Remote, roadless and some say terrifying, the Darien Jungle is one of the last true undiscovered places left on Earth. The Darien has an almost mythical quality to it; it is the only break in the 30,000-mile Pan-American Highway, which passes through 14 countries as it winds from Alaska to Argentina. The Jungle’s reputation precedes it; one of dangerous paramilitary groups, poisonous frogs and impenetrable vegetation.
Certainly the Darien has to be undertaken with caution. But the beauty of this forgotten 60-mile stretch of land is that it is largely untouched by modern society. Plant life is rife, wildlife (yes, even those poisonous frogs) is wildly exotic, and with no roads, transport is by dugout canoe. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the world’s top ten birding sites: the colourful Crimson-collared Tanager, Chestnut-fronted Macaws and Snow-bellied Hummingbirds all call the Darien home, as does the endangered Great-green Macaw. Mammals include black-headed spider monkeys flying from treetop to treetop and stealthy Pumas padding silently in the shadows. The exceptionally ecologically diverse flora and fauna earnt the Darien National Park its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park welcomes fewer than 1,000 annual visitors, so those who have stepped foot on this hallowed land are considered very, very special. The park can and does sustain human life, with three tribes, the Embera, the Kuna and the Wounaan living traditionally in open-sided thatched huts along the side of the river.