How Not to be a Rainforest Wimp Visiting the rain forests for the first time

By Alex Rubin

Suppose someone where to ask you to travel to a remote jungle near the border between two Central American countries. Oh, and by the way, bring the grandparents and kids along as you hike into these unfamiliar forests.

Would you do it? If not, why not? Too dangerous, too many bugs, fear of being taken hostage by rebels? Or how about being hurt or stranded without medical assistance? Will a jaguar attack me or my family?

As with most things in life, there is a balance between experiencing new things and throwing caution to the wind. If you’ve never visited a rainforest, you have missed out on one of nature’s jewels. In the following months, we’ll be asking you a few questions to see what notions you may have about rainforests and how you see the risks of travel.

Let’s start out with some basics about your first experience in the rainforests. First of all, do your homework to best appreciate the place that you are visiting. Rainforests and their higher elevation cousins, cloudforests, contain large concentrations of species. Plants and animals abound in particularly large concentrations on the isthmus of the Americas in countries like Panama.

In this very special narrowing of the land masses between North and South America, many species common to both continents can be found. Raccoons live in the same eco-niches as Coatis, their southern kin. Tanagers live next to resplendent quetzals and so on. For those of you who wish to experience the biodiversity this place has to offer, why not get your feet wet (so to speak) in Panama’s La Amistad National Park.

Getting started

Most travelers fly into Panama City and then drive or fly into the architecturally uninteresting business hub of Chiriqui Provence, David City. Getting there is easy and convenient and the roads to La Amistad are fairly good. There are many tour operators and private guides who can get you there from David and surrounding towns. So your first excuse as a rainforest wimp has just vaporized. It is easy and convenient to get to La Amistad.