We’re always looking to take our guests below the surface of every destination we visit throughout Latin America, showing you a side of the cities, villages, jungles, mountains, and more that many travelers regrettably miss and one of the most enthralling ways to experience Southern Explorations’ destinations like Ecuador, Brazil, Panama, and Colombia is to literally look below the surface by doing...
Beaches In Costa Rica and PanamaIn neighboring Costa Rica and Panama, many folks opt for the heavenly beaches, but if you enjoy active vacations, even in paradise, you’ll find whitewater to raft, dive sites to explore, rainforests to hike and plenty of waves to surf. On both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, some accommodations are all-inclusive, offering oceanfront infinity pools, delicious cuisine and rental...
What Is A Multisport Adventure Trip?
As the name implies, multisport itineraries are active and most days are spent on one or more excursions that require at least moderate exertion. They usually involve a combination of different activities rather than focusing on just one. For many outings, guides transport passengers from their hotel to a trailhead or put-in at a river for a whitewater rafting trip. On others,...
SOUTHERN EXPLORATIONS 10 YEARS OLD AND GROWING! 2015 marks Southern Explorations’ 10th year in business. What started as a two-person operation in a garage has grown into a company with destination coordinators in several countries, customers from throughout the world and awards from the national travel media for our authentic trips and sustainability values. Southern Explorations has become one of the leaders in...
Visitors on Panama tours interested in either sport will find a multitude of locales to do so on the Pacific, near the capital, in central Panama and at the far western reaches of the isthmus where two marine national parks are located. While staying in Panama City, one idyllic spot is the Archipelago de las Perlas, a day trip from the capital. Snorkeling is divine off the archipelago's Isla Contadora, made famous...
Reading about and preparing for your adventure is half the fun. For more book suggestions go to Panama
Barro Colorado Natural Monument & Isla Barro ColoradoThree of STRI's physical environmental monitoring stations are located within the Isla Barro Colorado. The island reserve is in manmade Lago Gatun and is part of the Barro Colorado Natural Monument that includes five mainland peninsulas. The island and the lake were formed by the damming of the Chagres River when the Panama Canal was built in 1914. A total of...
An astonishing variety of birds to see in PanamaBoth the magnificent and great frigatebirds are seen off the coastlines. Panama is home to four varieties of vultures including the black vulture, distinguished by a white patch on the wings of this otherwise all-black bird. Turkey vultures tend to hang around urban areas. To watch brown pelicans fishing and frigates soaring is a most relaxing way to pass the hours on...
Widespread but most diverse in PanamaThe species is most diverse in Panama with varieties in vivid shades of all red, orange, blue, yellow or green, green and yellow, white with red, orange or black and spotted varieties. The most colorful mix is found in Isla Bastimentos Marine National Park though not all in one place. Colors vary by location. A beach on the north side of the island is named after the species. Two...
How Coral Develops And Why We Need To Conserve ItThe coral's skeleton, comprised of decomposed coral species, other organisms and zooplankton, forms around a polyp that captures its nutrients with tentacles containing poisonous cells. Algae called zooxanthellae lives in coral tissue, stimulating it to grow faster. Polyps share their nutrients with one another through interconnecting interior canals. In tropical...
Surf Year-Round On the Caribbean Side (Nov-Apr provides the best waves)While surfing is a year-round sport on the Panama Caribbean, the waters are generally calm from August to October. November to April plus June and July are the months when surfers enjoy the most dependable waves. Visitors on Panama tours to the Bocas del Toro archipelago in far western Panama will feel they've reached surfing heaven. It is an...
May Through November On The Pacific Coast Provides The Biggest SwellsSome of Panama's surfing areas are year-round while others are desirable only during certain months due to wind conditions. Pacific waves tend to be biggest during the wet season from May to November. Dependability varies by location. The country's most famous surfing areas are found in central Panama between the Azuero Peninsula and Coiba Marine...
Visitors on Panama tours interested in either sport will find a multitude of locales to do so on the Pacific, near the capital, in central Panama and at the far western reaches of the isthmus where two marine national parks are located. While staying in Panama City, one idyllic spot is the Archipelago de las Perlas, a day trip from the capital. Snorkeling is divine off the archipelago's Isla Contadora, made famous...
This idyllic region on the far eastern end of the isthmus is controlled by the Kuna Indians. The coral reefs of the Kuna Yala, were once much more magnificent than they are today. Unfortunately, the harsh reality of survival for the poverty-stricken Kunas has taken its toll on the reefs. Mined to shore up some of the four hundred islands where many of its tribal members live, eighty percent of the coral is now gone...
Three hundred different sponges, seahorses, tropical fish and almost eighty coral species are what attract snorkelers and divers to the warm calm seas here. Sheltered areas are found on the south sides of the islands, offering calm snorkeling waters with varied coral reefs to explore. Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park is located in the Bocas del Toro where pristine conditions are preserved. This archipelago...
Marine TurtlesThe two turtle species you are least likely to see on your Panama tours are the Eastern Pacific green turtle (Chelonia Agassizii), also called the black sea turtle, and the loggerhead turtle. While the large loggerhead turtle is found in the vicinity of the isthmus, you are more likely to see one in the water than nesting on a beach during your travel to Panama. Between 20,000 and 30,000 turtles come...
The largest whale species inhabit the waters on Panama’s Pacific coast. Humpbacks may be seen close to Panama City around Taboga- Island and further out in the Gulf of Panama off the islands of the Archipelago de las Perlas, making easy day-trips from the capital. Most people who want to see humpbacks during their travel to Panama head to the Azuero Peninsula in the center of the country. From August until...
New World MonkeysPreserving the forests of Panama is of utmost importance to the survival of the country’s monkeys. The New World monkeys of Panama are tree dwellers, inhabiting forested areas, some of which are protected and some that aren’t. The spider and the howler are the largest of Panama’s New World monkeys and the squirrel monkey, which does not resemble a squirrel though its name implies...
The Kuna, Embera and Wounaan all arrived in what is now Panama from Colombia and live in Panama's far eastern regions though some Embera have moved to live along the Chagres River near Panama City. The Ngobe, Bugle, Naso (or Teribe), Bribri and Bokata were westerly tribes and today live in the provinces towards the western border with Costa Rica. Illiteracy and poverty rates are high among the indigenous populations...
Most of the Kuna's 62,000 people are dispersed among three "comarcas" or reservations located in northeastern Panama, where they enjoy substantial political autonomy. The Kuna Yala, where most live, has provincial government status. The Comarca de Madugandi is an inland territory adjoining the Kuna Yala that was established in 1996, and the adjacent Comarca de Wargandi, was established in 2000. Both have sub-...
The Kuna's struggle to regain land that was theirs for centuries has been long fought, culminating in a revolt against the government in 1925. With US forces backing the Kuna effort from a naval vessel stationed off the coast, Panamanian troops withdrew. It took another thirteen years before the Kuna were finally granted a comarca (reservation). Today some 50,000 Kuna live in the Comarca de Kuna Yala's forty-nine...
The Embera and Wounaan people lived unprotected until 1983 when the Panamanian government designated a 740,000-acre Comarca Embera-Wounaan in the vicinity of remote Darien National Park. The comarca is divided into northeastern Cemaco and southern Sambu districts. Union Choco is the capital of Cemaco and Rio Sabalo is the capital of Sambu. The lands of the Embera-Wounaan are continually threatened by settlers,...
These two tribes comprise Panama's largest indigenous group, with a tribal membership totaling some 170,000 Ngobe and 18,000 Bugle. They live near Panama's western border, some on the Caribbean coast and some inland, in a comarca (reservation) that is divided into seven districts and covers about nine percent of Panama's territory in the Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro and Veraguas provinces. Culturally, the Ngobe and...
Today the Naso people number about 3,800 and live on the forested banks of the Teribe River, subsisting on agriculture and hunting. Another few hundred live across the border in Costa Rica. Much of the Naso region is protected by La Amistad International Park and the Palo Seco National Forest. The tribe is best known as Latin America's remaining monarchy with a ruling king and for its impressive eco-tourist project...
Isla Colon, Isla Bastimentos, Isla Cristobal, Isla Popa And The Idyllic Bocas IslandsThe major islands of the chain are Isla Colon, Isla Bastimentos, Isla Cristobal and Isla Popa and The idyllic Bocas islands are a destination of increasing popularity for visitors on Panama tours due in part to the filming the TV show, "Survivor," here. Many of the islands are forested. Some offer overnight accommodations. The tiny...
Of the islands near Panama City, popular Isla Grande is located just two hours east by car (plus a quick boat ride), making it a favored getaway for Panamanians living in the capital and travelers on Panama tours. Visitors are drawn here for the cuisine and active pastimes such as hiking, diving and surfing with conveniently located waterfront accommodations. This mostly forested island is road-less. With delectable...
More of the Pacific islands than not are unnamed. Some are privately held, owned by the rich and/or famous, while others are popular destinations for day-trippers from the capital by boat or air. A range of overnight accommodations, from rustic to luxury, can be found on one island or another. Depending on their interests, visitors on Panama tours will find plenty of enjoyable pastimes on these Pacific islands. A...
Azuero Peninsula And Surrounding Islands Are Great For Folklore, Crafts And Rustic BeautyThe Azuero Peninsula, best known to visitors on Panama tours for its folklore and traditional crafts, has islands in all three directions. To the east in Los Santos Province is Isla Villa where the Penon de la Onda Wildlife Refuge protects the nesting sites of several marine bird species. To the south are two notable...
By the time the French took on this daunting yet irresistible project, the country's reputation for engineering prowess was at its zenith. Already known for the canals crisscrossing its own country, it also had under its belt the spectacular success of linking the Mediterranean and Red seas by building the Suez Canal. The opening had been a huge media event, complete with the building of the Grand Opera House in...
From the air, Panama appears to be the perfect spot for digging a canal to link the Pacific and Atlantic. Clearly it is the shortest distance between the two oceans, just a sixty-mile strip. It is only by traveling the distance on the ground as visitors on Panama tours may do that it becomes obvious, no site could be worse.Several elements conspired against the French in their endeavor. The weather was brutal, the...
Though no accurate records exist, it is estimated that as many as 22,000 workers perished between 1881 when the project got underway and when it ended in defeat eight years later. Lucky were the few who drowned or died in a machinery accident. Most of the French workers, recruited primarily from the West Indies, succumbed to a much more excruciating fate, yellow fever or malaria. A team of forty French engineers...
When John F. Stevens took over as chief engineer in 1905, he zeroed in on the two problems that had defied the French and ended their venture in bankruptcy—how to excavate through the mountainous terrain of Culebra Pass and how to dam the raging Chagres River. Heavy rains that shortened the work schedule and ever-present mud slides had turned the French method into a two-steps-forward-one-step-back proposition...
Better worker housing was built, though workers were segregated by race and black employees given inferior housing to white workers. Sewer systems were installed. Especially-equipped refrigerated rail cars were imported that allowed food to last longer, and low cost meals were made available to the workers. Clubs were established for relaxing after the long work-day. Another brilliant move on the part of Stevens was...
For decades, the United States had been biding its time, positioning itself for the job. The U.S. wasn't alone. To prevent each other from snatching the opportunity first, the U.S. and Great Britain signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in 1850, agreeing that neither would act unilaterally to build a canal across Central America. By the time the U.S. signed its next canal agreement with Britain, the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty...
The treaty did not end tensions between the two nations, and nationalist protests over sovereignty continued. On Panama's Independence Day in 1959, students demonstrated at the U.S. Embassy in Panama City, demanding that the Panamanian flag fly at the canal. President Eisenhower ended the "flag riot" by allowing the Panamanian flag to be placed below, but not beside, the U.S. flag, a compromise that temporarily...