A pioneering jungle expedition deep into the once-thought of as impenetrable Darien gap in search of lost civilisations, 5,000 year old petroglyphs and the last of the Embera Indians.
The Darien Gap is shrouded in mystery. Infamous as a place thought impenetrable, inhabited only by indigenous Emberá Indians and FARC guerrillas. After the great success of our March 2013 expedition we will be returning to the Darien, heading into the heart of this fascinating jungle which connects North and South America, in search of ancient petroglyphs and lost civilisations. Exploring new trails and hidden corners of this legendary jungle, this will be the ultimate in modern exploration and adventure.
In 1995 the American Photographer~Mountaineer~Explorer Robert Hyman along with native Embera Daniel Castaneda were the first to document a large stone covered in mysterious carvings deep in the Darien jungle. Previously only known to the local Emberá Indians who inhabit the area, the petroglyphs were dated to 3000-5000 BC. Robert returned to the region in 2005 to successfully locate another rumoured petroglyph site.
Mission: The expedition aims to cross the Darien gap from Puerto Quimba to Playa Muerto in order to locate lost Petroglyphs and chart a previously unexplored area of rainforest, accompanied by indigenous Embera tribes.
The Darien Gap refers to the only break in the 30,000 mile Pam-American highway. It is a 50mile wide stretch of jungle and swampland that separates North and South America. It has long evoked a sense of adventure like almost nowhere else, and it has become a dream of many intrepid adventurers to ‘cross the gap’ on foot. It was once described by adventure author Hilary Bradt, as a “swampy wasteland crawling with venomous creatures ready at a moment’s notice to suck unsuspecting explorers into its oozing depths.” The security situation has settled down in the majority of the Darien, with some exceptions in parts of the Gap that we will not be visiting. It has only ever successfully been crossed on 9 occasions, most famously by British explorer Col. John Blashford-Snell, in 1975.
Petroglyphs are rock engravings, often associated with prehistoric peoples. The “Yarre Mongara” or Monkey Stone was the first Petroglyph documented by Robert Hyman and Daniel Castaneda in all of Eastern Panama in 1995. He returned ten years later to discover two more sites, but the area remains unexplored and there is a distinct possibility there are more sites out there waiting to be discovered.
The Emberá are one of Panama’s indigenous Indian groups, living in the Darien along the shores of the Chucunaque, Sambu and Tuira rivers. They live in small villages of 5 to 20 houses and have their own form of autonomous government and rules, separate from the Panamanian government. They live off the land hunting wild fish and game using traditional methods. The Emberá are known for their distinctive appearance, wearing brightly coloured skirts and painting their bodies in intricate geometric patterns.
The Darien contains a stunning range of wildlife, and is considered one of the best regions in the world for bird watching. You can see a staggering range of bird life here including the harpy eagle and four species of macaw. The region is also home to jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, monkeys and caimans.
Our guide, Rick Morales, has been working as a wilderness guide in the Darien and Panama since 1998. Currently he is one of the most competent interpretation guides and well recognised for his skills in bird watching in Panama. In recent years he has been directly related to the rediscovery of the colonial trial “Camino Real Colonial”. In 2011 he became the first person to walk the Panama Trail, a thru hike from the Columbian border to Costa Rica. This is part of the Trans-Panama project, aiming to develop and map sections of trail connecting regions and people throughout Panama. For more information visit http://www.transpanama.org/en
Contingency – We have worked tirelessly to put together this plan and had a successful expedition in 2013. This is a particularly challenging expedition to organise in a remote and fascinating area and we are confident we have a solid plan. There is one factor that we can’t control. SENAFRONT are the border police who control the area. Rick has great relations with them after working here for 14 years. However, there is a chance they could shut down entry into this region at a moments notice. If this occurs, we have a great “Plan B” in northern Panama, which will be equally adventurous!
• Explore a legendary region separating the Americas.
• Learn jungle survival skills from expert guides.
• Travel alongside the Embera Indians and learn about their fascinating culture
• See the mysterious Petroglyphs, remnants of an ancient culture
• Explore the jungle rivers by boat
2013 team member: Thomas Healey
Occupation: Insurance Broker
Thoughts: A unique jungle experience which I will boast to friends and family about for years to come. I will never forget walking out of the jungle onto a deserted beach and then diving into the Pacific Ocean. Epic!!
This will initially be in a basic hotel in Panama City. When moving through the jungle we will be sleeping in hammocks and in Puerto Meurto we will be in our hammocks in basic huts on the beach.
We will eat at local eating establishments when in urban areas. For the majority of the expedition we will be on a mix of dehydrated trekking rations along with food sourced locally from villagers.
Transport on the trip will involve bumpy rides in 4WD vehicles, trekking and travel in indigenous canoes. We will also be taking coastal boats.
Team members should be over 21, fit and healthy as this trip involves several continuous days of trekking up to 15km in remote, mountainous areas through humid tropical jungle carrying up to 15kg. Please speak to us about fitness standards if you are unsure.
Expedition price. All our expeditions are priced on a LAND ONLY basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from the expedition.
What is included?
• Full services of a Secret Compass expedition Leader with local guides and drivers.
• All meals
• All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
• All specialist and safety equipment
• All accommodation (Including tents)
• All permits
What is not included?
• Local airport taxes
• Tips to local guides – Tips are expected by the local guides in Panama and we will discuss how to organise this on our first night in country. It is worth bring small denominations of US$ to enable this.
• Beverages & any costs of a personal nature.
• International Flights
• Personal equipment. (Upon booking you will receive a comprehensive kit list).