Ecotourism — Panama 2.

Sketch map, drawn by M. Michener during stay in January 2001.  Measurements based on GPS readings.
Sketch map of Cana Campus

Cana main dormitory for guests.  Cosy, waterproof, very near the birds.
The dorm, in 2001

No matter how you count it, trips in to Cana in remote Darien are expensive. The difficult logistics are all managed by Ancon Expeditions, and it must be quite a balancing act, what with factors from nature, the Colombian rebels, and tourist safety and comfort often pulling in opposite directions.  The campus also has its own security establishment, as well as horse stable, cookery and dorms for staff and tourists.

But the Cana bird list is still just growing.  Spinetails, becards, cotingas, manakins, antbirds, trogons, parrots, hummingbirds and the ever-colorful tanagers -  it really is pleasantly mind-boggling.  Every where you turn, you find more to see and hear.

Recovering from very recent surgery, I opted to make recordings at the campus and to sketch a plan map of Cana, rather than to climb the mountain trail on day two, even though it meant missing many species found only at the higher altitudes - some endemic to these mountains. 

For some of the morning sounds from Cana, click the image (left) of the lodge; then go to the page bottom to see where these birds reside.

For the call of the Violaceous Trogon, nesting within 100 feet of the dorm, click its image below.

The Cana gold mine dates to early 1800s, when Spaniards enslaved local endemic people and forced them to extract the gold and haul it to what is now the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean shore of Panama.  In a bizarre plan, retired (bored) pirates in Jamaica conspired to sail south and to take over the mine.  They arrived and surprised the Spaniards. After slaughtering hundreds of people, found themselves as the proud new mine owners, but then had to face the same difficulties of hauling heavy ore down tortuous mountain trails through difficult humid terrain as the previous owners. And I suppose then there were those blow-guns with poison darts . . .

So the whole plan fell apart, and some pirates eventually settled in what is now northeastern Panama, eventually giving rise to today’s darker-skinned English-speaking populations on the Caribbean.

As you explore the limits of the open campus at Cana, derilict signs of the Cana mining operation are everywhere, including a locomotive, railroad banks and rails, and mine tailing piles.  The jungle has reclaimed much and the birds don’t seem to care.

It should be especially noted that Cana is located in what is now called “The Darien Gap”: it is the only section of the Pan American Highway not completed.  Where today's roads DO run, deforestation is virtually complete near each roadway.  Apparently, access equals tree harvest.  So, by agreement between Panama and Colombia, this is now a nature preserve, patrolled to make it safe for tourists.

Next page - Panama 3


The edge of the open space at Cana Mines, Darien, Panama.
Cana, jungle-draped old mines

This male Violaceous Trogon sat, as is their wont, for hours not far from a hole it was excavating in a termite nest.
Violaceous Trogon

 

Adjacent to camp, lone trees are covered with viney second growth. Looking up through the mist, one can see distant pristine cloud forest.
Further from camp, the river valley is mostly second growth.
Spotty second growth invades the camp border. Bananas and other crops are planted within the nearby bordering growth. Spotty second growth invades the camp border.

Rugged Terrain surrounds the grassy Cana campus.   Run cursor over photo to see ecological information on the status line.
The camp border gives way to invasive second growth all the way to the river. Bananas and other crops are planted within the nearby bordering growth. Adjacent to camp, lone trees are covered with viney second growth. Further from camp, the river valley is mostly second growth. Looking up through the mist, one can see distant pristine cloud forest. Adjacent to camp, lone trees are rapidly being covered with viney second growth, reaching for the sunlight.