Ancon plans to install camp at Cana Forest

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PANAMA CITY--Initiatives are under way to develop tourist facilities at Cana National Forest, an area of the Darien Jungle.

On a recent visit to Panama, I had an opportunity to see the area in question.Zee Plane!

The project is being organized by Ancon Expeditions of Panama, a tour operator of hard and soft adventure outings as well as manager of several of the country's conservation projects.

According to our Ancon guide, Richard Cahill, current efforts at Cana call for accommodations at both the upper and lower campsites, which will enable visitors to spend one or more nights there.

When the project is completed, Cahill said, Cana will offer 20 double bedrooms at the main lower site and have an on-site museum, much of which will focus on the gold- mining era as well as a bar and lounge called the Goldminer.

At the upper camp, there are to be 10 tents, of which two will be big enough for two people. "We also want to grow all of the vegetables that are used for the meals," Cahill said.

When the infrastructure is in place at Cana, a three-night package would be priced between $400 and $500, including air transportation and lodging.

My full-day adventure to Cana began with a flight in a 12-passenger Twin Otter aircraft--this in foggy conditions, which we were told was not all fog but rising smoke brought on by local slash-and- burn farming.

This flight was to take a little more than an hour from Patilla airport in Panama City, but because of the visibility problem, the pilot rerouted us along the Rio Tutra.

After we set down on the dirt runway, passengers assisted in moving the supplies up to the camp.

Cana is a national park of about 1.2 million acres and once was the site of a thriving gold-mining industry. The British mined gold here until 1914. There are many remains of that time: train tracks; old, rusted steam-train engines; the furnaces that were used to process the different rocks and ores.

Ancon guides can lead visitors along the old, overgrown footpaths of the miners and on hikes off and on the trails of the old train tracks. Walks along the trails also afford glimpses of various birds. (Cahill was quick to mention that Panama is the only place where four species of macaw are found.) Visitors also hear the sounds of tree monkeys and the rustling in the bushes of wild boar.

Ancon Expeditions is a subsidiary of the National Association for the Conservation of Nature and offers tours ranging from a half day to 14 days. Its U.S. representative is Destinations by Design, (888) 888-4106.

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