Ancon Expeditions' program blazes trail to natives

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PANAMA CITY -- Panama is celebrating its 100th anniversary as an independent nation, but the history and traditions of its indigenous people predate the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century.

Preserving the traditions of today's indigenous communities -- at about 200,000 people, a significant number -- is important to Panama's program of sustainable tourism. In keeping with this effort, Ancon Expeditions introduced a nine-night escorted cultural tour, the Panama Native Trail Program.

Guests visit communities in all corners of the country, from the Highlands to Darien Peninsula, the Caribbean coast and off shore to the San Blas Islands. Departures are scheduled for Aug. 15 and Dec. 12.

A view of Panama City's colonial section. Ancon Expeditions' nine-night plan includes a sightseeing tour and an overnight stay in the capital. Following an overnight in Panama City at the Hotel Executive, a visit to the National Museum previews the cultures visitors will encounter. Here are some highlights of the itinerary:

• In Chiriqui, meet with the chiefs of the Guaymi/Ngobe village of Hato Chami, with an overnight stay in David.

• Fly to Changuinola in the province of Bocas del Toro; drive to El Silencio; motor by dugout up the Teribe River to meet with the king and elders of the Teribe/Naso community of Sieyic; and hike forest trails with a Guaymi shaman. There is a two-night stay at Ancon's Bocas Inn on Isla Colon.

• By charter plane, fly to the eastern province of Darien and travel on the Mogue River to the Choco/Embera village; this culture is noted for its traditional dances and handicrafts. The overnight is at Ancon's lodge at Punta Patino.

• By charter plane, head for the San Blas Islands, home to the most prosperous of the indigenous people, the Kuna Indians; visit both the Achutupu and Ailigandi communities, traveling between the two by dugout. Two nights are spent at the Dolphin Island Cabins.

Priced at $1,995 per person, double, the program includes all accommodations and most meals; all land, air and water transportation within Panama; and the services of guides.

Rates are based on a minimum of two people (maximum of 12), so this program can work for FIT clients on customized departure dates. Native Trail programs and other tours are commissionable at 10%.

For information and reservations, contact Ancon Expeditions at (011) 507 269-9415, e-mail [email protected] or visit the Web site at www.anconexpeditions.com.

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