Comarca Embera Wounaan is in Panama.
Located in Darien, Panama.
The village of Bayamon is a great place to base your travels around the Comarca Embera-Wounaan. This centrally located community has car and foot access to many surrounding villages and access to virgin rainforest. The village's womens group has a guest lodge complete with bedding, electricity and clean water and can provide you with guides for excursions to the surrounding area. Another Embera village you can visit is Cerro Naipe, which is tucked in the mountains in the Darien National Park. With a newly built hostel, Cerro Naipe is ready to host travelers and share the Embera culture. During the dry season in between January and May, an epic trek through the beautiful Darien National Park to the untouched and breathtaking Playa Muerto takes anywhere from 4-6 hours based on your physical conditions.
The most important thing to know before you head out to Bayamon or Cerro Naipe is that the people of this village really do want you to come. They are proud of their culture and identity as Embera and for that reason are eager to share their world with you. While by many standards Bayamon may be considered poor, you will never find a people richer in hospitality, friendship and laughter than the Embera.
While your trip will be more fulfilling if you speak Spanish, the womens group in Bayamon has a Spanish speaking guide that can assist you if you don't.
While it is pretty straight forward how you can get out to the village of Bayamon, it is a long journey with many stops in between. To arrive in the area of Sambu where Bayamon is located you'll need to catch a boat that only leaves on M,W,F,S around 6 am, so plan accordingly. If you're leaving from Panama City then you'll need to catch a bus from the Albrook National Bus Terminal. There you'll catch the bus to Darien ($9, 5 hrs). The bus will take you all the way into the terminal in Meteti, Darien. In Meteti you'll most likely have to stay the night in a hotel ($20+/-) in order to get to the boat in Puerto Quimba (20 mins away) by 5:30 the next morning. Another option is to take the overnight bus from Panama which will get you into the Meteti terminal by 4 am. However you get to Meteti you'll need to be in Puerto Quimba to catch your boat BEFORE 6 am. To get there from Meteti you can either pay for the a taxi in order to guarantee that you arrive in Puerto Quimba in time for your boat or, the cheaper but less reliable method, take a large van ($2) from the Meteti bus terminal. Be sure to get on this van by 4:30-5 am in order to get to Puerto Quimba with plenty of time. Once you get to Puerto Quimba you'll need to check in with the local frontier police to report your whereabouts. If the boat still hasn't arrived then grab some food and coffee in the local fonda while you wait. Be sure to keep an eye out for the boat and always ask the locals which ones are going to Sambu to be sure that you don't get left behind. Plenty of boats are coming and going from this small port so be sure you take one of the ones heading to Sambu. The Sambu boat costs $20 and takes between 3-4 hours to arrive. Once you get off the boat in Sambu go wait under the mango tree for any vehicle heading up to Bayamon ($1, 10 mins). If for some reason you miss the Sambu boat you can take a boat to Garrachine though transport from there to Bayamon is less reliable. In order to arrive to Cerro Naipe, you must take a boat from Puerto Quimba to Guarachine. Boats run daily anywhere from 6 am to 7.30 am, so try getting to Puerto Quimba at around 6 am. The boat will cost 20 dollars. From Guarachine, you can take a Chiva to Calle Larga and hike in for about an hour. During the dry season, some cars will take you in and you wont have to hike. You can also enter from Sambu. You would have to catch a chiva out of Sambu and get off at Calle Larga or Rio de Jesus to begin the hike in.
The village women's group can help coordinate guides for jungle and waterfall hikes, river spearfishing trips, hikes to other villages, classes on how to make traditional food and artisan work, traditional body painting, and presentations of Embera dance and music. The same activities can be done in Cerro Naipe through their tourism group.
Or if you’re looking for a true jungle excursion then prepare yourself for the hike of a lifetime. Starting in Bayamon you’ll leave on a 1-2 day hike through virgin rainforest before arriving at Playa Muerto, a remote Embera village located on an exquisite black-sands beach on the Pacific coast of Panama. This village truly is one of the world’s last untouched paradise. After a few days staying in your own private beach bungalow a boat will take you back to Garrachine to begin your trip back to Panama. You can also leave from Cerro Naipe and hike through the Darien National Park to this unbelievably beautiful beach on the Pacific coast of Panama. During the dry season, the trek is anywhere from four to six hours, and six to eight during the wet season.
So the living arrangements out here are pretty unique. The Embera live in open, thatch-roofed houses raised on stilts. You'll be sleeping in the main living area of the walless hut which is converted into the sleeping area once the mosquito nets are put down. If you have sleeping mats, hammocks or even tents you're encouraged to bring them but if not arrangements can be made to set you up comfortably. If you choose not to sleep in the village guest house then you can be set up in a homestay with one of the families of the village's women's group. And of course, all homes will have an area where you can safely lock up your valuables. The village has clean drinking water, electricity and even wifi available 24 hours a day, but don't let that fool you, the people of Bayamon still live a very traditional lifestyle that in many ways is representative of the Embera as a whole. The village of Cerro Naipe has a newly constructed hostel where you can tie a hammock up or pinch a tent in for a reduced price of 8 dollars. If you would like to rent a tent and a sleeping pad, the nightly stay will cost 15 dollars.