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Welcome to Emberá Drua

Glimpses of the thatched roofs of Emberá Drua are the first sign that our village is near as your dugout canoe winds up the river.  Next, flute strains and drumbeats waft across the water as we gather at the river and welcome you to the beach landing. You have arrived at our tropical rainforest community, located in Panama on the Chagres River, xxx kilometers upstream from the Panama Canal.

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The Chagres Park

Emberá Drua also lies within the Chagres National Park, a ssxx-hectare tropical rainforest preserve, home to some of the most densely packed animal and plant biodiversity on the planet.  The park also protects the historic Camino de Cruces Trail, the land crossing that gave Spanish conquistadors a monopoly on access to the Pacific Ocean during the 16th 17th centuries. 

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Our community

Emberá Drua is a small indigenous community of less than 70 individuals in the Republic of Panama.  We keep our traditional ways alive by practicing and living them every day.  This is our home, and we invite you to learn about our culture, our village, our way of life.  We are proud to share it with you.  Those of you with a sense of adventure might be interested in visiting us, participating in our daily and ceremonial activities and making new friends.

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Choosing tourism

We, as a traditional group, have designed a unique tourism program that is run by and supports our community.  True, the contrast of tourists interacting in such a traditional setting may seem puzzling at first, but the program has actually strengthened our community in many ways.

In 198x, we faced a new challenge to our traditional way of life when the area where we live, the Panama Canal watershed, became the Chagres National Park.  Because of the new restrictions of living in a protected park, we looked for new alternatives to our traditional activities of subsistence agriculture and hunting.

Tourism turned out to be a good choice.  It has low environmental impact, reinforces and has actually caused a renaissance in our traditional arts and culture, has long-term sustainability and responds to eco-tourism demand for quality experiences.

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Activities for everyone

We have designed a variety of activities and experiences for every visitor, regardless of age or agility.  Some visitors come just for the day, but others spend one or several nights.  Some want to relax, and others yearn for high adventure.  Most are interested in our traditional culture and the rainforest. 

Adventure travelers in good physical condition can enjoy trekking in the forest and canoeing on the river.  Lower-key visitors might participate in cultural activities, marvel at the pristine river and sight an incredible variety of tropical birds right from the village.  Just watching our kids shoot the rapids on their homemade balsawood rafts might be entertainment enough.

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Cultural activities

We are specially proud of our cultural activities.  We invite every visitor to participate in everyday and special events:

  • talks by village members about our culture, religion and history

  • traditional body painting with natural vegetable dyes (kepará and kangí)

  • traditional music and dance

  • traditional food preparation

  • description, production and sale of traditional arts:  basketry, wood carvings, vegetable ivory carvings and beadwork

  • identification of medicinal and useful plants along a nearby forest trail

  • activities by special request:

      spear or line fishing on the river

      bird and orchid watching

      hikes to waterfalls or through the forest

      traditional story telling

      river trips in dugout canoes

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