This post is also available in: Spanish
By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd
Panama’s Green Tourism Paradise. Panama is a country which has a lot to offer to the green traveller who is looking for an adventure in one of the most beautiful places in Central America. The Panamanian government is very aware of the natural riches of the country and for that reason 40% of its territory is protected with 17 national parks, where flora and fauna are carefully managed to assure their sustainability.
Here you can see 220 species of mammals, 354 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, and these include 125 animal species unique to this country. There are 972 recorded bird species of which 122 are migrants. If you like plants you will be in your element with 10,000 species, including 1,200 varieties of orchids, 1,500 types of trees, and 687 different ferns.
Scuba diving and snorkel enthusiasts have two oceans (Atlantic and Pacific), rivers and lakes where you will see the most fascinating fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants. Just in the Panamanian seas live more than 30 cetacean species, without counting tunas, mahi-mahi, sea bass and so many game fish that it is impossible to enumerate all of them. If you go exploring rivers and lakes do not be surprised if you find a huge peacock bass.
Hiking is another activity you can indulge with so many parks and natural reserves to explore, it will be difficult to decide where to go first. The Metropolitan and Soberania parks are very close to Panama City.
However, the best place to start will be the Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life, better known as the Biomuseo is the first place a ecotourist should visit, because it shows in great detail the country’s biodiversity and geological history. Located on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, it was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This is his first design for Latin America.
Panamanian tropical forests have many hidden waiting to be discovered waterfalls, caves, exotic birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and fish. It is not uncommon to be confronted by a group of tamarind, spider or capuchin monkeys; from trees canopy sloths observing visitors curiously.
The mountains have a completely different flora and fauna, because of the cooler temperatures it is possible to see the most amazing orchids and the elusive bird of paradise in the highlands of Chiriqui.
The Sarigua desert, a lonely and arid place, gives you another habitat to explore. This national park is located on the coast of the Gulf of Parita, in the heart of country. It is divided into three areas: the semi-deserted area, fragmented soils and the sea. Within the area lie the remains of the oldest pre-Columbine indigenous settlement of Panama. Pelicans, kingfishers, butterflies, scorpions and grasshoppers are some of the species found on the arid grounds of this part of the tropics.
Recently the Government has started to upgrade facilities, clear and create paths in the national parks as well as training guides, to protect the environment and give information about the geology, flora and fauna of the area.
So pick up your camping gear and prepare to experience what Panama has to offer.