Panama Jungle Hiking Adventure
The ultimate Panama destination for hardcore outdoor adventurers is the Darién, and the ultimate Darién adventure is a trek through the jungle between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But Trans-Darién expeditions are grueling, expensive, and not always available, depending on the security situation near the Colombian border.
But there is a safer, easier and far cheaper way to hike from (close to) the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. This suggested itinerary crosses the isthmus on the west side of the Darién. Note that this itinerary is intended only for the highly energetic and fit.
For those who truly want to immerse themselves in the Darién, Ancon Expeditions (tel. 269-9414 or 269-9415, fax 264-3713, www.anconexpeditions.com) offers an intense two-week trek that takes in the rivers, rainforests, and highlands of the region. Custom-designed trips are also possible.
Arrive at Tocumen International Airport and transfer to a hotel in Panama City.
Transfer in the early morning to the Bayano area. If time allows, take a boat across Lago Bayano, a large artificial lake, to explore the Bayano Caves on the far side. This will probably only be possible if the tour includes transportation up to Burbayar. Otherwise, begin hiking up to the Continental Divide from El Llano. Spend the night in Burbayar Lodge, in lush tropical forest about 15 kilometers north of the Interamerican Highway.
Explore the forest around Burbayar, then head over the Continental Divide, through Kuna territory, toward the ramshackle coastal town of Cartí on the Caribbean coast, 22 kilometers from Burbayar. Camp in the forest.
Arrive in Cartí early in the morning and hire a boat to one of the nearby inhabited islands. Snorkel around the crystal-clear waters of Achutupu, an uninhabited islet with its own little shipwreck. Spend a night or two in a rustic Kuna hotel.
Fly back to Panama City. Spend the day sightseeing and resting.
Transfer to Tocumen International Airport for the flight home.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition