Recently, the rainforests of Panama faced a historically significant threat. Nevertheless, at present, the opportunity to appreciate them has never been greater, making a visit to Panama more worthwhile than ever, as never before have the Panamanian people been so aware of the importance of their conservation. A few weeks ago, Panama experienced a significant period of disruption. Travel became challenging, and a sense of uncertainty reminiscent of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was palpable. This upheaval, however, was rooted in a noble cause: the protection of Panama’s magnificent rainforests. The sequence of events unfolded as follows: On Friday, October 20th, the President of Panama sanctioned a law permitting a new contract between a foreign mining company and the Panamanian government, for the management of an existing copper mine. Situated 120 km from Panama City near the Caribbean coast, the 13,000-hectare mine, the largest in Central America, lies within the densely forested Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Although the agreement, valid for 20 years and extendable for another 20, promised local employment, personnel training, profit-sharing with the government, and eco-friendly management, it faced opposition from the Panamanian public due to ongoing disagreements dating back to 1997. Therefore, on that very Friday, peaceful protests erupted across Panama, and what began as small gatherings quickly swelled in number. Each day saw a doubling of protestors, culminating a week later with 20,000 people on the main roads of Panama City, not to mention those protesting in other provinces. These numbers were unprecedented in Panama’s history. People of all ages, including families, students, environmental groups, labor unions, and youth organizations, took to the streets. Armed with Panamanian flags, handmade banners, costumes, and music, they expressed their discontent with the mining contract, local corruption, and the escalating cost of living. The Panamanian government’s silence in response to these protests led to an escalation, with peaceful demonstrations transforming into prolonged roadblocks, severely disrupting transportation and the supply of food and gas, primarily along the Pan-American Highway. This unrest coincided with Panama’s most important national holidays, the Independence Days.
At Canopy Family, we endeavored to maintain normal operations while supporting the defense of the Caribbean forests and ensuring our clients received the best possible travel experience. However, transportation between lodges and airport pickups became increasingly challenging. Our understanding clients allowed us to establish early morning transfers to and from Canopy Lodge at 3 a.m. to circumvent road closures. Additionally, we arranged accommodations at a partner hotel near Canopy Tower when access was impossible. Our greatest challenge, though, was reaching Canopy Camp in Darién via the Pan-American Highway in early November. Prioritizing our clients, we managed to secure a small plane, at no extra cost to our visitors, for safe and expedient travel to and from Canopy Camp, along with essentials and food supplies. This entailed three round trips, numerous last-minute changes, and luggage limitations due to the plane’s restricted capacity. However, our clients, supportive and adaptable, relished the unique aerial view of Panama and appreciated the swift one-hour journey to the Camp. Finally, after a month of protests and road closures, on November 28th, the Panamanian Supreme Court declared the mining contract illegal. Consequently, this and other mining operations are currently halted in Panama. This decision marks a historic victory for the treasured tropical rainforests of Central America and the nature enthusiasts who visit our region, and a demonstration of a growing nature-caring community in Panama. To our future guests, rest assured that your family in Panama, the Canopy Family, is committed to ensuring your safety and providing an unforgettable Panamanian adventure, by car, boat, or plane if necessary!