One of the striking characteristics of tropical environments is the profusion of different life forms present. This is what specialists call biodiversity, and Panama is a textbook example. Within Panama’s small territory you can find more than 11,000 different species of butterflies and moths, 10,000 distinct flowering plants, more than 964 different types of birds, more than 225 kinds of mammals, among many other living creatures.
For example, in the Panama Canal area alone there is a higher diversity of trees per surface area, than on the Amazon. Not surprisingly the Smithsonian Institution established itself here since the early 1900’s to study the extraordinary richness of Panama’s tropical ecosystems.
Panama is the true land bridge connecting North America and South America. Being at the heart of the Americas, here you can find species of flora and fauna from both landmasses. For instance, Panama is the northernmost country where you can find Capybara, the largest rodent in the World, which is normally found in South America. Moreover, here you may see Northern Raccoons, very common in North America, but not found south of Panama.
In addition to the vast tracks of tropical rainforests, Panama has more than 1,560 miles of shoreline both on the Pacific Ocean and on the Caribbean Sea. Although the narrow Isthmus of Panama can be only 50 miles wide, the two bodies of water are incredibly different. That means that snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean will yield a completely different array of tropical reef fishes, than in the Caribbean Sea. In fact, according to an accepted theory, Panam? is an indigenous word meaning “Abundance of Fishes”
The natural marvels of Panama are beautifully complemented by a rich living cultural heritage. Seven distinct indigenous groups, comprising more than 10% of the country’s current population, provide ample opportunities for a most enriching cultural experience. During visits to native indian villages, you will not only appreciate their basic and cheerful way of life, but at the same time, by recognizing their identity, you will contribute to preserving this important cultural legacy of the World. Conveniently more than one third of the entire territory of Panama is preserved as national parks and other protected areas. Many of these parks are found only minutes from downtown Panama City, allowing for rainforests and beaches with easy accessibility like nowhere else on Earth.
Small but diverse, Panama allows for experiencing different tropical landscapes in a short period of time, making it a real nature-lover’s paradise !