A Local Guide for Your Darien Adventure – Garceth Cunampio Tocamo
I was born and grew up on a small Embera village called Nazaret, up the Chico river, a tributary of Chucunaque River, between the borders of Panama and Colombia. My first language is Embera, but I also speak Spanish and English. My parents and relatives still live in the Darien region. I studied Natural Science at Oregon State University in the USA. I’m a specialist on Embera culture, nature, birding, nocturnal wildlife, and the Darien region.Garceth Cunampio Tocamo
About Darien National Park
The Darien is the region in Panama with the most plants, animals, wildlife, birds diversity, and unique species. It is a very special place for adventurers, photographers, nature journalists, researchers, nature lovers, students, and general visitors. The Darien rainforest is less visited by travelers than the rest of Panama, so you can have a very unique, authentic experience.
Our tours go to the Darien National Park and surrounding area. A trip to the Darien National Park requires a minimum of 4 days. Bird watchers or those wanting to visit an Embera village may add an extra day or two.
Your Darien National Park Adventure in Detail
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, with a motorboat, paddle, and stick.) The dugout canoe transports us down the Chucunaque river, one of the largest rivers in the Darien. We ride about 2 hrs on it, then turn down the second largest river, the Tauira, traveling to the public dock called Mercadeo. From this point we will take a car or local transportation for about 7 kilometers, passing by pastures, second-growth forests, and houses, until we are dropped off at the Darien National Park entrance. From this point, we walk about 3 km. Our belongings, supplies, and food are carried by horse to the rangers station at the National Park. Typically, it takes about 11 or 12 hrs from our departure in Panama city to get to the ranger’s station.
Day 2 – Hiking up Pirre Mountain
At Pirre Station, there are several trails to choose from. One long but popular trail, the Cerro Pirre, goes from Pirre station to Pirre mountain, continuing to the highest point of mountain, 1,615 meters above sea level. This one-way trail goes from low to high elevation, and some people will find it hard to walk eventually. On this trail, it is much easier to see wildlife and take pictures. We often see Macaws, hawks, huge trees, flowers, bugs, and birds which are unique to this cloud and mountain forest.
Depending on the season and the weather, we usually depart at 6 am with our supplies, water, and a picnic lunch. We return to the ranger’s station in the afternoon. Sometimes the mountain is cloudy or rainy. In this case, we wait for the rain to stop or change our plans, waiting for clear weather.
Day 3 – Lowland Hiking, Waterfalls & Night Safari
On this day we explore the closer and shorter trails from morning to midday, have lunch at the ranger station, and rest. Take a nap, read books, go to the river for a natural shower or relax around the station. Then, after dinner, take walk on trails to see some nocturnal creatures, wildlife, birds, insects, and whatever nature will offer to us. Our night safari lasts about 4 hrs.
Optional Days for Birdwatching or an Embera Village
Some visitors, often our bird watchers, choose to spend a second day hiking up Pirre Mountain. Others ask to stay overnight at an Embera village. Both experiences may be arranged with advance notice and will lengthen your trip by 1-2 days.
The Darien is the Embera tribe’s home. We have 7 tribes in the whole country and the Embera tribe is one of these. If you want to experience their culture, living way, language, dance, music performance, and food, there is a village called Pijibasal about 4 kilometers from the National Park. To experience village life, we would leave the ranger station after lunch and walk with our gear carrying our bags and equipment all afternoon to the village. Villagers will play music, perform their dances and show you their typical dress and body painting. We will have food and accommodation in the village so we can overnight until the next day, departing for Panama City after breakfast the next day.
Day 4, 5 or 6 – Return from the Darien to Panama City
We return back to city the same way as the first day, using the same methods of transportation. It will take all day long.
Do you need to be in good health for a trip to the Darien Gap?
Yes! Everyone is welcome, but visitors must be in good physical condition.
- Able to walk
- Climatized to warm weather of 89-90F
- Able to handle humidity between 90-100%
- Have had some experience visiting the rainforest
What are facilities at the ranger station like?
The Darien National Park is 2,240 square miles or 5,790 square kilometers. Its only facility is the ranger station, inside the rainforest. Accommodations are basic. There is a bed, toilet, stove, and a small solar panel to charge batteries. Filtered tap water is available. Close to the rangers station is a river called the Perresenico, which is very good to shower naturally and experience some creatures living close to it. Our meals are provided by our hosts at the ranger station.
Does Garceth personally guide tours to the Darien National Park?
Yes! Garceth will be your guide, from your pickup in Panama City to your drop-off at your hotel. He arranges your private car and private canoe. He includes all your accommodations, food, supplies, water, and equipment for overnight at the station or Embera village. Please contact Garceth to inquire about current prices and availability.