Thursday, August 25, 2011

Exploring the City of Matagalpa in Nicaragua

Matagalpa and the Catedral de San Pedro (photo by Armando)

Matagalpa is a relatively quiet city set among beautiful blue-green mountains in the northern-central region of Nicaragua. Located approximately 15 minutes south of Jinotega and 80 miles north of Managua, it is considered the coffee capital of the country and its cool climate is a welcome retreat from the heat in the south. Within its boundaries are steep, hilly streets lined with colorful houses and charming churches and the nearby surroundings include a nature reserve complete with waterfalls, a mountain range with a 4,731-foot hill, and the Río Grande de Matagalpa. Despite its untidy first appearance, all of these factors blend together in a wonderful balance that has helped the city earn its nickname of “Pearl of the North.”
Founded in 1554 by Spanish explorers looking for a path to the north, the Matagalpa region quickly expanded due to immigrants in search of a better life. In the 1880s, the first German immigrants arrived (at the invitation of the Nicaraguan government) to establish the first coffee farms. Due to the rich and fertile soil, coffee production became a huge success that attracted even more immigrants to the country. Today, their descendants still manage the coffee plantations that cover the mountains and the area has retained its German heritage as seen in the variety of festivals, music, and the 1,500-acre Selva Negra, one of the country’s most famous coffee farms complete with German-style chalets and traditional food.

Attractions in Matagalpa
Parque Morazán
Unlike many other cities in Central America, Matagalpa has two main plazas: the sunny Parque Morazán at the northern edge of the city, and the tree-lined Parque Rubén Darío to the south. Since the main attractions are based in relation to these two plazas, make sure to know where they are after arriving to the city.

Catedral de San Pedro – Located on the northern side of the Parque Morazán, this cathedral is one of the largest in the country. Built in 1874, it includes an unusual layout with its bell towers and main entrance facing away from the park. It is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the country. Its baroque facade is painted in a brilliant white and its gigantic nave and bell towers can be spotted the moment you arrive. A survivor of many of the former battles in the area, the church stands as a testament of perseverance and has the scars to prove it. 

Iglesia San José – This church is located at the Parque Rubén Darío. Although the current church was built in 1917, it is situated on ruins that date back to 1751. The original site was used as a base by indigenous tribes during a rebellion in the 1880s. Their uprising proved to be unsuccessful and the church was eventually used as a jail to house the rebels.
Casa Museo Comandante Carlos Fonseca – Located one block southeast of the Parque Rubén Darío, this museum honors the life of Carlos Fonseca, the philosopher and co-founder of the Sandinistas as well as one of the organization’s many martyrs. The display covers his life from his humble beginnings and transformation into a Sandino supporter to his murder by Somoza’s National Guard in 1976. It is open from 2 to 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

Museo de Café - Although its title suggests that this museum is only about coffee, it covers the history of Matagalpa as well. Admission is free, but most visitors leave with a bag of locally grown coffee, especially after tasting the free samples. It is a great place to find information about guided coffee tours. One reputable company is Matagalpa Tours at It is located one-and-a-half blocks south of the Parque Morazán.

(photo by Reina Morena)
Black Ceramic Pottery – No matter where you go in Matagalpa, these smooth, black ceramics are sold everywhere. Crafted from volcanic clay, they are available in a wide variety of sizes and designs that range from small figures to large decorative pots. Two well-known locations that sell the black ceramics include: La Casa de la Cerámica Negra two blocks east of the Parque Morazán and the Cerámica Negra next to the Parque Rubén Darío. But keep in mind that there are plenty of other stores that sell the crafts and shopping around is always half the fun.
Cerro Apante – This “hill” includes a cool and misty 4,730-foot ridgeline that provides incredible views of Matagalpa and the hilly surroundings. Hikers can access the trail by heading southeast from the Parque Rubén Darío on the Calle Principal to the end of the Apante neighborhood. From there, the trek includes views of beautiful streams and waterfalls that still function as the primary water source for the city below.
Selva Negra – Of course, no visit to Matagalpa is complete without a stop at one of Nicaragua’s most famous coffee farms. Located north of Matagalpa on a sprawling 1,500-acre estate that dates back to the 1891, this farm produces high-quality export coffee and serves as an eco-resort complete with German-style chalets. Tours of the coffee factory are offered twice a day at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. There are also a number of shorts trails for views of more than 80 varieties of orchids, and wildlife that range from quetzals and ocelots to deer and mountain lions. For longer stays, the property includes the Hotel Selva Negra on the road to Jinotega, which includes a restaurant that serves traditional German fare. For more information, check out their website at:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Exploring the City of Comayagua in Honduras

Comayagua's Cathedral (Photo by J. Betancourt)
The city of Comayagua is located just off the Carretera del Norte (CA-5) approximately 51 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa. Once the capital of Honduras, it is known for its wealth of Spanish colonial architecture and beautiful churches as well as two of the country's best museums. All of its attractions are conveniently within walking distance of the Parque Central and visitors can view everything the city has to offer in less than a day.

Founded in 1537 by Spanish conquistadors as Santa María de Comayagua, it quickly expanded and prospered due to the discovery of silver in the nearby mountains. It was also the location of one of the last strongholds of resistance by the Lenca people against the Spanish just two years later. From 1540 to 1820, it served as the capital under a variety of different titles that included the Honduras Province, the Intendencia de Comayagua, and the Province of Comayagua. But after Honduras' independence from Spain in 1821, the capital alternated between Comayagua and Tegucigalpa in a political tug-of-war between the Conservatives (who preferred Comayagua) and the Liberals (who favored Tegucigalpa). The country’s capital was permanently transferred to Tegucigalpa by President Soto in 1880.

After more than one hundred years of decline, the city of Comayagua was officially declared a national monument in 1972. Supported by the Cooperation Técnica Española and the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, most of its Spanish colonial character has fortunately been preserved. Today, Comayagua has become a must-see destination for any visitor traveling from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula.

Attractions in Comayagua

Photo by Roger Mauricio
Parque Central – Located at the intersection between Avenida 1 Norte and Calle 4 NO, this tree-lined square (like many other Spanish colonial cities in Central America) is a hub of activity and a great point of reference for visitors. It is also a popular place to sit and chat near the charming bandstand and watch outdoor concerts or holiday festivities.  Across from the Parque Central is the 16th-century neo-classic city hall and the Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, or simply known as the Catedral de Comayagua.

Iglesia Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción- Located at the Parque Central, it is the largest church constructed during the colonial period. Completed in 1711, it once included a total of 16 altars but only four of them have survived today. The four hand-carved wooden altars are covered in gold, which is fitting for the highly decorative interior. The cathedral’s main attractions include: The 12th-century clock (Reloj Arabe) in the tower that was donated by Phillip II of Spain, and the statue of Santa Ana (the mother of the Virgin Mary) carrying Santa María, who is holding the infant Jesus.  

Photo by Carlos Salinas
Museo Arqueológico - Located at Calle 6 NO and Cero Avenida Norte, the museum is housed in the country's former presidential palace and consists of one of the best permanent collections of Lenca culture. It features artifacts that range from ancient ceramics and stone carvings to fossils and jade jewelry. The small on-site cafeteria offers visitors a decent breakfast and lunch. The museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Museo Colonial - Located at the intersection of Cero Avenida North between Calles 3 and 4, this small museum offers a substantial collection of 15th- to 18th-century religious art that includes paintings, sculptures, and jewelry. Three important items within the collection includes a Christ sculpture with violet-colored eyes that are said to reawaken lost dreams when stared into, the chair used by Pope John Paul II when he visited Tegucigalpa, and even the marriage license of former President Francisco Morazán. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Iglesia La Merced - Built in the 1550s, it was the city’s first cathedral and one of the oldest in Central America. Located at Calle 1 at Avenida 2 NE, it once housed the 12th-century clock when it served as the city's cathedral but was transferred to the new cathedral in 1715. It is worth visiting mostly to view the beautiful main altar and religious artwork.  

 Iglesia de la Caridad - Located at Calle 7 NO at Avenida 3 NO at the northern end of the city, it includes the only remaining open-air chapel in Honduras. Historically, it once served as a chapel for the conversion of local indigenous tribes. The main attraction of the church is the well-known statue of El Señor de la Burrita (Lord of the Burro), which is always honored on Palm Sunday ceremonies.

Casa de Cultura – Located on the southern side of the Parque Central, this establishment offers music and dance lessons to locals as well as a variety of rotating exhibitions that cover the city’s history. It is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Exploring the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and National Park

Located 15 miles northeast of Liberia in northwestern Costa Rica, is the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and National Park. This massive volcanic complex includes at least nine different craters with its two well-known cones: the quiet, 6,286-foot Santa María (the highest point in the park) and the steaming Von Seebach crater with its 1,640-foot-wide acid lake.

1967 Eruption
According to the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program, its last major eruption occurred approximately 3,500 years ago but it has since remained highly active with a periods of smaller eruptions. Its most recent one occured between February and September 1998. Although it has remained relatively quiet since then, rivers of lava continue to boil beneath its external layers, which fuel the series of volcanic hot springs, mud pots, and geysers. The area is also located within a three-mile-wide caldera that is exposed on the southern side with most of its activity centered on its younger southeastern flank. Due to the volcanic hot springs, the accessible hiking trails, and the wide variety of wildlife (with more than 300 species of birds), the park has become one of the top tourist destinations in the northwestern Costa Rica. It is often stated that the park is a smaller version of the Yellowstone National Park in the United States.  

Exploring the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano
There are two main entrances to the national park: the Santa María and the more popular Las Pailas ranger stations. Since there is no public transportation to either entrance of the park, the best way to get there is by driving yourself, taking a taxi (approximately US$20 from Liberia) or booking a tour through a hotel. If you choose to drive yourself, remember that many roads toward the park can become very rough and a vehicle with good clearance and four-wheel-drive is highly recommended.

Hacienda Guachipelín
To reach the Las Pailas entrance, drive approximately three miles north of Liberia and turn right at the well-marked dirt road toward the park. After seven miles, you arrive in the village of Curubandé. Continue on for another four miles and look for signs to the Hacienda Guachipelín, which is a 3,700-acre working ranch and the best place to find guides and book a wide variety of tours within the park. More information can be found at their website:

To reach the Santa María entrance, drive through the northeastern portion of Liberia and head toward the village of San Jorge. From there, it is a well-marked 16-mile journey to the park. Again, the roads can get pretty rough, so a high-clearance vehicle is the way to go.

Photo by J. Perry
The park entrance fee is US$10 per person (per day) and the hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last admission at 3 p.m. Due to the active geysers and hot springs around the volcano, guided hikes are highly recommended since they always have the safety of their guests in mind. For the more adventurous, self-guided hikes are also available and trail maps are provided by both the ranger station's at both entrances. Since safety is of the the utmost concern, visitors are required to hike only one trail at a time in the park before reporting back to the ranger station. If they fail to do so, the park rangers are required to begin a search.

There are two primary summit trails:

Hot Springs (photo by Hans Hillewaert)
Las Pailas Summit Trail - Beginning at the Las Pailas ranger station to the west, this trail is considered by many as one of the best hikes in the country. It includes a manageable five-mile journey up through tropical forests with views of bubbling mud pots, hot springs, fields of wild orchids, lava rocks, and the steep slope toward the summit. Hikers should generally be prepared for unpredictable cold weather at the summit and visibility issues due to the usual blankets of clouds near the top. But for the lucky who arrive when it is clear, the summit offers spectacular views of the 1,640-foot-wide crater lake, the Guanacaste Plains, Lake Nicaragua, and the Pacific Ocean.

Photo by Tim Ross
Santa María Summit Trail – Beginning at the Santa María ranger station to the east (rumored to be former President Lyndon Johnson’s country retreat), this eight-hour trek includes views of tropical forests and plenty of wildlife before emerging onto hardened lava flows and lava rocks on the steep slopes near the summit. Again, hikers should come prepared for unpredictable weather conditions especially due to the cloud cover and mists.

Exploring the Rincón de la Vieja National Park
The 35,000-acre Rincón de la Vieja National Park was established on Nov.16, 1973 to protect the region's important watershed (with more than 32 rivers and streams), the country’s largest population of its national flower (the purple orchid), and more than 300 different species of birds. For those who choose to avoid hiking the volcano, there are several excellent trails that include a well-rounded tour of the park as well as the best bird watching in the area:

Las Pailas Loop – Beginning at the Las Pailas entrance, this 3.75-mile circular loop includes views of the steaming fumaroles and mud pots, a mini-volcano and boiling mud fields that have compared to Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. At a casual pace, it takes approximately two hours from start to finish.

Waterfalls Catarata La Cangreja is located east of Las Pailas. This three-mile loop takes approximately two hours and travels through tropical forests with views of several hot springs, a crystal-blue lake. a beautiful 98-foot waterfall, a crystal-blue lake, and several hot springs. Cataratas Escondidas is a 2.5-mile loop with views of another beautiful (but slightly smaller) waterfall.

Sendero Encantado – This trail travels along the lower slopes and offers views of the park’s lowlands, a cloud forest, fields of purple orchids, and a variety of wildlife. It eventually links with the longer Las Pailas trail to the volcano's summit.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Exploring Somoto in Nicaragua

The town of Somoto is located in the northern hills of Nicaragua approximately 12 miles from the El Espino border checkpoint in Honduras. A relatively quiet Spanish colonial town with a population of only 15,000, it offers a cool climate due to its elevation and surrounding mountains as well as a wonderful retreat away from the bustling cities and stifling heat in the south. But the cool air is not the primary reason why the majority of visitors flock toward this sleepy town. It is home of Somoto Canyon, one of the country’s newest natural discoveries, and where the delicious corn treats known as rosquillas are baked and sold.

Sandino with his Officers (photo by
The Marine Research Center)
Originally inhabited by a number of indigenous tribes that included the Chorotegas, the town was eventually constructed in a typical grid-style layout much like the other Spanish colonial cities in Central America. It was officially recognized as a town in 1867 and appointed as the capital of the Madriz department in 1936. During the 1930s, the town saw action especially after the U.S. Marines built an airstrip and small base just three blocks south of the Parque Central (Main Square). They used the base to launch their unsuccessful airstrikes against Augusto Sandino and his army who were fortified near the town of Ocotal. Today, the town is relatively peaceful and most of the activity is centered on its Parque Central. But when you look around, there are some buildings with proud murals of Sandino and Carlos Fonseca that express the overall political sentiment of its people as well as ones with bullet holes as a reminder of more turbulent times.

What to See in Somoto
Other than walking down its quiet streets or being lured by the canyon, there are several attractions to see before heading out:

Mirador – This lookout point is located on a hill at the northeast edge of town. It offers excellent views of the surrounding 900-foot mountains and of the entire town of Somoto down below. Although it can be a fun challenge to hike up the hill, taxis can also take you there for around US$2.

Iglesia SantiagoLocated near the Parque Central, this simple but charming church was built in 1661 making it one of the oldest churches in the country. Although the addition of the dome was added in the late 19th century, the lower portion still consists of its original adobe structure. The relatively plain interior includes an altar, sacred vessels and images that are all worth viewing.

Piedra Pintada Museum – Located in a small room within the Parque Central, this museum houses a fairly large collection of pre-Columbian artifacts found in and around the city. The pieces range from grinding tools and containers to a variety of religious objects. In addition, it includes many vintage photographs that show the town’s people and significant historical events that helped shape Somoto into what it is today. The museum is open from Tuesdays through Fridays and admission is free.  

Exploring Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua
Photo by Alex MacGregor
For many years, the town primarily served as just a brief stopping point to get some rest, food, and rosquillas before heading to Honduras. But that all changed in 2004, when a pair of Czech scientists made a geological discovery of a lifetime.

Located eight miles west of Somoto, the Somoto Canyon (also known as the Cañón de Somoto) is a gigantic geological formation where the Río Coco begins. Discovered in 2004 by two research scientists assigned to the Nicaragua Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER), the canyon dates back five million years. It is less than 30-feet wide but it stretches for more than two miles. At various points, the solid granite canyon reaches heights of more than 650 feet and includes sheer, jagged cliffs as well as a number of interesting caves.

In 2005, the Somoto Canyon was declared a national monument by the Nicaraguan government and it is now managed and protected by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources Department (MARENA). The trailhead to the canyon is located at a well-marked sign on the main highway toward El Espino. The two-mile trail winds its way down across the river and eventually to the bottom of the canyon where there are boats ready to take adventurous visitors on further. There are two overall ways to explore the canyon:

Without a Guide – Generally, self-guided trips begin at the bottom of the canyon at “Point 1” on the map where boats take visitors upstream as far as they can go. Afterwards, inner tubes are used for flotation for the rest of the journey, since the walls become too steep for walking in the deeper regions of the canyon, which is around “Point 3.” The waters are cold but refreshing and very clean.  
With a Guide – Subject to change based on your guide’s preferences, a guided journey usually begins further upstream at “Point 4” on the map and continues down through the entire length of the canyon until “Point 1.” An experienced and informative guide will know all of the dangers and risks of the canyon and also provide inner tubes and life jackets.

Visiting the Rosquilla Workshops in Somoto
Many towns in Nicaragua are recognized for their specialties that range from handcrafted furniture and rocking chairs to pottery and ceramics. Somoto has earned its place for its nationally known cornbread snacks called rosquillas. They come in different shapes and sizes and they are generally are made from corn, cheese, and herbs, with a few popular versions sweetened by cinnamon and molasses.

Approximately three dozen workshops of different sizes currently exist in Somoto. On average, a single workshop can produce between 6,000 to 15,000 rosquillas per day, and it is big business for each of the families that produce them. It is worth taking some time to view the making of the treats, which is a fairly involved process that consists of four important steps:
  1. After a thorough inspection of the corn, only the best grains are selected and cleaned.
  2. The grains are then ground and weighed, cleaned and baked, and then re-ground.
  3. The ground corn is mixed with Cuajada (the traditionally-used cheese) and shaped into a variety of cookies and rings in different sizes.
  4. The rosquillas are closely watched as they are toasted in a wood-burning oven.

Throughout the rest of Nicaragua, many vendors and larger grocery stores have taken advantage of these marketable snacks by selling bags of rosquillas that claim to be from Somoto even though they are not. But after you taste the authentic version (warm and right out of the oven), you will quickly realize that all of the others are tasteless in comparison.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Climbing and Exploring the San Salvador Volcano

The San Salvador Volcano, also known as the Volcán San Salvador, is a large stratovolcano that dominates the western portion of El Salvador's capital city of San Salvador. According to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program, four major eruptions have occurred since the 16th century with each of them spewing more lava from its slopes than the crater itself. Considering that so much of San Salvador is located on its slopes, any major eruption would certainly cause catastrophic destruction and incredible loss of life. Fortunately, the entire volcanic complex remains quiet and any geological activity is closely monitored.

Photo by Rick Wunderman
The volcano consists of three major peaks: Jabalí, Picacho, and the well-known El Boquerón, which includes a steep-walled crater. The Jabalí and Picacho peaks are actually the remnants of a 3.75-mile wide caldera that dates back approximately 50,000 years. El Boquerón originally grew much higher than the caldera's rim but lava flows eventually smoothed out its appearance into its current profile. The crater of El Boquerón even once included a small lake, but after an eruption in 1917, it was replaced by a miniature cone that can still be viewed by visitors today.

Photo by Julio Urdaneta
The three peaks are situated within El Boquerón National Park that was beautifully renovated in 2008. It is approximately a 30-minute drive from downtown San Salvador. For those traveling independently, the best way to get to the park is by driving to Santa Tecla via the Pan-American Highway. From there, head due north of town on the road toward Cantón El Progreso. The entrance to the park is located just outside of the town and it is a 20-minute hike to the summit. The park is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m and admission is a reasonable US$1 for adults but free for seniors and children under eight years of age.

Exploring the San Salvador Volcano
When visiting the volcano and its peaks, it is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Reports of robberies and assaults have occurred due to the park's secluded paths. Always travel in groups and leave any expensive belongings behind. In my opinion, it is best to hire a guide or travel with a reputable tour company based in San Salvador. They are affordable, extremely knowledgeable, and they always have the safety of each of their guests in mind at all times.       
Much like other volcanoes in Central America, the altitude and time of day can greatly affect the overall temperature. So plan accordingly when visiting the volcano and bring layers of clothing because the average temperatures can range between 64 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and as low as 45 degrees F at night.
The following are the major attractions when exploring the volcano:
El Boquerón -  Meaning "wide mouth", this volcano has an elevation of 6,200 feet and a crater that was formed after a major eruption back in the 13th century. The crater itself is about one-mile wide and 1,600-feet deep. For those who enjoy hiking, there is a clear path down to the bottom of the crater. The summit offers spectacular views of the city of San Salvador and (on clear days) Lake Ilopango, which is the second largest lake in the country. 

Boqueroncito - El Boquerón once held a crater lake but on June 10, 1917, the waters began to boil after a series of small eruptions began four days earlier. By June 28, the lake was gone and this miniature cinder cone (seen in the photo above) had formed on the crater floor. It can still be seen today.
El Picacho - As seen in the photo to the left, this peak is the highest in park, with an elevation of 6,430 feet. Located northeast of El Boquerón, it is one of the rims of the 3.75-mile wide caldera. The western edge of the city has expanded well into the base of the hill even though there is always the possibility of future eruptions.

El Jabalí - This 4,265-foot peak is one of the other rims of the caldera and it is located on the northwestern side of the main crater. More isolated than its counterparts, it is the least visited attraction within the park. But for adventurous hikers, it offers a different vantage point of the volcanic complex.

Lookout Points - There are five different lookout points that provide views of the main crater, Lake Ilopango, and even as far as the Izalco Volcano in western El Salvador. In addition to the spectacular views, hiking to the lookout points also provides opportunities to see a variety of wildlife that range from the Torogóz (the national bird of El Salvador) to countless species of butterflies. Of course, the more adventurous visitors can take the two-hour hike around the crater’s rim.

Tours of the San Salvador Volcano

Eva Tours - ( in San Salvador, this company offers a combination City Tour and San Salvador Volcano tour. After a convenient hotel pickup, the tour travels through the historical center of San Salvador with stops at the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, the National Theater, and the headquarters of the National Civilian Police. Afterwards, the tour continues to the San Salvador Volcano and includes a hike to the El Boquerón crater. Round-trip transportation and a bilingual guide is included in the price.

Explore El Salvador - ( This tour includes a four-hour guided hike of the volcano in a counter-clockwise direction around the rim followed by a picnic lunch. The tours depart at 8 a.m. and return around 3 p.m. Adequate footwear, sun protection, and plenty of liquids are highly recommended.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Environmental Organizations in Panama

Photo by Julian Watkins
Environmental devastation in Panama is occurring at an alarming rate while the majority of Panamanians are watching with indifference. Fortunately, there are some important organizations dedicated to the protection of the country’s beautiful and now-threatened natural treasures. These are some of the most active organizations. 


Established in 1985 by respected business and academic leaders, the non-profit Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza ( has helped to create many of the country’s national parks. It has also shown considerable power and influence over ANAM (the country’s National Environmental Authority) when necessary changes were not being made fast enough. In addition, Ancon Expeditions (, based in Panama City, offers a wide variety of eco-tours ranging from boat tours of the Panama Canal watershed to guided tours of the Embera indigenous villages. Although this tour company is the for-profit portion of ANCON, part of the proceeds are used in the ongoing battle to protect the country’s natural environment.

Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano del Atlántico Panameño
This conservation organization ( focuses on many environmental issues within Panama. Also known as the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor Panama (CBMAP), it supports the government of Panama’s efforts in reducing poverty and improving income and employment opportunities for rural communities. Projects include the Environmental Investment Fund (AIF) that offers grants for communities to improve their ability to protect natural resources in a sustainable manner, which at the same time improves their overall living conditions. It has also partnered with both the Central American Environment and Development Commission as well as ANAM.

Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation
This non-profit organization (, based in Bocas del Toro, operates the Bocas del Toro Biological Station where they offer ecological courses to undergraduate and graduate students as well as manage programs for the conservation of sea turtles, rain forests and a wide variety of other natural resources along the Caribbean coast of Panama. The organization is always in need of qualified and experienced instructors as well as field researchers and enthusiastic volunteers.