Panama conjures up visions of its famous canal, natty straw hats and large cigars but there’s a lot more to it than that; think snazzy Art Deco promenades, heavenly beaches, wildlife-rich rainforests, moody volcanoes and remote indigenous communities.

Mention the country Panama and immediately images of the Panama Canal linking the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean spring to mind. Yet it is a destination just waiting to be explored offering rich indigenous tribal cultures and brimming with untamed nature. It can also truly lay claim to an untouched coastline that merges into huge tracts of virgin rainforest. Panama, in one of the indigenous dialects, literally means “an abundance of fish and butterflies”.

The archipelago Bocas del Toro is spread over densely forested islands, small sandy atolls and two outreaches of the mainland that form protective arms from Atlantic waves.

This is the area of Panama’s oldest marine park – the Parque Nactional Marino Isla Bastimentos. The whole area has a deliciously laid back Caribbean feel and it is possible to soak up some of the charm in Isla Colon. In the north of the island there are nesting grounds for sea turtles while the southern coast consists of mangrove islands and coral reefs.

The jungle will bring out the David Attenborough in you as you learn to discover a whole different world. The rainforest is so untouched that even the elusive jaguar can still be found along with boa constrictors, sloths and rare birds.

Clambering into the heart of the jungle is an adventure in itself as you climb over buttress roots and take care to avoid the hanging lianas. The area is trying to balance tourism with the native way of life of the Ngobe-Bugle people who still have settlements in the area and are clinging to their traditional lifestyle.

The country is largely unexplored by tourists, with only a few hardy adventurers, researchers, and spirited travellers having enjoyed its amazing diversity of flora and fauna.


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