ANCON Expeditions, under the umbrella of the National Association for the Conservation of Nature, hosts STR courses in Panama. Known as the Crossroads of the Americas, the Panama Isthmus emerged from the ocean floor three million years ago. Since that time numerous plant and animal species have been able to migrate from one continental mass to another. Many of these species have also congregated to form a unique biodiversity in Panama. ANCON is passionate about protecting this biodiversity, and educating North Americans about the rich natural heritage of their country. As a consequence, it manages several education centers in Panama where STR groups can stay.
Students and teachers who participate in the standard Panama course are hosted in a Panama Canal zone station for the first half of their course, and the Bocas del Toro station for the second half of the course. While in the Panama Canal zone participants learn about tropical wet forest and how the forests in the area serve as a watershed that supplies the billions of gallons of water needed to operate the Panama Canal. They also learn about the colorful history of Panama, touring colonial towns and visiting the ruins of old forts. Even more interesting, is the overnight stay in an Embera village, where participants have a chance to interact with indigenous people in a non-tourist setting.
For the second half of their course, participants fly to the island of Bocas del Toro, just off the northern (or Atlantic) coast of Panama. Every day, while there, they depart by boat from the waterfront station. Some days students and teachers explore mangrove estuaries and snorkel on coral reefs. Other days they visit scenic turtle nesting beaches and take on such service projects as painting a local schoolhouse and planting trees.
Teachers who wish to take their students on more adventurous trips in Panama go to Cana station (in Darien National Park) or Punta Patino station (on the Pacific coast). Darien National Park protects a two million acre stretch of forest that acts as a buffer between Panama and Columbia. It´s wildlife is plentiful and magnificent, and it is home to a healthy breeding population of the world’s largest eagle, the rare Harpy Eagle. The only way to get to the Cana station is by chartered plane. Punta Patino can be reached by chartered plane or chartered boat. To the front of the station is the Pacific ocean and extensive tidal flats. To the rear of the station impressive stands of highly endangered tropicaldry forest exist. Students and teachers who visit these two sites find themselves really off the beaten track.