Today can start early, if you choose, or you can take this opportunity to catch up on your rest, as our crew keeps an eye out for wildlife. If we spy any wildlife, we will make an announcement, after 7 a.m.
As we make our way toward the Darién, we hope to see whales, dolphins and marine birds. Some dolphins, including bottle-nose and pantropical spotted dolphin, sometimes rush to the bow and surf the pressure wave that the ship creates as we pass through the water.
Over 14 percent of the land mass in Panama is under the protection of INRENARE (National Institute of Renewable Resources) aided by a strong non-government environmental organization, ANCON. The National Park of Darién (1.4 million acres), includes large portions of the province and continues into Colombia.
The Gulf of San Miguel, east of the Pearl Islands, leads into the heart of Darién and several rivers coming from the mountain ranges in the central land mass of Panama feed this gulf.
The Darién forest represents five ecological zones of tropical forest from the high elevations to lowlands, with a flora of about 10,000 known species of plants. Of the over 900 resident species of Panamanian land birds, the majority are found in the Darién. Listen for the roars of howler monkeys, the screeches of parrots and look for black mangrove hawks soaring above.
Today we will visit a small Emberá village situated on the southwest coast of the Darién. Here you can bargain with friendly vendors for their exquisite carvings, basketry and other traditional items. The Emberá will perform native dancing with traditional music. Bring your camera and binoculars for a spectacular cultural experience.
The indigenous people, the Emberá and Wounaan, have until recently lived traditionally along the rivers in small groupings of thatched huts on stilts. The interiors of the huts, dark with use and smoke from cooking fires, hide astonishing treasures. The women will shyly show the baskets they make, tightly woven, exquisitely shaped and adorned with traditional patterns.
Tagua, a palm nut sometimes called vegetable ivory for its resemblance to polished horn material, is used by the Embera to carve animal figures. They sell these for $5 to $30 depending on the quality of the carving. These people, gentle and friendly, live off subsistence farming, fishing and hunting, very often with bow and arrows.
Posted by Leigh Strinsky