Panama

Darien National Park


Darien National Park is the largest of all the national parks in Central America, covering an area of approximately 1,430,000 acres in the Darien Province. It extends along almost the entire border with Columbia. The National Institute of Natural Renewable Resources (INRENARE) is responsible for managing the park, and has built three stations on the Tucuti River, Cerro Pirre and Cruce de Mono. These stations are rustic cabins where you can camp, but provide no amenities for tourists. You must get permission from INRENARE to visit, which has offices in Panama City and a local office in El Real.

The Darien National Park was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 1981, and it has also been designated a Biosphere Reserve. Its terrain varies from beaches and mangrove swamps to rugged mountain forests crossed by many rivers and streams. The highest peak in the park is Cerro Tacarcuna, rising 6,000 feet from sea level in the Darien River Mountain Range. Other mountain ranges in the area include the Pirre and Setule range, the Serranģa del Sapo and the Cordillera del Jurado.

Darien National Park is home to a wealth of plants and animals, including seven species of mammals, including the giant pocket gopher and the fox, which are only found here. There are more than 450 recorded bird species in the area, including the treerunner and the green-naped tanager. This park provides a safe haven to healthy populations of over 56 species that are threatened or endangered in the rest of America. They include the harpy eagle, the tapir, the jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarondi.

Three native peoples are found in the park, including the Kunas, whose villages can be found at the foot of the sacred mountain Cerro Tarcuna, the Emberą, who traditionally live alongside the Choco River, and the Wounaan, who are very close linguistically and culturally to the Emberą.