Ecotourism seems to be the buzz word for accommodation in Central America at the moment as I am sure it is all around the world. I have stayed in numerous hostels, resorts and hotels that all claim in some way or other to be eco resorts. In most cases they do have real elements of eco-ness about them but seldom do you find somewhere that is super Eco and offers extreme luxury at the same.
However, I think I may just have found one. It is called Canopy Camp (www.canopytower.com) and is situated in the dense rainforest of the Darien Province of Panama. I have been fortunate enough to stay here for two nights and even more lucky to have been here at the same time as the founder and owner.
Canopy Camp has been set up as a bird watchers (feathered variety) paradise and eco lodge. The whole place is designed so its guest can have an amazing rainforest experience in complete luxury. Instead of rooms or cabanas there are safari tents nestled into the shrubbery. Each has its own balcony that offers amazing views of the surrounding jungle and the openness allows you to feel as if you are sleeping in the jungle without having to face the creepy crawlies. Each Tent has an adjacent bathroom with everything you would expect with the added treat of an open air shower with views of the jungle around.
But what makes it so Eco. Well from what I can tell Eco seems to have been the ethos from the very start. Unlike other hotels they didn’t find a piece of pristine forest and cut it down they found an existing property and converted it. The water is supplied from a river upstream and this is then UV filtered to make drinking water. All the electrical needs are supplied by solar panels situated at the bottom of the property and this can all be monitored remotely by Wi-Fi computers. The owner mentioned he wanted to get another refrigerator and in order to do that he was going to install more panels to power it. They have built their own sewage system which is cleaned out every year and the waste used as fertiliser. Again the owner said that the waste could be disposed of unethically but he couldn’t live with that. They are even thinking of conservation when it comes to food. Rather than offering huge menus they have a set family style arrangement with one option for each meal. Any left overs is then eaten by the staff. From what I can tell the only un-Eco element is the gas for a single cooker and the diesel for the trucks.
And if that isn’t eco enough they are actively working with the local nature reserve to rebuild the ranger station and make sure it is manned 24/7 to try and put an end to illegal poaching and deforestation. During meal times the owner has also talked about other schemes they are trying to initiate to help conserve the local wildlife.
And finally the entertainment – bird watching. I am not sure there can be a much more Eco pastime than birdwatching and here it is phenomenal. Before breakfast the resident bird expert had my eye peering down a telescope at toucans, parrots and a woodpecker that is only found in this part of Panama (if not the world). And if that is not impressive enough he seemed to have a conversations with the birds and actually get them to show themselves. In the afternoon I went for a stroll around the rainforest pathways and was overwhelmed by the diversity. Parrots squabbled above while White Faced Capuchin monkeys summersaulted from branch to branch. If you are not feeling particularly energetic then you can relax in a hammock and watch the abundant birdlife around the immaculate gardens where they have planted specific plants that attract different birds throughout the year.
If you are looking to get away from the big city life and reconnect with nature while still enjoying the finer things in life then this is the place for you. Come visit the Darien its awesome!