Google Darién Gap and first page results include article titles like “Untamed Wilderness”, “Beware the Darién Gap”, “A Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle”, and “Walking Among the Supernatural Beasts of the Darién Gap”.  Why, then, would we ever want to feature this region in our portfolio of destinations? In short – epic wildlife viewing opportunities.  The Darién ranks as one of the wildest places in Latin America.

Contrary to Darién’s notorious reputation in the press, we never felt unsafe during our recent trip. We spent four nights at Canopy Camp, a new property offering guests comfortable stays in custom-designed safari-style canvas tents.  Canopy Camp was established to raise awareness of ecotourism opportunities and the need for conservation in Darién.

We had the entire camp to ourselves for four nights last month.  We woke to the sounds of whooping motmots, yellow-throated toucans, and howler monkeys and went to sleep to the sounds of owls and insects.

The true highlight of our stay, and the main reason we chose Canopy Camp, was seeing a harpy eagle, the national bird of Panama, in the wild.  On the third day of our stay, we drove 45 minutes to the end of the Pan-American Highway and then traveled by dugout canoe for two hours to start our 90-minute hike.  The journey was well worth it.

We spent an hour observing a subadult female harpy eagle perched in a towering cuipo tree.  Standing three feet tall and with a wingspan of up to seven feet, it’s hard not to be impressed by this apex predator.  The harpy eagle is the most powerful eagle in the Americas.  It lives in lowland tropical rainforests and requires mature, intact forest to survive. The largest breeding population of Panama’s harpy eagles is in Darién.  The Darién delivered.

Subadult female harpy eagle in Panama’s Darien Province.