El Nispero is a beautiful botanical garden and plant nursery with endemic exotic plants and flowers such as orchids.. The zoo includes birds, reptiles, turtles, monkeys and other animals in cages... The unique 'ranas doradas' - gold frogs - were temporarily put in a small glass container with plants, when I visited, and you could see nothing; but the guard said that in a short time they would have finished the renovations and they would have nurseries and special window cases for the visitors to see them.
Despite the cages – I resent caging wild animals - El nispero is a nice place to enjoy the fresh air, the quiet forest ambient and the lush vegetation on the highlands of El Valle.
Coming from the commercial center turn right at the bank, pass the police station and then turn right at the Fire Station. It's about one kilometer from the main road. Admission 3$.
Try 'nispero zoo' in google search. There are videos and pictures.
The place is one of the most beautiful spots in the valley located in a most verdant part of the forest with very tall trees and a river running through. The path leading to the waterfall is not long so take your time walking it and try to enjoy every step. It won't take you more than half an hour to reach the beautiful 70 meter high waterfall, crossing hanging bridges and reading the explanatory signs on the sides of the path. Take a walking stick at the entrance because it may be slippery at parts. The river water forms a pool near the entrance where you can take a refreshing swim. A guide is not needed except if you are handicapped...
There is possibility to do canopying, the entrance of which is a few meters before El Macho entrance. It is overpriced however at 52$ which is the most expensive I have heard in countries of Latin America. They have 4 cables of a 400meter total distance .
To reach El Macho take a bus going to La Mesa (0.25$) and get off right at the gate. If you are in the mood you can walk to it. After your hike you can walk down to the village because the pleasant 2kilometer journey gives great chances to see more of the wildlife. I saw hundreds of beautiful butterflies even the big blue ones, hares, lizards, birds ( a lot of woodpeckers and canaries..), and even a sloth living its slow-motion life on the branches of a tall tree.
Look at the photos...
On Sundays the Handicraft market in El Valle becomes very lively as indigenous people from the surrounding areas come to sell their beautiful products. They are mostly of the Ngobe-Bugle tribe and some Embera. They are selling molas, baskets, tagua carvings, flowers and plants, jewelery made of beads or semiprecious stones, and fruits and vegetables very fresh and juicy. The impressive 'Tagua' sculptures are tiny animals sculptured on Tagua which are seeds of a kind of coconut tree. Here they are sold at 30-35$ whereas in the market in Panama City they cost only 10$! Of course it is wothwhile paying some difference if you make sure the product is authentic and the money goes to the indigenous people.
The market is working on weekdays, too, but with fewer items. Prices are much higher than in Panama City.
Don't miss the rest of the photos...
There is a big rock in the forest with some shapes etched on it some lines of which are pointed out with chalk. These are actually a map of the area said to have been etched by natives in Pre-colombian times. Animals, flowers and humans are also depicted in the strange shapes.
The most exiting about it is the walk along a shady path among the wonderful lush vegetation. You can spot various birds and small animals on your way and breathe in the fresh air of the forest. Locals living at the outskirts of the town use the paths so it is very common to see them come and go. Small schoolchildren wearing their neat uniforms are an easy way to get closer to the spirit and life of them. A handsome young schoolboy, Miguel, asked me if I wanted him to explain the meaning of the petroglyphs and went on to describe every little detail in a confident and knowledgeable style...
He narrated a beautiful story about an Indian Princess, Dormida, who was very much in love with a handsome Indian boy and that finally both jumped to their death from the cliffs as she didn't want to get married to the Spaniard her father insisted on giving her. The boy in the photo is Andia who, not finding any other way to get some money, insisted with a gorgeous smile on his face that I should eat the mangoes he would bring me. Only the trees were too tall for his little body and the fruits too green for my taste. He stopped the next tourists coming and went on with his trade. He was really cute!
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They are tiny and impressive with their black-spotted golden skin. A small forest in El Valle is one of their last natural habitats and even there their number is small. This species of amphibians, endemic in Panama, is almost extinct due to human behaviour. They have been captured to be sold as pets... and also their natural habitat has been destroyed by fires or extensive human construction. Today Panamanians are trying to rescue the species left only in a few places in Panama. Besides El Valle they are found in Natural Park El Cope, accessible from Penomone very near El Valle; National Park Altos de Campana near Panama Canal; and National Park Changres, between Panama City district and Colon. Always in very few numbers, unfortunately.
Up from the main square, you can find the Colored Stone - la Piedra Pintada. It is a large boulder set alongside a rambling creek etched with ancient petroglyphs. Local children will help you out with an ‘explanation’ of the stone’s meanings. The Lonely Planet author for the Panama volume suggests that maybe some of the stories are not as clear as your local interpreters make them out to be, but who is to say? Chalk is used to help you see the petroglyphs better with.
Chaco de las Mozas, in English, the Young Womens’ Falls, is near where the original breach in the volcano’s sidewall occurred. If you have a female waterfall, you should probably have a male one and here at the same place as the Canopy Adventure, you have the Chaco de Macho, or Manly Falls. You pay $2.50 to the people at Canopy Adventure, for they also own the rain forest around the waterfall, and head back into the rain forest to the 85 meter high Chaco de Macho. You can wander further up the creek into the small pool at the base of the waterfall. The waters are crystal clear and warm. Remember to bring a towel.
If a tour is listed as an ‘ecotour’, in my experience, it usually means that the promoters are overcharging. Canopy Adventures is no exception. For $42 you get some gloves, a hardhat and a harness to hook into the wire cables that are laid out through the trees. You can rationalize spending the money by saying your goal is to see the rainforest from a different vantage point.
On the way into the valley, there is a small roadside lookout from where you can get a good idea of the old volcano. When the volcano collapsed, a lake formed depositing rich soils on the crater floor. After the lake drained, local Indians moved in to take advantage.
Every Sunday, a market takes place in which many of the articles presented are different handicrafts from around Panama - though plenty of other things are here also to buy in the way of plants and food. Buyers are mostly up from Panama City, two hours away. There are a couple of other handicraft stores next door at Don Pepe - also good food - in case you don’t find exactly what you are looking for at the market.