A once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the giant turtles during their nesting season. You may even be lucky enough to see the baby leatherbacks making that strenuous trek down to the ocean water. Luckily for us these amazing turtles are protected down towards this village of Armila.This tour is seasonal and the best time of year is from early/mid March to June, with the peak season being mid to late May
Nestled between the impenetrable jungle of the Darien Gap and the turbulent Caribbean Sea, right next to the Colombia-Panama border, sits an indigenous community lost in time. There are only two ways to get into Armila: by boat, or by foot. The resulting isolation has allowed many of the cultural and biological aspects of the town to remain untouched. Armila is unique within the 230-mile long province of Guna Yala because its indigenous residents still retain many of the traditional Guna practices, such as communal house building, daily chanting rituals, basket- and mola-making, and the “inna,” an ancient sugarcane-wine ceremony in which the entire town participates. The people of Armila also retain an intrinsic respect for “nana” (“Mother Earth”) and its inhabitants, which has allowed many species to flourish that are found nowhere else on earth.
Because of this, Armila is also home to one of the world’s largest nesting populations of leatherback sea turtles. Nearly 5,000 of the 7-foot-long female turtles come ashore under cover of darkness to dig a nest in the sand and lay their eggs, an ancient ritual that dates back to the age of the dinosaurs. In May, it is not uncommon to see several of these one-ton beasts within a few meters of each other on the beach. The locals have recently starting bringing scientists in from all over the world, who are fascinated by such a large gathering of females of this endangered species, an event that can only be seen on a couple of isolated beaches in the world. The people of Armila are renowned within their region for their hospitality to outsiders, and the community affords visitors the opportunity to intimately explore a cultural and biological treasure trove unlike any other.
The tour begins with collection from your hotel for your morning flight from Albrook Airport down to the little Island of Pueto Oblidea, once you land a launcher boat from Armilla Village will collect you and take you to the village, don’t let the waves worry you too much, the captains do this everyday.
During your first day in the village you will have lunch, then view a cultural dance and take a tour around the village, then its free time to relax, or join the locals to cool down with a swim in the river. After dinner you will have some more free time before the late turtle viewing tour begins, often the best time to see the leatherback turtles is after midnight, so expect a late night.
The next day you will receive a tour of the grave yards where you will see how the Guna people respect and mourn their passed family members, a short steep hike uphill will get you to a nice lookout and overview of the village, depending on the weather you may be able to take a tour up river to see some wildlife, or take a walk through the jungle to see the colourful but poisonous green and black dart frogs. After dinner you will have another chance to head out and find some turtles again.
Day three you will have free time to walk around the village, take another dip in the river to cool off again before heading out on the launcher to make your flight back to Panama City, from there we will drop you off at your hotel.
Leatherback Turtles Package
Interactive Tour Map
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