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Panama has a wide biological diversity and is home to many species and ecosystems unique and vital for the balance of life as we know it. With such rich diversity, Panama is privileged with a varied collection of parks, reserves and protected areas, most of them with access to activities such as hiking and camping.
This is why the Panamanian Isthmus is reflected internationally as a country highly recommended as an ecotourism destination for nature lovers. However, the Environment Ministry, MiAmbiente, has raised a growing concern regarding the care, use and good practices within the areas under the National System of Protected Areas – SINAP.
In areas of expeditions and guided visits to some of the most popular destinations among campers and hikers, they have found deterioration of benches and signs on the trails. Graffiti has even been found on stones and trees of the area which undermines the balance of the ecosystem and the welfare of the species that inhabit it, as these aerosol paints release harmful gases.
Another of the problems MiAmbiente has found is that although each park has garbage containers at the entrances not all visitors use them and all types of garbage such as plastic bags and bottles can be found around the park.
MiAmbiente is also concerned about visitors safety in the dense Panamanian jungle, which can be dangerous for those unfamiliar with the area and its potential dangers.
For these reasons, MiAmbiente, in conjunction with the national government, has implemented an awareness campaign entitled “Buenas Practicas en la Naturaleza” (Good Practices in Nature) in an effort to awaken public interest to care for and preserve the places they visit, as well as making them knowledgeable of safety recommendations while on an adventure within the parks.
These are some of the safety recommendations that the Ministry of Environment – MiAmbiente, gives to hikers. These are designed for their own safety and that of the species that live in protected areas.
- First of all, it is important that you carry a bag or trash can, so that you can collect all your waste during your stay and deposit it at the exit of the park.
- Avoid the use of aerosol paints, or other types of substances that may be harmful to plants and animals in the area. Do not paint graffiti.
- During the rainy season, avoid crossing rivers or ravines, which may be overgrown and mean a major risk
- Keep the signs in good condition.
- Do not remove plants, or try to capture animals. Some species are protected and this can lead to legal issues.
- Do not enter with pets or any kind of non-native species. This can affect the delicate balance of the ecosystem you visit.
- If you are not an experienced hiker, look for a trail with a minimum degree of difficulty (beginners).
- Avoid walking more than 10 miles per day if you are a beginner hiker.
Do not walk alone, make your visits with a certified guide of the area. You can also ask to be accompanied by one of the park rangers deployed by MiAmbiente.
- Notify a relative, friend, or ranger about where you are going, as well as your time and place of return.
- Carry an emergency whistle, a flashlight and a sharp blade when you are about to enter the forest.
- Avoid wearing sandals or any type of exposed footwear; The proper footwear should cover up the ankle and be worn with socks.
- It is advisable to wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and hat or cap; Do not forget a raincoat during the rainy season.
- Carry a backpack of about 35 liters and make sure it is waterproof. Use at least two liters of it to carry drinking water.
If you are an experienced hiker, for trials of more than 10 kilometers, carry a GPS, light camping equipment, water purification tablets or water filter, flashlight, razor, matches, first aid kit and an emergency action plan.
If you accomplish these recommendations you can enjoy the protected areas of Panama, without compromising its inhabitants and so leave them in perfect condition for other adventurers to visit after you.