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PANAMA (APR)

expedition handbook

DATES: 21 Apr04 May 2018 COST: £2,899 TEAM CLOSES: 14 Apr

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Epic Secret Compass expedition to Panama.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on this expedition team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.

Key facts

  • Arrive: by 1600 on 21 April 2018 into Panama City.
  • Depart: leave Panama City any time on 4 May onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on 21 January 2018.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.
  • Aim

    The aim of this epic jungle trekking expedition is to cross the infamous Darien Gap on foot from Puerto Quimba to Playa Muerto.

    Summary

    Forging a route through the humid, mostly uninhabited rainforests, which divide North America from South, you’ll uncover hidden, 5,000-year-old stone carvings – seen only by a privileged handful of explorers for generations. In the company of a renowned naturalist and local expert, you’ll meet Embera Indians en route. At night, you’ll wild camp in hammocks near isolated village communities. Cross The Gap to break through one of adventure travel’s final frontiers. The almost impenetrably dense rainforests of the Darien Gap are the one missing link in the Pan-American highway. Home only to a handful of lost civilisations, a myriad of unique species and mist-shrouded mountains – its humid depths and 5,000 year old Petroglyphs have enticed souls for centuries. Take on this pioneering expedition to join the select few intrepid adventurers to cross the Darien Gap on foot.

    Highlights

    • Explore the legendary jungles that separate the Americas.
    • Learn jungle survival skills from expert guides.
    • Meet local villagers including Embera Indians.
    • See the mysterious petroglyphs, remnants of an ancient culture.
    • Explore the jungle rivers by boat.
    • A Sunday Times ‘Wildest Trip’ plus CNN and Telegraph coverage.
    • A Lonely Planet ‘favourite final frontier’.

    Flights

    You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24-hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Flight Request Form here or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.

    It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

    You will need to be in Panama City by 1800 on Saturday 21st April 2018. Many of the flights from the UK either arrive late or the following day and so it is advised that you take a flight departing the UK on the 20th so you arrive in time to relax on the 21st April. The major US carriers, American Airlines, Delta and United all have flights into Panama City via the US or Amsterdam (Delta). You are free to depart any time on the 4th of May.

    Visas

    Visas are your responsibility. British Nationals do not require a visa to visit Panama (except if arriving by sea) but are required, on arrival, to have a return or onward ticket and have the equivalent of US$500 or a credit card. An initial stay of 90 days is granted upon entry. All relevant tourist permits will be organised by Secret Compass.

    Passports

    You should have a passport valid for the duration of the expedition and your travel dates. Panama does not require any validity beyond this but it we recommend 6 months remaining before expiry.

    Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.

    Insurance

    Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

    • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
    • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
    • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
    • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site. https://www.gov.uk/travelaware
    • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
    • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

    Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance
    page on our website.

    Day 1: Apr 21 – Panama City

    Land in Panama City, transfer to your hotel to meet the team. Introductions and briefing from your expedition leader. 2

    Day 2: Apr 22 – Meteti

    Training and acclimatization in Camino de Cruces in Soberanía National Park. Drive to Meteti in the evening to prepare for the start of the trek.

    Day 3-11: Apr 23-May 1– Darien National Park

    Start the journey in a motorized boat before beginning your expedition on foot deep into the heart of the Darien National Park. Spend the next 8 days traversing dense jungle, crossing rivers, sleeping in hammocks and, where necessary, navigating the waterways in local dugout canoes.

    Day 12: May 2 – Playa Muerto

    Today is a contingency day for any unexpected delays, or just a day to relax on the beach! 13

    Day 13: May 3 – Panama City

    Boat ride to Puerto Quimba before driving back to Panama City for the team’s celebratory meal.

    Day 14: May 4 – Panama City

    Fly home anytime today.

    About Secret Compass itineraries

    Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way.

    Fitness

    All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following:

    • Grade: 215°.
    • Daily activity: varies during the expedition but up to approx. six to ten hours’ trekking per day.
    • Walk: up to 15km a day.
    • Carry: up to 15kg.
    • Terrain: through close tropical rainforest, through boggy and wet areas, crossing rivers. The terrain can be hilly with a maximum elevation of 600m.
    • Climate: in a hot and humid environment.
    • Swim: a return boat journey and river crossings and journeys (wading and in dug-out canoes) are essential parts of this expedition. Being 100% comfortable around water is required and being able to swim will be very beneficial.

    Previous experience

    No previous experience of jungle trekking is necessary to join this expedition but team members would benefit from trekking or hill-walking practice and being used to carrying 10 – 20kg for multiple days.

    At a basic level, you should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and be able to walk for 8 hours per day in the British hills carrying 15kg for at least 3 days running.

    Medical

    Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful. Recommended vaccinations are, Hep A, Hep B, Rabies, Tetanus, Tuberculosis, Polio, Yellow Fever and Typhoid.
    There is a risk of malaria, the recommended anti malarial drug for Panama is Chloroquine 300mg weekly (2x150mg tablets) plus proguanil or Malerone. There is also a risk of Dengue Fever in this area. For more information, see The Travel Doctor, the National Travel Health Network and immunisation.gov webpage

    Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.

    Foot care. On this expedition your feet will be constantly wet as we are regularly wading through rivers. It is ESSENTIAL that you bring foot care items to ensure your feet do not deteriorate. Athlete’s foot anti-fungal cream (or similar) is essential and you will be pre-treating your feet morning and night with this during the expedition. Anti-fungal foot powder is also important, to dry your feet off quickly at night in a humid environment. It is also wise to bring rolls of zinc oxide tape to protect your feet against blisters. A pot of Vaseline is also very useful too, along with ‘Liquid Skin’ which works miracles on open blisters.

    Money

    The US dollar is the standard currency in Panama. There are ATMs in Panama City.
    This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money, except for tipping (see ‘on exped’ tab) and to buy a beer or two in Panama City and some souvenirs on the way.

    Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash.

    The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2018 expedition to Panama. Some items are vital so please read carefully, your leader will discuss this list with you during your Skype briefing. There are some examples and videos on our website under the kit section or please contact Secret Compass with any questions.
    Discounts. Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

    Baggage and sleeping

    • RUCKSACK: 40-60ltr, a comfortable rucksack that fits your back, a good outdoor shop will be able to help with fitting. All your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack, including the hammock you will be given by us. A pack with an adjustable support system recommended.
    • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb. You need a large one to line your rucksack as it will rain!
    • SMALLER DRY BAGS (optional): A comfortable rucksack that fits your back, a good outdoor shop will be able to help with fitting. All your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack, including the hammock you will be given by us. A pack with an adjustable support system recommended.
    • SLEEPING BAG LINER: If you are a cold sleeper you may want a thin sleeping bag or thin blanket in addition to a liner. Discuss this with your guide during the Skype briefing.
    • SLEEPING BAG LINER: Cotton or silk.
    • WATERPROOF WALLET: For your passport and money!

    Clothing

    Wet/Dry kit. You need one set of clothing to wear in the day which will get wet and a second set to put on in the evening.

    • LONG SLEEVE SHIRT: 2x thin trekking shirts that dry quickly with long sleeves to provide insect and sun protection (not cotton).
    • TREKKING TROUSERS: 2x thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
    • SHORTS (optional): 1x or combine with the above using zip-off trousers.
    • THIN JACKET/FLEECE (optional): A thin “micro fleece” or jacket, in case you feel the cold or use as a pillow.
    • HIKING SOCKS: 4x light weight trekking socks.
    • WALKING BOOTS: 1x specific desert or jungle boots. Ensure your boots are worn in and comfortable. Try and avoid Gore-tex boots as your feet find it harder to breathe and the boots do not dry easily when wet. We recommend you visit your local outdoors store for advice on fitting.
    • SNAKE GAITERS OR THICK MOUNTAINEERING GAITERS (optional): There are venomous snakes in the Darien jungle. Whilst there has never been an incident on an expedition, there have been sightings so a tough layer of protection is recommended.
    • PERMETHRIN (optional): Use at home to impregnate all of your day clothing (including socks!) with insect repellent.
    • SANDALS: Around camp and on the river. Ensure secure and comfortable. Not flip flops!
    • SUN HAT: Wide brimmed sun hat.
    • UNDERWEAR (optional): 4x lycra sports shorts or similar which don’t chafe and dry quickly.
    • DRESS/SKIRT/SARONG (optional)
    • SWIM WEAR (optional)

    Eating

    • BOWL
    • MUG: Metal mugs are great to use over open fires.
    • KNIFE, FORK, SPOON: Long handle advised.
    • ROBUST WATER BOTTLE: 2-3 x Naglene or Sigg are recommended.
    • COMBINE WITH CAMELBACK: You need to be able to carry a minimum of 3 ltrs of water.

    Health and Hygiene

    • WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE (optional): Small and easy to break down. You do not need a large travel washbag!
    • HAND SANITISER
    • SOAP (optional): Antibacterial and BIODEGRADABLE.
    • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG (optional): Quick drying travel towel ideal.
    • WET WIPES or BABY WIPES: To clean yourself with!
    • TOILET PAPER AND LIGHTER (optional): Travel tissues are ideal.
    • SANITARY PRODUCTS (optional)
    • LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION: This is essential as chapped lips are painful.
    • VASELINE: Keep readily available to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
    • INSECT REPELLENT: Bring Deet or other strong repellent.
    • VITAMINS (optional)
    • AFTER SUN /MOISTUISER (optional)
    • FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM

    Small First Aid Kit

    • A WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
    • PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol.
    • ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS
    • MELOLIN DRESSING PADS x4
    • CREPE BANDAGE x2
    • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar-looking blisterpacks for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard / original item.
    • NEWSKIN (optional): Liquid bandage that is especially good for foot blisters (highly recommended by your guide!).
    • DIAHORREA TABLETS: Immodium.
    • DIORALYTE SACHETS or SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS
    • ANTISEPTIC WIPES
    • ANTISEPTIC CREAM
    • PIRITON TABLETS (for allergies)
    • EURAX CREAM (for bites)
    • ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: Find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to buy more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination and that you carry any necessary paperwork eg. Prescriptions.

    Other

    • WATCH (optional)
    • HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES
    • SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
    • PENKNIFE: Remember to not pack in hand luggage!
    • GAFFA TAPE: For emergency repairs to your kit, bring a small roll.
    • KARABINER: 1x for securing your rucksack.
    • SPARE BOOT LACES (optional)
    • SMALL SEWING KIT
    • HANDHELD FAN (optional)
    • RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS (optional): For dirty washing wrappings, etc.
    • WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS (optional): Secret Compass will purify all water and these will likely not be needed, they are a back-up in case our systems fail!!

    Our approach

    Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.

    Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.

    Local partners and bureaucracy

    Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

    Infrastructure and natural events

    The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.

    Food

    In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)

    Part of a team

    Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

    Typical teammates

    There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

    Teammate mentality

    You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

    Risk management

    Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

    1. Risk assessment.
      We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
    2. Safety plan.
      As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
    3. Delivery.
      The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

    Key risks

    Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include insect-borne diseases such as malaria, climatic injury such as dehydration and heat stroke and road traffic accidents. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email info@secretcompass.com

    Incident management and medical

    As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.

    Informed consent

    It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 5 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.

    Testimonials

    Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.

     

    Cultural

    Tipping. Central America follows North America when it comes to tipping for services. It is expected and forms a crucial part of the wages. This will be especially important for the porters, who will change every 2-3 days and will expect a tip at the end of their service. The best way to do this is for us to come to an agreement at the beginning of the trip and then one of us will collect all the tips and present to them publicly. Please bring some US$ in small denominations for this!
    Responsible travel. Our porters will be primarily indigenous people from the Embera tribe, and AfroDarienites. The former immigrated into the Darien from present-day Colombia nearly 300 hundred years ago, the latter were brought in as slaves during the Spanish colonial times. They both practice subsistence fishing and agriculture, but due to Western influence they’re more and more resorting to slash-and-burning to grow crops or raise livestock hoping that they can sell these products at markets. Our low-impact activities give them an opportunity to profit from non-destructive practices and helps inspire in them an appreciation for their natural heritage.

    Weather

    The average temperature will be between 22 and 32 degrees Celsius. It will be the dry season, but there is still a 15% chance of rain, which will be in short, sharp bursts. Humidity will be high.

    Transport

    Flights. You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Journeys are Made (part of Flight Centre); a specialist team of travel consultants who understand us, our destinations and who have a team dedicated to helping Secret Compass teams. They have a 24-hour assistance helpline and access to the best fares. Fill in a Flight Request Form or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.

    You will need to be in Panama City by 1800 on Saturday 21st April 2018. Many of the flights from the UK either arrive late or the following day and so it is advised that you take a flight departing the UK on the 20th so you arrive in time to relax on the 21st April. The major US carriers, American Airlines, Delta and United all have flights into Panama City via the US or Amsterdam (Delta). You are free to depart any time on the 4th May. It is advised that you wait for confirmation from Secret Compass that this expedition is a confirmed departure prior to booking your flights, and/ or that your travel insurance covers your flight costs in the event of cancellation or date change by Secret Compass. See Section 9 of our Terms and Conditions for full information.

    You will need to organise your own taxi to and from the airport. This is not covered by Secret Compass. We will meet you at the hotel in Panama City.

    Road. We will be driving to and from Puerto Quimba from Panama City in comfortable minibuses.

    Boat/Traditional Canoe. We will start the expedition proper by travelling in motorised boats and we will use traditional canoes for some sections of travel in the jungle.

    Foot. For the majority of the expedition we will be travelling by foot through the jungle. We will be travelling between 10 and 15 km a day through thick, humid tropical jungle. You will be required to carry up to 15kg of personal gear. Keep in mind that this jungle terrain isn’t flat. Every day there are hills to climb up and down. Be sure to exercise and prepare for this accordingly.

    Accommodation

    Panama City. In Panama City we will be staying in a comfortable hotel in downtown.
    During the expedition. For the majority of the expedition we will be sleeping in hammocks provided by Secret Compass. When we reach our destination at Playa Muerto we will be in our hammocks or in a basic beach hut.
    Reality of living rough for days. Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health if you do not look after yourself and increase fatigue if you are not used to living rough. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.

    Food

    Group food. In Panama City we will eat in decent restaurants. When on the expedition we will eat a mixture of local dishes provided by villagers, local fresh food and dehydrated rations.
    Vegetarians. Non-meat protein is very limited in places such as Panama. As a result, we will ask you to bring your own protein source. We will send you the menu plan prior to departure and highlight meals where you will benefit from providing your own protein source of your choice.

    Terrain

    You will be trekking deep into the heart of the Darien National Park: chopping through overgrown, humid, wild jungle; picking up little-used paths; wading through rivers; and sometimes navigate waterways in dug-out canoes or other vessels. Keep in mind that this jungle terrain isn’t flat. Every day there are hills to climb up and down. Be sure to exercise and prepare for this accordingly.

    Leader

    We will have Rick Morales guiding us in country. Rick 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 recognized 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 Colombian border to Costa Rica. This is part of the TransPanama project, aiming to develop and map sections of trail connecting regions and people throughout Panama. For more information visit http://www.transpanama.org/en.

    Communications

    Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.

    Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.

    Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in towns. There may be no coverage along the majority of the route.

    Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

    Can you recommend any jungle kit?

    The Secret Compass Journal (The Compass) contains advice on boots, shirts and trousers for jungle treks. Our YouTube channel also has Expedition Kit Advice videos. Teammates will receive a full kit list which will answer most kit questions.

    Can I check I’m bringing the right kit?

    Our Darien expedition leader is very happy to have individual kit conversations via Skype with those booked onto this team in the build-up to departure to ensure everyone is prepared and has the right kit.

    Will there be phone signal in the Darien?

    There will be mobile phone coverage in Panama City at the beginning and end of the expedition. Signal in the jungle is unlikely. Joining this expedition with the mindset of escaping technology and the day-to-day routine is advisable.

    I’ve never done jungle trekking before. Can I come?

    Yes. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems.

    Can I arrive a day late?

    As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the location where the training will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.

    Can I charge my gadgets?

    Power sources are infrequent in the Darien. Each teammate is advised to bring their own spare batteries or power packs. Due to the shade of the jungle, solar packs might not work as well as usual.

    Can vegetarians come?

    This expedition can accept people with some dietary requirements. Outline your specific needs on the Application Form to help us best provision the team and we’ll go from there.

    Could local activity affect us?

    Secret Compass has operated successfully in this challenging region for many years on TV and film projects, working with the very best in-country partners. If any local developments affected the planned expedition region, robust contingency plans would come into play as with all Secret Compass expeditions. In the case of the Darien expedition specifically, the team would undertake a challenging and equally adventurous jungle expedition in a different part of the Panamanian jungle.

    Do you provide further advice?

    You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

    How can I apply?

    Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.

    The Journal

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    See you on a team soon…