Some are content to touch Darién and rush off. How about assimilating? Sambu House offers an extraordinary opportunity to be at the center of a jungle village and live day to day amongst the residents. From here, journey up or down river to true Embera villages, not the fake stuff in La Palma.
Sambu House is run by Michael Harrington and his extended family. He built the home from materials flown in. Price of $125 a day includes three meals, homecooked. The home has most western comforts including air conditioning, a TV, and icebox for cold drinks. And best of all is the patio area where people pass to and fro, most offering a friendly hello.
Michael employs a select group of guides to take you into the jungle to see wildlife and other wonders like a lagoon and a cascading waterfall. I saw a toucan, leaf-cutting ants, and a giant spider.
Tours of the neighboring Embera villages are also available. With these you travel in a piragua or motorized canoe. Now that is where the fun is.
Sambu House is easy going and each guest is pampered but not crowded. Stay up late on the balcony and a book, a drink, or quiet conversation. I chose the queen with its own bath. There are twins in three other rooms that share a bath.
Maria and Augustina prepare meals from heaven, served hot with a cold drink. I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the evening.
The Darien is ideal for those who like a little adventure. But there is no danger here. I saw no snakes and we're too far from the Colombian border to have any paramilitary. Sambu is safe and Sambu House is the ideal way to see the Darien. If you're planning a trip to Yaviza like I was, think about Sambu.
Experience the jungle fauna and flora first had at Rancho Frio Lodge. This lodge is run by INRENARE, the national parks office of Panama. The best way to visit it is by yourself. Just go to the Darien Park Ranger's office at el Real (From Panama City, take a bus to Meteti, then a chiva to Yuviza, then a boat to El Real). The rangers will get you a guide that can take you to this lodge. Prices might not be cheap, but I bet it's worth it! Note: the sign outside the park rangers still shows it as part of ANAM, which is the predecessor of INRENARE.
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