gap a perfect path for cocaine and other drugs on their journey from South America. 

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have made a name for themselves since 1964, terrorizing the government and many cities in Colombia. Many from the group have made their home in the lawless jungles of the Darién Gap. A backpacker from Sweden was shot in the head in 2013 and found two years later. Multiple others have been kidnapped for weeks or months after venturing into the Gap.

Since a peace deal in 2017 with the United Nations, the group has reformed into an official political party, but a few thousand rebels still continue with drugs, arms, and human trafficking.

Spiders fill the jungles of the Darién Gap, but one of the most “medically important” is the Brazilian Wandering spider. “Medically important” is the nice term for “you’re going to have a really bad day if this bites you.”

This family of spiders (there are more than one!) has a leg span of five to seven inches. They wander the jungle floor at night and love to hide in people’s hiking boots , logs, and banana plants. They’ve been nicknamed the Banana spider, as that’s often where people run into them. Bites from this spider can put you in the hospital or, from particularly bad ones, cause death in 2 to 6 hours.

Scorpions look like they’re from another planet. A few species prefer conditions in Colombia and southern Panama and call the Darién Gap home, with the black scorpion being one of those species. Black scorpions can be two to four inches long with a black or reddish-black coloring, which gives them their name.

They live under rocks and logs and hunt for larvae and cockroaches at night. They are part of the thick-tailed scorpion family, giving them their stocky appearance. The sting is very painful but, thankfully, is rarely deadly to humans … as long as you are treated in a safe amount of time.

Even the heat in the jungle can put a serious dent in your mood. Temperatures in The Gap can reach a balmy 95 degrees Fahrenheit with 95% humidity, creating a terrible problem if you run out of water. With trips through The Gap averaging between 20 to 50 days, you had better be prepared to stay hydrated.

There’s a lot of water in the Darién Gap but it is far from clean. Even a sip can hold a host of viruses or parasites that could ruin the rest of your trip. Hopefully, you have a good water filter with you.

Many kinds of trees call the jungle home, and the local people make use of all of them. The fiber from the leaves of the Chunga Palm is used to make everything from furniture, hats, and jewelry to fishing nets.

Perhaps that’s why this palm has one of the best defenses for a tree in the area. Long black spines — up to eight inches long — cover the Chunga to prevent animals from climbing and taking the fruit. Unfortunately for us, these spines are covered in all sorts of bacteria. One brush with a Chunga and you might find yourself with infected puncture wounds embedded with shards of Chunga spines.

During the mid-eighties, Helge Peterson found himself in Colombia trying to complete a motorcycle tour from Argentina to Alaska. A small problem stood in his way: The Darién Gap. Convincing a young German backpacker to make the journey with him, they started their journey together. They began the 20-day trek hauling Helge’s 400-pound BMW motorcycle into the jungle, through rivers and ravines.

At the end of each day, tired and broken, Helge and his backpacking partner would set up camp and start the removal of ticks , sometimes several hundred at a time, from their skin and clothing. Ticks in the area can carry Ehrlichiosis or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, neither of which you want in the middle of the jungle days or weeks from the nearest hospital.

Trench foot was first described during Napoleon’s retreat from Russia in the winter of 1812, but the name references a condition common during World War I. It originates with wet skin that isn’t allowed to dry. Wet conditions and limited blood flow cause the tissue to tingle or itch, often turn red or blue, and eventually decay. Any open wounds quickly develop fungal infections. With all of this happening in as little as 10 hours, it doesn’t give you much time to fix the problem.

Botflies like to get under your skin, literally . They start by laying their eggs on mosquitos. What do mosquitos like to do? Bite humans. This conveniently deposits the botfly eggs under our skin. They then hatch, and the larvae have a nice warm place to live.

Through a small hole in your skin, the larva can breathe. They feed on the flesh in their little skin cave and stay cozy and warm. Once they grow into bumblebee-sized adults, they crawl out to lay eggs somewhere else. If there are many larvae involved, it’s called myiasis, meaning an infestation under the skin. Yum. That’s why it pays to pack a good bug spray.

During the Cold War, the U.S. military ran thousands of training runs in the area of the Darién Gap, dropping bombs over the jungle. Most of the bombs detonated. However, some did not. Those bombs have been covered over by jungle growth and are now hidden on the jungle floor under a layer of vegetation. These remaining undetonated explosives still lie in the jungle, waiting for some poor, unfortunate soul to step off the trail — what little trail is there — just a bit too far and set off a massive explosion.

The Darién Gap is home to many predators, both human and animal, but one of the most deadly is the American crocodile. Crocodiles are apex predators, with no known natural enemies, and anything that they come in contact with is potential prey, including humans.

Crocodiles prefer to hunt at night, but they will attack and eat prey at any time. They hide in the water near the edge and wait for an unsuspecting animal (or unlucky hiker) to come to the water and then the crocodile strikes, dragging its prey down under the water to drown it.

So the Darién Gap sounds downright peachy to visit, doesn’t it?

Editors' Recommendations

  • The most popular Grand Canyon trail reopens this week
  • These are the most incredible, picturesque mountain towns for a winter getaway
  • There are actually 8 continents, and scientists have finally mapped the one that’s (mostly) hidden underwater
  • The most and least visited National Parks: See popular sites (or avoid crowds)
  • Tackle the World’s Most Famous Peaks With The North Face 7 Summits Collection
  • Destinations

Mike Richard

The likelihood of a bear attack is near zero for most of us. Still, avid hikers and outdoorsmen understand the importance of bear spray in the backcountry. But carrying it is of no use if you don’t know how to use it. Here’s the lowdown on how to use bear spray properly if you’re ever on the receiving end of an attack. What is bear spray?

In simplest terms, bear spray canisters work like personal pepper spray on steroids. They rely on the same active ingredient: Capsaicin. It’s what makes hot peppers hot. Technically, it’s a chemical irritant for mammals that burns when it comes in contact with any tissue, especially the mouth, eyes, and mucus membranes. The most potent bear sprays, like those from Counter Assault, contain 2% capsaicin, which is the strongest allowed by law. It’s your best non-lethal defense in the backcountry. Bear spray how-tos

A night under the stars can be a truly magical experience. It allows you to relax, disconnect from a hectic schedule, and return to a more natural way of living — you can even turn your alarm off and let your body wake up with the sun. Regular campers know that sitting around a campfire and watching the flames dance, with a million stars all around you and a cold drink in your hand, is exactly as idyllic as it sounds. But for first-time campers, getting to this moment might feel a long way off.

Whether you're looking to dip your toes into camping for the first time or you're a seasoned pro trying to convince a partner or a buddy that camping is the ideal weekend getaway, that first experience can make or break a would-be camper. Use these camping hacks and tips to kick off your camping career the right way and ensure your first time isn't a washout. Give yourself some space

America has some of the most scenic hiking locations in the whole world. From old favorites to new finds, many of us are constantly getting our hiking boots dusty. If you're looking for a challenging yet scenic hike to get your loved ones hooked on the great outdoors, it's your lucky day. KÜHL has just released an eye-opening study about the top 10 most scenic in the USA.

This study looked at 20 different hiking trails from each state and ranked them on a weighted scale based on four parameters:

Embera Tours Panama

ABOUT EMBERA TOURS PANAMA

Garceth’s story.

panama darien jungle tours

Garceth grew up in an Embera village in the Darien Gap – a jungle that National Geographic called “one of the most rugged places” on earth. He…

…was born in a hut, made only out of palm.

…travelled on the Rio Chico by dugout canoe.

…camouflaged himself to hunt wild boar.

…spearfished for Tilapia, Dogfish and River Shrimp.

…helped injured ocelots and assisted anteaters.

…worked as a park ranger for 11 years and guide for Smithsonian tropical research scientists.

…travelled to the USA on full scholarship to complete a degree in Natural Resources.

…became trilingual in Embera, Spanish and English.

If visiting the jungle is like going to a party full of interesting strangers, Garceth is the friendly host who will introduce you to everyone. In a few short hours, you could meet whiteface monkeys, poison dart frogs, snakes and countless tropical birds. And somewhere, between howling at howler monkeys and eating dinner around a fire, you’ll realize that you’re on the trip of your lifetime.

Travel can make a  huge difference  in the world.

It’s time to rethink the way we travel. Like shopping locally, hiring a local guide keeps more money circulating in the communities which need it most. Plus, you’ll enjoy a truly authentic travel experience. Experience the Darien with a guide who calls it home. Sign up for your next adventure today!

Embera Tours Children

OUTSIDE FESTIVAL JUNE 1-2

Don't miss Thundercat + Fleet Foxes, adventure films, experiences, and more!

GET TICKETS

A human skull serves as a warning to travelers in the Gap.

A Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle

The Darién Gap is a lawless wilderness on the border of Colombia and Panama, teeming with everything from deadly snakes to antigovernment guerrillas. The region also sees a flow of migrants from Cuba, Africa, and Asia, whose desperation sends them on perilous journeys to the U.S. Jason Motlagh plunged in, risking robbery, kidnapping, and death to document one of the world’s most harrowing treks.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the Outside app available now on iOS devices for members! >","name":"in-content-cta","type":"link"}}'>Download the app .

“H uelo chilingos,” the boatman shouts over the drone of an outboard motor. I smell migrants .

I turn around and see nothing but a wall of dark, unruly jungle, then I slump back into the bow of the canoe. Five days we’ve been out here, waiting for a group of foreigners to appear on this godforsaken smuggler’s route in the Darién Gap, and all we have to show for it is sunburn and trench foot. Our search is starting to feel futile.

For centuries the lure of the unknown has attracted explorers, scientists, criminals, and other dubious characters to the Gap, a 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest that spans both sides of the border between Colombia and Panama. Plenty of things here can kill you, from venomous snakes to murderous outlaws who want your money and equipment. We’ve come to find the most improbable travelers imaginable: migrants who, by choice, are passing through the Darién region from all over the world, in a round-about bid to reach the United States and secure refugee status.

As traditional pathways to the U.S. become more difficult, Cubans, Somalis, Syrians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, and many more have been heading to South American countries and traveling north, moving overland up the Central American isthmus. The worst part of this journey is through the Gap. The entire expanse, a roadless maze that travelers usually negotiate on foot and in boats, is dominated by narco traffickers and Cuba-backed guerrillas who’ve been waging war on the government of Colombia since 1964. Hundreds of migrants enter each year; many never emerge, killed or abandoned by coyotes (migrant smugglers) on ghost trails.

Our attempted trip is possible only because we’re traveling with the permission of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebels who control access to the most direct line through the Gap—an unmarked, 50-mile, south-to-north route that’s also used to move weapons and cocaine. Following months of negotiations, FARC commanders based in Havana have agreed to let us attempt the trek and visit a guerrilla camp, so long as we keep the main focus on migration, not politics. After five decades of fighting, at a cost of more than 220,000 lives on both sides, FARC and the Colombian government are in the final stages of a peace deal that would end Latin America’s longest-running insurgency. No more complications are needed.

Having spent the better part of a week idle in Bijao—a ramshackle hamlet on Colombia’s Cacarica River, which a group of migrants is said to be approaching—we’re restless. So today we traveled three hours by boat to visit FARC rebels on an adjoining waterway. An entire morning was spent hacking through spider-infested mangrove swamps to reach their camp, only to be told that our scheduled interview is off because they don’t have their uniforms with them.

Interview with the Author

We are on our way back to the village, cursing our bad luck, when the boatman repeats himself.

“Huelo chilingos.”

“Bullshit,” I sigh.

“No, man, he’s right—I think I saw an elbow,” says Carlos Villalon , a Chilean photojournalist who’s traveling with me. Carlos, 50, has a knack for busting my balls at the worst moments, but he’s already standing up, camera in hand. Roger Arnold, a 48-year-old videographer I met in Afghanistan, who’s along to film our trip for a TV newsmagazine in Australia, is poised right beside him.

We round a bend and there they are: two Bangladeshis, bent over, sloshing forward in waterlogged rubber boots. They give us a nervous grin, thumbs up. Twenty yards ahead of them, a big, shirtless Colombian coyote is towing a canoe that contains another half-dozen migrants. Several Nepalis slog alongside.

I catch up to explain that we’re journalists, but none of the men speak much English. Nor do they believe what I’m telling them.

When I ask Arafat, a 20-year-old construction worker from the Noakhali district in southern Bangladesh, if his goal is to reach the United States, he shakes his head. “No, no. Tourist, ” he says, patting his chest. “Problem?”

There’s no problem, I assure him as I approach the canoe, which is nearly scraping the bottom of the low-running river. Arafat’s friend Jafar leans back and laughs behind a pair of knockoff gold Ray-Bans. “Yeah, man!” he says. “Panama!” More thumbs up.

This tourist charade soon falls apart. A pudgy Bangladeshi man named Momir, his face ghoulishly pale from fever, rejects the coyote’s order to get out of the boat when it runs aground. Arafat shows us a large gash on the bottom of his foot and refuses to walk any farther. The men are weak from days of traveling in muggy, 90-degree temperatures, subsisting on crackers and gulping river water. And they are scared. For all they know, we’re Colombian authorities about to arrest them, or bush thugs ready to strip them of their remaining cash, stitched inside the lining of their pants.

The men are weak from days of traveling in muggy, 90-degree temperatures, subsisting on crackers and gulping river water. And they are scared. For all they know, we’re Colombian authorities about to arrest them, or bush thugs ready to strip them of their remaining cash.

Jafar starts to cry, triggering an outburst of desperate pleas from the men. They flash scars on their wrists and stomachs; one is missing part of a finger. “Bangladesh politics,” a man named Nazrul says ruefully as he drags a hand across his neck.

During a three-month stint reporting in Bangladesh in 2013, I became familiar with its cutthroat political gangs and dismal working conditions. Activists, journalists, and opposition members are often hacked to death in public. Rising water levels are drowning farmlands. Rural laborers flock to hyper-crowded cities for work and find themselves locked in the bowels of unlicensed garment factories, toiling for 20 cents an hour.

It’s easy to understand why any sane person would leave such grim prospects behind. Harder to grasp is how these men ended up on the southern edge of the Darién Gap, half a world away from home, without the faintest idea of the grueling trials ahead. Their willpower is amazing, but the Gap’s shadowy depths have swallowed travelers far more prepared. As we continue upriver together, it seems just as well that they are ignorant of the dangers.

panama darien jungle tours

The Pan-American Highway network is a remarkable feat of engineering that runs about 19,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina, with just one break in the pavement: the Darién Gap. Also known as El Tapón (“the plug”), it can’t be bypassed on land. It’s roughly 100 miles wide, stretching all the way from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It has long defied the advance of colonists, road builders, and would-be developers.

The Gap’s legend as a black zone is steeped in bloodshed and tragedy. After Spanish conquistadors discovered the region in 1501, they consolidated their first mainland colony in the Americas by slaughtering tens of thousands of natives, often by turning ravenous dogs loose on villages. The Spanish conquered the Amazon and the Andes but eventually gave up on taming the Gap, which became a bastion for pirates and runaway slaves. In 1699, more than 2,000 Scottish colonists perished from malaria and starvation, and in 1854 nine explorers died from disease and exposure on a U.S. Navy survey expedition, scuttling plans for a grand canal project through the isthmus. In more recent times, efforts to build a road link have foundered because of fears that foot-and-mouth disease could spread and devastate the U.S. beef industry, and because of resistance from the Kuna and Embera-Wounaan Indians who inhabit the rainforest.

The absence of any controlling authority in this wilderness has given free rein to armed groups. A military branch of FARC known as the 57th Front calls the shots around much of Colombia’s Chocó Department—a dirt-poor sliver of land in northwestern Colombia that overlaps the Gap and is one of the wettest places on earth—and often moves freely back and forth across the porous border with Panama, a vital transit area for arms shipments and the cocaine exports that fund its war chests.

In the early years of Colombia’s civil conflict, adventurers could still move through the Gap by foot, motorbike, or four-wheeler. The first vehicular crossing was achieved in 1960 by a Jeep and Land Rover expedition, at an average speed of 220 yards per hour over 136 days. George Meegan of England went even farther, getting shot at in the Gap during an unbroken trek across the Western Hemisphere that he started in 1977. In the eighties, a British adventure travel company offered multiweek treks through the Gap. But by the mid-nineties, the prevalence of armed groups led to a plague of kidnappings, disappearances, and murders that put an end to such trips.

In 2000, two Brits, Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, were taken hostage by FARC guerrillas while searching for rare orchids. They were held for nine months and threatened with execution before being released unharmed. In 2003, Robert Young Pelton, author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places , and two backpackers were held for more than a week by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the formally demobilized right-wing militia that was once the largest paramilitary group in the country. In 2013, Jan Philip Braunisch, a Swedish traveler attempting to cross the Gap alone via the Cacarica River—our planned route—vanished in FARC territory. It later emerged that he was killed by a shot to the head.

Bangladeshi migrants.

Since the late aughts, U.S. authorities say, FARC has increasingly relied on the Darién corridor to smuggle drugs north as traditional air and sea routes have been clipped. Fierce competition for massive drug profits has also fueled the rise of neo-paramilitary groups that terrorize the region with wanton killings and armed assaults. The most powerful is the Clan Úsuga, a.k.a. Los Urabeños, a vicious gang made up of ex-AUC members. Seizing control of lucrative routes along the Caribbean coast, Los Urabeños has used its links with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel to expand its presence around the country and challenge FARC in parts of Chocó.

When migrants began turning up near the border, both groups started using well-worn drug-smuggling routes to move human traffic for money. Over the past ten years, this flow has swelled to a steady stream as the standard maneuvers for reaching or rooting in the U.S., like overstaying a visa, have become tougher to execute. Cubans, lured by the promise of political asylum upon hitting American soil, account for most of the migrant flow, preferring the lesser known path through Central America to the familiar perils of the Florida Straits. But they are rivaled by a rising tide of Haitians, Somalis, West Africans, and South Asians.

Though it’s impossible to know the precise numbers, Panama saw 25,000 illegal arrivals last year, more than three times the number that came through in 2014. (Of these, about 20,300 were Cubans.) By late May of this year, another 8,000 migrants had passed through the Gap.

The fact that so many people would undertake such a long-shot journey caught my eye and Carlos’s well before we knew each other. Back in 2006, he was reading a newspaper in Bogotá when he saw a story buried in the back pages: a boatload of Chinese migrants had been captured in the Gap. During one of the half-dozen trips Carlos has since made in the region, he came upon the decomposing body of a Cuban migrant on a jungle trail. On another, he was stunned to pass a boat full of Somalis and Bangladeshis on the Cacarica. Smugglers ultimately turned him back, but the incongruous scene lingered in his head.

An article in The Wall Street Journal last year had the same effect on me. It described how growing numbers of U.S.-bound migrants are flying or taking cargo vessels to Brazil and Ecuador, countries with lax visa and asylum requirements, then heading overland to Colombia on backcountry buses. Those with the means and a passport hire boats to bypass the jungle and reach Panama by sea; the rest take their chances running the Gap. In Panama they’re detained for background checks. So long as their names don’t turn up on international terror watch lists—which I was told has never happened—they are released to keep heading north.

These migrants are a fraction of the more than 65 million people that the United Nations estimates are now in flight because of war, persecution, and terror, the largest such displacement in human history. There are refugees in peril all over the world: Syrians seeking safe haven in Turkey, West Africans traversing the Sahara en route to Europe. But the Darién Gap is the global migration story in extremis. What could possibly possess someone to enter it?

The Gap’s legend as a black zone is steeped in bloodshed and tragedy. After Spanish conquistadors discovered the region in 1501, they consolidated their first mainland colony by slaughtering tens of thousands of natives, often by turning ravenous dogs loose on villages.

By land or sea, the main jumping-off point for crossings into Panama is Turbo, a dodgy Colombian port town on the Gulf of Urabá that has a bad reputation for violence. Once a FARC stronghold, Turbo became a battleground in the late 1980s when paramilitaries took over. We had been scheduled to travel there in early April, but we had to delay when Los Urabeños, excluded from peace talks with the government, called for a 24-hour strike to show that it still runs this part of the country. All public transport and shops shut down; streets emptied. Three policemen and an army captain were shot dead, presumably after the gang announced a reward for killing authorities. A group of traffic cops were injured by a grenade.

A month later, on May 6, we checked in at our residencia on a balmy morning. From a balcony overlooking a shaded plaza that has hosted many a drunken machete fight, I watched fishermen mend their nets while others played cards. Horse-drawn flatbed trailers bearing grains and bananas—the region’s chief legal cash crop—whipped by in a flurry of hooves. Turbo, the northern terminus of the Pan-American Highway in South America, is home primarily to darker-skinned Afro-Colombians, descendants of slaves brought to work in agriculture and mining in the 1500s. I didn’t see any migrants among them.

Lying in a hammock, with two German shepherds nestled at his feet, the motel’s manager, Juan Montero, explained that Urabeño smugglers usually charge between $500 and $700 to shuttle a migrant from here to Panama, a five-hour trip in a leaky boat. Alternatively, some migrants opt for a harder, cheaper inland route that starts at the coastal town of Capurganá or Sapzurro and goes through a series of hamlets that dot Darién National Park, which covers a large part of the central and west side of the Gap. Because there is no Colombian border facility nearby where captured migrants could be sent, Panamanian authorities have typically allowed them to pass.

One week before our arrival, however, the immigration office in Turbo began granting migrants exit papers to bring the traffic aboveground. Now they could openly buy boat tickets to Capurganá and Sapzurro. From there it’s a short boat connection or hike to La Miel, in Panama. Those without documentation might still hire coyotes to take them up the longer jungle route, which is also a major Urabeño drug-trafficking path. The gang is known to forcibly conscript migrants as mules—and sometimes dispose of them.

Arafat and Jafar on the Cacarica.

At a moss-cloaked graveyard on the edge of Turbo, several tombs were scrawled with “N.N.” (no name), in drab contrast to the colorful encomiums locals left for loved ones. Montero told me that most of the dead were Somalis who had been robbed and tossed overboard by ruthless coyotes. On a 2014 trip to Acandí, an Urabeño-dominated town across the gulf from Turbo, Carlos had photographed the tomb of Roberto Tremble, a 33-year-old Cuban murdered by smugglers.

Cubans still accounted for most of the migrants, Montero said. “Many doctors,” he noted. Until recently, they flew to Ecuador, one of the few countries that have no visa requirement for tourist stays. But Ecuador had changed its policy, and Cubans were now coming in waves from Guyana, which was their last legal beachhead in South America.

In a video shot on Montero’s smartphone, Miguel, a ropy old Habanero, touted Cuba’s free health care and education but grumbled that his salary was not enough to buy shoes. “We are a country bounded by water and we don’t have enough fish for the people,” he fumed. “Populist socialism is terrible.”

Another Montero video showed a group of Nepalis hunched over paper plates in the same room we were now in. Authorities had caught them and brought them to Montero’s for a meal before deportation. “Of course, I never called customs on any of the ones who stayed here, because I don’t agree that those looking for a better life should be sent back,” Montero said. “Their motivation is incredible.”

Montero’s place was currently empty of migrants, so he directed us to the Hotel Goodnight, a flophouse located several blocks away, past bars and pool halls full of guys who threw us bloodshot stares. In the second-floor lobby, I found two Haitian teenagers thumbing WhatsApp on their phones. I introduced myself. One immediately exited down the hallway; the other refused to look up.

A third man was smoking on the balcony. He told me his name was Jackson Wilner and that he was a mason from Cap Haitien looking for work in Turbo. When I pressed him on how he planned to get to Panama, he stuck to his script. On my way out, I noticed that the door to his room was ajar. Looking in, I saw four people lying on a single bed. Three more were asleep on the floor.

Before dawn the next morning, we headed down to the docks. A boat was leaving for Capurganá, and Montero was sure it would draw migrants into the open. He was right. In the dim light, I could see men milling around. They turned out to be Haitians, Nepalis, and Pakistanis.

Zia ul-Haq, who I talked to on the dock, was the lone Afghan in the group. Twenty-six and slender, with thick brows hanging over forlorn eyes, he told me in halting English that he learned the language by watching bootleg DVDs: the Fast and Furious series was a favorite. He hailed from Nuristan, a remote, beautiful, and violent pocket of mountain ridges plied by fierce tribesmen. Zia’s uncle worked as a translator for U.S. forces, and the family moved to Kabul when Taliban death threats intensified. His uncle was eventually relocated to the United States. Zia applied twice for a visa to follow him, without luck. “Day by day it was getting worse, so I took this journey,” he said. “If someone’s life is in danger, they will do everything for themselves.”

Dubai. São Paulo and the Brazilian Amazon. Peru. Ecuador. Colombia. For the past two weeks, Zia had been dodging police shakedowns, riding back roads in chicken trucks, slipping across borders after dark. From here he would head by boat to Capurganá and then Panama or walk through the jungle; he’d heard the hike was anywhere from two to four days. He confessed to having no idea how to navigate the minefield of gangs, authorities, and six borders that would still lie between him and the U.S.

His provisions: cookies, energy drinks, and $90 in cash. He’d spent more than $1,500, paying for one leg of the trip at a time, to get this far. For protection he carried a booklet of Koranic verse in his front pocket. Zia’s goal was to join his uncle in Las Vegas and one day enroll in medical school. “The U.S. is a safe country,” he said. “They love peace, so we are trying to get there.”

I reminded him that anti-immigrant sentiments were rising in the U.S. Was he worried he might not be welcome?

“It’s a long way still,” he said after thinking it over. “Maybe the Americans have their limits. But there is no way of knowing.” He paused. “I just want a good life. No more feeling scared.”

By 9 A.M., with the equatorial sun arcing overhead, there was a hum of fellow travelers and commerce. I spotted Jackson, the Haitian from the hotel, clutching a black trash bag that contained all his belongings. He was with the two teenagers, and they all avoided making eye contact with me. Hawkers were peddling ponchos and Chinese-made headlamps for $5 a pop beneath a sign from the municipal tourism board that read: Buen Viaje! Have a good trip!

Migrants resting in the jungle.

A large motorboat arrived; names were called and life vests distributed. I gave Zia my card and shook his hand. “Get in touch when you make it to Vegas,” I said. Squeezed in among the migrants were backpackers from England, Australia, Japan, and Brazil, who would soon be drinking coconut cocktails on the same beaches that some of these refugees would tramp across.

From the edge of the dock, I watched the boat rumble into the channel. Some of the travelers were snapping selfies. The Nepalis waved. Zia did not look up. He was holding his Islamic traveler’s booklet in his palms, head bowed, asking for protection.

Jairo carries a sweat towel around his neck stitched with Comando de Muerte (“death commando”) under a skull and dagger. It belonged to a Colombian soldier, he says, adding, “It was not a gift.”

The next day we met “Angela,” an emissary sent by the FARC bosses in Havana. She was in her mid-twenties and had heralded her arrival by texting suggestive pictures of herself. Sucking a lollipop, she told us we had to travel to a town a half-day up the Atrato to meet our primary rebel contact in the Chocó—her father, Elber. We were assured the route was OK, though we would have to pass army checkpoints and Urabeño strongholds along the way.

Choppy seas on the open gulf sent our panga skipping and diving through sheets of salt spray. At the first of two military stops, Colombian soldiers questioned locals headed to inland villages and outbound Cubans with exit papers. We turned southwest and the water narrowed into the Atrato, whose vast wetlands comprise half of Los Katíos National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site. Birds-of-paradise tumbled down its banks and birds of prey soared above us. In the near distance, rain clouds bearded the jungle-clad hills that marked the frontier. While efforts by authorities to combat illegal logging and overfishing have removed the park from the UN’s list of endangered natural places, visitors are scarce. Chocó is Colombia’s poorest department, with a high-stakes drug trade that has FARC and the paras clashing over key routes that run off the river highway.

At the aptly named Riosucio (“dirty river”), we switched to a smaller canoe manned by tough-looking guys with facial tattoos. It was another hour to our destination, Domingodo, a dead-end village where we would spend the next three days making arrangements for our foray into the heart of the Darién Gap. A mestizo woman was hacking open tortoises for stew; pigs rooted around for scraps in muddy alleyways. From end to end, shack-rattling salsa thumps blasted from bar speakers that never went silent, day or night.

Our host, 50-year-old Elber, wore athletic shorts and carried no weapons, but he was FARC to the core. Burly yet soft-spoken, Elber has served as a political operative for three decades in the dispossessed, largely black communities of the Chocó. Early one morning, he invited us to a “political” meeting at a derelict sawmill in the midst of banana palms and sugarcane fields. Industrial saws were rusting away, half-covered, on a rotted platform. The sawmill was opened in the early 2000s, with government funding, as an alternative to coca trafficking, but support ran dry. No one knew how to operate the machinery, a failure of top-down planning that Elber said was emblematic of government neglect in the Chocó. He presented a case to those assembled for reviving the mill, but swarming mosquitoes made listening too difficult.

Later that afternoon, Elber announced that the commander of the 57th Front, Pablo Atrato, was ready to receive us at his hideout, another half-day up the river. With FARC slated to begin disarming in the coming months, this was a timely opportunity to discuss the tricky business of peace. In the 1990s, a nascent hard-left political party called the Patriotic Union was ravaged by paramilitary death squads allied with government security forces. More than 4,000 members and supporters were killed, including two presidential candidates. FARC’s command has repeatedly delayed the process to avoid the same fate.

Gambian Morro Kanteh with fellow migrants from Bangladesh and Nepal in the Darién Gap.

Meanwhile, we had a new concern: on May 9, Panama abruptly closed its border with Colombia to stem the flow of migrants. We were hearing that people in transit to the U.S. were being turned back in droves along the Caribbean coast. The odds were that they would have to push deeper into the Gap and then turn north, making them difficult to find. We climbed into our canoe and set course for Bijao, a traditional junction for migrants on the Cacarica River.

A late start forced us to overnight in Puente America, where a bartender told us that no migrants had come through in weeks. But in a vacant schoolhouse by the water, we found a gallery of graffiti. Rahim from Pakistan had been here, along with Ahmed from Ethiopia and Yahya from Kenya. The walls were scrawled with national pride and nostalgia for home. “Ghana 50 Cent and his group moving to USA.” “God help us, we are on the way to USA.” “God bless Sierra Leone.” “Enjoy the journey.”

Turning up the Cacarica later that morning, the Atrato’s big sky was replaced by dense canopy that spotlighted a fetid marshland of gnarled roots and cativo trees. Rafts of rosewood timber attested to the illegal logging operations common to the rebel-held area. The water was just a foot deep in places, forcing us to get out and push. Farther along, a stash of fresh Aguila beer crates sat on a bank, unguarded. We glided past a sign for Los Katíos fronting an abandoned visitor’s bungalow. Everyone was on edge.

A Perilous Crossing

In September, the Australian newsmagazine “ Dateline ” will air an hour-long segment on Jason Motlagh’s expedition through the Darién Gap, using footage shot by Motlagh and videographer Roger Arnold. Here’s a preview.

“I’m not getting out of the fucking boat until I’m invited,” Carlos intones as we glide into Bijao village, under the gaze of naked children. We all hang back as Elber strides up the bank and greets a handsome, middle-aged black man in a tank top. We’re waved over and introduced to John Jairo, the platoon leader of the FARC guerrillas patrolling this area. With Elber vouching for us, it doesn’t matter that they were unaware of our planned visit. Word from Havana about us had not trickled all the way down the command chain.

The guerrillas are overnighting in Bijao, which is unusual. They wear plain clothes, their assault rifles stashed inside the crooked wooden homes that line the village, but it’s not hard to single them out. Close-cropped haircuts for the men; high, tight hair buns for the women. They all steer clear of us.

After we’re taken to our lodging, a blue and white structure built by the UN’s refugee agency, with a No Armas sign posted at the entrance, Elices Ramirez, the smooth-talking village representative, tells me that the guerrillas are accepted by locals, who harbor a deep mistrust for a central government in Bogotá that exists for them only in name. “They have done nothing for us,” he says. The local school sits shuttered, and with the nearest medical clinic in Turbo, a day’s journey by boat, people die of treatable illnesses like malaria and nonlethal injuries. Contraband smuggling—drugs, goods, chilingos —is rife in the area, he admits, but “we do our best to maintain order.”

Wandering around the warrens of raised shacks and dry-goods stalls that afternoon, I spot Elber standing at the center of a public gathering, calling for “justice without prejudice.” Apparently, two men had gotten into a drunken fight, and one of them nearly took off the other’s arm with a blade. An impromptu tribunal has convened to decide the man’s fate, and most of Bijao is in attendance. The accused is ultimately expelled from town by majority vote, with a warning to never return.

After dinner we’re invited to sit down with Elber and the FARC officers. I pass out cigarettes and Carlos starts to chat them up, name-dropping the commanders he knows and explaining our goal of tracking migrants. Jairo and his light-skinned deputy, Haiber, listen, motionless. I can’t read their expressions in the darkness, but their intensity is palpable.

“I have a question for you,” Haiber finally interjects, pausing for effect. “What is the meaning of chilingos ?”

Laughter. No one has a clue where this slang term for migrants came from. I seize the opening to ask how long they have been guerrillas and why. Jairo, 39, says he joined at age 11, after feeling powerless watching his father labor in the fields for years with nothing to show for it but an early death. “We didn’t have a school in the community, and we couldn’t afford a pen and paper anyway,” he tells me. “I felt compelled to rise up against the corrupt state. They don’t respect you unless you fight them.”

Jairo carries a sweat towel around his neck stitched with Comando de Muerte (“death commando”) under a skull and dagger. It belonged to a government soldier, he says, adding, “It was not a gift.”

By the end of our talk, Jairo says we’re free to travel through the Gap with FARC support. No escort or formal letter of approval will be given to us. It is simply understood that we are vouched for by the guerrillas, so we are not to be fucked with. In any case, by morning the fighters would leave Bijao to “go to work.” The Urabeños were starting gun battles on another stretch of river in their latest bid to chisel their way into FARC territory.

In late February 1997, fighters with the Élmer Cárdenas bloc, a hardcore right-wing unit, launched bombs into Bijao as part of a government-led operation that sent thousands running into the bush. Marino López Mena, a local man, was captured and decapitated, his head used as a ball in a soccer game. Another boy who was captured was tied to a tree and made to watch the gruesome spectacle; he still lives in Bijao, left incoherent by mental problems.

It’s a swelteringly hot morning, and Elices walks me to the homemade memorial by the river. He fled along with his neighbors, children in tow, traveling four days across the Gap to Panama, joining the 20,000 people that he estimates were displaced from other villages swept up in the violence. Most, he says, have returned to resettle acreage that is theirs under Law 70, a 1993 ruling that granted black Colombians collective ownership of ancestral lands. But they are still wary of the threat posed by the paras and a state with a record of abetting violence.

Has Bijao’s history of war and displacement made locals more sympathetic to the migrants coming through? “Absolutely—we understand their situation, for we went through the same experience,” Elices says. “We do this as brothers, for we believe everyone has the right to live. We offer our support not because we want to make any money. It is a humanitarian action, our way to help them survive, the same way we were helped.”

Migrants and coyotes move a boat through shallows.

When the Bengalis and Nepalis we found on the river finally do pull into Bijao to join us, a band of young hustlers is waiting on the bank, ready for business. Ten bucks for a night in the barracks where we’re staying, mosquito net included. Plus another $5 for a plate of eggs, beans, and rice. The migrants claim that they have no money but soon give in. They are adding their own names to the graffiti-covered walls, buoyed by proof that so many countrymen have been here before them, when word comes in that there’s a mango tree nearby loaded with ripe fruit. The room empties; outside, rocks and sticks start to fly. Jafar picks up two mangos, triumphant. Arafat seems to have lost the limp that was ailing him on the river. “Same like Bangladesh,” he beams, juice dripping down his chin.

Arafat says his journey began when friends back home introduced him to a broker, who he paid more than $10,000. A Brazil visa and a flight to São Paulo were arranged, with a stopover in Doha, Qatar. From there he made arrangements to travel through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, where he and a group he was traveling with got mugged by police.

Unknown to us, a second boat full of nine West Africans also departed from Puente America the previous night and has fallen in behind the Bengalis. When I return to the barracks after dark, five Cameroonians in alpaca-wool hats and two Togolese men are sprawled on the hardwood floor. A pair of Gambians, Ebrima Jobe and Morro Kanteh, are recovering on the porch.

“Fucking hell,” says Ebrima, the taller one, when I ask about the trip. He means the past 24 hours, when he had to cross the river at night and trudge on foot through the swamp. But his entire three-week journey has been a breathless flight from death.

For more than two decades, Gambia, a narrow country on the West African coast, has been ruled by a dictator who silences all dissent with brute force. In mid-April, a police crackdown on protesters demanding electoral reforms saw three men die in custody, including a leader of the main opposition party. This man was Ebrima’s mentor, and Ebrima, 38, heard that his name was on the hit list. With help from friends, he left his pregnant wife and two children for Dakar, then caught a flight to Madrid and from there flew to visa-free Ecuador, where he planned to apply for political asylum. On the go, he kept in touch with his family by e-mail. They were safely holed up with relatives, but he could never rest easy.

Bureaucratic snafus moved him to try for asylum again in Bogotá, to no avail. So he turned his sights to the U.S. and bused to Turbo. “Now I just want to get out of here,” he tells me. “Colombia is no good.” I ask if he’s heard of the Darién Gap and he shakes his head. I describe it and he becomes somber for a moment, aware that the worst is still to come. “We will cross together,” I say, and Ebrima joins his fellows on the floor.

Our dawn departure is delayed by a dispute. The Africans roundly insist that they paid the coyotes in Turbo a flat fee to take them all the way to the Panama border; the Bijao hustlers counter that they are owed more. The migrants have no leverage out here, and the impasse ends when each migrant ponies up an extra $20. We aren’t spared, either. John and Alberto, the two porters we hired to help with our gear, are now demanding three times the agreed-upon sum—roughly $300 each.

“These people are capitalists, they make money from our misery,” Morro says later that day, as we head upriver in a sagging canoe. “I’m sick of this place.” Like Ebrima, his role as a youth leader in the Gambian opposition compelled him to flee. He scans the jungle for a while, then catches me off guard.

“Why are you here?” he asks.

I give him a boilerplate answer, but in the moment it feels hollow, even frivolous. For all my good intentions, I’m still a Western journalist getting paid to do this. What I don’t say is that my privilege was secured by the audacity of an Iran-born father who made his own long-shot gamble to reach the United States.

Back when I was a 25-year-old freelancer striking out for Africa, my father, Homayoun, drove me from Washington, D.C., to New York City to see me off at JFK. I’d always assumed he’d emigrated the way normal people do, but in the departure lounge he told me that he had been unable to secure a visa in London, where he was studying in 1973, despite having family members stateside, at a time when trouble was brewing back home in Iran. So he booked a flight to Toronto, with a brief stopover in New York. As the plane neared JFK, he feigned violent illness; flight attendants hauled him off the jet. As he was being transported to a nearby clinic, he jumped out of the vehicle and into a car his brothers had sent to pick him up. Five hours later, he was eating kabobs in Washington, D.C. He carved out a living selling used cars, and he still works long hours on cold back lots. His gamble bought me a youth free of the Islamic Revolution and mandatory army service. I attended good public schools, played baseball, and graduated from college debt-free. Now I could buy a one-way ticket to the Third World with a sure return. It was the start of a wide-ranging journey that ultimately led me to this remote river, into the void.

We disembark two hours later at the Wounaan village of Juimphuboor. I’ve never found it on any map. Women pound laundry by the water, flanked by clutches of round, thatch-roofed huts that slope up the mountainside to slash-and-burn plots. Carlos tells us to keep our cameras off and our mouths shut: those same heights were likely the last place that the Swedish traveler Braunisch saw during his fatal 2013 attempt to cross the Gap.

In 2015, nearly two years after the 26-year-old went missing, the International Committee of the Red Cross delivered his skeletal remains to state investigators. FARC later took responsibility for his death, accusing him of having been a foreign spy, partly because he was carrying a GPS and had no prior approval to travel. His bad luck was compounded by bad timing: rebels and government forces were battling it out around the lower Atrato River, and a cease-fire with Los Urabeños had collapsed.

Three years on, peace talks between FARC and the government present us with an opening, but drug profits have a way of breeding spoilers in the Gap, and we are unusually fat targets. In addition to our expensive camera gear, battery packs, laptops, medical kit, and communications equipment, including a sat phone and GPS, we also have lots of cash. This is a pay-as-you-go venture, and the only way out is through.

One by one, our party—20 migrants, four porter-guides—shimmy under a barbed-wire fence and into the hissing maw of jungle toward our first objective: Palo de Letras, an unmanned crossing at the crest of a mountain, which will take at least ten hours of trekking to reach. The beaten path is lined with Red Bull cans, salt packets, and the first pieces of clothing discarded in the heat. I notice a long skein of leaf-cutter ants running fragments, parallel to our foot traffic. Their solidarity casts a sharp contrast to ours, which is starting to unravel.

It’s not yet noon when we stop to rest. Momir, the overweight Bangladeshi, is on the ground pleading with our guides to carry his bag for $10. “Please take,” he groans, doubling his offer to $20. But there are no volunteers, only indifferent looks. “Throw your things away,” one of the Nepalis says with a barbed edge. Reluctantly, Momir pulls out some tissues, then a T-shirt, then some socks and mittens. Morro grabs them and puts them on.

I have an urge to strip. My clothes are soaked through, my fancy knee-high, French-made boots freighted with water. The air is almost thick enough to chew. For a boost, I stuff a plug of dried coca leaves into my cheek with a chunk of quicklime. The concoction tastes vaguely of yerba mate and provides a jolt of energy and focus that will help me navigate the endless hills and switchbacks, mud-slick ravines, and root systems that obstruct our path. I can’t help but think of Steve McQueen in the 1973 film Papillon , a favorite of mine. When he is chased after escaping from a penal colony in French Guiana and starts falling behind, a timely wad of coca proffered by his native escort gives him the second wind he needs.

Jafar in Bijao.

Cevedao, our Wounaan lead guide and porter, sets the pace of a mountain goat. We hired him and another man in Juimphuboor to help with our gear and see us through to the Paya River in Panama, since indigenous people can pass freely on both sides of the border. (Our porters from Bijao, John and Alberto, are taking a well-paid gamble crossing the border anywhere near migrants, because this carries a minimum five-year prison sentence.) Morro is close on his heels, followed by the Nepalis, who stick together and move at a steady clip. The Bengalis and Africans bring up the rear.

It’s not long before Evelyn Chantal, the only woman in our party, is flat on her back gasping for air. “This is too much. But what can I do with a war going on in Cameroon and Boko Haram killing all of our brothers?” she tells me once her breath calms. A hairdresser from a restive corner of northwest Cameroon, Evelyn left home as radical militants, expelled from Nigeria, threatened to overrun her village. With gold hoop earrings, lime spandex, and a backward courier cap, her flair has endured. But she is top-heavy, saddled with huge breasts, and wearing flimsy shoes, which she tosses aside.

“I’ve never moved in this type of forest, even in Africa,” she says. “I’m very, very scared, but I have no choice. I have to struggle because I want to save my life.”

Near dusk we learn that our native porter has vanished with Ebrima’s backpack, which contains his only change of clothes, money, and ID. After some tense discussion, Cevedao, with my encouragement, agrees to go back and find the bag. Only after he leaves does it dawn on me that in addition to our 30-pound backpacks, one of us would have to carry the 50-pound duffel stuffed with video gear and supplies. Because I’m the only man in my group without camera duties, this falls on me.

The trail by now is littered with more precious items: jeans, blazers, backpacks. I see a random discarded letter with runny scribbles and stuff it in my pocket. With each step, the muck is pulling harder on my boots. A gathering night riot of mosquitoes get their fill of blood, and the infernal heat sucks us dry. The jungle trail, I realize, is one big alimentary canal that breaks down everything that passes through. Thickets of thorns slice my arms; a series of fallen trees forces me to crawl on all fours. This is what you get for sticking your neck out, I think to myself. Head down, chin dug into the pack on my stomach, I stumble on.

“Did you see the skull?”

I’m lying in a shallow creek trying to cool my body temperature when Roger, our videographer, drops the news: in my stupor, I’d somehow walked right past a human head on a stake. Carlos missed it, too. We walk a quarter-mile back up the trail and it’s facing us—and Panama—presumably as a warning to anyone who would dare enter FARC territory. The surface is rain-polished to a shine, the jawbone missing.

“I swear I’ve seen this in a dream, man,” Carlos says, creeping closer, wide-eyed. “This is crazy.” We snap pictures and catch up with the group, driven by energy that no coca or caffeine had previously mustered.

Three hours later, we stop to make camp. The Bangladeshis swarm around me for insect repellent. The Nepalis bathe in their underwear and complain that the Bangladeshis complain too much and don’t share. The West Africans collect banana leaves for makeshift mattresses by the fire, which they feed with moss to create as much of a smoke screen against the mosquitoes as possible. Fruit bats bank and dive around them. By morning one man is hiding up in a tree.

The hangover of a rough night is tempered by the border crossing. At 10 A.M. we reach the stone obelisk that marks Palo de Letras, on the boundary with Panama. Those with working cell phones take pictures to remember the moment. Ebrima and Morro sit down to collect themselves, grateful to be out of Colombia at last.

“My faith keeps me moving, that’s it,” says Ebrima. “There is no turning back for me. I can’t go back to where I’m from.”

Meanwhile our shifty guides John and Alberto are anxious to head back home to Bijao. Although we had a deal to travel together to the Paya River, another half-day’s walk, they would face jail time if caught in the company of migrants by Senafront, the Panamanian forces that stalk the borderlands. They’re demanding to be paid in full, and more, to go all the way.

My temper flares. I never really trusted these men; paying them out would give up the last shred of leverage we have. But Carlos explains that we still need them to find our way, and we can’t afford to piss them off since they are skilled with machetes. FARC’s protection extends only so far.

I settle down, and a compromise is reached: the migrants will go ahead of us, on their own, to maintain a safe distance in the event that we’re intercepted. In English, then in French, I explain our predicament to the group and assure them that the route is easy to follow. Panama has a reputation for its humane treatment of illegals emerging from the jungle, complete with room and board. Everyone seems relieved at the prospect of imminent salvation.

But forward momentum is running down. During the next stretch, I spot a poured-concrete marker for the Carretera del Darien, a through-highway that was never built. Carlos sees a wheel from a Chevrolet Corvair, casualty of a 1961 expedition. Despite an hour’s head start, we catch up to the group. We sit and wait again. Same result. Somewhere in the skies above the canopy, rotor thumps from a Senafront helicopter are audible. Our panicked guides insist on moving ahead at double speed to drop the gear at the river, and I volunteer to go with them. We shoot up the trail, Cevedao in front, John right on my heels “for motivation,” until a merciful stop for water. I bend down to fill my canteen. They vanish.

I race to catch up but don’t see a trace. I call out their names. Nothing. At a fork in the path, I bear right and find an energy-drink can, but I’m starting to have doubts that I’m going the correct way. The Gap is veined with dozens of trails and detours to nowhere, and my GPS device lost its signal the day before. For all I know, I could be heading back to Colombia, a dreadful thought. I wonder, have the guides stolen our bags? Perhaps they are preparing an ambush. Did I go too far?

A chart shows the number and nationality of migrants captured in or near Paya, Panama, during a one-month period earlier this year.

I arrive at a tepee-shaped structure that looks to be a marker and shout into the abyss for a while, with no reply. It’s then that I notice that the structure is a tripod-shaped root, not man-made. I can feel the veins pulsing in my forehead, the fury of being left behind cut by sudden alarm. I am retracing my steps to the junction I passed earlier, unsure of my judgment, when the rustle of leaves stops me in my tracks. One of the Togolese men appears down the trail in his brown winter coat. He mumbles something in French, and I can scarcely contain my relief.

When we finally catch up to the guides, I want to explode. But Cevedao is holding a finger to his mouth. Soldiers are on a hilltop not far down the trail, he says, and the Paya River is no more than 40 minutes away, tops. The guides dump our bags, collect the last of our pesos, and rush away as the rest of the group stagger in. One by one, they crumple to the ground; some are asleep within seconds. Evelyn is the worst off, her swollen toes protruding from socks torn to shreds, lips quivering in sweat. I try to get everyone’s full names and e-mail addresses in case they’re detained, but few can manage the pen. Roused for a final push, we wait as the migrants pick up what’s left of their things and vanish over the ridge.

Four hours later, Carlos, Roger, and I are still walking. The trail is relatively easy to follow, but the terrain is steeper. The heat and humidity are dehydrating our bodies, and our water supply is dwindling, with no fresh sources since the guides departed. Carlos struggles to keep up. The added burden of carrying all our gear is taking its toll, forcing us to stop at shorter intervals, until we finally run out of water. We have no idea where we are.

I go forward alone, clumsy and parched. Another hour or two passes, and the foliage around me becomes more lushly tropical. I’m barreling downhill through a tight chute of banana leaves that spit me out into a clearing where Senafront soldiers with M4 rifles are barking orders. Drop your bags and put your hands up! For the first time in my life, I’m relieved to face the barrel of a gun.

Our migrant friends are seated in rows on the ground, under armed guard, waiting. As I’m escorted into the soldiers’ camp with orders to not talk to them, a plaintive voice calls out. “Don’t forget about us, brother.” It’s Ebrima. I turn back to catch his eye, and a soldier motions me away.

That was the last we ever saw of them. When Carlos and Roger eventually hobble into camp, a burly Panamanian officer informs us that President Juan Carlos Varela’s executive order is in force: no more migrants are being accepted. When I ask if this means the group will be sent back, he nods hesitantly. Retracing the route we just completed seems impossible at that moment. I cannot think straight, but emotions are welling up. We are fed pasta and coffee and escorted across the Paya to its namesake hamlet.

Sleepy and serene, Paya is a small Kuna Indian village with manicured grass and stilt homes, the last outpost inside Panama’s Darién National Park. In January 2003, it was the scene of a massacre: paramilitaries disguised as guerrillas executed four local men as punishment for cooperating with FARC. The paras went on to steal livestock, slaughter dogs, and land-mine the hamlet’s periphery to prevent people from leaving. At the time, no Panamanian security forces were in the vicinity.

Today, Paya counts on the protection of Senafront. Though technically a police force—Panama’s army was dissolved after the 1989 U.S. invasion—the unit has a broad mandate to safeguard the country’s southern border and carries out special-forces-style operations against drug smugglers and Colombian armed groups. In 2013, Panama’s government announced that FARC was no longer a threat in the country, removing restrictions against travelers with passports to the Gap, though coming this far inside was not recommended. A billboard at the Senafront base entrance features pictures of wanted FARC commanders and paras.

Major Hector de Sedas, the local Senafront authority, greets us under a tree that’s dropping mangos. A yellow placard is posted behind de Sedas that tallies the number of migrant arrivals between February 24 and March 24: 114, spread across 21 nationalities. When he deployed here six months ago, as many were recorded crossing daily, but on the day of our passage only six people were detained along the entire frontier. De Sedas says his men had been expecting us for a week—we’d informed them what we were doing ahead of time—and feared that we may have lost our way, like the four Somalis who strayed from their group on reaching Panama and wandered the jungle for 15 days, only to end up back in Colombia.

We’re crushed when he confirms that the migrants we traveled with were being sent back. “They will be given some food and water and escorted 30 minutes back up the trail,” he says. “There is nothing we can do—it’s an order.” I tell him this could be a death sentence for some. He winces in sympathy.

“We have an extraordinary humanitarian character. But Costa Rica and Nicaragua both sealed their borders, and this became a serious problem for us,” he explains. With more than 4,000 Cubans and other migrants blocked from advancing north, he says, social pressures were mounting that forced the government to airlift scores of them to Mexico. Intelligence sources estimate that 5,000 more migrants are backed up between Ecuador and Colombia, he adds. “Some people say President Varela should have made this decision [to close the border] six months ago.”

Local tolerance was ebbing. When I ask Paya’s aging village chief, Enrique Martinez, how the community has fared since the paramilitary violence, he says that aside from some land-rights disputes with the state, the situation is peaceful. “Now there is a problem with migrants coming from Africa, Bangladesh—we don’t have the capacity to feed all of them anymore,” he huffs, a necklace of jaguar teeth jangling on his chest. “They arrive sick, and who knows what diseases they’re carrying, like Ebola. When the migrants get here and leave the next day, that’s one thing. But when they stay for 15 days or more it becomes a problem. I want the border closed once and for all, you hear me?”

A hard rain comes down and we retire to our bungalow, where I notice that some of the boards are etched with migrant messages in Bengali and Arabic. As the downpour intensifies, I’m kept awake by a gnawing, familiar pang from my years of reporting: the guilt of leaving people in duress behind, made more acute in this case by my naive assurances that their lot would improve in Panama. The 20 of them were out in the bush somewhere, beyond tired, hungry, exposed. The Nepalis might find a way, I thought. I was less sure about the Bengalis and some of the Africans.

When I open the letter I found on the trail, there’s a draft note addressed to Ecuador immigration from one Mohammad Shariful of Bangladesh, with a world map sketched at the bottom. On the other side there’s a bank-account number and transfer amount, and, in English, the makings of a poem.

love is a river. love is an ocean. love is the earth. love is radha (hindu god). love is giridhar (hindu god). not being able to sleep, that is what love is. if there was no love there would be nothing. i would not be here.

It’s dated April 6, 2016, a month before the border closure. If all went well, Mohammad could be in the U.S. by now.

The Darién Gap in Panama is such dense jungle that the only sensible way through is by boat, and in the morning we climb into a piragua for a ten-hour glide upriver. I lie back and watch the teeming forests drift by. Pucuro, Boca de Cupe, El Real, and then Yaviza, a rowdy town of bars and brothels on the Chucunaque River, where the Pan-American Highway resumes and the grid comes alive.

It’s now May 19. Since departing from Turbo on May 8, we covered more than 200 miles by boat and on foot, crisscrossing rivers and swamps and humping through unmarked trails up a mountain to a forgotten border plateau. Along ankle-busting ridges, we dipped and climbed higher into the wilderness, only to descend once more to water, the lifeblood of the Gap and anyone unfortunate enough to be mired there. I send e-mails to Zia, the Afghan from the Turbo docks, and Ebrima—the two legible contacts in my notebook. At least they don’t bounce back.

While we were in the jungle, Colombian authorities confiscated 8.8 tons of Urabeño cocaine in a raid on a banana-plantation stash house in Turbo, the “biggest seizure of drugs in history,” the president boasted. As we wait for breakfast at a cantina in the morning, another news report from Turbo flickers on the screen.

Since the Panamanian closure came into force, a bottleneck of several thousand migrants had overwhelmed the way station. Streets are thronged with stranded Cubans, Haitians, Africans, and South Asians. The tableau could easily be mistaken for New York City or Miami, the telltale difference found in the crunched facial expressions of thwarted desire.

Some ugly myths have taken root in the United States that these same people are predisposed to be criminals, a dormant threat to national security and gathering drag on our economy. In a country built by migrants, currents of nativism and xenophobia are on the rise, with bluster of walls going up and mass deportations. And somehow people of all stripes keep angling for our faraway borders with their dreams intact, risks and distances be damned.

Inevitably, through sheer force of will and a lot of good luck, some of the ones stranded in Turbo will make it to Panama and on to the United States. Maybe they’ll be spared the onerous jungle crossing; maybe they will get a berth on an airlift; or maybe they are bushwhacking a new route through the Darién Gap at this very moment, their feet and gazes in lockstep forward against the inertia of fear and cynicism, driven by visions of something better.

They are our past, present, and future. And they are worthy.

Jason Motlagh is a fellow with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 

panama darien jungle tours

  • NEU: OUTDOOR BEKLEIDUNG
  • ABENTEUER & EXPEDITIONEN
  • DAS GOLDENE TICKET
  • INFOS ZU DEN ABENTEUERN
  • MEDIEN & REFERENZEN
  • ABENTEUERLICHE JOBS

Dein Warenkorb ist leer

panama darien jungle tours

CROSSING THE DARIEN

Panama dschungel tour.

panama darien jungle tours

DARIEN GAP, PANAMA

panama darien jungle tours

ca. 2 Wochen

panama darien jungle tours

Ca. 13 Personen

panama darien jungle tours

DEZEMBER 2024

panama darien jungle tours

Unser Ziel ist es, den wohl berüchtigtsten Dschungel  der Welt zu durchqueren. Zusammen werden wir uns tagelang einen Pfad durch Ranken, Lianen und dichtes Gestrüpp schlagen, bis wir am Ende die Küste des pazifischen Ozeans erreichen.

Die Herausforderungen werden enorm vielfältig und hart sein. Doch, mit einem starken und motivierten Team wird es das Abenteuer unseres Lebens werden.

panama darien jungle tours

Wir werden in einem Dorf der Embera Indianer starten, welches wir nur mit dem Boot erreichen können. Ohne die Unterstützung von Einheimischen wäre unser Vorhaben unmöglich durchzuführen. Deshalb sind wir sehr dankbar dafür, dass uns einige aus dem indigenen Dorf begleiten werden. Sie werden uns dabei helfen uns im Dschungel zu orientieren, Wasser zu finden und den Pfad zu schlagen.

Der einzige Weg bis zur pazifischen Küste führt zu Fuß und mit schwerem Gepäck quer durch den dichten Dschungel. Was uns dazwischen erwartet, ist ungewiss. Um schneller voranzukommen, versuchen wir oft auf  alten Jagdpfaden zu laufen…sofern sie noch zu erkennen sind.

Wenn alles klappt, erreichen wir nach knapp zehn Tagen einen einsamen Strand an der pazifischen Küste Panamas. Dort können wir uns unter schattigen Palmen von den Strapazen im Dschungel erholen. 

panama darien jungle tours

DIE HERAUSFORDERUNGEN

Die enorme Luftfeuchtigkeit von bis zu 90 % mit drückenden tropischen Tagestemperaturen von bis zu 32°C wird viele von uns an ihre Grenzen bringen. Daneben ist das Gelände sehr anspruchsvoll. Dauernd werden wir Hindernisse wie umgefallene Bäume, steile Abhänge und Flüsse überwinden müssen.

Besonders entlang der Flüsse müssen wir sehr achtsam sein, denn plötzliche Überflutungen sind keine Seltenheit. Dazu kommen gefährliche Raubkatzen oder giftige Schlangen. Unsere Guides wissen jedoch ganz genau, wie wir uns verhalten müssen, um sicher ans Ziel zu kommen.

Ein Risiko, das oftmals unterschätzt wird, ist das sogenannte „Jungle Rot“. Dabei handelt es sich um eine schmerzhafte Pilzinfektion, die die Füße bei andauernder Feuchtigkeit befallen kann. Wir kennen jedoch einfache Wege, um dies zu verhindern.

Um unser Ziel zu erreichen, müssen wir also einiges auf uns nehmen. Deswegen suchen wir echte Abenteurer, denn jeder, der Angst hat nass zu werden oder nur entspannt durch den Dschungel wandern möchte, ist hier fehl am Platz.

DER DARIEN GAP

Historischer Hintergrund

Vielen sind tolle Sehenswürdigkeiten wie der Panama Kanal oder auch die beeindruckende Stadt Panama City bekannt, doch nur die wenigsten haben je etwas vom wilden Dschungel des Darien gehört. Es ist der südlichste Teil Panamas, der Mittel- und Südamerika miteinander verbindet.

Der Darien war die erste Region des Festlandes, das von den Spaniern kolonialisiert wurde. Historisch gesehen müsste es demnach eines der bevölkerungsreichsten Gebiete ganz Amerikas sein. Doch genau das Gegenteil ist eingetreten. Bis heute sind weite Teile des Dariens vollkommen unerschlossen und genauso wild, wie vor hunderten von Jahren. In den 80er Jahren formierten sich hier die Guerilla-Bewegungen. Vorrangig auf kolumbianischer Seite waren einige Opfer durch die Bewegungen zu beklagen. Allerdings wurde vor einigen Jahren ein Friedensvertrag zwischen den Aufständischen und der Regierung unterzeichnet.

Seither hat sich die Lage merklich beruhigt. Rick, unser wichtigster Guide, hatte in den letzten 20 Jahren keine Schwierigkeiten während diverser Touren auf der panamaischen Seite im Darien. Das liegt zum einen daran, dass die kolumbianische Grenze weiter entfernt ist und zum anderen an seinem langjährigen Erfahrungsschatz.

Der Dschungel

Nichts wird so aussehen, wie wir es kennen und für jeden von uns wird es eine vollkommen neue Erfahrung werden. Unsere Route wird uns fernab der Zivilisation durch die verschiedensten Vegetationen führen. Mehr als 2.000 verschiedene Tropenpflanzen sind hier beheimatet. Anfangs wird der Wald sehr tropisch sein. An vielen Stellen ist er extrem dicht und durchzogen von Lianen, Ranken und riesigen Wurzeln, sodass man kaum weiter als drei Meter ins Unterholz blicken kann.

Unsere Route wird immer wieder von kleinen Gebirgen und Flüssen durchkreuzt werden. Unterwegs werden wir also immer wieder Flüsse durchqueren, steile Abhänge überwinden und uns durchs Unterholz kämpfen müssen. An anderen Stellen öffnet sich der Wald wiederum und lässt nachts einen sagenhaften Blick auf die Sterne frei. Je weiter wir in Richtung des pazifischen Ozeans kommen, desto stärker werden wir auch eine Veränderung der Vegetation spüren. Hier wird aus dem tropischen Regenwald ein Trockenwald. Weiter nördlich unserer Route finden sich sogar Savannen.

panama darien jungle tours

DIE TIERWELT

Vor rund 2,5 Millionen Jahren waren Nord- und Südamerika noch zwei getrennte Kontinente. Als sich die Landbrücke über die Jahre hinweg schloss, hatten Tiere, die sich vollkommen isoliert voneinander entwickelt hatten, die Möglichkeit in zuvor unerreichbares Land vorzudringen.

Vor allem im heutigen Panama und dort im Darien führte es dazu, dass die Artenvielfalt atemberaubend hoch ist. Unter anderem deswegen wurde der Darien von der UNESCO zum Weltkulturerbe ernannt.

Nahezu alle Tierarten Südamerikas, aber auch viele Nordamerikas, wie der Puma oder das Gürteltier, sind im Darien vertreten. Dazu kommen Ameisenbären, Tukane, verschiedenste Affenarten (u.a. Brüllaffen), Faultiere, extrem seltene Ozelots, über 300.000 Insektenarten, Schlangen und vieles mehr. Es wurde sogar eine Froschart dokumentiert, deren Haut durchsichtig ist, sodass man direkt auf die Organe schauen kann.

Diese und viele weitere Arten sind sehr selten und teilweise nur dort zu finden. Daher legen wir wert auf einen respektvollen Umgang. Welche Tiere wir zu sehen bekommen, ist natürlich ungewiss. Sie warten schließlich nicht auf uns! 😉

panama darien jungle tours

Unsere Begleiter werden Mitglieder des Stammes der Embera sein. Das alte indigene Volk zählt in Panama nahezu 7.000 Menschen, wobei ihre Sprache „Embera“, die zur Familie der Chocó gehört, von ca. 60.000 bis 110.000 Menschen gesprochen wird. Mittlerweile leben sie vermehrt in größeren Siedlungen.

Viele von ihnen leben nach wie vor sehr traditionell, wenngleich sich ihre Art zu leben in den letzten Jahren sehr verändert hat. Sie pflegen ihre Traditionen, mit ihren Tänzen, den Bemalungen oder ihrer Handwerkskunst und doch sind die Einflüsse der Zivilisation nicht unbemerkt an ihnen vorübergezogen.

Das Wichtigste dabei ist, dass sie uns gegenüber aufgeschlossen sind und uns willkommen heißen. Von ihnen können wir in der Wildnis lernen zu fischen, Spuren zu lesen oder wie wir uns im Dschungel orientieren können. Außerdem wird abends im Camp Zeit zum Erzählen sein. So können wir alles über ihre alten Bräuche und ihre Geschichte erfahren.

VERLETZUNGEN & ERKRANKUNG

Das Erreichen unseres Ziels sowie der Verlauf der gesamten Tour sind ungewiss. Sie enthält Risiken für die körperliche Unversehrtheit und auch die Wahrscheinlichkeit von Unfällen ist deutlich höher als bei Pauschalreisen.

Bei leichteren Verletzungen, wie Verstauchungen oder kleineren Wunden, wird unsere umfangreiche Notfall-Apotheke ausreichen. Giftige Tiere, wie Schlangen, gibt es natürlich auch. Diese werden wir jedoch nur extrem selten zu Gesicht bekommen. Im äußersten Notfall wird per Satellitentelefon ein Signal gesendet.

ORIENTIERUNGSVERLUST

Dank unseren lokalen Guides ist die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass wir uns verirren sehr gering. Dazu kommt, dass wir uns mit modernster Technik ausgestattet sind. Geräte wie das Garmin inReach Mini, ein GPS-Gerät, helfen uns nicht nur unsere Position zu bestimmen, sondern ermöglichen uns auch rund um die Uhr mit international tätigen Rettungsorganisationen zu kommunizieren.  

KRIMINALITÄT

Rick, unser wichtigster Guide, hat aufgrund seiner Kontakte und seiner Erfahrung in den letzten 20 Jahren keine Probleme mit Schmugglern oder sonstigen Kriminellen gehabt. Sollte es dennoch Anzeichen solcher Gefahren geben, werden wir die Route ändern oder umkehren. Zudem meiden wir das direkte Grenzgebiet zu Kolumbien und den Osten des Darien. Alles andere wäre leichtsinnig.

WIR SIND WANDERMUT

Wer macht denn sowas.

panama darien jungle tours

organisiert diese Tour im Vorfeld

Martin ist Mitgründer von Wandermut. Er war schon in der Sahara, im Amazonas und vielen weiteren Touren dabei und kennt sich bestens mit dieser Tour aus.

panama darien jungle tours

RICK MORALES

führt die Tour vor Ort durch

Rick ist unser wichtigster Mann und ein absoluter Profi. Er ist in Panama geboren und leitet seit über 20 Jahren Touren und Expeditionen durch das Gebiet. Den panamaischen Dschungel kennt er wie kein anderer. Dabei findet er sich sowohl in Wüsten als auch auf schneebedeckten Bergen zurecht. Nebenher bildet er professionelle Guides speziell für die Wildnis in Mittel- und Südamerika aus. Damit ist er der beste Guide, den wir uns wünschen könnten.

WICHTIGE HARD FACTS

TERMINÜBERSICHT

► 11. - 22. Dezember 2024

panama darien jungle tours

BEITRAG FÜR TEILNAHME

Der Teilnahmebeitrag für die Panama Dschungel Tour liegt bei  3.643 Euro.

panama darien jungle tours

ANFORDERUNGEN

Hohe körperliche Belastbarkeit in tropischen Gebieten, Gelassenheit in unbekannten Situationen und Teamfähigkeit werden vorausgesetzt.

FRAGEN UND ANTWORTEN

DABEI SIND:

✓ Busfahrten von Panama City zum Startpunkt und zurück

✓ Bootsfahrten

✓ Verpflegung im Dschungel

✓ Erste-Hilfe-Medizin

✓ GPS-Geräte

✓ Satellitentelefon

✓ Kochutensilien

NICHT DABEI SIND

☓ Flüge nach Panama City

☓ Unterkünfte vor- und nach der Tour

☓ Restaurantbesuche und alkoholische Getränke

Die Tour ist nichts für Weicheier. Wer hier mitkommt und die Strecke durch den Dschungel meistert, kann von sich behaupten, etwas gemacht zu haben, was sonst keiner macht. Natürlich sind nur die Wenigsten vorher schon einmal bei so einer Tour dabei gewesen. Das ist auch nicht schlimm! Grundsätzlich kann jeder, der wirklich sportlich ist, genug „Biss“ hat und sich gut vorbereitet, bei der Tour mithalten. Mach doch mal unseren  Selbsttest , wenn du unsicher bist. Bei der Vorbereitung unterstützen wir selbstverständlich und stehen mit Rat und Tat zur Seite. Generell entscheiden wir neben allen anderen Kriterien auch nach Bauchgefühl, wen wir mitnehmen können und wen nicht. Letztendlich wollen wir ein tolles Team zusammen bekommen, mit dem es einfach Spaß macht unterwegs zu sein.

Motivation und Erwartungshaltung sind uns am wichtigsten! Dazu gehört für uns, dass du mit der richtigen Erwartung an die Tour herangehen musst. Es kann über viele Tage hinweg sehr anstrengend, schmutzig und ermüdend werden. Auch ein hungriger Magen wird nicht ausbleiben. Dazu kommt, dass es vor Ort immer zu nicht planbaren Veränderungen kommt. Du solltest also ein gewisses Maß an Flexibilität, kulinarischer Genügsamkeit und einen ruhigen Geist mitbringen. Wenn es das ist, was du willst, bist du bei uns verdammt richtig.

Englisch Rick wird das Team anführen. Er spricht fließend Englisch und Spanisch. Du solltest also in der Lage sein, zumindest einfache Anweisungen in einer der beiden Sprachen zu verstehen.

Es wird anstrengend!

Pro Tag schaffen wir im Dschungel nur sehr kurze Distanzen, die jedoch vergleichbar mit einer 25 km langen Bergwanderung mit bis zu 1000 Höhenmetern sind. Wir laufen von Sonnenaufgang bis Sonnenuntergang, was ungefähr 8-12 Stunden entspricht, jedoch an manchen Tagen mehr sein kann. Während der gesamten Tour musst du in der Lage sein einen Rucksack mit ca. 22 kg tragen zu können. Wir erwarten also von dir, dass du trittfest und in der Lage bist, in schnellem Marschtempo durch unebenes Gelände zu laufen. Das setzt voraus, dass du unsere Empfehlungen für die Vorbereitung ernst nimmst 😉

Wenn das alles passt, wird es eine Erfahrung werden, von der du noch deinen Enkeln berichten wirst.

Wir beraten dich natürlich bei allen Vorbereitungen. Deine Anreise und die Ausrüstung musst du dennoch eigenständig organisieren.

Hier  findest du vorab ein paar nützliche Infos zur Einreise. Außerdem solltest du immer auch das Auswärtige Amt im Blick behalten. 

Für die Ausrüstung wird es von uns noch eine ausführliche Empfehlung geben. Vor und nach der Tour empfehlen wir, dass du unbedingt ein paar Puffertage einplanst. Die kannst du dann auch nutzen, um die Gegend zu erkunden.

Im Dschungel werden wir die gesamte Zeit über in Hängematten schlafen. Diese werden wir für dich organisieren. Die Matten sind sehr bequem und haben außerdem den Vorteil, dass man den Kontakt zum Boden meiden kann. Auf diese Weise schützen wir uns nachts vor ungebetenen Gästen wie Schlangen. Die Hängematten bereits mit Moskitonetzen ausgestattet, sodass auch ungebetene, fliegende Gäste vermieden werden.

Unsere Guides werden uns helfen, Flüsse oder Lagunen zu finden, an denen wir unsere Frischwasservorräte auffüllen können. Um Krankheiten, die uns schwächen würden, vorzubeugen, filtern und desinfizieren wir das Wasser, bevor wir es trinken.

Uns ist es wichtig, dass wir den Regenwald so verlassen, wie wir ihn vorgefunden haben. Bedenke also bitte, dass Dinge, die nicht verrotten (z.B. feuchtes Toilettenpapier) wieder mitgenommen werden müssen. Außerdem werden wir stark darauf achten, ruhig zu sein, um die dort lebenden Tiere nicht zu stören.

Nächste Schritte

1: BEWERBUNG ABSCHICKEN

Lies dir die Fragen und Antworten durch und bewirb dich über das Formular!

2: AUF ZUSAGE WARTEN

Wir sagen dir Bescheid, ob wir dich mitnehmen können oder nicht.

3: PLATZ SICHERN

Wenn von unserer Seite alles passt, bekommst du den Platz im Team.

4: Vorfreude genießen

... und los geht's!

SICHERE DIR EINEN PLATZ

Stelle dir folgende Fragen, wenn du dabei sein willst:

► Kann ich die Zähne zusammenbeißen, wenn die Tropen dich quälen und die nächste Pause auf sich warten lässt?

► Habe ich überhaupt Zeit und 3.643 Euro für die Tour? Wir fragen im Bewerbungsformular Termine ab und schauen, wann die meisten können.

► Möchte ich eine Erfahrung machen, die ich noch meinen Enkeln erzählen werde?

Chasing Clicks in the Jungle: Right-Wing Influencers Descend on the Darién Gap

Top Democrat Official in Michigan Battleground County Refuses to Back Biden

Top Democrat Official in Michigan Battleground County Refuses to Back Biden

Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 824

Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 824

Across the Army, units lean into drone experimentation

Across the Army, units lean into drone experimentation

Jerry Seinfeld Addresses the Backlash to His Pro-Israel Advocacy

Jerry Seinfeld Addresses the Backlash to His Pro-Israel Advocacy

Menendez Jurors Hear Audio and See Texts From Seized Phones

Menendez Jurors Hear Audio and See Texts From Seized Phones

Vanderpump Rules: How Ariana Madix’s Post-Scandoval Fame Ruined Bravo’s Best Show

Vanderpump Rules: How Ariana Madix’s Post-Scandoval Fame Ruined Bravo’s Best Show

‘I am truly thankful to be alive’: 29-year-old Billy Price announces NFL retirement after undergoing clot-related surgery

‘I am truly thankful to be alive’: 29-year-old Billy Price announces NFL retirement after undergoing clot-related surgery

Activision wins $14.4M judgment against Call of Duty cheat vendor

Activision wins $14.4M judgment against Call of Duty cheat vendor

I.M.F. Is Upbeat on China’s Growth But Questions Industrial Policy

I.M.F. Is Upbeat on China’s Growth But Questions Industrial Policy

Melinda French Gates says she’s donating $1bn in support of women, families

Melinda French Gates says she’s donating $1bn in support of women, families

Report: Israeli Tanks Reach Center of Rafah; Will Fight Outward

Report: Israeli Tanks Reach Center of Rafah; Will Fight Outward

Fox News Launches Some Especially Clueless Attacks on Robert De Niro

Fox News Launches Some Especially Clueless Attacks on Robert De Niro

  • Environment

Ayub Ibrahim had just walked out of the jungle. His feet still ached. A month earlier, he had left his home in Somalia, fleeing a civil war, he said, traveling first to Turkey, then Brazil and finally crossing on foot through a 66-mile expanse of wilderness known as the Darién Gap.

Resting in the sweltering San Vicente migrant camp in Panama with hundreds of other recent arrivals, he suddenly found himself surrounded by a half-dozen Americans with video cameras.

“Do you guys like Ilhan Omar?” one person asked. “What do you think about Joe Biden?”

Mr. Ibrahim, 20, answered the questions. He said he liked and admired Ms. Omar, the first Somali-American to serve in Congress. He doesn’t follow American politics, he added, but thinks Mr. Biden is a good president. When asked if Mr. Biden or former President Donald J. Trump would be better for immigrants, he chose Mr. Biden.

Later, Mr. Ibrahim would say he had felt ambushed and confused by the questions. He hadn’t intended to make a political statement.

But by then, it was too late.

One of his questioners, Laura Loomer, a right-wing activist and former Republican candidate for Congress, had already posted an edited video of the conversation online. It had rocketed around the internet, amassing nearly two million views on X.

The caption read: “Somali illegal aliens proclaim support for Ilhan Omar and Joe Biden inside Panama migrant camp!”

As immigration becomes a dominant issue in the 2024 presidential race, right-wing media has been awash in gritty and often deceptive videos of migrants emerging from the Darién Gap , a roadless stretch of Panamanian jungle that has become a bottleneck for thousands of people on their way to the United States.

The clips are presented as proof of what Republicans often describe as an “invasion” of Muslim terrorists, Chinese spies and Latin American criminals. Posted widely on social media, the videos blame President Biden for the migration and suggest, falsely, that Democrats are encouraging it to create new, illegal voters. International aid organizations are cast as profiteers making money off human misery.

The New York Times traced much of that content to the work of Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who over the past three years has become the go-to tour guide for right-wing journalists, politicians and social-media influencers wanting to see the Darién Gap firsthand.

Those travelers have included, along with Ms. Loomer, the Republican Representatives Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin and Burgess Owens of Utah, reporters, producers and podcast hosts for The Epoch Times , a right-wing newspaper, and correspondents for Real America’s Voice, the digital media company that hosts Stephen K. Bannon’s podcast.

Videos and other content made by the visitors have come to serve as a kind of B-roll footage accompanying conversations about immigration on Fox News, Tucker Carlson’s online show and even for Mr. Trump himself.

On Friday, the Republican presidential candidate reposted a video on Truth Social made by Ms. Loomer. It included several clips from her trip to Panama, including a snippet of her conversation with Mr. Ibrahim.

The Times followed one group as it toured camps on the edge of the Darién Gap, observing and recording as participants, interviewed migrants and shot video. The reporters, producers and influencers, gravitated toward migrants from Africa, China and the Middle East, barraging them with politically loaded questions.

Their posts amplified what they perceived as gotcha moments while dismissing answers that appeared to challenge their preconceptions.

When asked whether he had been given money by the United Nations or humanitarian groups, Mr. Ibrahim said he had not. He also said that as a Muslim he supported equal rights for women and was opposed to discrimination against gay people. Those portions of the interview were cut from the version posted online and missing from Ms. Loomer’s later accounts.

In an interview with a call-in talk show on Infowars, the far-right platform, Ms. Loomer questioned whether the Muslims she encountered, including Mr. Ibrahim, were “jihadists or people who have jihadist tendencies.”

Reached the next day on a bus bound for Costa Rica, Mr. Ibrahim said he regretted the experience. “She wanted to give a bad picture about immigrants to the world,” he said of Ms. Loomer. “Her questions weren’t fair.”

Clips of migrants in Panama have become weapons in the information battle being waged over immigration, experts said. The content, looped again and again online, is highly effective, particularly in creating the perception of the threat of violence, said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a political science professor at George Mason University who has studied social media’s impact on immigration.

The images, she noted, tend to focus on young men while excluding women and children, who might generate more sympathetic responses. The migrants are often referred to as “military-aged men” and “invaders” and their claims of political or religious persecution at home are often dismissed as scripted falsehoods.

“This is straight from the textbook for how you build a narrative,” Ms. Correa-Cabrera said.

The influencers and media figures on the tours argue that they are shedding light on a crisis that mainstream outlets either downplay or refuse to cover. Ms. Loomer described herself as a journalist. “My reporting was so powerful,” she said.

The focus on Muslim and Chinese migrants may create a distorted impression. Roughly 90 percent of the 520,000 people who crossed through the Darién Gap last year were South Americans and Caribbeans, according to the Panamanian government. The vast majority of that group comes from Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti, countries experiencing economic and political upheaval.

The number of migrants from Africa, China and the Middle East coming through the Darién Gap has boomed in the past two years, but is less than 8 percent of the total. Panama screens migrants from those regions for potential criminal or terrorist connections. So far, the terrorism threat they might represent is theoretical. Several academic studies have found no correlation between immigration and acts of terror, a review by the Council on Foreign Relations published last fall found.

Critics warn that inflammatory coverage of these complex problems only serves to aggravate a humanitarian crisis.

“The misrepresentation of the migrants crossing the gap as invaders or illegals puts their life at risk,” said Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF’s representative in Panama. “It can justify harsh treatment and even violence against them.”

Inside an ‘Invasion Investigation’

On a steamy February afternoon outside a government migrant camp on the edge of the Chucunaque River, Mr. Yon escorted a reporter and photographer from The Epoch Times up a hill, pausing to gesture at three weary Venezuelan migrants limping across a bridge.

“If we lose this, it is over. You know what I mean? The United States is done,” he said.

In some circles on the right, an invitation to tour with Mr. Yon has become something of a golden ticket, promising access on the ground and publicity upon return.

A swaggering Special Forces veteran, Mr. Yon has long had a knack for getting attention. In his autobiography, he recounts killing a man with his bare hands in a bar fight. (Charges against him were eventually dropped.) He later made headlines as a frontline blogger and photographer at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has since immersed himself in right-wing politics around the globe. In 2014, he was recruited by Japanese activists to dispute the long-established existence of “comfort women,” the Korean women forced into sexual slavery during World War II. More recently, he joined Dutch farmers protesting environmental reform, claiming it was part of a plan to replace the country’s population with immigrants.

On Jan. 6, 2021, he was outside the U.S. Capitol and later falsely said that the rioters were spurred on by “agent provocateurs” connected to Antifa.

That year was a turning point for migration through the Darién Gap, an inhospitable stretch of mountainous wilderness that is riddled with poisonous snakes and roving gangs of criminals. What had been a trickle of just a few thousand people crossing the gap each year gushed to 133,000, an increase fueled largely by Haitians fleeing economic chaos.

Mr. Yon arrived in Panama that February and began his tours shortly after — including one with Mr. Tiffany and Mr. Owens. In total, he estimates he has brought as many as 60 people to see the camps in person, and tries to remain behind the scenes. “I just want people to see for their own self and make their mind up,” he said.

But he often portrays himself as an expert, sitting for frequent interviews with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as in a 2022 video called “Alien Invasion” produced by Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican of Arizona.

Mr. Yon says he makes no profit from the trips. Guests cover their own expenses, including $35-a-night rooms at a modest hotel just steps from a migrant camp. He also raises money online: A crowdsourced fund-raiser begun in February to pay for a “Darien Gap Migrant Invasion investigation mission” has raised just shy of $13,000.

Ms. Loomer, for her part, initially sought to raise $14,500 to fund a seven-day trip but blew past that goal, extending her stay by three days and raising close to $28,000.She said she did not make a profit.

Last week, she started a new online fund-raiser, seeking $100,000 to pay for a film about her experiences in Panama. Its title, she said, will be “The Great Replacement,” a reference to the conspiracy theory that Democrats are encouraging immigration in a scheme to replace white voters.

A Narrative Takes Hold

Mr. Yon and his tours often take aim at the humanitarian organizations at work in the area, reserving particular ire for one United Nations agency — the International Organization for Migration. The groups, they say, incentivize migration by providing health care, psychological support and nutrition both before and after migrants make the journey.

That aid is paid for by government contributions and private donations, funds that Mr. Yon calls “profits” that motivate the organizations to encourage more migration.

Diego Beltran, interim director for Central and North America and the Caribbean for the migration organization, disputed the characterization, noting that the U.N. doesn’t profit from its activities and that it works to find alternatives to migration. The agency has helped more than four million migrants settle legally in South America rather than move north to the U.S., he said.

“There is a great deal of disinformation in this area,” Mr. Beltran said. “It’s clear that migration is increasingly a political issue in many countries. But we don’t agree with efforts to stigmatize migrants and increase xenophobia.”

Another target is HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a U.S. nonprofit that provides services, including legal aid and mental health, to migrants. Mr. Yon’s tours have made an issue of the large maps of the region it posts on some of its facilities in Panama, claiming they encourage people to make the trek.

HIAS officials say the maps, which do not detail specific routes through the gap, are meant to help migrants find aid stations.

“We certainly don’t encourage migration,” said Mark Hetfield, the HIAS president. “All we’re offering is a way to assist those who arrive there.”

Mr. Hetfield said many of the criticisms of his group were grounded in antisemitism, noting that the man who murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 had frequently posted rants about the group. “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” the killer posted online just hours before the attack.

Mr. Yon has also claimed, without evidence, that the group is helping dangerous migrants enter the U.S. “They’re going to scream ‘Allahu akbar! And they’re going to shoot” them, he said, using an obscenity, at an anti-immigration rally last month near Eagle Pass, Texas. “And they’re coming across the border and it’s being funded with Jewish money.”

There is some evidence that the narrative cultivated by Mr. Yon and others in his groups is having an impact. This month, after influencers who visited the region posted dozens of complaints online about maps hung by international groups, the director of Panama’s National Migration Service raised a similar concern , calling it “irresponsible.”

HIAS has since removed some of its maps in the region, saying it did so for “security reasons.”

‘Angels of the Jungle’

Mr. Yon has forged close ties with the Panamanian government, and particularly its border patrol. His groups have frequently received unrestricted access to migrant facilities, while mainstream journalists are often prohibited.

A key to that access is Oscar Ramirez, a Mexican activist and correspondent for Real America’s Voice, who since early last year has worked with Mr. Yon in Panama as a fixer and translator. With a military bearing, he greets border officers with hugs at checkpoints and receives armed escorts on treks through the Darién Gap itself. And while he is quick to rail against international groups, he calls the border patrol “angels of the jungle” in social media posts and news reports.

At a recent security forum in Panama City, Maj. Nelson Moreno, a border patrol protocol officer, described Mr. Ramirez as “an integral part of our border DNA.”

Two days earlier, a border guard stopped Times journalists from traveling to an Indigenous village where Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Yon, along with roughly a dozen American influencers, were filming migrants.

Although there were no other witnesses to the episode, Ms. Loomer discussed it in an interview on Infowars, the right-wing website founded by Mr. Jones, the following day, saying the agency considered the Times journalists a “security risk.”

Mr. Yon later said he had learned about the episode from sources in the region. You can’t make a move in the Darién Gap, he said in an interview with The Times, “without me hearing about it.”

Constant Content Creation

Over 10 days, Ms. Loomer visited four migrant centers, navigated rivers in motorized canoes, rode through the Panama Canal, and posted nearly 100 times on X about the trip. One video has over 4.5 million views and was shared by Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

“We are being invaded,” Ms. Loomer said in the clip, as she boarded a bus with migrants. “We are being replaced and it’s no accident it’s happening in an election year.”

In the crowded San Vicente camp, Yazdan Faramehr, a 29-year-old bodybuilder from Iran who speaks good English, was encircled by Americans clutching video cameras. As they peppered him with questions, he told them he was hoping to get a fresh start in Los Angeles’s large Persian community.

But Mr. Faramehr grew uncomfortable when Ms. Loomer, who once identified herself as a “proud Islamophobe,” but now rejects the label, began asking about Iranians coming the U.S. to “commit acts of Islamic terrorism.” Worried about drawing unwanted attention or putting his family at risk, he asked that the group not use his image.

Mr. Yon posted a clip on X anyway. It drew dozens of replies from people speculating that Mr. Faramehr, who said he worked in human resources in Tehran, was a dangerous intruder with a secret agenda.

Reached as he traveled north from Panama, Mr. Faramehr gave The Times permission to use his photo. He said he thought it was fair of Mr. Yon’s tour to “criticize their country’s immigration system” but felt like they were trying to trap him.

“To be honest,” he said, “I wish I never talked to them.”

The post Chasing Clicks in the Jungle: Right-Wing Influencers Descend on the Darién Gap appeared first on New York Times .

Trending Posts

Homeless man files lawsuit against tire company over loud classical music played near encampment and wins

Homeless man files lawsuit against tire company over loud classical music played near encampment and wins

Josh Gibson Becomes MLB Career and Season Batting Leader as Negro Leagues Statistics Incorporated

Josh Gibson Becomes MLB Career and Season Batting Leader as Negro Leagues Statistics Incorporated

Protesters Remove American Flag, Raise Palestinian Flag in Harvard Yard

Harvard, Stung by Controversy, Adopts Policy of Not Speaking Out

Damaging Winds and ‘Very Large Hail’ Are Possible in Central Texas

Storm Kills at Least 1 in Texas, Where Power Could Be Out for Days

‘The Valley’ Star Zack Wickham Knows He Was Built For Reality TV: “I’m A Walking One-Liner”

‘The Valley’ Star Zack Wickham Knows He Was Built For Reality TV: “I’m A Walking One-Liner”

 alt=

Copyright © 2023.

Site Navigation

  • Privacy & Policy

Privacy Overview

panama darien jungle tours

Chasing clicks in the jungle: Right-wing influencers descend on the Darién Gap

Laura Loomer, a right-wing activist, interviews Ayub, a Somalian migrant who is crossing the Darien Gap, at the Migrant Reception Center of San Vicente, Meteti, Panama, on Feb. 17, 2024.

METITI, Panama — Ayub Ibrahim had just walked out of the jungle. His feet still ached. A month earlier, he had left his home in Somalia, fleeing a civil war, he said, traveling first to Turkey, then Brazil and finally crossing on foot through a 66-mile expanse of wilderness known as the Darién Gap.

Resting in the sweltering San Vicente migrant camp in Panama with hundreds of other recent arrivals, he suddenly found himself surrounded by a half-dozen Americans with video cameras.

“Do you guys like Ilhan Omar?” one person asked. “What do you think about Joe Biden?”

Ibrahim, 20, answered the questions. He said he liked and admired Omar, the first Somali American to serve in Congress. He doesn’t follow U.S. politics, he added, but thinks Biden is a good president. When asked if Biden or former President Donald Trump would be better for immigrants, he chose Biden.

Later, Ibrahim would say he had felt ambushed and confused by the questions. He hadn’t intended to make a political statement.

But by then, it was too late.

One of his questioners, Laura Loomer, a right-wing activist and former Republican candidate for Congress, had already posted an edited video of the conversation online. It had rocketed around the internet, amassing nearly 2 million views on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The caption read: “Somali illegal aliens proclaim support for Ilhan Omar and Joe Biden inside Panama migrant camp!”

As immigration becomes a dominant issue in the 2024 presidential race, right-wing media has been awash in gritty and often deceptive videos of migrants emerging from the Darién Gap, a roadless stretch of Panamanian jungle that has become a bottleneck for thousands of people on their way to the United States.

The clips are presented as proof of what Republicans often describe as an “invasion” of Muslim terrorists, Chinese spies and Latin American criminals. Posted widely on social media, the videos blame Biden for the migration and suggest, falsely, that Democrats are encouraging it to create new, illegal voters. International aid organizations are cast as profiteers making money off human misery.

The New York Times traced much of that content to the work of Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who over the past three years has become the go-to tour guide for right-wing journalists, politicians and social-media influencers wanting to see the Darién Gap firsthand.

Those travelers have included, along with Loomer, Republican Reps. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin and Burgess Owens of Utah, reporters, producers and podcast hosts for The Epoch Times, a right-wing newspaper, and correspondents for Real America’s Voice, the digital media company that hosts Steve Bannon’s podcast.

Videos and other content made by the visitors have come to serve as a kind of B-roll footage accompanying conversations about immigration on Fox News, Tucker Carlson’s online show and even for Trump himself.

On Friday, the Republican presidential candidate reposted a video on Truth Social made by Loomer. It included several clips from her trip to Panama, including a snippet of her conversation with Ibrahim.

The Times followed one group as it toured camps on the edge of the Darién Gap, observing and recording as participants interviewed migrants and shot video. The reporters, producers and influencers gravitated toward migrants from Africa, China and the Middle East, barraging them with politically loaded questions.

Their posts amplified what they perceived as gotcha moments while dismissing answers that appeared to challenge their preconceptions.

Migrants at a store at the Migrant Reception Center of Lajas Blancas, Panama, on Feb. 17, 2024.

When asked whether he had been given money by the United Nations or humanitarian groups, Ibrahim said he had not. He also said that as a Muslim he supported equal rights for women and was opposed to discrimination against gay people. Those portions of the interview were cut from the version posted online and missing from Loomer’s later accounts.

In an interview with a call-in talk show on Infowars, the far-right platform, Loomer questioned whether the Muslims she encountered, including Ibrahim, were “jihadists or people who have jihadist tendencies.”

Reached the next day on a bus bound for Costa Rica, Ibrahim said he regretted the experience. “She wanted to give a bad picture about immigrants to the world,” he said of Loomer. “Her questions weren’t fair.”

Clips of migrants in Panama have become weapons in the information battle being waged over immigration, experts said. The content, looped again and again online, is highly effective, particularly in creating the perception of the threat of violence, said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a political science professor at George Mason University who has studied social media’s impact on immigration.

The images, she noted, tend to focus on young men while excluding women and children, who might generate more sympathetic responses. The migrants are often referred to as “military-aged men” and “invaders” and their claims of political or religious persecution at home are often dismissed as scripted falsehoods.

“This is straight from the textbook for how you build a narrative,” Correa-Cabrera said.

The influencers and media figures on the tours argue that they are shedding light on a crisis that mainstream outlets either downplay or refuse to cover. Loomer described herself as a journalist. “My reporting was so powerful,” she said.

The focus on Muslim and Chinese migrants may create a distorted impression. Roughly 90% of the 520,000 people who crossed through the Darién Gap last year were South Americans and Caribbeans, according to the Panamanian government. The vast majority of that group comes from Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti, countries experiencing economic and political upheaval.

The number of migrants from Africa, China and the Middle East coming through the Darién Gap has boomed in the past two years, but is less than 8% of the total. Panama screens migrants from those regions for potential criminal or terrorist connections. So far, the terrorism threat they might represent is theoretical. Several academic studies have found no correlation between immigration and acts of terror, a review by the Council on Foreign Relations published last fall found.

Critics warn that inflammatory coverage of these complex problems only serves to aggravate a humanitarian crisis.

“The misrepresentation of the migrants crossing the gap as invaders or illegals puts their life at risk,” said Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF’s representative in Panama. “It can justify harsh treatment and even violence against them.”

A Narrative takes hold

Yon and his tours often take aim at the humanitarian organizations at work in the area, reserving particular ire for one U.N. agency — the International Organization for Migration. The groups, they say, incentivize migration by providing health care, psychological support and nutrition both before and after migrants make the journey.

That aid is paid for by government contributions and private donations, funds that Yon calls “profits” that motivate the organizations to encourage more migration.

Diego Beltran, interim director for Central and North America and the Caribbean for the migration organization, disputed the characterization, noting that the U.N. doesn’t profit from its activities and that it works to find alternatives to migration. The agency has helped more than 4 million migrants settle legally in South America rather than move north to the U.S., he said.

“There is a great deal of disinformation in this area,” Beltran said. “It’s clear that migration is increasingly a political issue in many countries. But we don’t agree with efforts to stigmatize migrants and increase xenophobia.”

Another target is HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a U.S. nonprofit that provides services, including legal aid and mental health, to migrants. Yon’s tours have made an issue of the large maps of the region it posts on some of its facilities in Panama, claiming they encourage people to make the trek.

HIAS officials say the maps, which do not detail specific routes through the gap, are meant to help migrants find aid stations.

“We certainly don’t encourage migration,” said Mark Hetfield, the HIAS president. “All we’re offering is a way to assist those who arrive there.”

Hetfield said many of the criticisms of his group were grounded in antisemitism, noting that the man who murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 had frequently posted rants about the group. “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” the killer posted online just hours before the attack.

Yon has also claimed, without evidence, that the group is helping dangerous migrants enter the U.S. “They’re going to scream ‘Allahu akbar! And they’re going to shoot” them, he said, using an obscenity, at an anti-immigration rally last month near Eagle Pass, Texas. “And they’re coming across the border and it’s being funded with Jewish money.”

There is some evidence that the narrative cultivated by Yon and others in his groups is having an impact. This month, after influencers who visited the region posted dozens of complaints online about maps hung by international groups, the director of Panama’s National Migration Service raised a similar concern, calling it “irresponsible.”

HIAS has since removed some of its maps in the region, saying it did so for “security reasons.”

Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who has become the go-to tour guide for right-wing journalists, politicians, and social-media influencers in the Darién Gap, left, with a cameraman, at the Migrant Reception Center of Lajas Blancas, Panama, on Feb. 17, 2024.

‘Angels of the jungle’

Yon has forged close ties with the Panamanian government, and particularly its border patrol. His groups have frequently received unrestricted access to migrant facilities, while mainstream journalists are often prohibited.

A key to that access is Oscar Ramirez, a Mexican activist and correspondent for Real America’s Voice, who since early last year has worked with Yon in Panama as a fixer and translator. With a military bearing, he greets border officers with hugs at checkpoints and receives armed escorts on treks through the Darién Gap itself. And while he is quick to rail against international groups, he calls the border patrol “angels of the jungle” in social media posts and news reports.

At a recent security forum in Panama City, Maj. Nelson Moreno, a border patrol protocol officer, described Ramirez as “an integral part of our border DNA.”

Two days earlier, a border guard stopped Times journalists from traveling to an Indigenous village where Ramirez and Yon, along with roughly a dozen American influencers, were filming migrants.

Although there were no other witnesses to the episode, Loomer discussed it in an interview on Infowars, the right-wing website founded by Jones, the following day, saying the agency considered the Times journalists a “security risk.”

Yon later said he had learned about the episode from sources in the region. You can’t make a move in the Darién Gap, he said in an interview with the Times, “without me hearing about it.”

Ann Vandersteel, a podcaster in Florida who has traveled with Michael Yon, records an interview with Yazdan Faramehr, an Iranian migrant, at the San Vicente Migrant Reception Center, Panama, on Feb. 17, 2024.

Constant content creation

Over 10 days, Loomer visited four migrant centers, navigated rivers in motorized canoes, rode through the Panama Canal, and posted nearly 100 times on X about the trip. One video has over 4.5 million views and was shared by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

“We are being invaded,” Loomer said in the clip, as she boarded a bus with migrants. “We are being replaced and it’s no accident it’s happening in an election year.”

In the crowded San Vicente camp, Yazdan Faramehr, 29, a bodybuilder from Iran who speaks good English, was encircled by Americans clutching video cameras. As they peppered him with questions, he told them he was hoping to get a fresh start in Los Angeles’ large Persian community.

But Faramehr grew uncomfortable when Loomer, who once identified herself as a “proud Islamophobe,” but now rejects the label, began asking about Iranians coming the U.S. to “commit acts of Islamic terrorism.” Worried about drawing unwanted attention or putting his family at risk, he asked that the group not use his image.

Yon posted a clip on X anyway. It drew dozens of replies from people speculating that Faramehr, who said he worked in human resources in Tehran, was a dangerous intruder with a secret agenda.

Reached as he traveled north from Panama, Faramehr gave the Times permission to use his photo. He said he thought it was fair of Yon’s tour to “criticize their country’s immigration system” but felt like they were trying to trap him.

“To be honest,” he said, “I wish I never talked to them.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times . © 2024 The New York Times

A person holds a sign that reads "we are all the same Mexico" at an opposition rally called to encourage voting ahead of presidential elections

panama darien jungle tours

Colombia disagrees with Panama, is unwilling to shut down Darien Gap migration route

A top Colombian official said the government disagrees with the vow made by Panama's president-elect to shut down the Darien Gap , located in the border between the countries and a key migration route for people seeking to make their way to North America.

Speaking to AFP , Colombian Foreign Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo addressed the statements made by José Raúl Mulino. "It is a conversation we must continue, but Colombia obviously wouldn't agree with shutting down the border, and even less so with shutting down the Darien Gap," he said.

"We need to offer more humanitarian opportunities to the population crossing that area. People are going to move and we need to guarantee that they are safe doing so."

Elected to the presidency on May 5, Mulino made of shutting down the Darien Gap one of his main campaign promises. " In order to do away with the odyssey that is the Darien Gap ... with international aid we will begin a process of repatriation, in full compliance with the human rights of all the people there ," Mulino said in a speech to the election body that formally declared him president.

In mid-May, Frank Ábrego, set to be his Security Minister, said the government is not planning on building a wall across the border but will deport those trying to enter the country.

In another passage of the interview, Murillo said Colombian authorities are seeking to meet with Mulino before he takes office on July 1, the goal being to discuss a series of affairs "having migratory flows at the center of them."

Over half a million people crossed the treacherous jungle path connecting the countries last year, and it is estimated the figure could reach 800,000 in 2024. The amount of children crossing has increased by 40% so far this year, according to a new release by United Nations agency UNICEF, potentially clocking in at 160,000 this year.

According to an April report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Panamanian government is currently not doing enough to protect the migrants crossing the Darien Gap, with the country focused on restricting movement and rushing migrants through to Costa Rica.

Related Articles

  • Child migration through Darien Gap has increased by 40% so far this year, UN says
  • HRW Says Panama, Colombia Failing To Protect Migrants In Jungle

Migrants carrying children walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito village, the first border control of the Darien Province in Panama, on September 22, 2023.

  • Latin America News
  • Art and Culture
  • Science and Tech
  • Classifieds

Logo

COSTA RICA'S LEADING ENGLISH LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER

Bus Catches Fire in Costa Rica, Exposing Passenger Safety Concerns

Costa rican president accused of offering bribes to congress president, costa rican business sector protests exchange rate policies, ice’s poor planning disrupts costa rican businesses, costa rica revisits controversial diquis hydroelectric project, colombia rejects closing darien gap border with panama.

AFP

Colombia will not close its border with Panama along the Darien Gap — the dense, dangerous jungle that has become a major route for migration toward the United States said Foreign Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo. The comments came as Jose Raul Mulino, elected as Panama’s new president on May 5, promised to shut down the Darien Gap while on the campaign trail.

“It is a conversation that should continue, but Colombia obviously would not agree with closing borders,” Murillo said in an interview in Bogota. “On the contrary, what we have to offer is more humanitarian outlets for this population that crosses through that area,” he added.

Panama’s Mulino earlier this month promised to deport migrants passing through the jungle to Colombia. “Our Darien is not a transit route, no sir. It is our border,” the right-wing president-elect said.

Colombia’s Murillo added that the government was seeking to arrange a meeting with Mulino before his July 1 inauguration to discuss migration. He said he was confident Mulino’s comments were made “in the heat of the campaign.”

“People are going to move and what we have to guarantee is that this mobility is safe, that it is a regular mobility and that people do not fall into the hands” of criminals, he said. Migrants crossing the Darien Gap face treacherous terrain, wild animals and violent criminal gangs that extort, kidnap and abuse them.

In 2023, a record 520,000 people — most of them Venezuelans — crossed through the gap. About 120,000 of them were children. In 2022, 62 people died on the trek. The provisional count for 2023 stands at 34. While most of those crossing the Darien Gap are fleeing an economic crisis in Venezuela, migrants from Africa and Asia also use the remote forest in their bids to reach the United States.

Haiti police training, West Bank embassy

Murillo also said that Colombia wants to train Haiti’s national police in their fight against gangs. The idea would be to conduct the training in Colombia, he said. Haiti has been wracked for decades by poverty, natural disasters, political instability and violence. It has had no president since the assassination of Jovenel Moise in 2021 and it has no sitting parliament.

A Kenya-led, multinational mission backed by the UN and United States is set to soon deploy to the Caribbean country to help its weak, outgunned police force defeat powerful criminal gangs that control swaths of the capital.

The foreign minister also added that “there is already a team working” on the Colombian government’s efforts to open an embassy in the city of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. President Gustavo Petro — an ardent critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — made the announcement on Wednesday.

Amid the mounting civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war, Colombia severed ties with Israel as Petro called Netanyahu “genocidal.”

AFP

Weekly Recap

Costa rica weekly recap news recap for may 12, 2024.

Costa Rica Coffee Maker Chorreador

Latest Articles

El salvador deploys 3,000 troops in apopa to combat gang remnants, fraudulent cab drivers overcharge tourists in costa rica, google tweaking ai overview after search result gaffes, central american countries declare emergency as dengue cases soar, costa rica’s los santos plantation seeks world heritage status.

Costa Rica News

FILE - Migrants heading north ride arrive to Lajas Blancas, Darien province, Panama, Oct. 6, 2023, after walking across the Darien Gap from Colombia. A U.N. report says child migration through Panama’s dangerous Darien Gap is up 40% so far in 2024. UNICEF, the U.N. child welfare agency said Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

  • Copy Link copied

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Child migration through Panama’s dangerous Darien Gap is up 40% so far this year, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.N. children’s agency.

UNICEF said an estimated 30,000 children under age 18 have crossed the jungle-clad trail between Colombia and Panama, and some have died making the trip. The report says a total of 139,000 migrants of all ages have made the crossing in the same period.

“Many children have died on this dangerous and arduous trip,” said Ted Chaiban, deputy executive director of UNICEF. “Given that children make up one-fifth of those making this journey, UNICEF’s presence and help is more important than ever.”

Last year, more than 500,000 people crossed the treacherous migratory highway, many traveling from Venezuela and other Latin American, African and Asian countries. From there, migrants wind up going through Central America and Mexico and land on the U.S. Mexico border, where authorities came across migrants 2.5 million times in 2023.

UNICEF predicted that, at the current rate, as many as 800,000 migrants and 160,000 minors could make the crossing by the end of the year.

Pakistan's Fakhar Zaman hits out past England wicket keeper Jos Buttler, during the second IT20 match at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England, Saturday May 25, 2024. (Bradley Collyer/PA via AP)

The agency says more funding is needed to care of the underage migrants. Many of the migrants making the crossing are Venezuelan, Haitian, Ecuadoran and Chinese.

President-elect José Raúl Mulino vowed earlier this month to shut down the migration route . Until now, Panama has helped speedily bus the migrants across its territory so they can continue their journey north.

The migrant route through the narrow isthmus grew exponentially in popularity in recent years with the help of organized crime in Colombia, making it an affordable, if dangerous, land route for hundreds of thousands.

panama darien jungle tours

Content Search

Panama + 13 more

Mixed Movements Official Data - Darien Province, Panama - Colombia Border, April - May 2024

Attachments.

Preview of Darien Border Protection Monitoring Factsheet_ENG_May24.pdf

Darien is Panama’s largest and poorest province. Bordering Colombia, the province hosts a 60-mile-deep jungle, the only breaking point of the Pan-American highway, linking the continent from south to north.

Despite being one of the most dangerous jungles in the world, Darien is a transit location for thousands of refugees and migrants, most of them from Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, and African and South Asian nations.

Panama’s mixed movement crisis has been ongoing for over two years. According to National Migration Service (SNM) statistics, over 900,000 people crossed through this area from 2021 to 2023.

Related Content

Unhcr panama: mixed movements response (january - april 2024).

Syria + 5 more

Unprecedented 16.7 Million Syrians Need Life-Saving Aid, Secretary-General Tells Brussels Conference, Urging International Community to Supply $9 Billion Needed

Another cut in funding from the international community will hit children in syria and region the hardest, she heals the world: care launches multi-year initiative to support frontline community health workers worldwide.

IMAGES

  1. Darien Jungle

    panama darien jungle tours

  2. A first timer's guide to the Panama rainforest

    panama darien jungle tours

  3. Darien Jungle In 3 Days

    panama darien jungle tours

  4. Explore The Magical Darien Jungle In 4 Days

    panama darien jungle tours

  5. Visit Darién on a trip to Panama

    panama darien jungle tours

  6. Jungles of the Darien

    panama darien jungle tours

COMMENTS

  1. Jungles of the Darien

    EcoCircuitos Panama specialize in custom made adventure tours for families, ... to delight ourselves with the view of the canopy of the Darien jungle and the imposing Cerro Pirre with a height of 1,569 meters (5,148 ft) above sea level. ... EcoCircuitos Panama is a locally owned tour operator and Destination Management Company (DMC) committed ...

  2. Discover the Darién

    Welcome to Travel Darien Panama. We are an Indigenous owned tour operator that organizes trips to the Darién through our home, the village of La Chunga. La Chunga is part of the "Comarca Emberá - Wounaan (Area 1) We offer three different experiences, and they all start from our village.

  3. Darien Gap Expedition

    With its exuberant rainforests, endless meandering rivers, and its local people, here is an expedition of a lifetime. Our shortest trip is five (5) days long which includes one travel day in, three (3) days trekking through the jungle, and one travel day back to Panama City. Our longest trek is 14 days total.

  4. Five-Day/Four-Night Guided Darien Jungle Adventure 2024

    Adventurous travelers who want to experience one of Panama's most remote areas will love this five-day trip to the Darien Jungle. Don't worry about getting lost on this guided small-group tour. Over five days you'll sail down the Sambu River, hike in primary rainforest, learn about the local Embera people, and have a raw natural experience that few travelers do.

  5. 2024 Guided Darien Jungle Experience

    Guided Darien Jungle Experience - 5 Days / 4 Nights price starts from $549.00. Discover and book Guided Darien Jungle Experience - 5 Days / 4 Nights on Tripadvisor ... Monkey and Sloth Jungle Habitat Panama Tour . 30. Eco Tours. from . $60.00. $48.00. per adult. Walking tour through the Hidden treasures and gems of Casco Viejo. 102. Historical ...

  6. Best Darien Jungle Tours, Trips & Cruises of Panama for 2024-2025

    Travel made your way ™. Talk with an expert. Build your ideal Panama trip. Call 1.406.541.2677. Start Planning My Trip. Take a small ship cruise to the unforgettable, Darien Jungle located in the most Southern section of Panama. Don't miss out on visiting the amazing Darien National Park and the Darien Gap.

  7. Ecotour Darien

    Ecotour Darien. We make different tours into the Darien-jungle. From 2-day tours up to 14-day tours. Our main tours include visiting an Embera indigenous village, trekking threw primary and secondary rainforest. We look for all kind of animals and offer special tours for birdwatching. Other tours include fishing and whale watching.

  8. Guided Darien Jungle Experience

    Embark on an adventure into the Darien Jungle without the risk of getting lost or straying into troublesome areas on a small-group 6-day adventure. Your Embera guide will customize the journey according to the needs and abilities of group members. Trek through the jungle, meet local people, take boat rides, try fishing, and get up close to the endemic flora and fauna.

  9. Private Darien Jungle for family or friends bubble

    The Darien Jungle is a wild roadless expanse between Panama and Colombia. This 3-day 2-night adventure tour is for bold travelers who want to experience jungle life, meet local inhabitants, explore jungle trails, navigate rivers, and look for wildlife including the elusive harpy eagle, the national bird of Panama, while exploring the Darien National Park which is the largest national park in ...

  10. The Darien

    The Darien. The Darien is one of the most famous and yet least visited regions of Panama. The large undiscovered rainforest area of the Darien National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and counts towards the wildlife-richest areas in the world. The Darien is also a hotspot for birders, with the possibility to spot several different rare ...

  11. Jungle Expedition

    Jungle location. Sleep in the depth of the forest for two consectuive nights. Trek in the wilderness and become one with nature. Day 1: Panama City - La Palma. Day 2: La Chunga, Indigenous village. Day 3: Jungle Trek and Camp. Day 4: Jungle Trek and Camp. Day 5: Hike from Jungle Camp to La Chunga. Day 6: Return trip to Panama City.

  12. Darien Jungle In 3 Days

    Tours; Darien Jungle in 3 days - Visit the mysterious Darien Gap; ... Transportation from Panama City to Darien and back (please see "Getting Here") Puerto Kimba Boat taxi to La Chunga ($35 each way) ... Travel to the Darien Jungle is enjoyable all year long, however, the best time to visit is the dry season, which lasts from January to July ...

  13. Our Tours and Experiences

    Jungle Expedition. Jungle Expedition for the adventurous traveller wanting an extra amount of wildlife. Sleeping in the jungle means closer to nature and its inhabitants as they usually come out at night. Run by its own people. Travel Darién Panama offers the most authentic tours and expeditions. Visit the Darién with the people who have been ...

  14. Darien National Park

    Darien National Park. Welcome to the Jungle! At 5,750 square kilometers, Darien National Park is the largest national park in Panamá, and the largest protected area in Central America and the Carribean—not to mention one of Central America's most untamed regions. This extensive jungle features endless virgin rainforests, premontane and montane forests, cloud forests and dwarf forests, as ...

  15. Embera Tours Panama

    Eco Adventures. Embera Tours Panama is 100% owned and operated by Panama's most popular Embera guide, Garceth Cunampio. Garceth grew up in the Darien so he's introducing you to his own culture and homeland. Garceth is a "jungle guy.". For some, the rainforest is a challenging place, but for Garceth, it's home.

  16. Birds of Canopy Camp Darien

    7 Night Package (2025): High Season: $3,468 — Green Season: $2,417. **add 3 nights at Canopy Tower or Canopy Lodge for only $1,1149 (High) or $808 (Green) ***Packages normally begin on Sundays. Rates in US$ per person (+ taxes), double occupancy. 7-night, all-inclusive birding package Darién, as this entire eastern-most region of Panama is ...

  17. Panama´s Remote Darien Jungle

    The Darien is Panama´s bordering region with South America and it shares an abundant and diverse wildlife reminiscent to that of the Amazon Basin. The Darien is the largest region of Panama, yet the least populated. This condition allows the Darien to boast one of the last vast tracts of primary forest in Middle America. Moreover, the Darien ...

  18. A Local Guide for Your Darien Adventure

    Day 1 - Panama to Darien National Park. We travel from your hotel in Panama City by car on the Pan American highway for about 7 hrs, stopping halfway for lunch and continuing to the end of the highway, Yaviza, which is the end of the road. We leave the car at Yaviza and take a motorized dugout canoe. (It is made of one entire piece of wood ...

  19. Inside the Darién Gap, one of the world's most dangerous jungles

    Ticks. During the mid-eighties, Helge Peterson found himself in Colombia trying to complete a motorcycle tour from Argentina to Alaska. A small problem stood in his way: The Darién Gap ...

  20. About

    ABOUT EMBERA TOURS PANAMA ... If visiting the jungle is like going to a party full of interesting strangers, Garceth is the friendly host who will introduce you to everyone. ... Plus, you'll enjoy a truly authentic travel experience. Experience the Darien with a guide who calls it home. Sign up for your next adventure today! PAGES. A Local ...

  21. Darién Gap migration: On one of the world's most dangerous ...

    A CNN team trekked nearly 70 miles across the Darién Gap, a stretch of remote jungle connecting South and Central America, to see why so many are resorting to the perilous route to make it to the ...

  22. The Darién Gap: World's Most Dangerous Jungle

    Also known as El Tapón ("the plug"), it can't be bypassed on land. It's roughly 100 miles wide, stretching all the way from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It has long defied the ...

  23. Abenteuer: Panama Dschungel Tour

    CROSSING THE DARIEN PANAMA DSCHUNGEL TOUR. ZIEL. DARIEN GAP, PANAMA. DAUER. ca. 2 Wochen. TEILNEHMER. Ca. 13 Personen. ZEITRAUM. ... Ein Risiko, das oftmals unterschätzt wird, ist das sogenannte „Jungle Rot". Dabei handelt es sich um eine schmerzhafte Pilzinfektion, die die Füße bei andauernder Feuchtigkeit befallen kann. Wir kennen ...

  24. Chasing Clicks in the Jungle: Right-Wing Influencers Descend on ...

    Ayub Ibrahim had just walked out of the jungle. His feet still ached. A month earlier, he had left his home in Somalia, fleeing a civil war, he said, traveling first to Turkey, then Brazil and finally crossing on foot through a 66-mile expanse of wilderness known as the Darién Gap. Resting in the sweltering San Vicente migrant camp in Panama ...

  25. Chasing clicks in the jungle: Right-wing influencers descend on the

    Laura Loomer, a right-wing activist, interviews Ayub, a Somalian migrant who is crossing the Darien Gap, at the Migrant Reception Center of San Vicente, Meteti, Panama, on Feb. 17, 2024.

  26. Colombia disagrees with Panama, is unwilling to shut down Darien ...

    A top Colombian official said the government disagrees with the vow made by Panama's president-elect ... the treacherous jungle path connecting the countries last year, and it is estimated the ...

  27. Colombia Rejects Closing Darien Gap Border with Panama

    News from Costa Rica. Colombia will not close its border with Panama along the Darien Gap — the dense, dangerous jungle that has become a major route for migration toward the United States said Foreign Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo. The comments came as Jose Raul Mulino, elected as Panama's new president on May 5, promised to shut down the ...

  28. Child migration through Panama's dangerous Darien Gap is up 40%, UN

    PANAMA CITY (AP) — Child migration through Panama's dangerous Darien Gap is up 40% so far this year, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.N. children's agency.. UNICEF said an estimated 30,000 children under age 18 have crossed the jungle-clad trail between Colombia and Panama, and some have died making the trip. The report says a total of 139,000 migrants of all ages have ...

  29. Mixed Movements Official Data

    Darien is Panama's largest and poorest province. Bordering Colombia, the province hosts a 60-mile-deep jungle, the only breaking point of the Pan-American highway, linking the continent from ...